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I'm many things. I'm the voice in your head; the Dark One's powers inside you, inside all the Dark Ones.
—The Darkness, under Rumplestiltskin's appearance, to Emma src

The Darkness, and its host the Dark One, is a magical entity featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It débuts in the first episode of the first season.


Before First Curse

The Darkness is the corrupted soul of Nimue, lover of the Sorcerer Merlin. Vortigan, attempting to kill Nimue, seemingly fatally stabs her, but it turns out Nimue had drunk from the Holy Grail and had gained magic and immortality like Merlin. She then proceeds to rip out Vortigan's heart, and after ignoring Merlin's pleads for her to not give in to the darkness, she crushes his heart, and the Flame of Prometheus becomes extinguished. Because she used the power of the Holy Grail for evil, Nimue's soul is corrupted and she becomes the first Dark One, smashing Excalibur so that Merlin cannot destroy the darkness or her magic inside her. ("Nimue")

Nimue later created a vault for her own usage, and emerged as the Dark One to the public from this vault. She has turned her dark soul into a curse that allows her to live on beyond the death of her physical body, inhabiting the soul of whoever kills the current Dark One with the dagger, gifting that person with the Dark One's power. ("Quiet Minds")

While the Darkness originated as Nimue's soul, it grows more powerful by assimilating the darkness of each soul that it passes on to as part of the Dark One curse. Because of this, the Darkness can manifest itself as every Dark One there ever was, even to the point of manifesting as all of them at the same time. ("Nimue")

Merlin takes the other half of Excalibur and binds Nimue to it - thus creating the Dark One's Dagger. Eventually, Nimue and Merlin meet again, but Merlin, in a moment of utter grief, becomes overpowered by Nimue, who transforms him into a tree. ("Dreamcatcher")

At some point, Merlin had created a special hat, capable of absorbing and accumulating magic. The hat is protected by the Apprentice from each person that takes on the Dark One's powers. Every Dark One tries to steal the hat, but none of them succeed. ("The Apprentice")

One day, the latest Dark One, Zoso, arrives in an attempt to open the guarded relic, only to be blasted away by the artifact's magic. Once the Apprentice informs the Dark One why his mission will never succeed, a beaten Zoso teleports away. ("The Apprentice")

Decades later, while Zoso is still the Dark One, the kingdom resorts to using children as soldiers in another Ogre Wars. Rumplestiltskin fears for the possibility of losing his child and flees away with him. But they are approached by a mysterious old man, who steers him towards stealing a magical dagger which can control the Dark One. Rumplestiltskin decides to steal the dagger from the Duke of the Frontlands, with the hopes of protecting Baelfire and turning the Dark One into a force for good. Once alone, Rumplestiltskin summons the Dark One and he stabs the entity with the dagger in a fit of blind rage. But he discovers the Dark One is the old man who told him about the dagger. Then Rumplestiltskin's own name replaces Zoso's on the dagger, and he gains the powers of the Dark One. ("Desperate Souls")

Before Second Curse
Rumplestiltskin's body and his dagger are recreated from a black liquid, when his son, Neal, uses a key to open the Vault of the Dark One. As an unexpected cost, which Neal is not aware of, he dies while Rumplestiltskin is revived. As his son perishes, Rumplestiltskin grabs hold of him as well as the dagger. However, he is not able to grip both at the same time, and the Wicked Witch snatches the dagger. Unwilling to let Neal perish, he absorbs his son into his own body to keep him alive. Enslaved to the Wicked Witch's orders via the dagger, she orders him to kill Belle. Just before he does, Lumiere entraps the Wicked Witch in flames. Belle flees with Lumiere in tow while Rumplestiltskin is forced to stay behind. ("Quiet Minds")

After Second Curse
Because of his centuries of committing bad deeds as the Dark One, Mr. Gold's heart is almost consumed by the Darkness. If he does nothing, Gold would die, and the Darkness would be free on its own, which could destroy the world. ("Mother")

Before Third Curse

To stop this from happening, the Apprentice absorbs the Darkness out of his heart and into the hat. However, the Darkness breaks free and attacks him. Emma repels it with a blast of light magic and the Darkness flees into town, but before she can follow, the Apprentice tells her about the Sorcerer's past dealings with the Darkness and how the Dark One was born from it. On the streets, Emma and her parents join Regina and Robin Hood as they look for the Darkness, which has seemingly vanished. However, when the Darkness tries infiltrating Regina and removing the light from her, Emma uses the dagger to bind it to her soul and become the new Dark One. She then vanishes into thin air while the dagger drops to the ground, revealing her name is now on it. ("Operation Mongoose Part 2")

After absorbing the Darkness, Emma disappears from Storybrooke, with her body reforming out of the Vault of the Dark One in the Enchanted Forest. Finding herself garbed in a cloak, she soon discovers that the Darkness, under a manifestation of Rumplestiltskin - one voice out of the many Dark Ones - is now her guide, and he intends to stay until she fully accepts her powers. ("The Dark Swan")

Throughout the Camelot quest, the main goal of the heroes is to destroy the Darkness by finding Merlin. ("The Dark Swan", "The Price", "Siege Perilous", "The Broken Kingdom", "Dreamcatcher")

Once they succeed in doing so, Merlin reveals that he will be able to rid Emma of the Darkness once they reforge Excalibur using the Promethean Flame. While Emma and Merlin search for the Flame, Merlin reveals the truth behind the Darkness's origins, and Emma ends up in a battle against herself when the Darkness creates a mental image of Nimue in her mind. ("Nimue")

In order to get the dagger and reforge Excalibur, Arthur teams up with Zelena and gets her to use the tether spell Merlin used on the dagger to attach Merlin himself to the other half of Excalibur. Merlin is able to overcome Arthur's commands, and Emma and Hook get Excalibur back. ("Nimue", "Birth")

Following this encounter, Hook's neck gets a minor cut from Excalibur, which Emma easily heals. However, a cut from Excalibur can never be fully healed, and the cut reopens just before Emma can reforge the sword, causing Hook to begin to die. Unwilling to let him die, Emma takes both halves of Excalibur and uses her magic to tether Hook to the sword instead of Merlin. The corrupted Darkness inside Merlin mysteriously flies out of Merlin as he says that it is too late, and after Emma is done with the transfer, her outfit magically changes and Hook is teleported away, emerging from the Vault as the second Dark One. ("Birth")

After Third Curse

After Hook casts a curse to kill Mr. Gold in Camelot, he challenges him to a duel on his ship. Before the duel begins, Hook fixes Mr. Gold's limp, so there will be a fair fight. At one point, Mr. Gold stabs Hook cleanly through his chest, but it has no effect since he didn't use Excalibur. Hook then slashes him with his hooked hand, but then, Mr. Gold drops a pulley weight on him, making Hook drop Excalibur. Instead of killing him with the sword, Mr. Gold spares him, wanting him to taste defeat at the hands of his worst enemy. That night, Hook fulfills the Darkness's plan to open a portal to the Underworld. With the blood of Mr. Gold, who has been to the Underworld and back, he opens the gateway, allowing Nimue and all the previous Dark Ones to arrive in Storybrooke. ("Broken Heart")

After Hook opens a portal to the Underworld, all the souls of the deceased Dark Ones claim a living soul to replace their souls in the Underworld. When the heroes confront Hook and all the former dead Dark Ones, the spirit of Nimue magically chokes Emma. Hook realizes what kind of man he wants to be, using Excalibur, which he obtained by tricking Emma into giving it to him after she got it from Mr. Gold, to absorb the spirits of the Dark Ones. Hook begs his true love to kill him, destroying the Darkness and letting him die a hero. Emma reluctantly does this, destroying the sword, along with the Darkness's hold on her. Unbeknownst to Emma, Mr. Gold poured a potion to make the sword a magic "conduit", which transferred all the Dark Ones' magic to him. The next day, a grieving Emma hears whispering, following it to Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer. Mr. Gold reveals his actions to Emma, showing her the Dark One's Dagger, the source of the whispering. Emma then threatens to tell Belle unless Mr. Gold helps her travel to the Underworld to rescue Hook. The new Dark One, reluctantly, opens a portal to the Underworld, leading Emma and company to the boat of Charon. ("Swan Song")

Known Dark Ones

†: Deceased Dark One
Bold name: Current Dark One


On-Screen Notes



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