|“||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 (as Rumplestiltskin) to Emma Swan.|
The Darkness is the overarching antagonist of the ABC TV series Once Upon a Time, serving as the final antagonist of Season 4, the main antagonist of the first half of Season 5 (through Emma Swan, Hook and Nimue), the secondary antagonist of the Season 6 finale "The Final Battle", and the main antagonist of the Season 7 finale episodes "Homecoming" and "Leaving Storybrooke".
The Darkness is an evil force that was battled by Merlin the Sorcerer centuries ago. Unable to destroy it, Merlin bound the powerful evil to the soul of a human, as well as the Dark One's Dagger that would eventually become the chosen Dark One's very cursed weapon, allowing the possessor of the dagger to control the evil human. Upon the Dark One being killed by the dagger, the Darkness would then possess the killer, making them the new Dark One and branding their name onto the dagger. Thus, the Darkness is indirectly responsible for every villainous action taken by Rumplestiltskin and controls every Dark One throughout the entire franchise.
It is the final antagonist of the second half of Season 4 and the main antagonist of the first half of Season 5, being the force behind Emma Swan, Nimue, and Captain Hook's powers. It can be considered the true and most dangerous villain of the entire franchise, given that Merlin, the second most powerful known force of good and righteousness (second only to the God Zeus), was unable to destroy it, and that it was the power behind every dark action taken by Rumplestiltskin, meaning that it is indirectly responsible for the entire series from the casting of the first Dark Curse to the present.
It can be said that the Dark One, and the Sorcerer Merlin, the only other recipient of the magic and immortality from the Holy Grail, are the most powerful sorcerer's in all the realms and are the ying and yang of light and dark magic. However,thanks to Merlin having much more experience,he is stronger than almost every Dark One, except Nimue,who is apparently the only Dark One and Sorcerer with power matching Merlin's. This is however until the current Dark One, Rumplestiltskin received the power of every Dark One who ever lived, multiplying the Darkness as well as his power, and making him the single most powerful sorcerer in all the realms.
- Nimue (deceased)
- At least eighteen previous Dark Ones (deceased)
- Gorgon the Invincible (deceased)
- Zoso (deceased)
- Rumplestiltskin (current Dark One; deceased)
- Rumplestiltskin (Wish Realm) (current Dark One; deceased)
- Emma Swan (freed from its control)
- Captain Hook (freed from its control)
Before First Curse
The Darkness was a shapeless form of evil, presumably sentient. In the Season 5 episode "Nimue", it is revealed that the Darkness tethered itself to the soul of Nimue, Merlin's lover, and she became its first-ever host after she succumbed to its temptations, crushing the heart of the man who destroyed her home and family, Vortigan. This allows the darkness from within Vortigan's heart to infect her, transforming Nimue into the very first "Dark One". The Promethean Flame is extinguished to an ember, and Nimue goes on to shatter Excalibur into two pieces, in order to prevent Merlin from ending the immortality of both of them. Then, Nimue apologizes to him for her actions, but Merlin says no, that he is the one who is sorry. Merlin was unable to finish it off, and because of its pure wickedness, he was forced to seal its might to the dagger - the broken tip of Excalibur. The human wielding the power would eventually become the Dark One. Nimue, under the Dark One's influence, binds Merlin within a tree after obtaining the dagger.
Eventually, Nimue was destroyed by a new future host, and the Darkness leapt into them, now using their body. After a series of unnamed hosts, Zoso became the Dark One and was later killed off by Rumplestiltskin, who became the most recent Dark One and sparked a series of terrible events in his long reign, including apprenticing the witch Cora Mills and her two daughters Zelena and Regina Mills (Regina later going on to be the first person to cast the Dark Curse). Regina was groomed by Rumple into casting the Curse, all so that he would be taken to the Land Without Magic and re-unite with his son Baelfire, who was already there after he attempted to get his father over to that world so that they could be together and get the Darkness to abandon his body and presumably vanish from the world altogether.
After the First Curse
When Rumple is attacked by Captain Hook and poisoned outside of Storybrooke (the only place in the Land Without Magic where any magic exists), he starts dying, with the Dark One's Dagger showing off that fact as the letters of Rumple's name start vanishing from its surface. Cora states to Regina that, should he die without the Dark One's Dagger being involved, the Darkness would vanish from the world; all that power would cease to exist. It is unknown if this is true, as Rumple is later healed by Snow White, who curses Cora to lose her life force and put it into Rumple, which saved both him and the Darkness.
Before the Second Curse
The Darkness can be seen as a black puddle in the Vault of the Dark One when Baelfire resurrects Rumple. This is presumably a weak and primordial form of it.
Before Third Curse
Over the series, the Darkness has been darkening the heart of Mr. Gold, also known as Rumplestiltskin, meaning that he will eventually die inside if he loses his last bit of love within, allowing the Darkness to have complete and utter control. In the final episode of Season 4, "Operation Mongoose Part 2", after Henry Mills (now the Author in place of Isaac Heller) undoes the alternate reality created by Isaac, Rumple falls down on the ground in his shop. When he warns of what happens if the last bit of love in his heart disappears, the heroes realize that they have to get rid of the Darkness; if they didn't, then Rumple would die and the Dark One would stay, and no-one would want to have a Dark One around who doesn't have a leash. The Apprentice pulls out Rumple's heart, which is almost completely-black from his centuries of dark deeds coupled with his Dark One title, and uses the Sorcerer's Hat to absorb the Darkness from his heart. After managing to get it out of Rumple's heart, which is now completely-white due to now being pure, the Apprentice puts it back into his body, then puts him under a preservation spell to hold him until his body can adapt to not having the Darkness within it.
Much to everyone's shock, the Apprentice's hesitation to remove the Darkness is justified, as he had previously stated that Rumple's heart has more blackness on it than any before seen; with the Darkness proving too powerful for the Sorcerer's Hat, it escapes, taking the form of several tentacle-like substances that fly through the air. It first attacks the Apprentice, attempting to possess him, but the Savior Emma Swan attacks it with her powerful light magic, driving it out, at which point it escapes out the door and into the town of Storybrooke. As it surrounds everyone, it next attempts to possess Regina Mills, but Emma, using the Dark One's Dagger, summons it to her instead, where it leaps upon her and binds itself to her instead, causing her to disappear out of their world. The dagger drops to the ground, now possessing the name, "Emma Swan".
The Darkness is the Bigger Bad of the first half of Season 5. It takes the form of Rumplestiltskin, telling Emma that he's the manifestation of the Darkness, and the evil side of Rumple. Throughout the first few episodes, Darkness Rumple attempts to persuade Emma to embrace the role of the Dark One, trying to persuade her to crush the heart of Merida, and attempting to get her to steal the dagger back from Regina, whom Emma entrusted it with. Emma realizes, when she can be happy with Hook and focus on him, Rumple vanishes from her mind. When Merlin and Emma go to complete the sword Excalibur by retrieving the ember from the first Dark One (Nimue), Emma calls Nimue forth and the Darkness within her summons Nimue, who tries to persuade Emma to kill Merlin, until Emma snaps in rage and forcefully rips the ember from a stunned Nimue, who dissipates, saying she'll be waiting in Emma's mind. Nimue then manipulates Captain Hook, who became the new Dark One, into being the fourth person to cast the dreaded Dark Curse so that he could return to Storybrooke and finally kill Rumplestiltskin.
After Third Curse
The Darkness is not one to be undaunted so easily, however, and returns in Storybrooke (once again as Rumplestiltskin) even after Emma has accepted her role as Dark One, instructing her to build up a hero to retrieve Excalibur - the now-reformed Mr. Gold.
With Gold now a hero, Excalibur is within Emma's grasp. The Darkness within her mind summons not only Rumple and Nimue, but every other Dark One from the past to observe her completion of the ritual. She merges the dagger with the blade using the ember - Excalibur is whole again, and despite Merlin's warnings not to take the sword, after Rumple and Nimue urge her on, Emma grabs it out of the air as the Dark Ones around her smile in triumph.
It is revealed that the Dark One was also influencing Captain Hook, who was shown to be another Dark One at the end of "Birth". The Darkness compels him to get revenge on Rumple, but Hook loses the ensuing duel. Nevertheless, he has the blood needed to let Nimue, the original host of the Darkness, to cross over, along with all other Dark Ones.
The Darkness is the ultimate antagonist and omnipresent force of evil in the Winter Finale, "Swan Song". Its power grows as all the Dark Ones, Nimue included, descend upon the town and begin their takeover. The heroes fight against the Darkness in a bid to save the town, and Hook desires to make Rumplestiltskin pay. The Darkness appears to be winning as Nimue begins to defeat Emma, but in the end, Hook decides to destroy Nimue and the others and sacrifice his own life to seal the Darkness away with him and all other Dark Ones. Instead, Gold performs a swap, believing his loved one Belle has given up on him, and becomes the Dark One once again, meaning that, in the end, the Darkness got away with every evil action it performed and was never destroyed like the previous Dark One souls were.
The Darkness appears one final time to Gold (as himself, humorously) in the Season 6 finale, "The Final Battle". He reminds Gold that even though he destroyed his mother, the Black Fairy, to save the realms, her last command to Gideon cannot be undone and says that he will always love having the Darkness. Gold disagrees and vows to become a better man for the Savior and his own family before commanding Gideon to stop using his heart. Fiona's spell on him proves too powerful, and the Darkness walks away through the tunnels laughing and confident in the belief that Gold has only further strengthened his son's destiny. However, the entity's taunts on its host prove meaningless as Gideon is brought back as child after stabbing Emma and Emma herself returns to life after True Love's Kiss form Henry.
Gold finally decides to accept that light and darkness will always have a place in him and joins the rest of the cast at the dinner table at Granny's.
After Fourth Curse
The Darkness is destroyed in the Series Finale Epsiode of Once Upon a Time "Leaving Storybrooke" after Weaver sacrifices his life to save the life of the Wish Realm version of Killian Jones which also kills the Wish Realm version of Rumplestiltskin thus erasing the Darkness from existence forever.
Powers and Abilities
Witchcraft: The host uses Witchcraft by the knowledge of the Holy Grail and the Darkness, so they don't need to learn the magical arts as other practitioners of magic do.
Immortality: The Darkness is immortal. This is a result of Nimue drinking the waters of the Holy Grail. Also because of that, Dark Ones don't get affected by temperatures, so they don't get cold or hot.
Unlimited Stamina: They don't need sleep, as the power of the Darkness keeps them energized. Dark Ones such as Rumplestiltskin and Emma develop hobbies to pass the time instead; Rumplestiltskin spins straw into gold and Emma makes dreamcatchers. Even though they don't need it, they can and do sleep. They can also be put into sleep by using sleeping spells.
Magical Resistance/Immunity: Dark Ones are resistant or immune to certain forms of magic or certain spells or curses such as the Spell of Shattered Sight, Singing Spells and Voodoo Magic; the former is due to Dark Ones already having a heart full of Darkness, while the latter two are relatively weak magic for a Dark One. Also a Dark One can escape from the Dark Curse's effects before the curse is broken, if they find a way to restore their memories before the casting of the curse.
- Magic: The Darkness' host can be affected or killed by anyone with sufficiently powerful magic (ex. a Savior, Cora, Merlin, Hades, the Black Fairy, etc) or sufficiently powerful forms of magic (ex. Light Magic, Dark Magic, Witchcraft, Divine Magic, etc).
- Squid Ink: Squid ink can immobilize a Dark One for a time as it can any magical being.
- Magical Nullification: A Dark One's magic can be nullified or drained as demonstrated by Rumplestiltskin's cell being enchanted to so that while inside, he could not use his magic.
- Lack of Foresight: Dark Ones cannot use Foresight, even though Merlin, who also got his magic from the Holy Grail, can. This is possibly due to their Holy Grail magic being corrupted, resulting in the loss of certain powers. However, they can acquire it from another source, such as another practitioner of foresight.
- Fire: For unknown reasons, fire seems to hurt the Darkness.
- Magical Compulsion: All Dark Ones seem to find it irresistible to make deals which can be used against them.
- Dark One Dagger: The traditional and most-known way to kill the Dark One is to stab them with the Dark One Dagger, and the power of the Darkness passes to the one who kills them.
- When a person becomes the Dark One via another way than killing previous host, they are automatically transported to the Vault of the Dark One and emerged from it, even if they are in another world.
- According to Cora and Mr. Gold, when the Dark One is killed without the dagger, such as by being poisoned with the dreamshade in the Land Without Magic, she/he will expel the power of the darkness, with no new Dark One, and the curse will "pass from this world".
- It's possible for a Dark One to kill another immortal person (either Merlin or another Dark One) who is gifted with Immortality from the Holy Grail.
- It is also possible for a Dark One to kill themselves with the dagger. However, the Darkness automatically sends itself to the Vault of the Dark One, ready to be spread out to the world with its previous host after someone sacrifices themselves.
- True Love's Kiss: True Love's kiss can break the Dark One's curse and destroy the Darkness however it will not break a Dark One's curse if the Dark One likes the power and does not want to give it up. When the afflicted wants it, it is no longer a curse. Nor will true love's kiss work if both people involved are Dark Ones.
- Excalibur: The reforged Excalibur can erase the Darkness as it is another form of the Holy Grail, the object that the Darkness originated from via the corruption of its magic.
- Olympian Crystal: The Olympian Crystal has the power to erase the Darkness as it can erase any being or entity.
- Guardians: It is possible for a Dark One to give their powers and immortality to the Guardian, who is someone incorruptible by evil, therefore it won't corrupt them, and the Darkness will be safe.
- Loss of Magic: A Dark One somehow losing his magic and immortality may not mean that the Dark One loses his Dark One-ness, as Wish Henry removed all of Weaver's powers of the Dark One with the Author's pen, but he still remained as the Dark One. After Wish Henry removes Weaver's immortality, it becomes possible for him to die again, whilst also erasing of the Darkness. However it should be noted that a Dark One worked with Wish Henry to subdue Weaver and the only reason Weaver didn’t fight back was because he couldn’t use Dark Magic.
- The Darkness can be considered the most prominent Bigger Bad of the entire series, being perhaps the most dangerous villain in the series or at least as much as the Black Fairy and Hades and being second in power only to the Black Fairy and Hades.
- Merlin was unable to defeat it completely, merely binding it to the dagger after it took Nimue.
- It is responsible for every Dark One throughout the franchise.
- Its power was supposed to have vanished after Gold killed Peter Pan along with himself, however it continued to exist after Gold's resurrection, presumably due to part of Excalibur surviving.
- Arguably, The Darkness is the main antagonist of the series as whole, as it is behind many main antagonists.
- It latched onto Rumplestiltskin, leading him to become evil and manipulative and eventually becoming the main antagonist of season 4.
- Rumple, inhabited by the Darkness, was the one who trained Regina Mills in magic, while ultimately helped her become the Evil Queen and eventually the main antagonist of Season 1.
- Rumple was also behind Cora Mills (mother of Regina) learning magic, which led to her becoming as manipulative and evil as he was and the main antagonist inSeason 2a.
- He trained Zelena as well, the main antagonist in 3b.
- And in season 4, Rumple, inhabited by the Darkness, reassembles a trio of villains known as the Queens of Darkness, recruiting Ursula and Cruella De Vil as support and resurrecting Maleficent, the other main antagonist in 4b.
- However, it should be noted that he is not responsible for Maleficent, Cruella, or Ursula becoming villains in the first place as they were corrupted by other factors: Maleficent via her rivalry with Briar Rose, Cruella was always evil and Ursula due to her anger at her father Poseidon.
- In Season 5, the Darkness latches onto Emma Swan, who is this season's primary antagonist up until "Birth", when it was revealed that Emma forcibly turned Hook into the Dark One; therefore, Hook (with Nimue as his puppet master) replaces her as the main antagonist in "Broken Heart" and "Swan Song". Towards the end of the latter episode, Hook absorbed the Darkness and sacrificed himself by telling Emma to kill him.
- It's also revealed that Rumplestiltskin (using the Darkness) was indirectly responsible for the creation of Mr. Hyde, the main antagonist in the beginning of Season 6, as well as the Evil Queen (who would not exist if he hadn't turned Regina evil), the other main antagonist of Season 6 until she redeems herself once and for all.
- The first Dark One, and therefore ultimately the creator of the Darkness, is revealed to be Nimue in the season five episode of the same name "Nimue".