Over the past season, Oncers have been delving into the mysteries of Camelot as we root for Emma (well, most of us) and watch desperately as she struggles against her role as The Dark One. Passed down through many corrupted souls, the title of The Dark One formerly belonged to one individual at a time—but now, thanks to the tricks of the cunning Zelena, both Emma Swan and Killian Jones (a.k.a. Captain Hook, Emma's main squeeze) share the title.
We haven't yet been given a good look at whether or not Killian gets a wardrobe change, but it's safe to say that—based on the preview for the next episode—he's not going to be a very reluctant Dark One. But what is he up against, and how do his predecessors rank? Here's our definitive list of the coolest Dark Ones thus far on Once Upon a Time.
The ultimate Dark One. While other folks might be a fan of good ol' Rumple, his exceptionally creepy relationship with Belle is only the tip of my massive problem with this guy. His actions are selfish, cowardly, and at their core—evil. No matter how well he may mean, Rumple has the weakest will when it comes to the Darkness, which is exactly what makes him peak Dark One material.
This guy gives in to the darkness wholly almost every time he's given a chance to fight it, but don't underestimate his shaky resolve; it's what gives him his strength. By giving into his fears and acting only for himself, Rumple constantly erases his ability to feel remorse, even if it's in small and controlled bursts. This allows the Darkness to take over and give him the ultimate power, swaying innocent minds in his favor and manipulating situations in terrible ways while playing a deadly, dangerous game of chess... with himself.
While Emma's been struggling against her rightful place in those awesome snakeskin thigh-high boots, her role so far as The Dark One has been one of the most interesting developments in the series, especially because I didn't think that I'd enjoy her turn to the Darkness at all. While her predecessors didn't exactly struggle against their acceptance of the role, what makes Emma's experience unique is her almost Anakin Skywalker-like goals when it comes to saving her family. Holding on to a desperate belief that she can protect her son and boyfriend by using the Darkness as her defense (she reasons with herself this way to handle several situations).
Whether Emma escapes the Darkness is yet to be seen. She's not in the best of predicaments, and Killian's rebirth as the latest Dark One will most definitely test her resolve.
Nimue was Merlin's lady love, and while she's known in ancient lore as the Lady of the Lake, she took on the role of The Dark One pretty willingly once she learned that she could take revenge upon the people that destroyed her family. Nimue seemingly chose the Darkness over Merlin, but her feelings for him are her greatest weakness.
Possibly the only person on Once more cowardly than Rumple, Zoso was a desperate, and mostly unwilling Dark One who decided that the only way out of the curse was fooling someone into killing him with the enchanted dagger - thus, locking that person in as the Dark One forever. Granted, Zoso wasn't the most kind or considerate person in the book, which is probably why he and Rumple gravitated toward one another so easily. Known best for his melancholy monologues, Zoso could be seen as the person who started all of this.
Gorgon The Invincible
While the details of Gorgon's life are unknown (was Gorgon a fire-breathing Bandersnatch or a person who had the ability to change into the appearance of a Bandersnatch?), one thing is for sure: Gorgon was not invincible. Seen only as a vision thus far, Gorgon was cut down by Zoso despite having made quite the reputation under the veil of The Dark One.
Honorable Mention: Not A Dark One, But The Evil Queen
Though Regina Mills was never actually known as the Dark One, her former command and understanding of Dark Magic has made her a formidable foe when facing off with a Dark One. It's partially Regina's understanding of the Darkness that has kept Emma afloat throughout her struggles this season, and Regina's past dealings with Rumplestiltskin prove that—having broken away from the Dark Magic—Regina has a higher command of overall magic than many give her credit for.
While Emma Swan has arguably defined what it means to look like the Dark One (sans warts and red eyes), it's likely Rumplestiltskin that still holds the title of ultimate Dark One, thanks to the fact that he is the perfect vessel for Dark Magic to take form within. Keep it up, Rumple! You're the worst!