In season five of Once Upon a Time, we were introduced to Merlin and his friend Adda when they escaped from the army and became lost in the desert. As they wandered the desert, they began to suffer from exhaustion and dehydration. Suddenly, Merlin saw a cup of water in the desert and ran towards it, which turned out to be the Holy Grail. When his friend Adda tried to touch it, he turned into dust. Afraid but seeing no other alternative, Merlin drank from it and received the ability to see into the future, obtained magical powers, and gained eternal youth! 500 years later, Merlin had transformed the desert into a luscious oasis where people took refuge and found peace. He became the village healer and a benevolent leader who did his best to do good with his powers. The best thing about Merlin in Once Upon a Time was that he made history as the first black Merlin!
He Was the First Black Merlin!
Of all the movies that has ever been out about King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table, Merlin has always been portrayed as an old white actor. For the first time in history, Merlin was portrayed by a young black actor, Elliott Knight. I love that Once Upon a Time was bold and forward thinking enough to allow diversity into this amazing world of magical and adventurous characters. Sir Lancelot, the best friend of King Arthur, was another famous character portrayed by a black man. It makes me love the show more because it helped showcase the talents of African American actors.
Merlin and Nimue Had a Great Love Story!
Merlin was lonely as an immortal until he fell in love with Nimue, a kind and sweet woman who was bent on revenge against Vortigan, a man who burned down her village and everyone she loved with it. She sought Merlin to help her plant the middlemist seeds that she escaped with. She believed her best revenge against Vortigan was for them to grow despite his best efforts to kill them. Merlin sped up the growing process with his magic. Shortly after, Merlin and Nimue began a blossoming relationship. Hoping to marry her, he decided to become mortal again so they could be together forever. In order to do that, they had to travel to find the Flame of Prometheus so that Merlin could remold the holy grail into a sword that was capable of cutting away his magic.
They eventually found it and created the sword, but Vortigan found them and attacked Nimue, causing her to bleed out in Merlin’s arms. When he tried to attack Merlin with the sword, Nimue ripped Vortigan's heart out. She was able to do that because she drank from the holy grail and obtained her own magical powers without Merlin knowing. In doing so, Nimue’s magic turned dark and she became the first Dark One.
He Fought for Good No Matter What!
To prevent Nimue's immortality and her powers from being taken away, she broke the sword into two. Merlin, heartbroken, hid the sword, Excalibur, into a stone and formed it into a dagger. He tied her spirit to the dagger so he could control her. Relentless, Nimue caught up to Merlin. He attempted to kill her as he wept for his former love, but he couldn’t do it. He dropped the dagger and she picked it up. Now in control of the dagger, she collected his tears on the blade and used the magic of his tears to turn him into a tree for centuries. Because of his love for Nimue, he still wasn't willing to kill her despite her being a great danger to the world. He stayed a pure and good sorcerer until the end.
Merlin Was Super Powerful!
Merlin had the power to reach people across the realms and talk to them beyond his time. For example, he was able to find Emma Swan as a young girl and warn her not to take the sword called Excalibur out of the stone. Before his heart was crushed by the evil Hook, he was able to communicate to Snow White, Regina, and Prince Charming through a red mushroom like a modern day voicemail to aid them in how to stop the Dark One living inside Emma. Merlin possessed other incredible powers, including the ability to heal people, be forever young, and see the future.
Elliot Knight is a Hot, Up and Coming Talented Actor!
Elliot Knight was a fan favorite in Once Upon a Time because he was so handsome and performed a great portrayal of the famous Merlin. The best part about Elliott Knight is that he doesn’t even think of himself in that way. He is a talented young actor trying to make his mark in the acting world. His breakout role was the title hero in Sky 1's popular adventure series called Sinbad, beating out hundreds of actors after an extensive worldwide search. After screen testing for leading roles in many TV pilots, Knight made his US network television debut in 2014 in ABC's hit series, How to Get Away With Murder as Aidan Walker, Michaela Pratt’s former fiancé. She freaked out and believed that Aidan is gay because Aidan and his friend Connor Walsh went to the same boarding school as teenagers and had a sexual relationship there. Because he couldn't convince her that he was straight, they ended up breaking up. He appeared in the episodes,"Smile, or Go to Jail" and "Best Christmas Ever."
Merlin was such a lovable and strong character who fought the good fight no matter what he had to sacrifice. Eliott Knight is not afraid to play complex characters with sweet vulnerability, charm, and charisma. You can't help but feel emotionally connected to his characters. If you want more of Eliott Knight, watch him in the 2015 TV drama, The Advocate, as Brett and the 2016 TV mystery, American Gothic as Officer Brady. I can't be the only one who wept when Hook crushed Merlin's heart, right?! If Neal from Once Upon a Time can rise from the dead, Merlin can too!