'OUAT's Merlin Teases An Intense Season 5

by Jennifer Still

If you tuned in last week for the premiere of Once Upon A Time Season 5, you know that the stakes are higher than ever this time around. Not only is Emma the new Dark One, struggling to control the darkness and keep her light magic alive (a battle she seems to be losing, from the looks of things), but the hunt is on for Merlin in Camelot. The Sorcerer himself is the creator of the Dark One, and according to the Apprentice, the only one who can destroy the evil force once and for all. As it turns out, finding him will be a little harder than initially expected — and so far the only glimpse we've caught of Merlin, played by Elliot Knight, was in flashback form when he managed to come to our world to warn a very young Emma not to pull the sword she would one day find from the stone. It's already clear Merlin will be central to Season 5's major storylines, and while the character is known to be a force of good, something tells me he might get a more sinister spin — at least, that's what could be gathered when the actor who plays Merlin himself, Knight, sat down with Bustle to talk about the series.

"It's going to be a very interesting season, especially for pre-existing fans of the show," Knight tells Bustle. "The ones that have been around from the very beginning and are into all the details of all the stories, the ones that know the stories better than I would and some of the cast would — they're going to really love this season, and I'm really excited for them."

While Knight's lips are necessarily sealed in terms of just how far Merlin's powers reach, one thing the season premiere made clear is that Merlin is not only legendary for making incredibly accurate — and occasionally rather foreboding prophecies — but he knew all along that Emma would eventually become the Dark One. While Rumplestiltskin has always been Once's resident prophecy maker and clairvoyant, it seems as though Merlin could be taking over that role.

"There's a whole world of stories and events that have taken place before the show starts. Obviously magic has been around for much longer than Storybrooke has been around, and I think it's safe to assume that Merlin was definitely a part of that time," Knight explains. "Anything and everything that is happening in one way or another links backs to [magic's] origins, and at the point we're at now, Merlin has been present — actively present."

While Merlin is currently in Camelot, there's no indication that he's originally from there, nor is there any explanation — at least not yet — of how he ended up there. While Knight can't give any answers on that front, he can guarantee that we're in for a treat when it comes to exploring the world of Camelot and everything it has to offer.

"There are going to be a lot of questions answered in this season and not just questions that are going to come up as you watch, but also questions about the show from the very beginning that maybe people didn't even know they would ask," he teases. "We're going to one of most magical places — we're going to Camelot. It's steeped in myth and legend! It's almost like another show, I feel like. It's not just that we're going to one place and we'll focus on one thing for a few episodes, we're going to explore a whole new world of magic."

This world of magic that exists in Camelot, and particularly within Merlin, will be fascinating to learn about and explore as we move further into Season 5. Emma will desperately need Merlin's help if she wants any hope of being restored to her former Savior self, and while we're led to believe that the group's first six weeks in the Enchanted Forest weren't successful, there's still every reason to hope that eventually, the Sorcerer will come through in doing the right thing and destroying the darkness for good. Of course, we don't know what his reason for creating it in the first place was, which leaves many uncomfortable when it comes to Merlin's motivations and his power. Could he be dark, too?

"That saying with great power comes great responsibility is so true. Power doesn't necessarily dictate whether something is good or evil, or whether they act in a moral or immoral way. What I've found about the show, personally, I like that it's breaking away from permanently defining people as good or evil. We're looking at these characters that we all recognize and know, for the most part. You're the goody, you're the baddie and that's it," Knight posits.

"But the deeper down you go [into their stories], the more you realize that it raises an important question: is anyone good or evil if they're acting on their heart? Is the whole concept of good and evil relative? It's about choice, and that's what I'll say about Merlin. Without giving anything away, when I was thinking about Merlin and approaching the scenes and the bigger picture of what's going to happen this season," Knight continues, "I was thinking a lot about how the real question isn't whether someone is good or evil, but what they choose to be. Everyone has the potential to act in either way or be either way."

So is Merlin good or evil? "I would say that being one doesn't necessarily mean they can't be the other," Knight jokes. "Ooh, cryptic!"

Cryptic indeed! I guess we'll have to tune in and see.

Images: Isaac Sterling Photography; Jack Rowand/ABC; ABC