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Merlin, a clueless farmboy and closet Magic-user, arrives in the Big City of Camelot. In a very quick piece of exposition we learn that King Uther Pendragon [Anthony Stewart Head - Buffy ] has banned use of magic, on sentance of death. The last Dragon (John Hurt - Alien ) has been imprisoned in a cave under the castle, and the evil witches have a grudge against the good (but intolerant) King.
Merlin gets a job with the Wise Old Man (Richard Wilson with long hair? I don't belieeeeve it!). Nothing in Camelot matches any previous version of the Legends, but since this is from the BBC then viewers should expect something like Robin Hood (2006) . Prince Arthur is the school bully. Gwenhyfar is a dusky-skinned serving wench who prefers Merlin to Arthur.
Whoever is behind this has obviously been influenced by Smallville , in the same way that Torchwood is more than slightly reminiscent of Angel . And on a similar note, Eve Myles pops up as a Princess who is imitated by an eeevil witch who wants to attack Camelot from the inside.
The BBC contract player of the week is Will Mellor, AKA Gaz the muscular skinhead from 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. He rides into town as Knight Valiant, and duels Arthur. Unfortunately, Mr Valiant has eeevil magic on his side ...
People start dropping dead in the city. It seems there's a supernatural plague! Merlin tries to help, but his casual attitude to Magic use just starts more trouble.
Merlin and Arthur go hunting for the beast that's contaminated the city's water supply. Morgana tags along.
A powerful Sorceress named Nimueh is responsible. She might be involved in the show's story arc ...
Uther's enemy comes to Camelot for a peace deal. A servant girl tells Merlin that Arthur's chalice has been poisoned. Merlin ends up getting poisoned himself.
Arthur goes on a quest to get the antidote. Unfortunately, the eevil sorceress Nimueh is still pulling the strings. And Uther is a complete bastard. Not just ruthless, as in prior episodes, but almost sadistic!
Merlin is saved from a Griffin by a foreign warrior named ... Lancelot! Lancelot goes to Camelot to become a Knight ... But Uther's first commandment is that only the Aristocrats can become Knights. This is perfectly sensible - what fool would give military power to illegal immigrants like Lancelot instead of trustworthy members of the Aristocracy? One cannot attempt to force modern concepts of social mobility onto an agrarian, pre-Industrial society!
Richard Wilson tells Uther that the rampaging monster was created by magic. But Uther still refuses to use magic to fight it! After all, magic is powerful and power corrupts.
Morgana falls ill. It's due to a magic beetle, but Gaius (Richard Wilson) mis-diagnoses the problem. Luckily there's a scar-faced stranger in town who promises A Remedy To Cure All Ills.
Strangely, the King automatically trusts the stranger. Ironic, considering his past record. Valiant, a villain, was quickly trusted, while heroic Lancelot was quickly made an outcast. Doesn't Uther have the brains to mistrust his own instincts?
For some reason these Dark Ages characters all use modern-day medical terminology. It's more like an episode of Holby City than anything else.
Morgana has a premonition. It's not about her, it's about Arthur. This is a pity, of course, because her precognative powers could have been useful in saving herself last week.
Arthur and Merlin are out deer-hunting (with Medieval crossbows). They rescue a beautiful young woman and her dad from bandits. Naturally, Arthur falls for the damsel, and when he takes her back to Camelot she starts to seduce him. She has her own agenda, of course, linked to the Faerie World of Avalon.
Merlin's duty is to protect Arthur. He lies to Uther to cover for Arthur's dalliances. And he gets punished repeatedly, to comical effect. Believe it or not, this counts as character development!
A Druid and his pre-teen son are spotted by the Camelot Guards. The wee lad manages to escape, and hides with Merlin and his pals. He has telepathy, but only with other magic-users. His dad had telekinesis, but only uses it when convenient to the plot. And Merlin's telekinesis can be used for exotic and humourous scenes.
Morgana feels the inexplicable urge to protect the youngster. The Dragon, on the other hand, predicts dire consequences. Naturally, the twist ending to the episode is terribly predictable.
Someone has been reading Gawain and the Green Knight. However, this time it's a Black (armoured) Knight, and he wants to duel Uther. Naturally, the King doesn't duel people, so the junior knights must face the stranger ...
The Black-armoured Knight is a zombie, raised by Nimueh ( Michelle Ryan ). A normal sword will not slay the undead, so Merlin must get a magic sword ... Excalibur!
Merlin's village is raided by bandits led by Alexander Siddig ( Star Trek: DS9 ). Unfortunately, the village is across the border - uther can't send an army to help, and the local King doesn't seem to care about the bandits.
Merlin goes home to fight. Arthur, Morgana and Gwen come along to help. Arthur tries to teach the local yokels how to stick up for themselves, and gives a pathetic speach vaguely reminiscent of Henry V. Merlin's childhood buddy, William, protests that they should just beome draft-dodging refugees instead of fighting.
Arthur kills a unicorn - he's evidently never seen that Tim Curry film made from outtakes of Blade Runner !
Arthur is tested, with all the usual cheesy crap about goodness of heart and so on. He's sent through a hedge-maze. Wow. The ending is particularly disappointing.
Gwen's father, the Blacksmith, is arrested for consorting with a known sorceror. Morgana lost her own father due to Uther's actions, and she wants revenge. This asks more questions than it answers ... did Uther copy King David's strategy.
Merlin discovers Morgana's plot. He has to ask himself, would Camelot be better off without Uther? Is Arthur really ready to take the throne? Would it be morally acceptable to allow the assassination?
This is a great episode in terms of characterisation and plotting. Certainly an improvement over the previous episode.
Merlin finally gets a climactic confrontation with Nimueh ( Michelle Ryan ).
A tomb is discovered in the mines under Camelot. Sneak-thief Mackenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ) hears of this, and gets a job as Arthur's servant in order to get access to the tomb.
It turns out that the tomb bears the Curse of Cornelius Sigan, the greatest sorceror the kingdom has ever seen.
A neighbouring King hires the world's greatest assassin, Adrian Lester (token black guy in Hustle, looking butch with a beard) to kill Arthur.
Arthur discovers that the other knights have been pulling their punches during training with him. He decides to attend the great tournament incognito, and win in the guise of another knight. Merlin helps, as always, and Guinevere shelters Arthur in her home.
Morgana's magical powers start to develop - violently. She's terrified of what's happening to her, and Merlin takes pity on her. He arranges for her to hide out with the Druids ...
Uther thinks the Druids have kidnapped his ward. This gives him the excuse he needs to send Arthur and the guards on a genocidal rampage. Can Merlin sort this mess out?
A gang of bandits kidnap Morgana and Guinevere, so their boss Hengist (James Cosmo - Braveheart ) can get a ransom from Uther. The girls show a lot of backbone, despite the story hinging on the need for a manly rescue.
Uther refuses to send a rescue party, so Arthur and Merlin sneak off alone. Arthur in particular wishes to rekindle Guinevere's favour. Yes, Arthur obsesses over Guinevere.
A noblewoman comes to Camelot, and seduces King Uther. Merlin is the only one who realises that she's a Troll!
The troll pretends to be an upper-class human, but betrays herself with a working-class accent in her true form. Also, the trolls tend to be quite flatulent - like the skin-wearing aliens in Dr Who .
Since the Troll has both outsmarted and out-magicked Merlin, can he and Gaius evade the palace guards and uncover the Troll's secret to the rest of the court?
Merlin's typically lax attitude towards magic means that a paranoid peasant sees too much. The Witchfinder (Charles Dance - For Your Eyes Only ) is called in by Uther, who is willing to pay for his expenses even though the only proof is the word of a crazy woman. Worse, even if there is no actual evidence the Witchfinder will make sure some is found.
An unknown knight walks into Camelot, overpowering the guards, and challenges Arthur to a duel. Naturally, then unmasked the knight turns out to be a beautiful woman - Morgause ( Emilia Fox ). Naturally, she has an agenda of her own.
We get to see the secrets that Uther has been hiding from everyone, especially Arthur. This is a nice set-up for the Season climax. Of course, the whole thing seems a bit last minute. Not much in the way of advance foreshadowing or complex plot, but this is the BBC we’re talking about.
Merlin discovers a Druid girl who has been captured by a Bounty Hunter and delivered as a gift for King Uther. Naturally, the silly boy releases the girl. This puts him at risk, because Uther and his men now know that the Druids have a secret ally in Camelot. Worse, kindly old mentor Gaius now knows that Merlin is a liar and a thief.
Now the girl is loose, people start to die. The full moon is up, and a mysterious monster is on a kill-crazy rampage. Will Merlin take responsibility for the bloodshed?
Uther hosts a peace conference at Camelot.
One of the Kings brings his creepy jester (Kevin Eldon -
The Jester uses his magic to secretly enchant Arthur and the beautiful princess, making them fall in love with each other.
The idea is that the king will become insanely jealous and overprotective of his female offspring, and duel Arthur to the death.
And when royal blood is spilt, war is inevitable ...
leaving Eldon's boss neutral, and thus the only winner in the long run.
Naturally, Merlin spends his time running around trying to save Arthur from humiliating himself.
Isn't this love-enchantment plot a bit similar to the troll-wife two-parter from a few episodes ago?
The Jester uses his magic to secretly enchant Arthur and the beautiful princess, making them fall in love with each other. The idea is that the king will become insanely jealous and overprotective of his female offspring, and duel Arthur to the death. And when royal blood is spilt, war is inevitable ... leaving Eldon's boss neutral, and thus the only winner in the long run.
Naturally, Merlin spends his time running around trying to save Arthur from humiliating himself. Isn't this love-enchantment plot a bit similar to the troll-wife two-parter from a few episodes ago?
Mordred is back, this time at the head of a gang of murderous bandits.
Morgause ( Emilia Fox ) is back. She has a bunch of zombie knights, and with her sister's help casts a spell on Camelot to make everyone fall asleep. Like in the Cattle Raid of Cooley.
Arthur and Merlin, the last ones awake, must hide Uther before Morgause can find him. Morgana is still awake as well, and Merlin must choose his side.
The Dragon wants revenge on Uther. Only the last Dragonlord (John Lynch) can save Camelot ...
After months of fruitless searching, Morgana miraculously returns. Merlin is the only one who is suspicious. Uther, by comparison, treats her as a long-lost daughter.
Morgana's sister, the butch (yet more gorgeous than ever) Morgause ( Emilia Fox ), is plotting. She has a King as her pawn.
Merlin and the Dragon (Yes, John Hurt's voiceover is back) take on Morgana and her sister. Morgana has something to do for a change other than look pretty.
Merlin accidentally unleashes a goblin creature. It causes CGI havoc, then possesses Gaius. As always, Merlin is the only one to realise that someone's personality has changed.
This is a comedy ep, but the story arc is beginning to show. Morgana is Merlin's arch-foe, somehow far more dangerous to him than Nimoue was in Season One.
Merlin and Arthur go incognito to a tavern, and face off with the local brigands. So much for the Kingdom being crime-free and peaceful. A stranger helps our heroes - though this time it's Gawain, not Lancelot.
Arthur returns to Camelot to fight in the Melee contest. The brigands attend too, using magic to disguise themselves as knights. This seems more than a little familiar as a plot device.
Morgana tries to assassinate Uther by magical means again. Merlin tries to stop her, and ends up making things even worse.
Morgana learns of Uther's secret, but instead of being placated by the knowledge she is enraged by it. Morgause now seems to be the voice of reason!
King Uther decides to force his son into an arranged marriage. Morgana doesn't object, even though this will push her further out of the succession. Even Gaius gets a love interest!
The Princess in question is possessed by a Faerie, and guarded by secret Pixie Miriam Margoles.
This ep was written by Lucy Watkins - best known for This Life, but she also wrote an episode of the dreadfully disappointing show Demons .
Gwen is kidnapped by men who work for Morgause's BF Sanred. They somehow wandered into Camelot town in full chain-mail. Gwen is ordered to bring Arthur to the impregnable castle, or her brother (a black smith, in more ways than one) will be murdered.
Morgana comes along for the quest. It would be a nice idea if Merlin brought Gawain too, but he can't even reveal that Morgana is a traitor.
The only good thing is that, like a classical villain, Sanred keeps dangerous prisoners alive to be tortured - thus giving them opportunities to escape!
Arthur goes off on a quest to prove his manhood. This despite the fact that he has won tournaments and led the knights into battle!
Morgause ( Emilia Fox ) drops by to give Morgana a cursed item, the The Eye of the Phoenix. When Morgana gives it to Arthur it will slowly sap his strength, making it impossible for him to survive the quest.
Gwen is suspicious of Morgana. And Merlin gets Gawaine to help save Arthur.
Gaius' old GF, Alice (Pauline Collins) comes to Camelot. She uses magic to cure illnesses, and Gaius covers up for her. But she is secretly controlled by an evil Manticore ...
Arthur and Guinevere go for some private alone-time. Morgana arranges for Uther to discover this, in the hope that Arthur will be disinherited and thus she will become sole heir to Camelot.
Gwen is framed for enchanting Arthur. Merlin decides to disguise himself as an elderly version of himself, then pose as an evil wizard who wanted to undermine Arthur.
A couple of thuggish bandits attack a competitor en route to a tournament at Camelot. Haven't we seen this before? And predictably, a secret magic-user enters the match.
This isn't the same as the Melee Tournament. It's hand-to-hand, on foot with no holds or weapons barred - but it's one on one, with organised bouts.
Morgana manipulates Uther into entering the contest. After all, she is second in line to the throne - only Uther and Arthur stand in her way.
Arthur and Uther face off. Father against son in front of a crowd baying for blood, while Ennio Morricone-style music plays, makes this reminiscent of a Spaghetti Western.
Who should we be cheering for? Uther, who oppresses magic-users, or a morally-troubled member of the oppressed minority?
This episode is better thought-out than most, and certainly far above the level of the other BBC show, Robin Hood .
Uther sends Arthur on a quest for the Cup of Life, a pagan chalice with powers like the Holy Grail. Arthur and Merlin bump into Gawain on the way, of course.
Morgause also wants it, so she can raise an invincible army and take Camelot by force. She won't have much need for her ally, of course.
The story takes off from the cliffhanger ending last episode, where the villains have the upper hand.
Our heroes respond by bringing together the foreshadowed elements from different episodes. Gawain, Percival and Lancelot all join Arthur. Meanwhile, Merlin visits the lady of the lake to retrieve the magic sword.
The main story is nicely tied up, but if the show is renewed for another Season there is still enough mileage for more stories.
Morgana is still alive and kicking, though her sister Morgause is severely wounded. They go to a magic isle, the Isle of the Blessed, where an old witch tells Morgana that she will be defeated by Emrys. Morgana breaks the veil between life and death, so a pack of CGI ghosts come flying out.
Back in Camelot, Uther is paralysed and almost comatose. Arthur is in charge, advised by his creepy uncle Traitoro - I mean, Agrivaine. But the town is flooded with refugees from all over the land. Yes, about a hundred people ...
Arthur takes his best knights on a quest. Merlin's magic is useless against the ghosts, but he goes along anyway.
Lancelot takes Merlin back, in the hope of getting him healed. Luckily, despite Uther's crusade against magic it is not long until they bump into some helpful water-sprites.
Arthur leads the knights though the cave of giant moles that he and Merlin faced in Merlin (2008) [Season 2, Episode 4] Lancelot and Guinevere.
Arthur plans to sacrifice himself at the Isle of the Blessed. Merlin will sacrifice himself to save Arthur. But who will REALLY make the sacrifice?
An assassin tries to kill Arthur – again. But Uther is mortally wounded. Can Merlin use magic to save him? Will Morgana stop him?
Baltar ( BSG 2003 ) is on a quest – to steal the last dragon egg. He is an old pupil of Gaius, who knows better than to trust him. Merlin wants to help Baltar, though - he wants to hatch the dragon egg. But Merlin's attempts to steal Arthur's key are so bumbling that they make Uncle Traitoro look competent and trustworthy!
Arthur goes after him, with the Knights in tow. Merlin doesn’t know who to help ...
At the suggestion of his wicked uncle, Arthur executes a bloodthirsty warlord who refused to make peace. But the man’s wife ( Lindsay Duncan ) wants revenge, and leads her HUGE army to invade. Morgana helps the vengeful Queen.
Arthur and his comrades get ambushed in the forest. Merlin gets captured by Morgana, and implanted with a Puppet-Master type parasite (which looks like a Hydra). His orders are to return to Camelot and to murder Arthur.
Gaius notices that Merlin's personality is changed. Arthur is busy trying to locate the traitor. His creepy uncle is the obvious suspect, but he manages to cast suspicion onto Gaius.
Merlin has to face Morgana in order to free himself from the curse. He disguises himself as the old man yet again.
Morgana had a close call last episode, and realises she has to get Emrys before he can get her. She hires a Cathar – no, not an Albigensian, but a priest of The Old Religion. Funny, I thought that was the druids. Of course, the actor they got was the one who played the druid in the UK TV film of Boadicea .
Gaius is kidnapped and tortured for the identity of Emrys. Back in Camelot, the obvious traitor claims that Gaius is a traitor. Can Merlin and Gawain clear the old man's name?
Men fall ill in a remote village. Gaius is busy in Camelot, so Arthur sends Merlin and Gwen – along with 4 knights. It turns out that the illness is the result of sorcery.
En route back to Camelot, they blunder into a gang of robbers. Despite being well-armed with swords, the thugs are easily defeated. Their damsel in distress is rescued. Her name is Lamia …
Anyone who has seen Drag Me To Hell will have worked out who the demonic source of the illness is. The knights start to fight among themselves, and obey suggestions from Lamia.
Artur decides to marry Gwen. He's known her for years, but there is no reason for him to hurry into it. The peasants are not any more revolting than usual, so making himself popular with the plebs is hardly an excuse.
The first person that Artur tells is his creepy uncle, who instantly goes and tells Morgana. Morgana knows Gwen's secret - her love of Lancelot. The witch must go to the last of the five gateways to the Land of the Dead to summon him. Does anyone keep track of all these sacred sites?
Merlin is the only one who realises that something is wrong.
The Knights discover a strange shrine in the forest. Gwen's brother investigates, and gets haunted by a creepy little boy.
The ghost is a Druid boy, victim of the Purge that Uther inflicted on them. But the one who actually led the troops, and who must take responsibility, was Arthur himself ...
The idea of Arthur atoning for being too bloodthirsty was already explored a couple of episodes ago. It seems to be getting repetitive.
Arthur is betrothed to marry a Princess ( Janet Montgomery ). He is still on the rebound after having to exile Gwen.
Guinevere has gone from taking out Morgana's chamberpot to shovelling pig-poop on a farm. Some Saracens invade the village, slaughter the women and rape the cattle. Oh, except for Gwen, who they dress as a belly-dancer and then allow to escape.
The new Princess loves to go hunting. Will Arthur manage to impress her by killing a doe (a deer, a female deer)? Even if that deer is Gwen, under a shapeshifting enchantment?
Evil Uncle Agravane starts snooping around, trying to find a sally port he can use as a back-door entrance to Camelot.
Agravane leads Morgana's Saracens (plus pirates and Persians from 300 ) in an invasion of Camelot. Arthur is stunned, and Merlin must lead him to safety. The rest of the supporting cast are soon rounded up. Only Arthur and Merlin are left, which is just as well because they are the core of the show.
Merlin disguises Arthur as a half-wit yokel. They are forced to team up with Tristan and Isolde, a pair of Frankinsense smugglers.
This starts 3 years after the previous Season. Gawain and some minions have gone MIA on patrol in the Northern Wastes. Arthur takes the rest of the Knights to search for him.
Morgana is back, with new allies. A Saxon horde conveniently provides manpower. Also, she has a Druidic Ninja (Liam Cunningham - Game of Thrones ).
The Knights are in a slave mine, digging for a magic key.
Arthur and Merlin don't know if they can trust a grown-up Mordred.
Guinevere is in charge of Camelot, now all the men (except Gaius and her brother) are away. At least she seems a lot wiser than she used to be.
Arthur saves a suspected Witch from a summary burning at the stake. She gives him a magical artefact, the Horn of Cathbad. It allows the user to visit the land of the dead, and speak to a deceased loved one.
It is the anniversary of Arthur's coronation - and Uther's death. Arthur visits his dead father, but discovers that Uther is still a bigoted tight-arse. Uther is unhappy with the liberal regime now in Camelot. And then his ghost starts to haunt the castle, attacking low-class types who have risen above their station.
Arthur and Merlin must bannish the ghost. Will Arthur get conveniently knocked out so he doesn't see Merlin using magic to save his life?
Morgana is back, with a new ally. Princess Janet Montgomery comes to Camelot, begging Arthur's help. Will he recklessly lead his army into a trap yet again? Why break the habit of a lifetime?
Gwen and her brother go visit their father's grave. On the way back, they and their knightly bodyguards are ambushed by magical snakes. Morgana still wants revenge!
Morgana keeps Gwen in a special cell in the Dark Tower, where she is magically subjected to psychological torture. Its defences combine spooky Halloween decorations with booby-traps from Raiders of the Lost Ark .
Arthur and Merlin come to the rescue, along with the other Knights. They know full well that they are going into a trap, but they charge in anyway. Who is the bigger fool - Arthur, who always falls into traps, or Morgana, who sets them even though they always fail? Wiley E Coyote would have learned the lesson by now!
Arthur is ambushed while out riding. Suspicion falls upon Arthur's stable-groom (Samwell Tarley from Game of Thrones ).
The investigations to discover the traitor take on a CSI-like approach, where they forget the suspects and focus on the evidence. Nobody thinks that the real traitor would be able to dispose of physical evidence linking them to the crime, or to plant it on an unwitting patsy.
It is good to see that Morgana actually has a decent plan this week.
Camelot plays host to a villainous king known as The Sarrum. He looks like John Shrapnel, but his guards are scimitar-weilding Saracens. Arthur fears and mistrusts him, but knows he must make the alliance work.
We find out what happened to Morgana in her two missing years. She mentioned in a previous ep that she spent the time chained up at the bottom of a well. But it was the Sarrum who was responsible ... and this is part of her revenge plan.
Merlin meets a young Druid boy, who asks him for help. Can he be trusted? Or is it yet another one of Morgana's amateurish and half-hearted attempts to kill her arch-enemy?
Arthur and Merlin want to cure Gwen of her brainwashing. They have to take her on a secret journey to what looks like a disused quarry. Mordred gets suspicious - where do his true loyalties lie?
This time Arthur will not trust Emrys again - so Gaius tells him that a different Sorceror will help them. This time, Merlin has to magically disguise himself as a woman.
Morgana is not the only sorceress this week. Emrys has to visit an old blind crone, who allies herself with Morgana.
Morgana captures the Cathar priest who knows the true identity of Emrys. Will he reveal the secret?
Back in Camelot, Arthur is still murderously paranoid about magic-users. This makes things more difficult for Merlin and the Cathars.
A murderous Druid girl is on the loose. Mordred wants to protect her, for old times' sake. Arthur declares her to be an Enemy of Camelot - a crime punishable by Death!
Now Morgana knows Merlin's secret, she tries to remove him as a threat. As a result, he must go on a quest to the Crystal cave.
Previously, there was a female spy in Camelot - Morgana herself, and then Gwen. Now there is a convenient love interest for Gawain. Whose side is she on?
Morgana sends her Saxon army to invade the lands of Camelot. Arthur decides to cut them off at the pass, literally, by putting his army at Camlan. Unfortunately, Morgana and Mordred must have been watching 300 , because they decide to duplicate the Persian strategy at Thermopyle. Yes, there is a secret path for the Saxons to outflank Arthur's men.
With the battle underway, Merlin rushes to save the day. Why he does not use his Dragon-riding skills is not explained. But at least he can chase away Morgana's pet dragon, to even the odds. And despite having the amazing ability to make a spectacular lightning display while silhouetted on a mountaintop, his combat skills are the same as they have always been - to send someone flying through the air.
The battle features hundreds of casualties, but there is no blood. Arthur is wounded, so Merlin must take him to the Isle of Avalon. Finally we get some heart-warming scenes of them together.
Morgana is still out for blood. But Gawain wants revenge on her. Finally the Wylie she-coyote will meet her fate.