Merlin is collecting mushrooms out in the forest when he’s startled by a loud screeching noise. A griffin bursts out of the trees and hurtles toward Merlin. Though he makes a run for it, he trips over and is just about to be torn to shreds when a dark-haired youth steps in front of him. He swings a sword at the creature, but it shatters on impact, buying the two of them enough time to take cover under a fallen log.
Once the griffin takes to the air and just before he passes out from the wound he sustained in the fight, Merlin’s rescuer manages to introduce himself: “Lancelot.”
Back at the castle Gaius assures Merlin that Lancelot’s wounds are superficial and that he’ll be back to normal in no time. Meanwhile, Arthur and Uther survey the damage done to an outlying village and ascertain that the winged monster has a taste for human flesh.
Having recovered from his wounds, Lancelot stares out at Camelot from the castle windows and shares his ambition with Merlin: to become a knight of Camelot. Eager to repay his debt to Lancelot for saving his life, Merlin promises to talk to Arthur on his behalf.
Arthur is clearly having difficulty recruiting new knights, as the latest contender to knighthood is taken down by Arthur in two swift blows
. On hearing Merlin speak of Lancelot he agrees to meet with him, but reminds Merlin that anyone wishing to become a knight of Camelot must be of noble blood.
Merlin rushes back to Lancelot with the good news…and asks if there’s any chance that Lancelot is a nobleman. He’s not, and Gaius is quick to point out the First Code of Camelot is that only those with noble blood can serve. Merlin rightly thinks that this is weirdly counter-productive to the wellbeing and on-going safety of Camelot, and after hearing Lancelot’s Tragic Back Story
(parents killed in a raid, trained every day since then, vowed to fight against tyranny) he promises to give him the chance he deserves.
Merlin sneaks into the library (where we get our first look at Geoffrey of Monmouth) and uses magic to forge a seal of nobility for Lancelot, identifying him as the fifth son of Lord Eldred of Northumbria. Lancelot argues against such deception, but Merlin coaxes him into it.
Merlin: We're not breaking the rules. We're bending them, that's all. You get your foot in the door. But after that you will be judged on your merit alone. And if you succeed - if they make you a knight - it'll be because you earned it, noble or not. I can't change the way things are done around here, but you can...if you let me help you.
Next stop is Guinevere’s house so that Lancelot can be measured for a suit of armour – though all of a sudden he’s more interested in the girl that’s doing the measuring.
Lancelot: Thi...*ahem* This is very kind of you, er...
Gwen: Short for Guinevere.
Lancelot: Ah. Then thank you, Guinevere.
Gwen: Don't thank me. Thank Merlin. Merlin would do anything for anyone, wouldn't you, Merlin? I think it's great that Merlin's got you this chance. We need men like you.
Lancelot: You do?
Gwen: Well, not me personally, but you know...Camelot. Camelot needs knights. Not just Arthur and his kind, but ordinary people like you and me.
Lancelot: Well, I'm not a knight yet, My Lady.
Gwen: And I'm not a lady.
It’s pretty damn cute, and Lancelot even summons up enough courage to kiss her hand
before he leaves. Outside in the corridor he’s quick to ask Merlin what his relationship with Gwen is, and Merlin assures him that they’re Just Friends
At the next training session Gwen and Merlin adjust Lancelot’s new armour and usher him forward to where Arthur has just completed his drills for the day. Lancelot introduces himself and presents his faked seal, only for Arthur to immediately knock him off his feet. Undeterred, Lancelot gets back up, only to be ordered to clean out Arthur’s stables. He turns in confusion to Merlin, who – judging by the thumbs up he’s giving him – considers this a step in the right direction.
That night Gaius tries to console Merlin on his disappointment over Lancelot, only to get suspicious when Lancelot wanders dazedly in, covered in grime and muck from the stables. The truth comes out, and once again Merlin finds himself on the receiving end of Gaius’s patented Death Glare
The following day Arthur approaches Lancelot sharpening his sword, but fails to catch him off-guard when he throws a nearby broom at him. Lancelot catches it easily, and Arthur challenges him to a sparring match. The two of them yank the bristles off their brooms in order to create staffs and begin to bout in the courtyard. Suitably impressed, Arthur tells Lancelot that he’s just made basic training, but before anything more can be done, the warning bell sounds.
A flood of refugees pours into Camelot, having been attacked by the griffin. Uther and Arthur ascertain that it’s moving toward Camelot, and Arthur begins to practice defensive strategies with his knights – and tells Lancelot that his test has been moved forward in order to boost numbers. The following morning the two of them spar in the training grounds outside the castle, but just when it seems Arthur has bested Lancelot, he feigns unconsciousness and throws the prince to the ground.
Guards restrain Lancelot. Arthur gets up, apparently angry, and grabs his sword.
The scene cuts to the throne room, where Uther is using his sword to knight Sir Lancelot. Morgana and Guinevere applaud him as he gets to his feet, though Uther is a little suspicious about Lancelot’s claims to nobility. As the celebrations begin, he sends a servant off to check Lancelot’s credentials.
Sure enough, while Merlin is busy congratulating himself over the ruse, Geoffrey is in the library, looking over Lancelot’s seal and looking severely displeased. But meanwhile, the party continues as Arthur and Lancelot notice the appearance of Morgana and Guinevere. His eyes on Morgana, Arthur reluctantly asks Lancelot if he thinks she’s beautiful. Lancelot answers in the affirmative, but his gaze is fixed firmly on Gwen as she crosses the room to join Merlin.
Merlin: You know what? I think our Sir Lancelot might have eyes for you, Gwen.
Gwen: Don't be silly.
Merlin: What? So what if he did? Would that really be so bad?
Gwen: He's not really my type.
Gwen: You're probably right.
Gwen: But I don't have to and I never will.
Merlin: Oh, you are no fun, Gwen.
The following morning Merlin and Lancelot stumble out of the bedroom, completely hung-over. Gaius gives them a tonic to wake them up, but just then the royal guards burst into the room and seize Lancelot. The gig is up. Thanks to Geoffrey’s study of Lord Eldred’s genealogy, Lancelot is exposed as a fraud. He’s dragged away to the dungeons and manages to reach Messianic levels of graciousness when he has the following conversation with a repentant Merlin:
Merlin: I don't know what to say to you, Lancelot.
Lancelot: You're not to blame.
Merlin: Yes, I am. I pushed you. I made you lie.
Lancelot: The choice was mine. My punishment is mine to bear, and mine to bear alone.
Merlin: I wish there was something I could do.
Lancelot: There is. You can stop blaming yourself.
But there’s no time for moping as Gaius has just identified the creature as a griffin – a creature of magic which can only be destroyed with magic…as the knights of Camelot are about to find out. The griffin swoops down into the courtyard, but despite the best efforts of Arthur and his men, they can only walk away with shattered spears. Arthur manages to scare it away with a flaming torch, but it remains unharmed.
In the council chamber Uther disregards Gaius’s claims that it’s a creature of magic, and orders Arthur to ride out with his knights to finish it once at for all.Before he leaves, Arthur goes to visit Lancelot in the dungeons.
Arthur: I should've known. How could I have been so stupid?! You don't sound like a knight, you don't even look like a knight!
Lancelot: I'm sorry.
: I'm sorry, too. Because, Lancelot, you fight like a knight. And I need...
Lancelot: The creature?
Arthur: We could not kill it. I've never faced its like.
Lancelot: I faced it myself, Sire. Some days past. I struck if full square. I wondered how it endured.
Arthur: There are those that believe this creature, this...griffin, is a creature of magic, that only magic can destroy it.
Lancelot: Do you believe this?
Arthur: It doesn't matter what I believe. The use of magic is not permitted. The knights must prevail with steel and sinew alone.
Arthur tells Lancelot that a horse is waiting for him at the stables. He wants him to leave and never return, even as Lancelot begs to be allowed to accompany him. But since Uther is unaware of Arthur’s actions in freeing the prisoner, he refuses.
As Merlin and Gaius practice a spell that will temporarily make a weapon powerful enough to defeat the griffin, Lancelot goes to Guinevere and asks to borrow a suit of armour. She obliges, and then runs to Merlin to tell him that Lancelot is riding out to fight the griffin. Merlin is swift on his heels and demands to be allowed to go along with him. The two of them gallop into the forest after the knights.
The two of them come across a clearing of fallen knights, Arthur among them. He’s still alive, and conveniently unconscious as the griffin bursts out of the trees and Lancelot prepares his horse for the charge. Lancelot’s theme music
kicks in as he and the griffin gallop toward each other, and Merlin incants his spell. Blue fire that bizarrely sounds like electricity crackles around the point of the lance and Lancelot scores a direct hit. Arthur wakes up just in time to see the griffin destroyed as Merlin scampers back to the castle.
Though Uther initially credits Arthur with the griffin’s death, Arthur is quick to point out that it was Lancelot who did the deed. Uther is furious to see Lancelot’s return and sends him out to wait.
Arthur: I confess it, Sire. I released him and I'll take the consequences. But surely Lancelot's actions change things!
Uther: His actions change nothing. He broke the code!
Arthur: He laid down his life for me! He served with honour.
Uther: I see you feel strongly about this, Arthur. Under the circumstances? A pardon, perhaps.
Arthur: No, not good enough, Father. You must restore Lancelot to his rightful place, as a knight of Camelot.
Uther: Never. The law is the law. The Code bends for no man.
Arthur: Then the code is wrong!
Merlin joins Lancelot outside, and is shocked to find that Lancelot also has a brain to go with that noble heart: he knows that Merlin performed magic in order to help him slay the griffin, but promises that he won’t divulge the secret. At the same time he can’t bring himself to take credit for something he didn’t do, and so enters the throne room to speak with Uther and Arthur.
Lancelot: I lied to you both and now there is conflict between you. I cannot bear that burden, as you should not bear mine. I must start again, far from here. Then maybe one day fate shall grant me another chance to prove myself a worthy knight of Camelot.
Arthur: But...Lancelot, you've...already proved that to us.
Lancelot: But I must prove it to myself. Your Highness.
From Morgana’s window Gwen watches wistfully as Lancelot gallops away, as do Gaius and Merlin, the former confessing that Merlin did the right thing in granting Lancelot a chance to prove himself.
Gaius: Lancelot needed you and you needed Lancelot. Your destinies were entwined.
Merlin: Will he ever return?
Gaius: That I cannot say.
Merlin: Till next time then, Sir Lancelot.
- Accidental Innuendo: Yeah. There's quite a few in this episode.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Arthur calls himself "the ultimate killing machine" and seems quite proud of it.
- Attack of the Killer Whatever: It's a giant bird-lion that eats people!
- Characterization Marches On: In these early episodes, Uther's hatred of magic manifests in his reluctance to acknowledge that any threat posed at Camelot is magical. Later in the show, he is portrayed as more fanatical and will blame magic for any problem that comes along, even if there's a more rational explanation.
- Character Title
- Feathered Fiend: The griffin.
- Flat Character: Unlike the other Monsters Of The Week who all have some degree of motivation, the gryphon is really just a wild animal.
- Hybrid Monster: The gryphon.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The gryphon, by Lancelot.
- Jousting Lance: The gryphon is killed with this.
- Mr. Fanservice: Lancelot.
- Hideous Hangover Cure: That Gaius gives Merlin and Lancelot.
- Honor Before Reason: Well, there's nothing unreasonable about not taking the credit for the griffin's defeat, but self-imposed exile is pushing it a little. By his second appearance, it's clear that Lancelot lives for this trope.
- Ho Yay: During the banquet, Merlin invites Gwen to play a round of Who Would You Rather… Arthur or Lancelot? Since Lancelot is currently sleeping in his bedroom, it seems to be something that's been playing on his mind.
- I Kiss Your Hand: Lancelot to Guinevere.
- I Owe You My Life: Why Merlin tries so hard to help Lancelot become a knight.
- Just Friends: Merlin and Gwen.
- Love at First Sight: Lancelot is immediately smitten with Gwen.
- Love Triangle: Averted...for now.
- Meet Cute: Gwen fits Lancelot for a suit of armour.
- Our Gryphons Are Different: The opinicus version.
- Rearing Horse: Before Lancelot kills the gryphon.
- Roar Before Beating: The gryphon.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Arthur selects new recruits and trains the knights of Camelot.
- Screw The Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Merlin's decision to forge Lancelot's credentials in order to bypass the First Code of Camelot.
- Special Effects Failure: At times, it's not the most convincing rendering of a CGI gryphon.
- Training Montage: Arthur instructing the young knights on their footwork.