The Gates of Avalon
Morgana wakes up in a cold sweat from a nightmare in which Arthur is slowly sinking underwater; a young woman standing over him with her arm outstretched.
Arthur and Merlin are out hunting in the forest (with Arthur getting increasingly frustrated with Merlin’s clumsiness) when they hear cries for help. An elderly man and his young daughter are being attacked by bandits. Arthur jumps into the fray and begins to fight them off, with Merlin discreetly helping by making a tree branch fall on one of his opponents. As the last man rushes off into the forest, Arthur dismisses the tree branch as a stroke of luck and introduces himself to the couple. Their names are Aulfric and Sophia, and Arthur seems instantly interested in the latter.
Back at the court at Camelot, Aulfric explains to Uther that their home was destroyed by raiders and they’re traveling to their family in the west. Uther invites them to stay in Camelot until they are ready to resume their journey, and Arthur and Sophia exchange a smile as she leaves the room.
At Arthur’s behest, Sophia is installed into the room next to his, but as Merlin gives her blankets at the door Morgana comes down the stairs and spots her going inside. She recognises her instantly from the girl in her dreams and asks Merlin who she is. After learning that Sophia and her father are welcome in Camelot, Morgana goes to Gaius to tell her that she had a precognitive dream. Gaius tries to dissuade her and gives her a sleeping draught to induce a deeper sleep.
In a campfire in the forest the last remaining bandit meets with Aulfric to receive his payment for the fake robbery earlier in the day. His complaints about the deaths of his friends are short-lived, for Aulfric quickly finishes him off with a bolt of energy from the staff he carries.
That night, Morgana has the same dream of Arthur drowning at Sophia’s hands in the lake.
The following morning Arthur expresses a wish to show Sophia around Camelot – only he needs Merlin to cover for him considering he’s supposed to be on patrol duty. Merlin is hesitant to lie to the king, but Arthur’s enthusiasm about Sophia wins him over. As the couple gallop out of the courtyard they are watched from an upper window by Morgana and Guinevere. Gwen encourages her to tell Uther about the dream, but Morgana is too afraid.
Morgana: You know how he'd react.
Gwen: You're his ward, he wouldn't harm you.
Morgana: He hates magic more than he cares for me.
Gwen: That's not true.
Morgana: Would you care to put it to the test?
When Uther realizes that Arthur is missing from his duties that morning, Merlin takes the blame and reluctantly tells him that he forgot to check with the guards over whether or not Arthur had guard patrol. Merlin suggests that he be let off the hook just this once. One Gilligan Cut
later and Merlin is being pelted with vegetables in the stocks.
Meanwhile Arthur and Sophia are wandering through the forest when she takes his hands and looks into his eyes, chanting the words to a spell. But before she can finish, a bolt from a crossbow slams into the tree between them and Arthur tackles her to the ground. A group of hunters in the forest begin to apologise for the mistake and after Sophia snaps at Arthur for picking up her staff, he tells her that it’s time to return to the castle.
Merlin enters Gaius’s chambers covered in vegetables and shares what he knows about Arthur’s instant attraction to Sophia and his desire to spend time with her. Gaius quietly takes this in, recalling Morgana’s dream. Later he enters Aulfric’s room and discovers his staff leaning against a wall. Just as he’s examining the runes carved into it, Aulfric enters and demands that he leaves, his eyes flashing red with anger.
After bidding Arthur goodbye with a kiss on his cheek, Sophia bumps into Morgana on the stairwell. Brushing aside her attempt to be polite, Morgana demands to know why she’s in Camelot and tells her that she knows what she’s planning to do to Arthur. Sophia brushes her off as a jealous rival and enters her father’s room in order to spout the following Exposition:
Aulfric: You've not been gone as long as I expected.
Sophia: We were interrupted.
Aulfric: What happened?
Sophia: I was nearly killed. For a moment, I felt what it would be like to die a mortal death. He saved me. Someone so weak, so feeble, saved me! I can't bear to be like this a moment longer.
Aulfric: You won't have to. Once his heart is yours, the gates of Avalon will open once again for us and we can regain our true form.
Sophia: I need a little more time.
Aulfric: You must hurry. The physician can see us for what we truly are.
Sophia: And he is not alone. The Lady Morgana. She fears her powers, but that will not keep her quiet for long.
Aulfric: Tomorrow, you have to finish the enchantment, otherwise our chance to rid us of these mortal shells will be lost forever.
Morgana has decided on a new plan of attack and goes to Arthur’s room to try and talk him out of spending time with Sophia. An amused Arthur chalks it up to Morgana getting territorial and simply laughs off the fact that she’s had nightmares about Sophia.
Merlin is surprised to find Arthur fully dressed the following morning, and once more skipping his duties in order to spend time with Sophia. Oddly blasé about the entire situation, Arthur extracts another promise for Merlin to cover for him – and once again, he ends up in the stocks.
Out in the forest, Sophia successfully completes the spell over Arthur and both pairs of eyes glow red.
On seeing that Merlin is once again covered in food and Arthur nowhere to be seen, Gaius shares his suspicions about Sophia with Merlin.
Gaius: What do you know about seers?
Merlin: Not much. They're supposed to be able to see the future, like prophets.
Gaius: It's said to be an innate ability. Those who have it are born that way. Some aren't even aware that what they see is the future. It comes to them in their dreams.
Merlin: What's this got to do with Sophia?
Gaius: The night before she and Aulfric came to Camelot, Morgana had a dream. Sophia was in it.
Merlin: Before she arrived in Camelot?
Gaius: I've been watching Morgana since she was very young. And though I tried to persuade myself otherwise, I realised that some of the things she said she'd dreamt came to pass. I kept it secret from Uther, of course. The gift of prophecy is too close to the work of magic.
Merlin: You think Morgana is a seer?
Gaius: I don't think it. I fear it. Morgana said she dreamt that Sophia killed Arthur.
Merlin: Couldn't that have just been a dream? Maybe the- the woman Morgana saw just looked like Sophia.
Gaius: That's what I hoped. But Aulfric caught me in Sophia's room and, in a flash of anger, his eyes changed colour.
Merlin: Who are they?
Gaius: It's not who they are that worries me. It's what they want with Arthur.
In Arthur’s chambers, Sophia is strengthening her hold over Arthur, insisting to him that they’re in love but that people will want to separate them. A doozy-looking Arthur protests that he’ll never let anyone part them, and Sophia seals the enchantment with a kiss. Outside her chamber door, Sophia informs her father that Arthur is ready. Aulfric leaves her, telling her that he must speak with the elders. The exchange is witnessed by Merlin, who follows Aulfric out into the forest to the lake of Avalon.
Time slows down as Aulfric cries out an enchantment over the lake, and Merlin watches in awe from behind a tree as blue fairies (yes, really) emerge from the waters.
Aulfric: I come before you to plead for the chance to win passage back to Avalon and a life of immortality!
Fairy: Your punishment for killing another sidhe is a mortal body and a mortal life. You will never be able to return to Avalon.
Aulfric: The crime was mine, not my daughter's.
Fairy: The gates of Avalon remain closed to your daughter. Unless the soul of a mortal prince be offered up to them.
: Thank you. An immortal life for my daughter is all that I desire, so I promise you the soul of the greatest prince of all. Arthur Pendragon! Muahahahaha!
Back in the physician’s quarters, Gaius is stunned that Merlin glimpsed Avalon, the land of eternal youth, a place that no mortal has yet seen. Merlin is more concerned about Arthur and what Sophia wants with him, and Gaius identifies father and daughter from the runes of their staffs as the Sidhe, powerful creatures of magic. Morgana’s dream is coming true.
In this episode’s most inexplicable scene, Arthur stands before Uther, Morgana and the court in the council chamber and requests permission to marry Sophia. Uther tries to make a joke of it but when it becomes apparent that Arthur is deadly serious, he turns nasty. He threatens to have Aulfric and Sophia arrested and executed, and when Arthur yields, Uther shoots him down further by telling him that he’s got his whole life ahead of him. The court disperses.
So…that was weird and pointless.
As Uther strolls down the corridors with Morgana at his side, she tries to warn him about the seriousness of the situation. But Uther refuses to see it as anything but an infatuation and Morgana teeters on the edge of telling him about her nightmare.
Uther: You're not planning on springing any surprises on me, are you?
Morgana: Don't you think you should be taking this a bit more seriously?
Uther: He's young, foolish and in love. Give it a week and he'll be chasing after the next girl that catches his eye.
Morgana: Sophia will never let that happen.
Uther: Do you bear a grudge against our guest?
Morgana: There's something about her I don't trust. You've seen the way Arthur changed since she's arrived.
Uther: He's a fool in love.
Morgana: She's dangerous.
Uther: Dangerous? To who?
Uther: Why do you say that?
Morgana: I just have a sense, a feeling.
Uther: And what has she done to make you have this feeling?
Morgana: Nothing, yet. It's what she's going to do. I don't know how to tell you this.
Uther: Try. Whatever it is, you can tell me.
Morgana: I've just seen girls like this before. They string men along and then drop them. I don't want to see him get hurt.
Uther: I know you want to protect him, but some lessons we have to learn for ourselves. He'll hurt for a week and then Sophia will be forgotten.
Morgana: I hope so.
Uther: Are you sure there's nothing else behind this?
Morgana: Yes, it's nothing.
In Arthur’s chambers Merlin walks in on him packing his bags and tries to tell him that he’s been enchanted. He almost gets through to him when Sophia and Aulfric enter the room and urge Arthur to run away with them. Merlin points out their red eyes and their staffs, at which point Aulfric uses another bolt of energy to throw Merlin back against the wall.
From her window Morgana sees Arthur leaving the castle with Aulfric and Sophia, and rushes to Gaius in terror.
Morgana: I know you don't believe me, but I'm so sure it's going to happen. My dream's going to come true.
Gaius: I do believe you.
Morgana: I've got to tell Uther.
Gaius: You can't.
Morgana: I've got to do something, if I don't then Arthur will die.
Gaius: You can't tell Uther about your dream. If Uther thinks you've got the seers' power, he'll charge you with witchcraft.
Morgana: I don't have a choice. I couldn't live with myself knowing I'd let him die.
Gaius: Wait. We've known each other a long time, you trust me don't you?
Morgana: Yes, you know I do.
Gaius: Then trust me now. Stay here and don't say a word to anyone about this.
Morgana: But Arthur...
Gaius: I'll take care of it.
Morgana: Where are you going?
Gaius: To find someone who can help.
Gaius finds Merlin knocked out in Arthur’s room and raises him up, telling him that it was only due to his own magic that he survived at all. Cautioning him to be careful, he watches as Merlin rushes after Arthur.
Thankfully, Aulfric and Sophia are walking in dramatic slow-motion, which gives Merlin ample time to catch up with them as they reach the lake of Avalon. At its shores, Sophia learns that her father has bargained only for her life in exchange for Arthur’s and the two share a tearful goodbye before she leads a zombified Arthur into the waters. Aulfric begins to shout the words of a spell and Sophia pushes Arthur back into the water just as Merlin crashes through the trees. He uses telekinesis to draw Aulfric’s staff to him, points it at Aulfric and repeats the incantation. The staff shoots a bolt of energy and Aulfric…er…explodes. Sophia shrieks and Merlin repeats the procedure at her. She also explodes. Yikes.
Merlin throws off his jacket and dives into the water as images of Morgana’s vision come to pass. Arthur sinks down into the water, but Merlin manages to grab him and swim them both to the surface.
Back at the castle Arthur awakens in his own bed to see Gaius and Merlin watching him in concern. The events of yesterday come back to him and he’s horrified to realize that he had asked his father permission to marry Sophia. Merlin tells him the rest of the story: he had actually planned to elope with Sophia that night, but luckily Merlin followed them, hit Arthur over the head with a lump of wood, and dragged him back to Camelot. Arthur swears them both to secrecy.
In front of Uther and a baffled Morgana later that day, Arthur explains his disappearance by saying he went on a hunting trip to get his mind off Sophia and that Merlin was meant to inform him. This means of course that Merlin gets yet another turn in the stocks.
Morgana returns to Gaius’s chambers for some answers, but both he and Merlin are evasive about giving them. As Gaius fetches her a stronger sleeping draught, she and Merlin exchange sidelong glances. Still confused, she leaves for the night.
Gaius: She must never find out the truth.
Merlin: Why not? She had a premonition that helped save Arthur's life.
Gaius: And it could've cost her her own. If Uther ever found out, things would never be the same again. It must remain a secret.
Merlin: Is she like me? Can she use magic?
Gaius: No one's like you, Merlin.
Merlin: But she has the gift?
Gaius: For her sake, I hope not.
- Adults Are Useless: Gaius, to a point. Though he truly wants to help Morgana, he encourages her to keep her gift a secret and drugs her with sleeping potions. All things considered, this is probably not the best way to handle the situation.
- All Just a Dream: The opening sequence.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Merlin, more than usual. He ends up in the stocks three times in his attempts to cover for Arthur's absence.
- Birds of a Feather: Merlin is almost heart-breakingly intrigued at the thought that Morgana might have magic too.
- Bitch In Sheep's Clothing: Sophia. How can someone so adorable be so evil?
- Boom Stick: The Sidhe staffs.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Arthur
- Brick Joke: Just when you think the writers have forgotten about them, the Sidhe's staff turn up in later episodes.
- Cassandra Truth: Averted. Gaius believes that Morgana is having precognitive dreams - he just can't do anything about it.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Morgana
- The Fair Folk: The Sidhe
- Hey, It's That Guy!: In a case of Retroactive Recognition, it's Lucrezia Borgia!
- Hypnotize the Princess: Gender Flipped for Prince Arthur.
- Innocuously Important Episode: Though it's a standard Monster of the Week plot, the episode also reveals that Morgana not only has magic, but is a seer, two facts which dominate her Character Arc from here on out.
- It's also our first introduction to Avalon and the lake that protects it
- Pet the Dog: Sophia's tearful farewell to her father, when she admits that the only reason she did what she did was so that the two of them could be together in Avalon.
- Produce Pelting: While Merlin's in the stocks. To the point where Uther worries there'll be a food shortage.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Sidhe, and then Arthur after he's been Brainwashed.
- The X of Y: The Gates of Avalon