The Moment of Truth
In the peaceful village of Ealdor, the peasants go about their daily work when they are violently disrupted by the arrival of a band of horse-backed bandits. Their leader Kanen orders his men to spread out, and soon enough they drag a man from his house with his arms full of food. The man Matthew, spokesperson for the village, tells Kanen that he was only hiding the food that the villagers need to get them through the winter. Kanen is unimpressed and promises that he’ll be back in one week to take the rest of it (right now is apparently not a good time).
He is about to ride away with the bagged food when a woman jumps up and tries to grab it back again. It’s Merlin’s mother Hunith, who gets a nasty back-hand across the face for her trouble. Kanen shoots a man who is running to her aid and again announces his intention to return in a week. Matthew helps Hunith get to her feet as the bandits gallop away.
Back in Camelot Merlin is collecting water from the well when he spots a familiar face in the crowd. Happily he goes to greet his mother, but their hug is postponed when he notices her black eye and demands to know who’s responsible.
In the throne room at Camelot the court looks on as Hunith explains the situation to Uther. Kanen has been terrorizing Ealdor for some time, and if he takes their current harvest then their children will die. They’ve already appealed to their own King Cenred for assistance, but he has refused to help. Though Uther is sympathetic to their plight, he refuses to send Camelot knights into Cenred’s kingdom for fear that it would be construed as an act of war. Though Hunith begs, Uther tells her that he cannot risk war for the sake of one village.
Up on the castle battlements Merlin joins Arthur as he looks out over the city. Arthur apologises and says that were it up to him, they would all be on their way there now. Merlin thanks him for getting an audience with Uther, but tells him that he has to return to Ealdor to help his mother. Though Arthur (jokingly) dismisses him as the worst servant he’s ever had, he seems concerned as to whether Merlin will be returning or not. With a thank you and a good luck, Merlin departs.
In Guinevere’s house, Gwen helps Merlin pack his belongings and hands him a sword – though her eyebrows raise at Merlin’s assessment of it as “swordy.” When Merlin expresses doubt at his ability to carry all the supplies that Gwen has prepared for him, Morgana enters and tells him that he won’t have to – she and Gwen are coming with him. They both know how to handle weapons, and they both owe him after he saved Gwen’s life and helped Morgana smuggle the Druid boy out of Camelot.
In the physician’s chambers Gaius warns Merlin about drinking too much of the wine he’s given him, fusses over extra blankets and extracts a promise that he’ll be careful. Before he leaves, Gaius gives him a hug.
Merlin, Morgana, Gwen and Hunith ride through the forest on their way to Ealdor. As night falls they make camp and while Gwen and Morgana sleep, mother and son talk by the fireplace. Hunith expresses doubt as to the wisdom of bringing the king’s ward with them, and that Kanen won’t be prepared to spare them on account of their gender. Merlin is distracted by the bruise on his mother’s face and declares that he’ll make Kanen pay for what he did to her. At this, Hunith extracts a promise from him that no one will find out about his gifts.
As she goes to bed, Merlin picks up a burning stick from the fire and gently blows some embers into the air, muttering a magic word as he does so. The image of a burning dragon forms in the darkness: the Pendragon crest.
Later that night Merlin awakens to the sound of a horse in the woods. He draws his sword and goes in search of the intruder. A few paces away from the campsite, a sword point presses against his back and a familiar voice speaks:
Arthur: I'd ask you for money, but I know you don't have any.
Merlin whips around in delight and Arthur ducks as the sword swings near his head. Grumpily telling him that he looks ridiculous, Arthur yanks the sword out of his hand and heads toward their campsite, Merlin just a step behind.Sitting beside the campfire Arthur enquires as to how many bandits they’ll be facing. Merlin says as many as forty, and Arthur advises him to get some rest, brushing off his thanks.
As Hunith and the foursome gallop for Ealdor the following morning, bandits burst into the village looking for the rest of the food. Though Matthew tries to stall them, one of the bandits discovers a hidden stash and brandishes the bags at Kanen.Kanen strikes him to the ground and is about to finish him off when an arrow hits his sword. Arthur gallops into the village and dismounts, fighting off a bandit with his sword. Merlin is right behind him and takes on another bandit who soon has him pinned up against a doorway. From nearby, a boy about Merlin’s age watches with interest as Merlin mutters a magical word and makes the bandit’s sword heat up in his hands. When he drops it with a cry of pain, Merlin finishes him off.
As Arthur’s attention is elsewhere, another bandit attacks him from behind, only for Morgana to step in, fight him off and kill him – much to Arthur’s disconcertment. Shocked into a retreat, the remaining bandits gallop away, with Kanen promising to make them pay with their lives.
As Merlin brushes himself off, the youth approaches him.
Will: You still up to the same old magic tricks again? Look, I thought I told you I didn't want your kind around here?
Merlin: I miss you, too, Will. It's good to see you again.
Will: How've you been? I hear you're skivvying for some prince.
Merlin: No. I wouldn't say I'm a skivvy.
Arthur: Merlin! Gather the villagers, I need to talk to them.
Merlin: Yeah, in a minute. I'm just talking...
Arthur: Now, Merlin. There isn't much time.
Merlin: Yes, Sire.
Flanked by Morgana, Gwen and Merlin, Arthur addresses the villagers, telling them that they must be ready for when Kanen and his men return. At this stage Will speaks up, wondering out loud as to who the hell Arthur is. Arthur introduces himself and over Hunith’s protests that he’s here to help, Will insists that Arthur has only made things worse for them. Kanen will return with more men and finish them all off. Arthur gives Will the chance to speak, but his suggestion that Ealdor give the bandits what they want is not met favourably with those around him.
Arthur tells them that their only option is to stand up to Kanen, and though Will accuses him of wanting the glory of battle, Hunith and the other villagers all agree that they want to fight. Will storms away in a huff, followed by Merlin.In Will’s house Merlin tells his friend that Arthur is trustworthy, despite first impressions.
Merlin: He knows what he's doing. You've got to trust him. Look, when I first met Arthur, I was exactly like you. I hated him. I thought he was pompous and arrogant.
Will: Well, nothing's changed there, then.
Merlin: But, in time, I came to respect him for what he stands for, what he does.
Will: Yeah, I know what he stands for: princes, kings, all men like him.
Merlin: Will, don't bring what happened to your father into this.
Will: I'm not. Why are you defending him so much? You're just his servant.
Merlin: He's also my friend.
Will: Friends don't lord it over one another.
Merlin: He isn't like that.
Will: Really? Well, let's wait until the fighting begins and see who he sends in to die first. I guarantee you, it won't be him.
Merlin: I trust Arthur with my life.
Will: Is that so? So he knows your secret, then? Look, face it, Merlin You're living a lie. Just like you were here. You're Arthur's servant, nothing more. Otherwise you'd tell him the truth.
Merlin doesn’t have an answer to this.
Later that night, the Camelot party bunk down in Merlin’s home: Gwen and Morgana in the bed; Arthur and Merlin on the floor. Arthur takes the chance to ask about Merlin’s past.
Arthur: Have you always slept on the floor?
Merlin: Yeah. The bed I've got in Camelot's luxury by comparison.
Arthur: Must've been hard.
Merlin: Mmm. It's like rock.
Arthur: I didn't mean the ground. I meant, for you. It must've been difficult.
Merlin: Mmm. Not really. I didn't know any different. Life's simple out here. You eat what you grow and everyone pitches in together. As long as you've got food on the table and a roof over your head, you're happy.
Merlin: You'd hate it.
Arthur: No doubt. Why'd you leave?
Merlin: Things just...changed.
Arthur: How? Come on, stop pretending to be interesting. Tell me.
Merlin: I just didn't fit in anymore. I wanted to find somewhere that I did.
Arthur: Had any luck?
Merlin: I'm not sure yet.
Arthur: We'll start training the men tomorrow. It's gonna be a long day. Get the candle.
The following morning, Merlin helps Arthur with his jacket, earning a snarky comment from Morgana. Hunith gives Arthur a bowl of food which he hurriedly deposits with Gwen as soon as Hunith’s back is turned and heads outside.
Alone with her son, Hunith comments on Arthur’s apparent fondness for Merlin. When Merlin dismisses the suggestion that Arthur has come to Ealdor for Merlin’s sake, Hunith tells him he should give him more credit – only for Merlin to soberly remind her that if Arthur knew the truth, Merlin would probably be dead.
As Merlin heads out into the woods with an axe to gather wood, Will trails after him, telling him he doesn’t need an axe to collect wood. On asking him why he left the village, Merlin tells Will that Hunith was worried for his safety after she learnt that Will knew about Merlin’s gift. Will reminds Merlin that he would be able to stop Kanen on his own and accuses him of endangering people for Arthur’s sake.
Merlin: One day Arthur will be a great king, but he needs my help. And if anyone ever found out about my powers, I'd have to leave Camelot for good.
Will: Are you telling me you'd rather keep your magic a secret for Arthur's sake than use it to protect your friends and family?
Back in the village Arthur is teaching the village men how to fight with quarterstaffs. Morgana and Gwen watch as they sharpen swords, and when Morgana expresses her scepticism that the men can hold all the bandits off, Gwen reminds her that men aren’t the only ones who can fight. In the midst of the training, Arthur asks Matthew to organise sentry duty.
As the villagers take a break, the girls approach Arthur as he takes a drink from the well and express their desire to even up the numbers and fight alongside the men. Arthur point-blank refuses and the girls exchange dismayed glances as he heads back to the villagers.
Back in Merlin’s house that night, the girls whisper together about their chances. Merlin listens from the floor as they discuss the reason why Arthur has come: for the same reason they have – to help Merlin.
The next day, Arthur speaks to the community in a small meeting hall. From outside they hear a woman scream, and all rush out in order to see a horse gallop into the village, Matthew’s body slung over the saddle. His body drop to the ground, an arrow in his back with a message on it. Arthur reads it out loud for the benefit of the villagers:
Arthur: "Make the most of this day, it will be your last."
As a woman cries over Matthew’s body, Will tells Arthur that it’s his fault and that they’ll all be slaughtered when Kanen returns. Once again Merlin follows Will into his house and watches as he starts to pack.
Will: Don't bother, Merlin. I'm not interested.
Merlin: You should be. Because tomorrow Kanen attacks, and whether you like it or not, we'll have to fight.
Will: Not if I'm not here.
Merlin: Well, that's up to you, but the rest of us are staying. Join us, Will! This isn't about Arthur, this is about your friends. Are you really going to abandon them?
Will: What, like you did?
Merlin: I'm here now.
Will: Yeah. Yeah, you are. And you could end this. If you used your magic, then no one else would have to die.
Merlin: You know I can't.
Will: Can't or won't? I'm not the one abandoning these people, Merlin. You are.
Outside Hunith’s house Merlin sits next to Arthur as he sharpens his sword, explaining that Will’s father was killed fighting for King Cenred, explaining his distrust for anyone of noble blood and reassuring Arthur that no one takes him seriously.From inside, Hunith listens in on their conversation as Arthur expresses his doubts that the villagers can withstand the bandits and suggests that they evacuate the village. Merlin tries to reassure him, telling him that all they have to do is fight and the rest will take care of itself.
In the common building, Arthur again addresses the Ealdor villagers. When he recommends that the women and children pack their belongings and hide in the woods, Gwen steps forward and argues that the women have just as much right to fight for their own village, pointing out that there’s safety in numbers. As the rest of the women step forward to back her up, Arthur relents.
Arthur: This is your home. If you want to fight to defend it, that's your choice. I'd be honoured to stand alongside you. Kanen attacks tomorrow. Kanen's brutal. He fights only to kill, which is why he will never defeat us. Look around. In this circle, we're all equals. You're not fighting because someone's ordering you to, you're fighting for so much more than that. You fight for your homes. You fight for your family. You fight for your friends. You fight for the right to grow crops in peace. And if you fall, you fall fighting for the noblest of causes: fighting for your very right to survive! And when you're old and grey, you'll look back on this day, and you'll know you earned the right to live every day in between! So you fight! For your family! For your friends! For Ealdor!
The rest of the villagers raise their swords and cheer.
Back in their cottage, Hunith stares into space pensively. Merlin sits down beside her and she strokes his face, telling him that she regrets going to Camelot for help. If she hadn’t done so, Merlin wouldn’t be about to risk his secret.
Hunith: I know what you're planning to do.
Merlin: If it comes to a choice between saving people's lives and revealing who I really am, there is no choice.
Hunith: You can't let Arthur know about your gift.
Merlin: Why not? Maybe it's meant to be this way. And if he doesn't accept me for who I really am, then he's not the friend I hoped he was.
As Arthur stands watch in the woods, Gwen brings him a bowl of food. When Arthur makes a droll comment about its quality, Gwen turns around to confront him, reminding him that food is scarce for these people. Embarrassed, she turns to leave, but Arthur calls her back and tells her that she was right to speak up.
Arthur: I should've listened to you and Morgana. We're going to need all the help we can get.
Gwen: We'll be fine.
Arthur: How can you be so sure?
Gwen: Because I have faith in you. I mean, we all do.
Arthur: Thank you.
(And so it begins…
Back at Merlin’s house, Merlin starts to help Arthur put his armour on, but Arthur stops him, telling him that he should put on his own. When he struggles with one of the buckles on his bracers, Arthur helps him out and then offers him a handshake.
Arthur: It's been an honour.
Merlin: Whatever happens out there today, please don't think any differently of me.
Arthur: I won't. It's alright to be scared, Merlin.
Merlin: That's not what I meant.
Arthur: What is it? If you've got something to say, now's the time to say it.
Merlin summons up his courage, but before he gets the chance to say another word, Morgana enters to inform them that the bandits have crossed the river.
Outside, the village men are lined up against the house. Arthur moves down the line, shaking hands until he reaches Guinevere, looking tiny among the men. He offers her his hand and she shakes it.
Arthur: Are you frightened?
Gwen: Not in the slightest.
Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere and the others take their positions, hiding behind various houses and fences. Kanen and his men ride out of the woods and into the village. Arthur signals everyone to remain still as Kanen looks around suspiciously.
From behind the corner of a house, Gwen gives the order to pull, and she and a group of others tug on a rope, causing a hidden gate to rise up and trap the riders inside. Elsewhere, Morgana desperately tries to light a fire with a flint. When it becomes apparent to Merlin and Arthur that something’s gone wrong, Merlin rushes to Morgana’s side, forcing him to run across an open area. Kanen spots him and demands that someone shoots him. Merlin only just manages to duck a flying arrow before crouching next to Morgana and taking the flint from her. As soon as she’s not looking, he uses magic to light the prepared line of straw. It catches fire, cutting the horsemen off from the other side.
Arthur shouts the command and the villagers spring out of hiding to fight. Merlin and Arthur led the men into the fray. Arthur easily cuts through the bandits, as does Morgana. A blonde village girl manages to land a pretty good punch, while the men pull the bandits from the horses and finish them off with garden implements. Gwen manages to thwack a bandit over the head with a shovel when he threatens Hunith. While Merlin is distracted by this, a bandit gallops up behind him, only for him to topple from his horse when Will leaps from a nearby roof and knocks him to the ground.
The two fight back to back as Merlin realizes that there’s too many of them. With a string of magical words, Merlin’s eyes glow gold and a windstorm gathers in the space before him. The bandits are caught off-guard and begin to retreat just as Arthur turns and notices the magical storm: Will and Merlin stand before it, their backs to him. From where he’s standing, either one of them could be responsible.
The remaining bandits flee and Morgana and Gwen hug each other in delight. But it’s not over yet: Kanen picks himself up and challenges Arthur to a final fight. The two duel as Merlin and Will look on, but Arthur manages to get the best of him and runs him through. He angrily marches toward Merlin and Will, demanding to know which of them conjures the windstorm.
Merlin is about to confess when from behind him Kanen picks up a crossbow and fires one last bolt toward Arthur. Will cries out and pushes him out of the way, taking the arrow in the chest as Kanen dies.
Astonished, Arthur realizes that Will has just saved his life and orders that he be carried inside. Once Will is laid out on a table, he takes responsibility for the windstorm, telling Arthur that he’s a sorcerer. Realizing that he’s dying, Arthur leads Morgana and Guinevere out of the room, leaving Merlin with Will.
Will: I was right about him. I told you he was going to get me killed.
Merlin: You're not going to die.
Will: You're a good man, Merlin. A great man. And one day, you're going to be servant to a great king. Now you can still make that happen.
Merlin: Thanks to you.
Will: This place has been boring without you. It was good to see you again.
Merlin: Yeah, you too.
Will: Merlin. Merlin, I'm scared.
Merlin: Don't be. It's going to be alright.
The scene changes to Will’s funeral pyre. Morgana and Gwen stand together, as to Arthur and Merlin. Arthur has “guessed” that the secret Merlin wanted to tell him was that Will was a sorcerer and that he shouldn’t have kept it from him – magic is too dangerous. Merlin concedes as Arthur walks over to join the girls. Hunith approaches Merlin as the rest of the village heads back home, telling her son that it’s time for him to return to Camelot.
Merlin: I don't have to go.
Hunith: Yes, you do.
Merlin: If anything were to happen to you...
Hunith: I know where to find you. You have to go, Merlin. You belong at Arthur's side. I've seen how much he needs you. How much you need him. You're like two sides of the same coin.
Merlin: I've heard someone say that about us before. I'm going to miss you.
Hunith: I'm going to miss you , too. When you left, you were just a boy. Now look at you. I'm so proud of you.
Hunith watches with a smile on her face as Arthur, Gwen, Merlin and Morgana head back to Camelot on horseback, her voiceover telling Merlin that when the time is right, the truth will be known.
- Action Girls: Morgana and Guinevere
- Nearly all of the village women, during the fight scene you can see them beating up bandits with branches, shovels and even a hammer
- Badass Bystander: Many of the Ealdor villagers.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Merlin and Will, very briefly.
- Battle Couple: Arthur and Morgana, again very briefly.
- Berserk Button: Do not mess with Merlin's mum.
- Beware the Nice Ones: See above.
- Big Damn Heroes: Arthur's arrival into Ealdor. Merlin leading the villagers into battle. Morgana saving Arthur's life. Guinevere whacking a bandit around the face with a shovel.
- Bittersweet Ending: In light of the most recent episode, the sight of the four friends returning to Camelot as a close-knit team may well cause a few tears.
- Bloodless Carnage
- Book Ends: "It's been an honour."
- Buffy Speak: "Swordy".
- Changed My Mind, Kid: Will returns to fight the bandits.
- Childhood Friends: Will and Merlin.
- Completely Missing the Point: Arthur keeps rejecting the food Hunith gives him, ignoring the fact that it's the reason he's in the village in the first place.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Should Merlin use magic to save his village, or keep it secret for Arthur's sake?
- Continuity Nod: Morgana and Gwen's reasons for helping Merlin.
- Duel to the Death: Arthur and Kanen
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Guinevere's proficiency with a sword is never seen or referenced again after this episode.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Will is never mentioned again after this episode (admittedly, it's difficult to see where mention of him would come up in Camelot).
- Friendship Moment: One approximately every five minutes.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Will.
- Last Villain Stand: Kanen challenges Arthur to a fight after all his men have run off.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Morgana, Gwen and the women of Ealdor.
- The Magnificent Seven Samurai
- Man Hug: Merlin and Will
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: Merlin tells Arthur that he never really felt as though he belonged in Ealdor.
- Not Quite Dead: Kanen
- Sacrificial Lamb: Matthew
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Will
- Secret Keeper: Will
- Ship Tease: The first signs of Arthur/Guinevere are apparent here.
- Stock Phrases
- Training the Peaceful Villagers
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Will
- The X of Y: The Moment of Truth