The Sins of the Father
In a large stone castle a woman with fair hair and a red dress peers into a crystal
and chants a spell. Within the crystal she sees Arthur standing the great hall of Camelot.
Morgause: Arthur Pendragon, a great destiny awaits you. The battle for your soul is about to begin.
In the great hall of Camelot, Uther is knighting
several men who kneel before him. He's flanked by Arthur and Morgana, who watch solemnly. In the crowd, Gaius, Merlin and Gwen stand together. As the new knights rise, Uther congratulates them and tells that that the values of knighthood are embodied in Arthur - they should follow his example if they want to be worthy of their new titles.
Unbeknownst to all those witnessing the ceremony, a warrior is marching through the courtyard toward the palace, visor lowered. Every guard
that tries to stop him is effortlessly dispatched. From inside the hall, the clash of swords alert those gathered, and the knights draw their swords as the warrior enters
. Arthur steps through the knights and accepts the gauntlet that the warrior throws at his feet
, asking that he see the face of the opponent that he's to fight. The warrior takes off his helmet to reveal long blonde tresses
, and the woman
who stands before the astonished court introduces herself as Morgause.
In the council chamber, Uther is arguing with Geoffrey of Monmouth
, trying to find a loophole that will prevent Arthur from fighting. Geoffrey argues that there's no rule against women issuing a challenge, and Arthur states that if he doesn't fight it'll be seen as an act of cowardice. Uther insists that he not underestimate a woman who killed five guards, but Arthur is adamant that he'll fight - he cannot break the Knight's Code in front of his men.
That night Morgana watches from her bedroom window as Morgause practices in the courtyard below. Gwen is making the bed behind her, and Morgana tells her that she finds the woman strangely familiar
Up in Arthur's room, he and Merlin are discussing the situation. Arthur is going over the reasons why he doesn't want to fight her - if he refuses to fight then he'll be branded a coward, but if he kills her then he'll be something even worse. Merlin points out that she could use this as a tactical advantage, and Arthur bristles at the implication that he might actually be beaten
by her. He decides to send Merlin to her room, requesting that she withdraw from the fight.
Merlin nervously enters the guest room to find that Morgause is waiting behind the door, her sword at the ready. Merlin stutters that Arthur would like her to withdraw, and she replies that if he doesn't want to fight then he
Merlin: No. He'll, he'll never do that. It's not in him to withdraw.
Morgause: Then we have that in common.
Merlin: If you fight him, he will have to treat you as he does any other opponent. It won't matter that you're a woman.
Morgause: I do not ask for special treatment.
Merlin: Arthur has no quarrel with you. Why would you challenge him?
Morgause: My reasons are not your concern.
Merlin: Don't put Arthur in a position where he's forced to kill you.
Morgause: Who's to say Arthur's life won't rest in my hands?
The court gathers in the seats of the tournament arena, ready to watch the battle. Uther looks grave, Morgana looks serious. Merlin helps Arthur with his armour and reminds him that he gave Morgause a chance to withdraw. The crowd cheers as Arthur enters the arena and goes to stand beside Morgause. Uther announces the rules of combat: that the fight is by the knight's rules, and to the death. Arthur moves closer to Morgause and gives her one last ultimatum: to leave safely or die fighting. She just looks at him silently, looking tiny in comparison, and Arthur sees that he has to go through with it.
The two circle each other and then cross swords. Though Morgause is clearly skilled with a sword, she's no match for Arthur's brute strength, and he manages to disarm her. She glances down at a small cut on her arm. Feeling confident, he steps back and allows her to retrieve her weapon. They begin to parry once more, but this time Morgause uses cunning. She allows Arthur to back her up against the barrier and ducks out of the way as he lands a blow on the wood behind her. As his sword bounces off, she kicks him in the back of the knee, causing him to fall backwards at her feet. His helmet falls off and Morgause presses the tip of her sword against his chest. She removes her own helmet and gives her own ultimatum: that if he makes her a promise, she will spare his life. In three days, she wants him to come to her and accept the challenge that she sets. Though he asks the nature of the challenge, she refuses to tell him.
Seeing no other choice, Arthur gives his word and Morgause helps him to his feet. Before the confused crowd, Morgause bows briefly to Uther and then marches off. Arthur exchanges a glance with his father, looking ashamed.
In the physician's quarters, Gaius tends to Morgause's wound and notices a distinctive bracelet on her wrist. Gaius also finds her familiar, but Morgause simply states that she was a baby the last time she was in Camelot.
Arthur is slumped over a table as Merlin takes off his armour, complaining that he was beaten by a girl
. Merlin on the other hand, finds it rather amusing.
Morgana knocks gently on Morgause's door and enters to find her in casual-wear. The two women begin exchanging some significant looks as Morgana asks about her wound. Morgause tells her that she looks tired, and commiserates when Morgana confides in her that she hasn't been sleeping well. She offers her the bracelet around her wrist, telling her that it belonged to her mother and that it may help her sleep. Morgana demures, and as she goes to leave, Morgause asks that she remember her fondly.
That night Morgana twitches in her sleep. Unbeknownst to her, Morgause stands at the end of her bed and whispers a spell over the bracelet. Her eyes glow gold
and she leaves it at the end of the bed. Morgana instantly settles into a deeper sleep.
The following day Arthur is leading his horse out of the castle gates when he spots Morgause tending to her own. He commends her on her victory and she walks over to him, returning the favour by complimenting his horse. As she pats its nose, her eyes glow. She tells Arthur that she'll expect to see him in three days time, though he argues that he doesn't know where to find her. She assures him that when the time comes, he'll know. As she mounts her horse, she thanks him for his courtesy and tells him that he inherited such a trait from his mother. Arthur is astonished at the news that Morgause knew his mother, but she's already galloped off.
Up in Morgana's room, Gwen is shaking Morgana awake. She's relieved when Morgana opens her eyes, and Morgana comments that it's been a long time since she had such a good sleep. As Gwen goes to get her some clothes, Morgana spots the bracelet at the end of the bed.
In the council chamber, Uther is in the midst of forbidding Arthur to answer Morgause's summons. Arthur insists that he has to - not only did he give his word, but he wants to hear what she has to say about his mother. Uther suggests that she's a sorceress who used magic to win the tournament, but Arthur is adamant that he will go to her. In response, Uther orders that he be taken to his room and kept under guard.
Merlin joins him there later to find Arthur fuming. He quickly guesses that they're going anyway, and Arthur orders him to figure out a way of getting him out of his room without anyone noticing.
Merlin joins Gaius in the physician's quarters and begins pounding at a mortar and pestle, whispering a spell that causes a nearby rope to slide across the floor and up his trouser leg. As soon as night falls he returns to Arthur's room to reveal the rope wrapped around his torso.
Having put on a pair of gloves, Merlin prepares to lower Arthur down from the window to the courtyard with the rope. Arthur hesitates at the window, asking if he's sure he can hold his weight. Merlin reassures him and Arthur leaps out the window. Immediately the rope whizzes through Merlin's hands and Arthur goes sliding down until he's half-way down the wall. Merlin struggles at his end and Arthur realizes that he's in trouble. Trying to shout up to him without making too much noise, Arthur first insists that he lower the rope, and then to not let go
. Merlin's strength gives out and Arthur plummets to the ground. Merlin reluctantly looks out the window to see that Arthur has fallen face-first into horse dung.
A few hours later the two are heading through the forest, despite not knowing what direction to take. They reach a cross-roads and Arthur tries to head one way, only for his horse to turn down the other path. Realizing that Morgause must have enchanted his horse, Arthur lets it chose its own way. Merlin is hardly impressed.
Back in Camelot Gaius enters Merlin's room to find it empty. Likewise, Uther has realized that Arthur has escaped his own room and sends the guards out after him.
Merlin is questioning Arthur on what he thinks Morgause's challenge, only for Arthur to demand quiet, telling him that they're passing through King Odin's land. Sure enough, they're attacked by a patrol and while Arthur is busy fighting them off, Merlin uses magic to get rid of a sniper in a tree. Once the skirmish is over, Merlin suggests they go back, but Arthur simply states that Morgause told him that she knew his mother.
Back in Camelot, Gaius has brought Morgana her sleeping draught only to learn that she doesn't need it. Morgana shows him her new bracelet, saying that Morgause promised her that it would help her sleep. Gaius takes a careful look at it, but dismisses her claim that she feels she knows Morgause from somewhere.
Arthur and Merlin have prepared a campfire and are talking quietly over the flames.
Merlin: What was your mother like?
Arthur: I never knew her. She died before I opened my eyes.
Merlin: I'm sorry.
Arthur: I barely know anything about her.
Merlin: Can't you ask your father?
Arthur: He refuses to talk about her. It must be too painful for him. Sometimes it's as if she never even existed. I still have a sense of her. Almost as though she's part of me.
Merlin: That's the same with my father. I never knew him. And my mother's barely spoken of him. I've got this...vague memory. It's probably just my imagination.
Arthur: I'd do anything for even the vaguest memory.
Merlin: Is that why you're so determined to find Morgause? To see what she knows about your mother?
Arthur: Is that so wrong?
Arthur: I should get some rest.
Gaius goes to see Uther eating in the council chamber and tells him about the bracelet that Morgause was wearing. It bore the mark of the house of Gorlois, and by this is deduces that Morgause is Morgana's half-sister, her being the only one who would have cause to wear such a mark. Uther believed that Morgause died as a baby, but Gaius confesses that he smuggled her out of Camelot and handed her over to the High Priestesses to raise. He's only now breaking his silence because he's afraid of what she has planned for Arthur.
Merlin and Arthur emerge from the forest on the shores of a lake, but the horse immediately plunges into the water. The two of them cross the lake and discover that behind a waterfall on the other side is a large cavern. They walk their horses through to find Morgause's castle looming above them. They dismount and enter the castle courtyard, finding it empty apart from a chopping block and an axe. Arthur picks it up and casually drives the blade into the block as he looks around. Morgause enters down a narrow flight of stone steps. She picks up the axe and asks him to place his head on the block, reminding him that he gave his word. Arthur kneels down and does as she asks, despite Merlin's protests.
Morgause raises the axe in the air - and then lowers it once more. Impressed by his sense of honour, Morgause offers to grant him one wish: his heart's desire. Arthur asks to know more about his mother, and Morgause asks if he would like to see her.
Back in Camelot, Sir Leon is explaining that Arthur has yet to be found. Uther sends them out for another search, and Gaius tries to comfort him by saying that if Morgause planned to kill Arthur, she would have done so in the tournament. Instead it appears that she has something else in mind. Uther tells him that Morgause said that she knew Ygraine, and though he doesn't know if this is true, he fears that she may know the truth about Arthur's birth.
Within the castle, Morgause prepares her spell as Merlin and Arthur watch.
Merlin: Are you sure you want to do this?
Arthur: If you were granted the same opportunity, would you not want to meet your father?
Merlin: Uther won't forgive you if he finds out you've collaborated with a sorcerer.
Arthur: What if my father's attitude to magic is wrong?
Merlin: You really think that?
Arthur: Perhaps it's not as simple as he would have us believe. Morgause is a sorcerer, she has caused us no harm. Surely not everyone who practices magic can be evil.
Merlin: We don't actually know why she's doing this.
Morgause calls Arthur over to the centre of the room and asks him to close his eyes. She begins to chant a spell. Merlin notices that the wind in the leaves begins to blow in Slow Motion
. Arthur hears a woman's voice say his name, and he opens his eyes to see a fair-headed woman in a pale gold dress standing in an archway. She runs to him and the two embrace.
Ygraine: When I last held you, you were a tiny baby. I remember your eyes. You were staring up at me. Those few seconds I held you were the most precious of my life.
Arthur: I'm so sorry.
Ygraine: You have nothing to be sorry for.
Ygraine: No, you are not to blame.
Arthur: I cannot bear the thought that you died because of me.
Ygraine: Do not think that. It is your father who should carry the guilt for what happened.
Arthur: What do you mean?
Ygraine: It is not important. What matters is that you lived.
Arthur: Why should my father feel guilty?
Ygraine: It is better left in the past.
Arthur: You cannot leave me with more questions. Please.
Arthur: But how was I born? Tell me.
Ygraine: Your father betrayed me. He went to the sorceress Nimueh and asked for her help in conceiving a child. You were born of magic.
Arthur: That's not true.
Ygraine: I'm sorry, Arthur. Your father has deceived you as he deceived me. To create a life, a life must be taken. Your father knew that.
Ygraine: He sacrificed my life so the Pendragon dynasty could continue. It makes you no less my son, nor me any less proud of you. Now I see you, I would have given my life willingly. Do not let this knowledge change you.
With that, she's gone. Arthur demands that she be brought back, but Morgause claims that she cannot now that the spell is over
. She apologises to Arthur for what his mother told him, calling Uther's lies an "unforgivable betrayal." She glides away into the darkness, leaving Arthur shell-shocked. Merlin asks if he's okay, but Arthur only orders that he gets the horses ready.
Gaius is relieved to see Merlin and Arthur return safely, though no one notices when Arthur retrieves his sword from the saddle before entering the palace. Merlin confronts Gaius with what they learnt about Ygraine's death, and Gaius confirms that what Morgause showed them was true.
Uther is in the hall looking over some papers when Arthur enters. Uther looks relieved, but that is soon to fade when Arthur announces that he knows what Uther did to Ygraine. Instantly he orders that the room be emptied.
Uther: What are you talking about?
Arthur: You were so desperate for an heir, you were prepared to use magic.
Uther: Did Morgause tell you this? She's lying.
Arthur: My mother is dead because of your selfishness and arrogance. Her blood is on your hands.
Uther: No. That's not true. But Morgause would have you believe that.
Arthur: This is what fuels your hatred for those who practice magic. Rather than blame yourself for what you did, you blame them.
Uther: You would believe a sorcerer's lies over the word of your own father? I can only think that Morgause has enchanted you.
Arthur: You have hunted her kind like animals! How many hundreds have you condemned to death to ease your guilt?
Uther: Those who practice magic will stop at nothing to destroy us! I have only done what is necessary to protect this kingdom!
Arthur: You speak of honour and nobility! You're nothing but a hypocrite and a liar!
Uther: I am your king, and your father. You will show me some respect!
Arthur marches forward and throws his gauntlet at Uther's feet. When Uther refuses to fight, Arthur draws his sword. Uther calls his bluff and dares him to strike. Arthur does so, but Uther has anticipated the depths of his son's anger, and parries the blow. The combat begins in earnest as Merlin races up the stairs and tries to get past Sir Leon guarding the doorway. Leon pushes him away, but Merlin insists that father and son are going to kill each other.
Though Uther is putting up a good fight, Arthur finally gets the upper hand and forces him back into his throne, and holds his sword up for the killing strike. At that moment Merlin bursts in, begging him to stop.
Merlin: Arthur! Don't! I know you don't want to do this!
Arthur: My mother is dead because of him!
Merlin: Killing your father won't bring her back. You've lost one parent. Do you really want to lose another?
Uther: Listen to him, Arthur.
Merlin: Arthur, please, put the sword down.
Arthur: You heard what my mother said! After everything he has done, do you believe he deserves to live?! He executes those who use magic, and yet he has used it himself! You have caused so much suffering and pain! I will put an end to that!
Gaius enters the room, watching intently.
Merlin: Morgause is lying! She's an enchantress. She tricked you. That was not your mother you saw. That was an illusion. Everything...everything your mother said to you...those were Morgause's words.
Arthur: You don't know that!
Merlin: This has been her plan all along! To turn you against your father. And if you kill him, the kingdom will be destroyed! This is what she wants!
Uther: Listen to him, he's speaking the truth.
Arthur: Swear to me it isn't true! You are not responsible for my mother's death! Give me your word!
Uther: I swear on my life, I loved your mother. There isn't a day passes that I don't wish that she were still alive. I could never have done anything to hurt her.
Arthur slumps down at the base of the chair, tears in his eyes. Uther leans over and kisses his forehead as Arthur whispers his apologies.
That night Merlin joins Arthur in his room. Arthur is staring out of the window, and thanks Merlin for his help in breaking free of Morgause's enchantments. Once again, he's been reminded that those who practice magic are evil and dangerous. Merlin's face falls, and he barely chokes out: "Glad I could help."
He returns to the physician's quarters to find Uther waiting for him. The King thanks him for his intervention, but warns him that if he ever breathes a word of it to anyone, he'll have him hanged. Gaius enters just as Uther leaves, and asks what he was doing there. Somewhat dazed, Merlin replies that he was thanking him for his vigilance in the fight against magic. When Gaius states that Merlin must have been tempted to let Arthur go through with killing Uther, he responds that Arthur would have never forgiven himself if he'd killed his own father.
Back in her castle, Morgause once again peers through her crystal, and is shocked to see Arthur and Uther talking happily together at the dining table. She glares, knowing that she's lost the battle - but not the war.
- Awful Truth: The Dark Secret of Arthur's birth.
- Balancing Death's Books: The conditions of the conception spell meant that Ygraine had to die for Arthur to live.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Merlin, more so than usual this episode.
- Batman Gambit: The exact nature of Morgause's plan is unclear (did she really know Ygraine? Was the apparition real?), but the gist of it was simply for Arthur to hear the truth about his mother's death, and become so enraged that he would commit patricide. It worked like a charm, but she didn't foresee that Merlin would be able to talk Arthur out of going through with it.
- Berserk Button: Much like Merlin, Arthur is fiercely protective of his mother, even just the memory of her.
- Bit Character: Geoffrey of Monmouth reappears for some exposition.
- Black and Grey Morality: Uther and Morgause.
- Bonding Over Missing Parents: Arthur and Merlin discuss their missing mother and father, respectively.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Arthur to Uther. Becomes a Negated Moment of Awesome when the Reset Button is pushed.
- Compressed Hair: When Morgause removes her helmet there is emphasis on her long blonde hair falling down her back.
- Continuity Nod: Both Nimueh and King Odin are mentioned.
- Dark Action Girl: Morgause.
- Disappeared Dad: Merlin mentions his for the first time.
- Duel to the Death: Arthur versus Morgause, though obviously it doesn't turn out that way.
- Dynamic Entry: Three series later, and no other character has managed to top Morgause's entry into the show.
- Mysterious Watcher: Morgause is first seen watching Arthur through a crystal.
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Inverted Trope. It is Arthur who asks for Morgause's name before the duel.
- Reset Button: Arthur founds out the truth about his mother's death and his father's vendetta against magic, only for Merlin himself to convince him otherwise. This leads to a Continuity Snarl in Series 4.
- Plot Hole: Gaius sees Morgana's bracelet and tells Uther that it has the crest of Gorlois on it. Why doesn't Morgana recognise it?
- She was 10 when her father died and apparently has no memory of him. She probably hasn't seen the crest since his death so it stands to reason she wouldn't remember it, either.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Morgause's scrying crystal.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Morgause
- Tell Me About My Father: Gender Flipped. It is Arthur who wants to know about his mother, and since Uther refuses to speak of her, it is easy for Morgause to use information about Ygraine as bait.
- Throwing Down the Gauntlet
- Villains Never Lie: Arthur believes Morgause when he's shown a vision of his mother who tells him that Uther was responsible for her death, and it takes Merlin to remind him that everything he saw might well have been an illusion conjured up by Morgause in order to turn Arthur against his father. The great irony is that whether or not Ygraine's ghost was real, everything she told Arthur about the circumstances of his birth were true - and Merlin knows it.
- The apparition didn't necessarily speak any lies, but it heavily implies that Uther knew his wife would die, which he did not. But he did know that someone would die and was willing to make that sacrifice to have a son, which is pretty horrifying all by itself.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: So, what the heck happens to Morgause's castle? By series four, she and Morgana are living in a hovel in the woods.
- Woman in White: Ygraine. Or at least, very pale gold.