Recap: Merlin S 03 E 01 The Tears Of Uther Pendragon Part I

The Tears of Uther Pendragon Part I

Series three begins a year after the events of The Last Dragonlord, opening on a scene of Arthur, Merlin and the knights of Camelot patrolling the countryside on the borders of Cenred's Kingdom. They discover a battalion of Camelot knights killed in battle who now lie strewn across the landscape. Though Arthur orders that they check for survivors, there are none, and Arthur tracks the attackers north.

Back in Camelot, Gaius approaches Uther in the grand hall as he stares gravely out of a window. Gaius reminds him that many knights have been lost in his on-going search for Morgana, but Uther refuses to call off the hunt until she's found.

Wasting no time in getting to this season's quota of Ho Yay, Arthur and Merlin discuss each other's backsides and the word "dollop-head". Arthur gestures for silence as he notices a deserted bandit camp in the trees ahead. Dismounting, the group quietly enter the area and Arthur checks the campfire. There's a whistle in the air, and one of the knights falls to the ground, an arrow in his back. Bandits race through the trees, and a fight commences. Merlin grabs a nearby sword, and immediately gets it knocked out of his hands. Face to face with a bandit, he mutters a spell and makes the man's sword magnetic, attracting a helmet, a saucepan and a couple of mugs. With them stuck tight to his sword, the man falls backwards. Merlin tries to run to Arthur's side, but is waylaid by another bandit with an axe. This time he casts a spell to ensure that an entire tree falls down on his assailant.

Arthur has been fighting bandits all this time, and as Merlin races toward him, he trips up. Seeing another bandit prepare for a sneak attack on Arthur, Merlin causes a spear to levitate and hurl itself into the man's stomach. Arthur looks around to see where it came from, and his eyes fall upon Merlin lying upon the ground.

Arthur: We're not playing hide and seek, Merlin!

The final bandits are finished off and the knights regroup. Arthur and Merlin hear the sounds of approach and Arthur readies his sword. A lone figure stumbles through the mist toward them, and as it clears, they discover that it's a dishevelled, frightened Morgana.

They take her back to Camelot, where she is is treated by Gaius up in her bedchamber, watched over by a concerned Guinevere. Gaius checks her pupils and tells her to rest. Gwen offers to stay with her. Uther waits in the antechamber at the bottom of the stairs and is relieved to hear that there's nothing physically wrong with Morgana. Gaius cautions him against going to see her, telling him that she needs to sleep.

Merlin waits in the physician's quarters and accosts Gaius as soon as he walks through the door, wanting to know whether Morgana has said anything about his attempt to poison her. Gaius exposits the finer points of The Fires of Idirsholas, and tells Merlin to remain calm. There's no way of knowing what Morgana or Uther will do.

Merlin wakes up the following morning to see Gaius standing over him, telling him that Arthur has requested his presence in Morgana's chambers. Nervously he enters her room to hear Morgana telling Arthur what happened to her in the past year: she was kept in a cell and moved about a week ago after confronting the patrol from Camelot. She saw all of them killed but managed to escape while the bandits were distracted by their spoils. The two hug each other, and Morgana notices Merlin over Arthur's shoulder. Arthur leaves her to rest and Merlin is about to follow when Morgana calls him back.

Morgana: I know what you did. You tried to poison me.
Merlin: I...I didn't want to.
Morgana: It's alright Merlin, I understand. You were just trying to protect your friends. I would've done the same.
Merlin: Really?
Morgana: I was so naive, Merlin. I don't think I really understood what I was doing. But believe me, I have seen the evils in this world. I have seen firsthand what it is that Uther fights against. You don't know how much I regret everything that I've done. I just hope that you can forgive me.

Merlin looks a little teary-eyed as he apologises for what she's been through, but the two seem on the verge of reconciliation.

Arthur notices how happy he looks whilst scrubbing the floor. A fairly pointless sequence commences in which Arthur smears a dirty cloth over Merlin's face and tips the bucket of washing water over his head (though you may not have cared considering he's shirtless throughout).

Uther sits on his throne in the grand hall as Sir Leon gives him a daily update on news in the kingdom. Morgana enters through the doors and marches across the room toward him. Uther orders the soldiers out and the two rush into each other's arms. Uther has tears in his eyes and Morgana dabs them away with a handkerchief. She thanks him for not giving up on her, and apologises for her past behaviour, promising him to be more obedient in future. She kisses his cheek and leaves him to his business ... but wait a second ... what's with that Psychotic Smirk on her face the second her back is turned?

Under the light of a full moon, Morgana leaves the castle. In glorious Slow Motion she sweeps through the courtyard and gallops into the forest, finally stopping at the base of a rocky slope where a light is shining from a cave halfway up the hill. She climbs up and passes two guards at the entrace, drawing back her hood as Morgause steps out of the shadows. Morgana tells her that she's been welcomed back into Camelot: that Uther doesn't suspect anything and that Merlin believes that she's forgiven him. She hands Morgause the handkerchief.

Morgause: You've done well. The tears of Uther Pendragon have only begun to fall.

She drops the handkerchief into a bubbling cauldron of some nasty-looking thick black goo, followed by a strange white root that bears a vague resemblance to a man. It too sinks into the sludge. A high-pitched scream cuts through the night, and Morgana covers her ears in pain.

Morgause: The mandrake root is very special. Only those with magic can hears its cries. But for those without magic, the mandrake pierces the very recesses of the soul, twisting the unconscious into the very image of fear and dread. Uther Pendragon will find that his great kingdom counts for nothing when he has lost his mind.

Morgause stirs the brew and chants an incantation as Morgana watches in adoration. Her eyes glow gold, and she retrieves the mandrake root from the cauldron and gives it to Morgana.

The following scene is shot from under Uther's bed, where we can see the mandrake root dripping its muck onto the floor, Morgana having hung it there at some point on her return to Camelot. Uther is dressing and getting an update on Morgana's condition from Gaius, who tells him that she's made a remarkable recovery.

Uther: She was always like that as a child, very brave. She inherited much from her father.
Gaius: Gorlois was a great man.
Uther: Indeed. I trust she will be well enough to attend the feast.

Outside, Arthur is training with his men as Merlin watches. Arthur is blindfolded and yet still able to fend off his opponent's attacks. On exchanging his weapons he takes the opportunity to hassle Merlin about his personal fighting style (clinging to a sword and moaning: "don't hurt me!") - only for Merlin to take his revenge by magically flinging Arthur's sword out of his hand. One of the knights hits a defenseless Arthur in the stomach with a mace, sending him face-first into a mud puddle. With Friends Like These......

That night the Pendragon family and the court are enjoying a feast in the banquet hall.

Uther: Standing here, seeing so many happy faces ... it seems almost like a dream. I can tell you, I have not felt like this in a long time.
Arthur: What, drunk?
Uther: Drunk with happiness. I would've searched the entire world, the seas, the sky, the stars...
Uther gestures at Morgana.
Uther: For that smile. To have it stolen from me was like a blade to my heart. Morgana, there are no words. You mean more to me than you will ever know.

A toast is raised to the Lady Morgana, and she stands up to embrace Uther, giving us a quintessential example of a Traitor Shot as she does so. Uther seems a bit unsteady on his feet, and so announces that he's going outside to fetch some air. Morgana watches him go with a satisfied look on her face.

Uther stumbles out into the central courtyard. He hears someone softly calling his name and asks: "who's there?" His eyes move across the courtyard and fall upon the well. He moves closer and leans on its side, staring down into its depths. He smiles to find that there's nothing there, and is about to move away when a white arm shoots out of the depths of the well and grabs his wrist. He stares down in horror as the white, gaunt face of Queen Igraine looks up at him, screaming: "PLEASE!" He pulls himself loose and falls back on the cobblestones, screaming and then panting in horror. The noise brings the guards who gather around him, shaking on the ground.

Upstairs, Arthur and Morgana help Uther into bed as Gaius and Merlin watch. As Morgana tucks him in, she tenderly takes Uther's hand and kisses it. As soon as Arthur follows Gaius into the hall, she drops it in disgust. Beneath the bed, the mandrake root continues to drip.

Arthur approaches Gaius and asks to know what's going on. Gaius reluctantly tells him that Uther was mumbling incoherently, but that there was one word in particular that was clear: Igraine's name. Uther claimed that he saw her in the well, and Arthur is instantly worried that news of this will spread.

Having returned to Morgause's cave, Morgana tells her sister that rumours of the king's condition are spreading. This means that Camelot is primed and ready for an invasion, and Morgause tells her Morgana that she plans to go to King Cenred tomorrow. Morgause adds another mandrake root to the cauldron.

On her return to Camelot, Morgana finds it difficult to evade the guards. Up on the battlements she runs into one who spots the dripping of the mandrake root beneath her cloak. Thinking that she's bleeding, he tries to help her, only for Morgana to stab him in the stomach and throw him over the castle parapets. She returns to her room and hides the root in a chest. Hearing Gwen coming, she realizes that her cloak is covered with mud and just manages to throw it aside. Gwen enters and offers to help her get ready for bed, but Morgana firmly tells her that she can manage on her own. A little confused, Gwen leaves.

The following day, Morgause and her bodyguards gallop toward Cenred's citadel. In Bad Ass Slow Motion, Morgause gallops under the portcullis and marches up the front steps like a boss, finding Cendred in his throne room. When she insults him for not meeting her at the border, one of his men draws his sword. Morgause's eyes glow gold, and the man is thrown across the room onto a table that breaks beneath him. More men draw their weapons, but Cenred halts them.

Cenred: You are very beautiful when you're angry.
Morgause: Is that why you continue to defy me?
Cenred: You wouldn't like it if I made it easy for you.

The two of them laugh. Later, over some wine, Morgause tells him her plan. Cenred has heard that Uther is losing his mind, and Morgause reminds him that this means Camelot is vulnerable, as she promised. He reminds her that the citadel is still impregnable, and she tells him that she has a mole planted within the court. Cenred doesn't trust in traitors, but Morgause assures him that she's reliable. Cenred sits back, considering.

Back in Camelot, the court is gathered in the council chambers. Morgana is listening as Arthur informs everyone that mercenaries are streaming into Cenred's Kingdom. Uther is concerned at this, and Arthur suggests that they send out a patrol to find out what exactly their neighbour is doing ... but Uther's eyes have drifted to a point behind Arthur. He sits back in his throne, looking horrified. Arthur looks behind him, but there's nothing there. The court shifts uncomfortably, unsure what's going on. Uther still looks appalled, and a Scare Chord accompanies the vision standing in the room before him: a little boy, with blue eyes and bare feet, dripping wet. Uther stands, his eyes fixed on the boy.

Uther: Leave me alone.

He points, and once more the court looks around in confusion. Water drips onto the floor from the boy's clothing, and Uther loses it. Arthur reaches for his father, but Uther pushes him aside, shouting: "Get out! I'll have you hanged!" Arthur and Sir Leon grab him by the arms and drag him from the room, Gaius following in hot pursuit. Morgana smiles quietly to herself.

In a corridor, Gaius fills Merlin in on what happened: during the time of the Great Purge, Uther drowned many people who were suspected of sorcery. Some of them were children. Now Gaius thinks that his conscience has come back to haunt him, but either way, the king's condition isn't a secret anymore. The warning bells start to toll.

Outside, the man that Morgana stabbed has been found. Gaius orders Sir Leon to take him to his chambers while he speaks to Arthur. With Morgana and several other knights present in the council chamber, Gaius informs Arthur about the discovery, and hands over the murder weapon: a small dagger with the sigil of the Blood Guard on it. The Blood Guard were warrior priests sworn to protect the High Priestesses of the Old Religion. He then breaks the news that the sentry is still alive. It's only a matter of time before he wakes up and tells them who the traitor is. Behind them, Morgana tries to contain her panic.

She hurries down the corridor and enters the physician's quarters. Finding no one there except the injured sentry, sleeping restlessly on a cot, she looks around and spots a bottle of poison on a shelf. She takes it.

Merlin and Gaius return to their quarters as Morgana slips away down the corridor. Inside, Merlin goes to check on their patient, only to find him dead.

Merlin: You said he was recovering.
Gaius: I thought he was.
Merlin: Then what happened? You don't think it's strange?
Gaius: Very.

That night Merlin takes a tonic to Uther and leaves it on his bedside table, noticing how badly the king is sleeping. He adjusts one of the blankets, only to hear the sound of dripping. He leans over to investigate, spotting drops of black gunk on the floor. Hearing footsteps approach, he slides under the bed and gets a fright when he bangs his face against the mandrake root. He leans away as Morgana's hand reaches under the bed and yanks out the mandrake root. He watches her leave the room with it, beginning to understand what's happening.

He follows Morgana as she strides through the palace and the lower town, ducking out of sight every time she turns around. Deep in the forest Merlin watches her cloaked figure as she glides through the trees, and is gobsmacked when she's joined by Morgause and her Blood Guards on horseback. More awesome Slow Motion and creepy Crowning Music of Awesome herald her arrival. Merlin inches closer.

Morgause: Sorry you had to wait. There was much to discuss.
Morgana: But your visit was successful?
Morgause: Cenred's army ride for Camelot on my command.
Morgana: There's nothing you cannot do.
Morgause: It is you that gives me strength, sister. How goes the battle for Uther's mind?
Morgana: When Cenred marches on Camelot, he will find a kingdom without a leader.

Merlin creeps even closer, concealing himself behind a moss-covered rock. Morgana tells Morgause that Merlin suspects her ... and that she knows because he's followed her here. Merlin leaps up in fright, and Morgana smiles as he makes a run for it. Morgause's Blood Guards chase him through the forest, eventually capturing him.

Gaius enters Arthur's chamber in order to see how he's doing. Arthur confesses that he's always seen his father as strong and in control, but Gaius gently tells him that the kingdom needs him to now assume control. Arthur is angry at the thought of people talking behind his back and giving up on his father.

Merlin wakes to find himself staring up at the trees. The Blood Guard drag him to his knees and he looks up at Morgause who looks over him thoughtfully.

Morgause: You intrigue me, Merlin. Why does a lowly servant continue to risk everything for Arthur and for Camelot? You know the answer, but you're not telling me. Why? Come on, time and again you've put your life on the line. There must be a reason.
Merlin: I believe in a fair and just land.
Morgause: And you think Arthur will give you that?
Merlin: I know it.
Morgause: And then what? You think you'll be recognised, Merlin? Is that it? All this so one day you can be a serving boy to the king? No...there's something more. There's something you're not telling me, isn't there?
Merlin: I've told you.
Morgause: Well, you can take your secret to your grave.

She chants a few magic words and the silver chains that Merlin has been bound with tighten. He looks up in fear as she and the Blood Guards abandon him.

Back in Camelot's physician's quarters, Gaius calls for Merlin and finds that his bed hasn't been slept in. He goes searching for him and finds Gwen arranging some flowers. As Gwen comments that she hasn't seen Merlin since yesterday, Morgana enters and remarks how strange it is that he's missing.

Merlin tries a few spells of his own on the chains, but they only seem to tighten around his body. He hears the sound of something approaching. Leaves rustles on the trees and a few pebbles slide down a bank. Eventually the Serkets (giant scorpians) appear. Merlin tries desperately to free himself as the Serkets grow in number.

Arthur sits by his father's bedside, looking teary-eyed. Morgana puts her hands on his shoulders, pretending to comfort him. She promises that she'll make sure that Uther is looked after. Unbeknownst to Arthur, the mandrake root still drips beneath his bed.

It would seem that evening is falling as the Serkets finally close in on Merlin. His power pushes them away, but they continue to circle. Finally one manages to sting him from behind, and though a roar from Merlin sends them flying, he bows over in pain. With the last of his strength, he yells into the sky in dragon-speech before collapsing to the ground.

Up on the hills surrounding Camelot, Cenred and his army approach. From the cave, Morgause watches from her scrying crystal.

Night has fallen, and Merlin is lying on the ground helpless. The Serkets have returned and are closing in. From the night sky the dragon swoops in, breathing fire on the Serkets and almost Merlin as well. He falls unconscious as the dragon's wings buffet leaves across his face, and his talons close over Merlin as he lifts him into the night sky...

Tropes