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Recap: Merlin S 03 E 08 The Eye Of The Phoenix

The Eye of the Phoenix

Arthur wastes no time in getting to his requisite Shirtless Scene, for the episode opens on him getting ready for some sort of ritual. Dressed in white robes and with bare feet, Arthur walks alone into the great hall and kneels before the throne. It's all very reverent, but Merlin and Gwen aren't taking it quite as seriously. Peeking through the doorway, they watch Arthur begin his night-long vigil in order to chose upon a quest that is revealed to him in a vision during a ceremony that all sounds vaguely magical in nature. When Gwen expresses the inanity of this, Merlin tells her that this is one of the most important days in a prince's life, which is presumably why we've never heard about it before.

Despite this, Merlin is fast asleep and snoring when Uther and the rest of the court enter the throne room the following morning in order to discover what quest Arthur has decided upon. Arthur tells them that he is to enter the realm of the Fisher King and retrieve the Golden Trident, and Uther reminds him that in order to prove himself worthy of the throne he must complete the task alone and unaided.

Over breakfast, Gaius tells Merlin that the speed with which he's eating breakfast will only result in him getting hiccups. However, he gives Merlin the necessary Info Dump about how the Fisher King was a sorcerer who lived many years ago, whose battle wound festered and spread not just throughout his body, but the surrounding lands as well. Now it's just a wasteland, though some believe that the King is still alive, kept alive by his magic. Now his kingdom is known as the Perilous Lands, and Merlin is understandably worried about the logic of sending the only heir to Camelot there on a quest.

As Arthur looks over maps in his room, he's distracted by Merlin's hiccups as he makes the bed. Merlin points out that none of the maps are the same, and Arthur reminds him that few people go to the Perilous Lands. Merlin offers to go with him, but Arthur is adamant that he go by himself in order to prove his worth to his people.

Outside in the market, Morgana and Guinevere are shopping when Morgana is startled by an old woman who grabs her hand. Morgana glances down to see that the woman has young hands, and realizes that it's Morgause. Despite Guinevere's concern, Morgana leads the old woman away. As soon as they're around a corner, Morgause gives her a bracelet with a bright yellow stone, instructing her to give it to Arthur as a good luck charm. Once done, she must make a Voodoo Doll of the prince and bind it to the gift, thus weakening him as he tries to complete the quest. When he doesn't return, Uther will be forced to name Morgana as his sole heir.

Gwen is playing with a shawl and looking at herself in a mirror hanging from the stall when she spots Morgause's reflection behind her. She looks around to see the old woman hobbling away, and she's soon re-joined by Morgana, who tells her that she was simply giving alms to the poor.

The following day, Arthur emerges from his room to find Gwen waiting for him. Before she can say anything, he assures her that he'll be careful, and kisses her before he goes. Gwen is rendered speechless, but manages a smile as he walks away. Outside in the central courtyard, the nobles and knights gather on the front steps to watch him go. Morgana is on Uther's arm as Arthur approaches his horse and turns back to acknowledge them. They bow in return, and Arthur mounts his horse and shares a moment with Merlin, whose eyes are quickly drawn to the bracelet on his wrist. Arthur tells him that it was a gift from Morgana before he goes.

Merlin and Gaius hit the books, trying to figure out what the bracelet means. All Merlin knows is that it wasn't a jewel, and that its magic was powerful. Finally Gaius draws out a book and shows him an illustration that Merlin recognizes. Mr. Exposition fills us in: that it's the eye of a phoenix and that it consumes the life-force of anyone it comes into contact with. If it's worn too long, Arthur will die. Merlin knows he has to go after him, but Gaius insists that he take someone with him.

That night, Morgana creates the Voodoo Doll and burns it into ashes as Arthur stretches out beside his campfire, not noticing that the bracelet on his wrist has begun to glow softly. Gwen approaches Morgana's room, hesitates outside the door, and then marches in. Morgana stands up hurriedly, shielding the box of ashes with her body. Gwen can smell something burning, but Morgana snaps at her to get out.

The following morning Arthur is approached by bandits, who attack him while he sleeps. He just manages to get up and fight them off, but he staggers around like a drunken man, severely weakened by the bracelet's magic. After killing the last one, he collapses to the ground.

Merlin has left Camelot and ridden his horse to a small village in a valley. He opens the door to a tavern in the middle of a brawl, dodges a few flying cups, and sees a man getting dragged across the top of the bar. It's Gwaine, who is apparently in trouble again, with a man who demands his money. Merlin and Gwaine flee, dodging stalls and barrels, with the men in pursuit. Eventually they climb the interior stairs of a high stone wall, with Merlin explaining that Arthur's in trouble. After taking a flying leap from the wall into a large bale of hay positioned beneath them, Gwaine and Merlin nab two horses and gallop away into the forest.

Meanwhile, Arthur has reached the edge of the Perilous Lands and checks his map. His destination would seem to be the large tower marked out as "The Dark Tower." He leaves his horse behind and approaches a small bridge, where a dwarf is waiting for him.

Grettir: Who is it that wishes to cross my bridge?
Arthur: I'm a knight on a quest to find the trident of the Fisher King.
Grettir: Then you must be Courage.
Arthur: No, I'm Prince Arthur of Camelot.
Grettir: I'm Grettir. I have to say, you're not as short as I thought you'd be. Before I let you pass, I'll give you a little advice. As Courage, there are two more things you'll need to complete your quest: Strength and Magic.
Arthur: I don't condone the use of magic.
Grettir: It would be wise not to dismiss it so freely. The rules in the land that you're heading to are quite different to those in the world that you know.

Arthur appears a little worried as Grettir looks him up and down, but he stands aside and lets him pass. However, as he goes by, Grettir grabs his arm and examines the bracelet, amused by Arthur's words that it was meant to be a token of good fortune. When Arthur turns around, Grettir has disappeared. Arthur draws his sword before he carries on.

While Merlin and Gwaine exchange banter, Arthur crosses the wastelands of the Perilous Lands. The bracelet begins its work once more, and his progress slows.

Back in Camelot, Gwen is helping Morgana dress for the evening. Realizing that she almost gave herself away last night, Morgana generously offers to give Gwen the night off. Gwen seems to accept the apology, and tells Morgana that she'll get everything ready for Morgana's return.

Merlin and Gwaine approach the Perilous Lands, which seem to exist in a state of perpetual sunset, and brace themselves for the journey ahead.

Morgana returns to her room and calls out for Gwen, ascertaining whether she's there or not. Finding the room empty, she goes to the wardrobe and retrieves the box of ash, placing it on the table and setting it alight with her eyes. Unbeknownst to her, Gwen is watching from behind a screen.

Arthur is struggling through the wastelands as Morgana's magic does its work, and stumbles into a bog up to his chin. He makes a futile attempt to pull himself up with a tree root, but when that comes loose, he sinks back into the waters.

Gwaine and Merlin approach the bridge, and Gwaine signals to Merlin that he's going to scope out the area first. Having no idea what he means, Merlin just wanders up to the bridge and meets Grettir, who appears as if from nowhere, addressing him as Magic. He hints that everything about the quest has been preordained, and greets Gwaine as Strength when he jogs up to Merlin's side. Gwaine draws his sword, only for it to be transformed into a bouquet of large white lilies.

Gwaine: Where's my sword?
Grettir: It will return once you reach the other side.

Looking rather pained, Gwaine sets off across the bridge. Merlin draws closer to Grettir.

Grettir: The Fisher King has waited many years for this day. Do not deny him what he wishes. Remember...nothing is as it seems.

Still in the bog, Arthur manages to use his sword to drag a sturdy tree root closer to him, and drags himself out of the water without ruining his hair.

By night, Gwaine and Merlin are hunched over a small campfire, listening to the strange sounds of the wildlife around them. A particularly harsh screech cuts through the air.

Merlin: What was that?
Gwaine: Pheasant.
Merlin: A Pheasant?
Gwaine: A very big one.
Merlin: You can turn back if you want.
Gwaine: I'm not scared of pheasants.
Merlin: I don't know. Why do you want to do this?
Gwaine: Same reason as you. Help a friend.
Merlin: Arthur is lucky to have us.
Gwaine: Not Arthur.

After a particularly meaningful Held Gaze, Merlin tells him he'd do the same for him, and Gwaine admits that he's the only friend he's got. More terrifying sounds fill the night air.

Gaius opens the door to the sound of frantic knocking and Gwen bursts in, telling him what she's just seen. Gaius does the usual "it may not be as it seems" shtick, but Gwen knows what she saw and insists that Morgana is using magic.

Gwen: She's changed, Gaius. I don't think she means well to any of us any more.
Gaius: I wish I could say otherwise, but I fear you're right.

Arthur wakes up by the bog the next day and manages to get to his feet. He collects his sword and stumbles on toward the dark tower in the distance. As he gets closer, his smile fades at the sight of large winged creatures circling the top of the tower. They catch sight of him and cry out as they grow nearer. Further away, Merlin and Gwaine climb the escarpment that looks over the tower, spotting both glint of sunlight on Arthur's sword and the creatures in the sky.

The creatures swoop down on Arthur, who manages to fend them off despite the bracelet. After a few misses he manages to hit one with his sword and makes a dash for the tower. They fly after him, but Arthur manages to lower the portcullis just in time. As Merlin and Gwaine near, Gwaine identifies the creatures as wyverns, distant cousins of the dragons.

Arthur runs through the outer courtyards of the castle, the wyverns still behind him, as Gwaine and Merlin struggle to raise the portcullis from the outside. They slide under and split up to find Arthur, who is currently trying to avoid the wyverns in the keep itself. He blocks off one of the doors and rests against it, exhausted by the power of the bracelet. One of the wyverns begins to claw through the door, and Arthur crawls away, nearly ready to collapse. As Gwaine searches the upper halls for him, Merlin follows the sound of the wyverns. Arthur loses consciousness just as the wyverns break through the door and advance on him. Merlin enters from another entrance and jumps down in front of Arthur. Using dragon-speech, he forces the wyverns to submit to his will. They bow their heads and leave the room.

Merlin immediately turns and takes the bracelet off Arthur's wrist. Groggily he comes to, finding Merlin smiling down at him.

Arthur: What the hell are you doing here?
Merlin: Why can you never just say thanks?
Arthur: Thanks?! For completely ruining the quest?

Arthur continues to voice his displeasure when their squabble is interrupted by the roar of a wyvern. One has returned, and is about to attack them both when it's stabbed from behind by Gwaine. Arthur looks just as pleased to see Gwaine as he did Merlin. Not impressed, Gwaine tells them that more wyverns are on the way, but Arthur refuses to leave without the trident.

Now with Merlin and Gwaine in tow, Arthur climbs a spiral staircase in search of the artifact, eventually coming to a web-filled corridor with a large room opening at the end of it. Merlin thinks it looks like a throne room, but as he enters, he steps on a pave stone that activates a panel sliding down from the ceiling. Gwaine only just manages to push Merlin under it, and he stumbles into the throne room by himself, Arthur and Gwaine on the other side of the door.

They try to shout from both sides of the door, but don't seem to be able to hear each other. As Arthur and Gwaine search for a way in, Merlin decides to investigate closer. In the middle of the room is a throne, and as he circles it, a voice speaks, calling him Emrys. He comes closer, and turns to face the throne. An old king sits there, covered in cobwebs and holding a trident. Merlin gives a little bow.

Outside, Arthur has discovered a secret compartment in the wall that could open the door - the only problem is that it's filled with bugs that spill out as soon as he loosens the stonework. Arthur is disgusted, but at Gwaine's needling, he tightens his glove and reaches into the cavity. Inside the throne room, Merlin and the Fisher King hear their attempts to enter.

Merlin: What is it you want?
Fisher King: An end to my suffering.
Merlin: You want to die.
Fisher King: I have been waiting all these years for the arrival of a new time. The time of the Once and Future King.
Merlin: I've heard these words before.
Fisher King: And you will hear them again. For that time is dawning, and my time can finally come to an end. This is why you were brought here. Oh, this is not Arthur's quest. It is yours. Arthur thinks the prize is the trident.

He drops it on the ground, and reveals something in his hand: a small vial of water.

Fisher King: Water from the Lake of Avalon. I've kept it safe these years. Waiting for the right person to claim it. And that is you. You are the one chosen.
Merlin: What are you talking about?
Fisher King: Albion's time of need is near and in that dark hour you must be strong, for you alone can save her. Your powers are great, but you will need help. And that is what I'm giving you.

He offers Merlin the vial. He steps forward and takes it.

Fisher King: When all hope seems lost, this will show you the way.

Merlin thanks him, and realizes that he has a way to end the King's suffering. The Fisher King gets to his feet, and Merlin hands over Morgana's bracelet, warning him that if he holds it, he will die. The King silently reaches for it, and Merlin gets to his knees before putting it on his wrist. The King raises his arm as a wind begins to howl, and Merlin closes his eyes as the King disappears in a whirlwind, leaving behind only his throne and the trident.

Moments later, Arthur and Gwaine have the door open and enter the room. Although Arthur only responds by giving Merlin a clap on the back, Gwaine pulls him into a Man Hug. Arthur is delighted that they've found the trident, and heads off. Merlin takes one last look back at the throne before following.

The Power Trio head back toward Camelot until they reach the border. Gwaine can go no further given Uther's decree.

Arthur: I'm sorry, Gwaine. There's nothing I can do to change that.
Merlin: Maybe one day.
Gwaine: Yeah. When Camelot gets itself a half-decent king.
Arthur: Careful. He is my father.
Gwaine: Well, you can't have everything.

Merlin and Arthur thank him for the last time, and head away. Gwaine's smile fades, and he rather sadly turns away. As Merlin and Arthur return, Arthur reminds him that Merlin wasn't technically on the quest, considering that Arthur was meant to complete it on his own.

Night falls and Gwen is lighting candles when Morgana notices Arthur's return from the window. The cup in her hand falls to the floor and Gwen joins her, overjoyed to see Arthur's return. Morgana continues to send her Death Glare out of the window as Gwen offers to clean up the mess she's made.

In the throne room, surrounded by the court and the knights, Uther congratulates Arthur on his safe return and his successful quest. The court claps as Uther pronounces him fit to be king, though Morgana doesn't look at all happy.

Finally, Merlin and Gaius look over the vial of water, pondering the words of the Fisher King. Gaius points out that whether the King is right or wrong, they have a dangerous enemy within the castle walls.

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