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Recap: Merlin S 04 E 01 The Darkest Hour Part I

The Darkest Hour Part I

A black-cloaked figure pulls a wagon through a deserted quarry. Four knights approach on horseback, two of which have familiar faces. It’s…Sir Leon! Beside him is Sir Elyan and two fellow knights, dressed in Camelot’s colours. Sir Leon calls out to the hooded figure, asking where they’re headed and what’s in the cart.

The cloaked figure reveals herself as Lady Morgana and she effortlessly throws the knights through the air with telekinesis. She hurries to check the contents of the cart. Morgause is lying within, looking weak and badly wounded down one side of her face. She urges Morgana to continue.

Back in Camelot, Merlin races through the castle, dodging people who are preparing for the night’s banquet. He fetches Arthur’s shirt from the kitchen and notices a hook dangling from the ceiling. Above him Gwaine and Percival are trying to swipe a chicken, and Merlin assists them before darting from the room, shirt in hand. He bumps into a servant who spills wine all over the clean shirt. Lancelot approaches from down the corridor and reminds Merlin that his talents can make easy work of such a stain. Sure enough, seconds later the stain is gone.

Up in his room, Merlin is surprised to find Arthur dressed, and supplies him with a speech for the night’s banquet.

Meanwhile, Morgana and Morgause (who walks with a bad limp) prepare to take a boat to the Isle of the Blessed. They pay the boatman and cross the water, Morgause leaning heavily on her sister.

A shaky hand slowly returns a goblet to a table-top. King Uther sits back in his chair, looking old and weak. Gwen enters the room and notes that he hasn’t eaten anything before taking the tray and passing Gaius on the way out. He’s brought Uther a tonic, even though Gwen states that it doesn’t help. A year on since Morgana’s betrayal, Uther is a shadow of his former self. Gwen excuses herself from the banquet that night, and dismisses Gaius’s claims that she’s kind to the King – she’s only caring for him for Arthur’s sake.

Morgana and Morgause float closer to the Isle, where a great castle stands, a wyvern gliding around its parapets. Meanwhile, Leon and Elyan return to Camelot to bring news of Morgana – that her powers have grown and that she’s headed for the Isle of the Blessed. Arthur listens to their news, as does a black-clad man in the corner, and Leon warns them that Morgana’s power has grown.

The court leaves the room, and the man in black tells Arthur that he shouldn’t live in fear of Morgana. Arthur addresses him as his uncle Agravaine and thanks him for his counsel, to which Agravaine replies that he made a promise to his mother to always be there for him.

Morgana looks up nervously as the wyvern screeches and flies around the towers of the abandoned castle. At the same time, Arthur stands in the banquet hall to make a speech concerning Samhain, a time in which they are to remember the spirits of those that have passed. Within the castle on the Isle of the Blessed, Morgana and Morgause approach a stone plinth in the middle of a vast chamber. Morgana seems reluctant, but Morgause urges her on, telling her that what they’re about to do will change everything. She hands Morgana a dagger and lies down upon the plinth, telling Morgana that her death will be her final gift.

Back in Camelot, Arthur toasts King Uther, but as the guests raise their goblets, Merlin becomes aware of powerful magic being performed. As Morgana brings the dagger down upon Morgause, the banquet hall grows still and Merlin sees an old woman with a staff and cloak standing in the centre of the room. She calls him “Emrys”.

Morgana is thrown off her feet at almost the same moment Merlin faints and lies shivering on the ground. Lancelot races to his side.

Back on the Isle, Morgana is awoken by someone stroking her cheek. She looks up to see the old woman standing before a tear in reality, through which echo ghostly screams. The woman introduces herself as the Callieach, the Gatekeeper to the Spirit World. She tells Morgana that the screaming noises are the Dorocha, the voices of the dead, and since she has torn the veil between the two worlds, they will roam free over the earth. But the Callieach warns her that the one called Emrys will walk in Morgana’s shadow: he is her destiny and her doom.

Gaius and Lancelot lie Merlin down on his bed, noticing that he’s icy cold. Sometime later Merlin re-joins Gaius in his quarters and tells him about the woman. Gaius guesses that she was the Callieach, who appeared to Merlin on the stroke of midnight, when the veil between the worlds was at its thinnest. Both fear that her appearance means someone has torn the veil.

The following morning Merlin wakes up Arthur, and Sir Leon enters to give his requisite line about Arthur being needed elsewhere. Down in the council chamber the court is gathered around a frightened young girl. Arthur approaches her and gently coaxes out her story: that her village was attacked by unseen assailants, that her entire family is dead, and that all she heard was the people screaming. Arthur hands her over to Gaius and prepares his knights to ride out to the village.

The team consists of Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Gwaine, Leon, Elyan and Percival. As always, Arthur and Merlin exchange insults as a way of alleviating their nerves, but they soon realize that something is very wrong on entering the village. Swords drawn, they move through the empty houses and split up to investigate further. They’re startled by Gwaine taking a large bite of an apple, but Elyan has discovered something in one of the stone cottages. People lie dead, covered in frost.

Night has fallen, and the knights continue their search with flaming torches. In a stable, Merlin is startled by a chicken, only to hear the sounds of faraway screaming outside. He attempts to use magic to create light in his hand, only for it to die away. More screams cut through the night and a skeletal figure suddenly sweeps through the trees toward Merlin. His attempts at an incantation fail, and he is saved only by Lancelot jumping between him and the spirit with a lit torch. Terrified, Merlin states that his magic doesn’t work against such spirits, and when the rest of the team appears, Arthur orders them all back to Camelot.

Camelot is in chaos as people rush toward the castle for shelter, many of them carried on stretchers. Gwen is hurrying to help some of the wounded when a Dorocha bursts through a window in the corridor and flies through a knight. Gwen throws herself against the wall and waves a torch toward the spirit. As soon as it’s gone, she checks the fallen knight, finding that he’s dead.

In the infirmary Gaius is looking over the bodies, all of whom are covered in frost. Merlin enters and tells him that his magic is useless against them.

The following morning Agravaine recounts the number of the dead, and Gaius exposits that High Priestesses would perform a blood sacrifice to set loose the Dorocha on the world. No mortal has ever survived their touch, and the light doesn’t kill them – only repels them.

In Arthur’s chambers, Merlin is busy lighting candles. He’s startled by a noise and one of the candles goes rolling into the darkness. Knowing that his magic is useless, Merlin is reluctant to go after it. Arthur takes pity on him and goes to fetch it himself, admitting that he’s just as scared as everyone else.

Outside a line of braziers are lit, and the knights patrol the area with lighted torches. Percival overhears a noise and goes to investigate, finding three frightened children hiding behind a stack of barrels. The air fills with the sound of screaming, and seeing that the rest of the knights have gone on ahead, Percival does a quick calculation in his head: he can’t carry three children with two hands and one flaming torch.

He runs out of the alley with the three children in his arms and no defense against the Dorocha. A spirit flies down behind him, but is warded off just in time by Elyan leaping out of the shadows and waving a flaming torch at it. The children are returned to their (pretty useless) mothers in a nearby cottage, and Elyan informs Percival that he couldn’t let him take all the glory.

By day, Camelot is filling with refugees from the outlying villages. Agravaine doubts their ability to feed and clothe all those who enter the city, and urges that they find a way to vanquish the Dorocha. Gaius tells Arthur that the only way to close the tear in the veil between worlds is to prepare another blood sacrifice. Merlin listens with concern as Arthur volunteers himself for such a sacrifice.

Agravaine rides through the forest and comes across a small hovel deep in the woods. He enters to find a knife at his back: it’s Morgana, who welcomes him to her abode. Agravaine tells her that Arthur is preparing to ride to the Isle of the Blessed and sacrifice himself to close the veil, news that seems to trouble Morgana. She shares her fears about a man called “Emrys” but Agravaine tells her that they should be celebrating: soon Camelot’s “rightful heir” will be on the throne.

Arthur is bidding farewell to a catatonic Uther, thanking him for the lessons he’s been taught and hoping that he can finally make him proud. He kisses Uther on his forehead and prepares to leave when his father stirs to life, takes his wrist and begs him not to go. Guinevere is watching from the doorway, and Arthur asks that she continue to look after him in his absence. Seeing something in his face, Gwen also asks Arthur not to go, but Arthur coaxes a smile out of her by reminding them of their first kiss.

The knights prepare to leave (in dramatic slow-motion), and Arthur leaves his signet ring with Agravaine, instructing him to rule in his absence. Merlin is also packing, and tells Gaius that he’s fully prepared to die in Arthur’s place, knowing that it’s his destiny to protect him at all costs and so ensure the future of Albion. Outside, the knights mount their horses and Lancelot sees Gwen approaching him from the castle. She extracts from him a promise: that he will bring Arthur home safely.

Arthur, Merlin and the knights gallop for the Isle of the Blessed and come to rest for the night. Merlin volunteers to go for firewood, and Lancelot goes after him, offering to cover for him if he wants to go back to Camelot, reminding him that he has no power against the Dorocha. Merlin’s response is that Lancelot’s duty to Camelot is identical to Merlin’s duty to Arthur – something that Lancelot can understand very well.

That night Morgana dreams of a battlefield strewn with fallen soldiers. She raises a hand and feebly begs for help from an old man she calls Emrys, who ignores her plea and instead asks her if this is what she really wanted. Morgana sits up in her bed, muttering the name of her newest foe: “Emrys.”

The knights pass through hills covered with dead bodies and seek shelter for the night in an abandoned castle. Arthur orders them to pair off and collect wood for a campfire. At the sound of screaming the knights form a huddle and ward off the Dorocha with their torches. In the central courtyard Lancelot watches as Merlin uses his magic to light the campfire. Percival tells Arthur that the wood they’ve collected won’t last through the night.

Sure enough, they soon need more wood. Arthur stands up to get some, and there’s a brief tension between Merlin and Lancelot as to who should go with him, both knowing that the other is prepared to die for his sake. Merlin wins out, and he and Arthur head off.

Merlin is gathering wood when a Dorocha swoops down. Arthur tries to push Merlin out of the way, only for the two of them to drop down an incline and land somewhere within the catacombs of the castle. At the campfire, Lancelot states that they’ve been gone too long, and they all head out to find them with one torch between them. Arthur and Merlin have taken shelter behind a stone wall, and as the others look for them, they fall (as usual) to banter in order to keep their minds off the situation. Arthur promises that when he’s King, Merlin will be appointed court jester.

A Dorocha comes screaming down the corridor. Arthur gets ready to face it, but Merlin pushes him back and throws himself into it, just as Lancelot and the rest of the knights burst into the room. Merlin is shoved back against the wall and lies still. Arthur and Lancelot race to check on him, only to find that he’s completely covered in frost…

Tropes

Merlin S 03 E 13 The Coming Of Arthur Part IIRecap/MerlinMerlin S 04 E 02 The Darkest Hour Part II

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