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Recap: Merlin S 04 E 03 The Wicked Day

The Wicked Day

A carnival has come to Camelot complete with jugglers, acrobats and fire-eaters, and Merlin watches from Arthurís window in delight. Arthur however, is not as easily impressed. Merlin is confused as to why he isnít more enthusiastic about the fact that itís his birthday (gee, maybe itís got something to do with all the bad stuff that went down in the last two episodes) but Arthur refuses to get excited about the celebrations that night.

Down in the banquet hall, the entertainers are preparing, and the Gleeman approaches a dwarf rummaging through a chest in search of Prince Arthurís special gift. The Gleeman produces a small casket and claims that he took care of it himself. Inside are three small daggers, and the Gleeman throws one at a target with perfect accuracy.

Up in Utherís chambers, Arthur is discussing court matters with his catatonic father, only for Uther to emerge from his depression in order to say that heís remembered itís his sonís birthday.

Uther: I take it there are plans for suitable celebrations this evening.
Arthur: A feast. And umÖsome entertainment. Iíll tell you about it tomorrow.
Uther: Nonsense. You think I would miss my sonís anniversary?

That evening the banquet hall is filled with the carnival folk: dancers, fire-eaters, jugglers and acrobats. Arthur and Uther sit together and toast each other, the knights watch from their own table, and Merlin and Gwen stand to the side. The Gleeman asks for a volunteer and suggests Arthur, telling him itís a perfect opportunity for him to prove his legendary bravery.

Merlin looks a little worried as Arthur lets himself be tied to a spinning target with an apple shoved into his mouth, and Gwen is petrified as the target begins to turn. Uther on the other hand, looks remarkably happy at the sight of a perfect stranger throwing knives at his only son. Two of the Gleemanís knives hit the target either side of Arthurís head, and the final one slices into the apple still stuck in his mouth.

Everyone looks relieved as Arthur is untied and cheerfully begins to eat the apple. But the Gleeman informs the dwarf that the apple is laced with sedatives, and will soon take effect, leaving him vulnerable for attack.

Up in Arthurís room, Merlin is questioning whether Arthur wasnít just a little bit scared. Arthur denies it, stumbling about and looking incredibly drunk, before deciding to visit his father. Merlin advises against it, on the basis that Arthur isnít wearing any pants. For real.

After re-panting himself, Arthur slouches through the castle corridors to his fatherís quarters, followed close behind by the Gleeman. Uther is drowsing in his chair and Arthur removes the goblet from his hand before taking a seat in the chair opposite him. Outside, the Gleeman takes a sword from the unconscious guards and enters the room. He is just about to strike when Arthur notices him approaching in the reflection of the wine pitcher upon the table. He just manages to block the killing blow in time, but stumbles badly and falls upon the floor.

The Gleeman is about to finish him off, when once again his sword is blocked Ė this time by Uther.

Uther: Itíll take more than a coward like you to kill my son.

A vicious sword-fight between the two men commences in the confines of the room, restricting their movements. Uther is severely weakened, but manages to get the upper-hand and disarm the Gleeman. As Uther stands over him, the Gleeman yanks a dagger from his boot and stabs upwards, just as Uther lands the killing blow. The Gleeman dies, and Uther collapses backwards into Arthurís arms. Arthur notices blood on his tunic and calls for the guards, but theyíve reached an all-new level of uselessness.

Arthur: Iíll get help.
Uther: No, stay with me.
Arthur: Iím here, father.
Arthur: Guards! Someone! We need help.
Uther: Itís my time.
Arthur: No. You canít die.
Uther: I know you will make me proud. As you always have. You will be a great king.
Arthur: No, Iím not ready.
Uther: Youíve been ready for some time, Arthur.
Arthur: No. I need you.
Uther: I havenít been a good father. I put my duty to Camelot first. Iím sorry.
Arthur: Donít say that.
Uther: But know this. One thing. Iíve always loved you.

Arthur begins to cry as Uther shuts his eyes.

The following morning, Gaius, Arthur and Gwen stand around Utherís bed. Gaius tells Arthur that the blade has touched Utherís heart, and thereís nothing that he can do to save him. Itís only a matter of time. Merlin watches solemnly in the background.Down in the council chamber, Agravaine is telling Arthur that theyíve traced the the assassin back to King Odin, who is apparently still out to avenge the death of his son. As Agravaine leaves, Merlin enters, and tells Arthur that thereís no change in Utherís condition.

In the forest, Agravaine startles Morgana as he enters her little hut to tell her the good news: Uther has been mortally wounded and lies on his death-bed.

Morgana: I hope the image of my face haunts him.

Agravaine goes on to tell her that Arthur is devastated, but when Morgana suggests that they strike while heís vulnerable, Agravaine catches her by the arm. Morgana is not happy with this contact, and Agravaine apologetically releases her as he explains that it would be better for the two of them to bide their time and wait for the right opportunity.

Arthur watches as Gwen attends to Uther, and thanks her for her kindness. She tells him that she does it for him, but can offer no more comfort as Arthur insists that he canít watch his father suffer and die before his eyes.

Outside, the citizens of Camelot have gathered in a candlelight vigil, and Arthur joins Merlin by the window to look over them. Merlin tries to suggest that Arthur prepare himself for the worst, but Arthur has another idea Ė what if he used magic in order to save his fatherís life?

In the physicianís quarters, Merlin is going over his plan with Gaius, who is appalled at the risk heís taking. Merlin wants to don his ďDragoonĒ persona and heal Uther with his magic, thereby proving to Arthur that it can be a force for good. Merlin believes itís worth the risk, for if heís successful, he wonít have to hide anymore.

Gaius: Youíre playing a dangerous game, Merlin.
Merlin: Iíve been playing a dangerous game since the first time I set foot in Camelot. Maybe this is my chance to change that.

Merlin goes to Arthur with news of a sorcerer living in the forest who may be able to help. He received directions from Gaius and knows how to find him.

Arthur: If you were me, if it was your father, would you use magic to save his life?
Merlin: Yes I would, I would do whatever it took.

Arthur gives the order to ready the horses so that they can leave in the morning and then goes to Agravaineís chambers to tell him of his plans. Agravaine is aghast at the idea of using magic to save Utherís life, telling him that magic was the cause of his motherís death. However, Arthurís mind is made up.

The following day Merlin leads Arthur to the woodsmanís hut that he and Lancelot took shelter in. Arthur goes to knock on the door, but Merlin refuses to follow, telling him that heíd rather mind the horses. Arthur peeks inside the hut to find it empty and goes outside to find Merlin making a dash for the trees.

Arthur: Where are you sneaking off to?
Merlin: I have to pee. So unless you want to come and watch me, you should wait for him inside.
Arthur: Why would I want to watch you?

The slash fan-fic seems to be writing itself this episode. Anyway, Arthur returns to the hut and Merlin heads into the bushes, muttering the right spell. Inside, Arthur accidentally knocks over a pot just as ďDragoonĒ hobbles through the door with a bunch of herbs. Dragoon hands him a broom to sweep up the broken pot, but Arthur tries to leave, remembering their last meeting. Dragoon calls him back, telling him that heís capable of healing Uther with magic Ė his only price is that people who use magic should be accepted rather than hunted.

Arthur gives his solemn word that should Dragoon heal his father, he wonít have to live in fear. Dragoon is delighted with this, though less so when Arthur suggests that he use Merlinís horse to ride back to Camelot. Dragoon tells him he needs to collect some herbs, and will come to Camelot at nightfall. They agree to meet at the lower gate outside the town.

Dragoon: Now just wait here one moment.
Arthur: Öwhy?
Dragoon: Questions, so many questions! For once in your life will you just do what youíre told!

Dragoon rushes from the hut and hurries into the trees. Baffled, Arthur takes a seat at the table as Merlin takes the potion to restore him to his normal self. Having waited long enough, Arthur emerges from the hut to find Merlin.

Arthur: What were you doing?
Merlin: Peeing!
Arthur: You mean to say you were peeing all the time I was in there?
Merlin: I really had to go.
Arthur: There is definitely something very wrong with you.

Back in Camelot, Merlin rushes into Gaiusís quarters and begins to rummage through the books. Merlin excitedly tells Gaius that if he can heal Uther with magic, then magic will no longer be outlawed.

Agravaine returns to Morganaís hut and tells her of Arthurís plans. Morgana prepares a charm in her cauldron, entrusting it to Agravaine and telling him to place it over Utherís neck. Whatever magic is worked on Uther, it will be reserved and magnified tenfold. By trying to heal Uther, Arthur will only end up killing him.

Gaius gives Merlin the right spell to use on Uther. Upstairs, Gwen is startled by Agravaine who suggests that she light a fire. As soon as sheís gone, Agravaine roughly yanks the charm down over Utherís neck.

Agravaine: Finally, you will get all that you deserve, old friend.

Gaius and Merlin are preparing the spell when they hear Arthur calling for him. As Arthur barges in, Gaius suggests that Merlin is at the tavern; an excuse that Merlin is none-too-happy with once Arthur shuts the door to reveal that Merlin was hiding behind it.

Arthur waits at the lower gate, and Dragoon appears behind him, somewhat disgruntled that Arthur doesnít want to be seen entering the castle with him, but acquiescing to the terms of their agreement: that if he heals Uther, heíll get everything Arthur has promised.

Arthur impatiently hustles him through the lower floors of the castle, only for Dragoon to insist on a piggy-back ride in order to hurry them up. Upstairs, Arthur dismisses the guards, and ushers Dragoon into Utherís bedchamber.

Dragoon drips a potion into Utherís mouth and prepares a small bundle of leaves. Arthur suddenly looks reluctant.

Arthur: My father has taught me never to trust magic and now Iím using it to save him.
Dragoon: Your own life has been saved using magic more times that you can possibly imagine.
Arthur: What on earth are you talking about?
Dragoon: I merely mean to say that magic is all around you, it is woven into the very fabric of the world.
Arthur: How do I know this is the right thing to do?
Dragoon: I know you have suffered because of magic, as many have, but not all magic and not all sorcerers are the same. I wish only to show you that magic can be used for good. I hope one day, you will see me in a different light.

Arthur looks down at his father, and gestures for Dragoon to continue. Dragoon begins the spell and waves the smoking leaves over Utherís body. His eyes glow golden as the spell ends. They waitÖand suddenly Utherís eyes open wide. He and Arthur smile at one another, and Arthur begins to laugh in relief Ė until Uther begins to gasp in pain.

He falls back on the pillow, his eyes wide and staring. Dragoon checks his pulse and realizes that heís dead. Devastated, Arthur turns on Dragoon, forcing him to throw Arthur telekinetically across the room. The Ominous Latin Chanting begins as Dragoon makes a run for it, and changes himself back into Merlin in one of the corridors of the castle.

The warning bell is ringing and guards are rushing up and down the halls as Merlin hurries back into Utherís room. Gwen and Arthur are standing by as Gaius closes Utherís eyes.

Gaius: Iím sorry Arthur. The king is dead.

Back down in the physicianís quarters, Merlin is devastated that the spell didnít work. Gaius produces the charm from his sleeve and shows it to Merlin. They come to the swift conclusion that it was Morganaís doing.

In her hut, Morgana is oddly subdued as Agravaine opens the door to share the news. There are no smirks as she processes the fact that her father is dead.

Morgana: Utherís dead, isnít he.
Agravaine: How did you know?
Morgana: I felt it. I felt his pain.
Agravaine: I thought Utherís death would be a cause for celebration.
Morgana: Arthur will replace him. There will be no celebration until I take my place upon the throne.
Agravaine: That may be sooner than you think. Arthur is young. Untested. He will look to his trusted uncle for council, and I will ensure that he fails.

Morgana merely turns away.

Arthur is sitting at the table in his room when Merlin enters and tells him that heís not to blame for what happened.

Arthur: I am entirely to blame. My father spent twenty years fighting magic. To think I knew better. I was so arrogant. That arrogance cost my father his life.
Merlin: You were only doing what you thought was right. I am sure that that old sorcerer meant no harm. Perhaps the spell went wrong. Uther was dying. Maybe nothing could have saved him.
Arthur: Weíll never know. All I know for sure is that Iíve lost both my parents to magic. It is pure evil. Iíll never lose sight of that again.

Merlin looks gutted as Arthur stands to answer the ominous knock on the door.

In the throne room, Arthur approaches his fatherís body lying on a bier in the middle of the floor. Utherís body has been dressed with his crown, sword and red cloak. Gaius and Merlin close the doors behind him, leaving him to grieve.

Gaius: Merlin?
Merlin: This is all my fault. I killed him.
Gaius: You did not kill Uther. Morgana did. Utherís spirit died when she broke his heart. You must look to the future. Utherís death will allow Arthurís progression to the throne. You must hope it brings peace and stability to the land.
Merlin: Magic will still be outlawed. Iíve turned Arthur against it forever. Heíll never know who I really am.
Gaius: That time will come, Iím sure of it. Arthur will be under even more pressure now that heís king. He will need you more than ever.

He suggests that they go and have some supper, but Merlin declines.

Inside, Arthur kisses his fatherís forehead and prepares for his nightís vigil. The sun rises, and Merlin is half-asleep against the staircase in the antechamber. Behind him the doors open and he looks up to see Arthurís shadow on the wall before him.

Arthur: Merlin? Itís a new day. You been here all night?
Merlin: I didnít want you to feel you were alone.
Arthur: Youíre a loyal friend, Merlin.

Arthur closes the door on his father and takes a deep breath as he turns back to Merlin. He realizes that theyíre both hungry, and suggests that Merlin cook them breakfast as they head up the stairs.

Outside, feet run up the castle steps. The guards stand at attention. Heralds play their trumpets. The Pendragon flag is raised. Inside the throne room, Arthur approaches the dais at the end of the hall. Everyone in the room bows as he passes, and he kneels before the throne.

Geoffrey of Monmouth: Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of Camelot according to their respective laws and customs?
Arthur: I solemnly swear so to do.
Geoffrey: Will you to your power, for as law and justice in mercy be executed in all your judgments?
Arthur: I will.
Geoffrey: Then by the sacred law vested in me, I crown you Arthur, King of Camelot.

The crown is lowered onto Arthurís head and he turns to face his people. Agravaine gives the first shout of ďlong live the kingĒ and the rest of the crowd follows, including Sirs Leon, Percival, Elyan and Gwaine. Beside Merlin, Guinevere is radiant as she whispers: ďlong live the king.Ē Merlin himself waits, listening to the chants, before he himself yells out: ďlong live the king!Ē

Tropes

  • Antagonist in Mourning: This appears to be the case with Morgana, who doesn't look particularly happy when she hears confirmation of Uther's death.
  • Anyone Can Die: OK, it had to happen at some point, but just one episode after killing Lancelot and Morgause, they've already killed off another long-running central character...
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The long-awaited one: Arthur's coronation.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Arthur is now finally king, and from what we see his friends are all proud of him... but his dad's dead and he's convinced himself that all magic is evil.
  • Continuity Nod: Merlin, Gaius and Arthur all make references to the last time Merlin aged himself.
    • Merlin takes Arthur to the abandoned hut that he and Lancelot used in The Darkest Hour Part II.
    • Gaius tells Arthur that Merlin is at the tavern again.
  • Death by Despair: At least four different people contributed to Uther's death, but Gaius tells Merlin that Uther's death came about because: "Morgana broke his heart."
  • Despair Event Horizon: Merlin is clearly on the verge of crossing it when Gaius talks him out of it.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: Merlin's lengthy absence is put down to his need to pee.
  • Hope Spot: When Uther wakes up and smiles at his son. For a moment, it looks as though Merlin's spell has worked.
  • It's All My Fault: Both Arthur and Merlin regarding Uther's death.
  • King Arthur: Finally.
  • King On His Death Bed
  • Mood Whiplash: Goes from Arthur drunkenly wandering around with no trousers to Uther being mortally wounded to Arthur and Merlin talking about peeing back to Uther dying.
    • After the scene where Arthur carries Merlin on his back, Merlin tries to heal Uther and fails.
  • My Greatest Failure: Merlin takes the biggest risk of his life in order to save Uther with magic and convince Arthur that magic can be benign. However, Morgana and Agravaine's actions prevent his spell from working and Uther dies, seemingly hardening Arthur's heart against magic forever.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Trying to heal Uther with magic and convince Arthur that magic can be used for good as well as evil, Dragoon!Merlin accidentally killed Uther right in front of Arthur's eyes and turned him against magic forever!
  • No Name Given: The Gleeman
  • Papa Wolf: Uther, perhaps surprisingly.
    [Blocks assassin's sword] "It will take more than a coward like you to kill my son."
  • Potty Emergency: Merlin's excuse to get away from Arthur and disguise himself as Dragoon.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Phil Davies as the Gleeman barely lasts five minutes, but he changes everything.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Interestingly, Morgana is in one of these when Agravaine comes to bring her confirmation of Uther's death.
  • Wham Episode: Did Uther just die?
  • What Could Have Been: Howard Overman's original script contained several extra scenes, mostly pertaining to Arthur and Guinevere. These included Gwen wishing Arthur happy birthday, Arthur seeking Gwen's counsel in using magic to heal Uther, Gwen bringing up the subject of her own father's death, and Gwen comforting Arthur after Uther's death.
  • You! Exclamation: Arthur, upon seeing Merlin once more in the Dragoon disguise.
Merlin S 04 E 02 The Darkest Hour Part IIRecap/MerlinMerlin S 04 E 04 Aithusa

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