His Father's Son
A knight of Camelot runs across a range of grassy plains, chased by a band of fierce-looking men. He rushes into the trees of the forest and into a gorge. Itís Merlin, and an axe just misses him as he trips over. He yanks the axe out of the ground and brandishes it as the men approach.
An arrow whizzes through the air and takes out one of Merlinís pursuers, and the rest look up to see the knights of Camelot have prepared an ambush for them. Arthur leads the attack, diving off the side of the gorge to tackle one of the men.
After the credits, we see that Team Camelot has emerged the victors, and Agravaine identified one of the prisoners as the King of Caerleon. By night, Arthur and Agravaine discuss the situation. It is not the first time the King has trespassed on their lands, though he has never managed to infiltrate Camelot this deeply before. Agravaine suggests that Caerleon didnít consider it a risk, fearing that since Utherís death their enemies have been testing Arthurís strength. He suggests sending a clear message: that anyone threatening Camelot will be treated without mercy.
Merlin listens to the conversation as he prepares the evening meal. Agravaine advises Arthur to force Caerleon into signing a treaty that gives up all his seized territory Ė and if he refuses, have him executed.
The following morning Merlin wakes up to find Arthurís bedroll empty. Heís still sitting by the fireplace, having presumably never gone to sleep at all.
Arthur: My father was a great king, but I donít have his wisdom or his conviction. I can only follow his example and do what he would have done.
Merlin: Youíre going to draw up this treaty?
Arthur: I have to show my strength. Show that Iím worthy of my fatherís name.
Merlin: Caerleon wonít sign it. You know that?
Arthur: Caerleon brought this upon himself.
Merlin: Arthur, youíve always shown mercy in battle. Youíve never sought to humiliate your enemy in this way. This isnít like you. This isnít who you are.
Arthur: You have no idea what it is to make these decisions. Decisions that will shape the future of this land, so please stick to what you do know.
Flanked on either side by Leon and Percival and watched by the rest of the knights, Caerleon is handed a treaty by Agravaine. He refuses to the agreement and choses the death penalty.
Arthur: Think what youíre doing, Caerleon. This treaty could seal a truce between us. There would be peace, like there was between your father and mine.
Caerleon: I am not my father. And you are not Uther. Do you really have the guts to kill me?
Arthur: You leave me no choice.
Caerleon: You did not choose anything, boy. It is I who choose to die, and I alone.
Merlin glances over at Agravaine, seeing a tiny smile on the manís face. Caerleon bows his head for execution.
One Gory Discretion Shot
later, and we see Gaius back at Camelot, watching from a window as Arthur and the knights return. Everyone is oddly quiet, but Agravaine congratulates Arthur as they head down a corridor, telling him that his father would have been proud of him. Arthur thanks him for his council, but is already distracted by the sight of Guinevere, waiting to greet him. Agravaine silently watches their reunion.
Up in his room, Merlin is unpacking while Arthur washes his face. Merlin tries to prod Arthur into discussing what happened, but Arthur is acting blasť about it all, stating that his conscience is clean. Merlin advises him not to push his friends away.
Arthur: I canít afford that luxury. The kingdomís my responsibility now, mine to bear alone. And you must learn to accept that.
Meanwhile, Caerleon is returned to his kingdom on a bier. Queen Annis looks over her husbandís body and vows vengeance upon Arthur and Camelot.
Arthur is working in the dining room when Agravaine enters and asks to speak to him.
Agravaine: There is something I wish to discuss with you. But it is a delicate matter.
Agravaine: Itís Guinevere.
Arthur: What about her?
Agravaine: Well, sheís a beautiful woman, sire. And possessed of many fine qualities, I have no doubt. But she is a servant.
Arthur: That doesnít matter to me.
Agravaine: Nor to me. No, I assure you. Itís your people that concern me.
Arthur: Surely as King, I can do as I see fit.
Agravaine: No sire, you cannot. You must do what is expected of you. You must present yourself in an appropriate manner. The people, your people, do not wish to see their king with the daughter of a blacksmith.
Arthur: This isnít a matter of state. This is a matter of the heart.
Agravaine: You cannot rule the kingdom with your heart, Arthur.
He urges Arthur to put aside his feelings for Guinevere for the good of the kingdom, once again name-dropping Uther into the conversation.
The following day, a messenger from Caerleon rides to Camelot as Arthur works off his frustration with a punching bag. Merlin realizes something is wrong, but as Arthur manages to break the punching bag, Leon approaches with news: that the army of Caerleonís queen has crossed their borders.
In the council chamber Arthur relates his plan to meet the army upon the high-ground. Agravaine smiles to himself as he announces that the knights of Camelot will ride at dawn.
By night, Morgana breaks into Queen Annisís castle, who proves to have much better security than Camelot, as Morgana is soon caught and escorted to her throne.
Annis: What business could you possibly have with me, witch?
Morgana: I come in the name of my father.
Annis: Is that so? Well last I heard you and he Ė
Morgana: I speak not of Uther but of Gorlois.
Morgana: Uther is my father by blood alone. Gorlois raised me as a child; he made me who I am.
Annis: I remember him well. He was a good man. An honourable man.
Morgana: He was, your highness. And his sole reward was death, betrayed by his king.
Annis: Well then. It seems we have both lost something at the hands of a Pendragon.
Annis stands from her throne and approaches Morgana, demanding to know what sheís doing here. Morgana bows before her and tells her that she seeks revenge, offering her help.
Back in Camelot, Merlin is still trying to get Arthur to talk about whatís going on, but notices that heís getting ready to go somewhere. Arthur refuses to tell him where, and warns him to not be here when he gets back.
Arthur is stopped by a guard on his way to Guinevereís house, but shows his face and carries on. Gwen lets him in, but her smile fades as Arthur begins to tell her that although sheís done nothing wrong, his duty is to the people of Camelot, and that their relationship is no longer appropriate. Gwen looks devastated, but summons enough strength to deduce that someone has talked him into this. Arthur insists that heís his own man, but leaves with Gwenís parting words:
Gwen: Arthur. Donít let anyone tell you what to do. You said you were your own man. You have a good heart; be true to it. Only then will you be the king you want to be.
By morning Arthur descends the front steps of the castle in front of his army, ready to lead them to battle. Gaius and Gwen watch them depart from the upstairs window. Gaius tries to reassure her of his safe return, she worries that he is isolating himself.
Arthur stands alone on a grassy ridge, looking down on the massive army that awaits them. He gives orders to Agravaine, instructing him to make sure the men have everything they need.
Night falls and Arthur emerges from his tent, looking rather longingly at the knights and Merlin sitting around the campfire. When they notice him watching, he retreats back inside. Merlin tells the others that he feels responsible for all their lives. Inside his tent, Arthur is brooding when the knights enter for a pep talk, telling him that they are more than happy to die for him. They depart, and Merlin tells them that they mean every word.
Arthur: Iíve never once questioned their loyalty. I do wonder if I deserve it.
Merlin: No one could care more for their men than you do. Sending them into battle is not a decision that you would make lightly. They know that.
Arthur: But was it the right decision?
Merlin: If there was any other way out of this situation, you would take it, but you must defend Camelot, you have no choice.
Arthur: I had a choice. To let Caerleon live or die. I made the wrong decision, and now Iíve brought this war upon Camelot myself.
While the men are asleep, Arthur moves from the campsite. Merlin wakes up and stealthily tries to follow him, only to tumble into one of the tents. Arthur doesnít see him, and Merlin pursues.
Arthur reaches Annisís encampment and lets himself be taken unarmed to Annisís tent. Once there, she slaps him on the face. Arthur shows contrition for the death of Caerleon, calling his actions cowardly and unjust, and asks that they call off the battle in favour of single-combat. He offers her half of Camelot if her champion is the victor. At that point Merlin is dragged inside by the guards, and Arthur asks that he be spared.
Annis: That is two favours youíve asked of me this night, Arthur Pendragon.
She takes a seat and agrees to trial by combat, letting Merlin go in the bargain.
On the way back to Team Camelot, Arthur and Merlin get into a minor fight over the latterís constant shadowing of the former, but Arthur manages to keep his temper under control, asking him not to interfere any more.
Arthur breaks the news to his knights, and though all of them step forward to volunteers themselves as his champion, Arthur has already decided to go through with it himself. In the background, Agravaine smiles to himself.
Annis is convinced that Arthurís decision is some sort of trap, but Morgana assures her that Arthur has always risked his own life before he risks those of his men, and informs her that she has the power to ensure that Arthur does not win. Annis agrees.
As Arthur rests, Agravaine steals his sword and takes it out into the forest where Morgana is waiting. She gives him quite a fright, but then unsheathes the sword and kneels with it on the forest floor, chanting a spell. The sword blade bursts into flames as Morgana holds it above her head.
I think she might be right this time
Morgana: Arthur is as good as dead.
The following morning, Merlin is helping Arthur with his armour. Arthur takes the ring off his finger and gives it to Merlin, asking him that if he dies, heíll give it to Guinevere. Merlin points out that this may not be a good idea; Camelot needs its king.
Arthur: I donít know what will happen. But for the first time since I became King, I know in my heart that Iíve made the right decision.
Merlin looks a little tearful, but Arthur calls him ďold friendĒ and gives him a handshake before Agravaine calls him out to fight. Arthur takes his sword and leaves.
Back in Team Caerleon, Annis and Morgana give instructions to their massive champion Derian, telling him not to hesitate or show mercy.
The two armies watch as the champions approach each other, and Arthur looks grim at the sheer size of the man he has to combat. The fight begins, and though Arthur is at a clear disadvantage, he is quick on his feet and manages to slice his opponent across the cheek. Next to Queen Annis, Morgana activates her spell, informing Annis that Arthurís sword holds the weight of a thousand ages. Her eyes glow, and Arthur is overcome by the sudden heaviness of his sword.
Merlin uses his own magic to stop the killing blow, causing Annisís champion to drop his own sword. Arthur kicks him to the ground, but refrains from killing him, driving the sword into the ground by his head instead.
Team Camelot bursts into applause, Morgana slinks away through Annisís army, and Queen Annis herself approaches Arthur on what would have been the battlefield. She assures him that she will comply to the terms of their agreement, and offers her hand to shake.
Annis: Tell me, you spared my champion. Why?
Arthur: Because it is not victory I seek, it is peace. I hope that today will mark a new beginning for our kingdoms.
Annis: There is something about you Arthur Pendragon. Something that gives me hope for us all.
Annis is packing in her tent when Morgana enters, suggesting that next time they will be triumphant. Annis declines, telling her that she misjudged Arthur and that she allowed herself to be poisoned by Morganaís bitterness. Morgana dismisses her as weak, vowing that she will not rest until Camelot bows before her.
Annis: You came to me in the name of Gorlois. But I fear that youíre more like Uther than you realize.
Back in Camelot, Arthur and the army return home through a cheering crowd. Arthur concedes that he should have listened to Merlin, and returns to the castle through a crowd of applauding noblemen and women. Agravaine watches with some distain.
Later, Arthur relaxes in his room when he hears a knock on the door. Gwen enters with a pitcher of water, and Arthur leaps up in order to give her a rather unimpressive bunch of flowers than he picked by the road. He apologises to her, and says that a good king should not only respect the traditions of the past, but also be seen with those that he cares about.
Gwen: Even if theyíre not appropriate?
He pulls her close and kisses her.
Arthur: Does that answer your question?
Gwen: Itís a start.
They wrap their arms around each other for what looks to be a lengthy make-out session.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Agravaine uses this line of reasoning on Arthur when he urges him to execute Caerleon. Even Caerleon himself buys into it when he calls Arthur "boy".
- The Bait: Merlin plays this role in the opening sequence.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Arthur insists on being the champion. Merlin points that if he lost, there would be no ruler to help the nation transition into having half its land gone.
- Continuity Nod: Agravaine mentions King Odin and King Bayard.
- Crusading Widow: Queen Annis
- David Versus Goliath: Arthur and Derian.
- Duel to the Death
- Expy: Queen Annis is quite reminiscent of Boudicca.
- Face Death with Dignity: Caerleon, though with a firm grip on the Idiot Ball as well.
- Flaming Sword: Morgana's spell on Arthur's sword makes it temporarily catch fire. If you're reading the right legends, it's a homage to Excalibur.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Arthur feels the need to inform Merlin that "I would rather die than share a bed with you." Perhaps the writers felt they'd gone too far with the "Merlin and Arthur wrestle on the floor with Arthur's pants down" scene in the previous episode.
- The High Queen: Annis
- I Can Rule Alone: Arthur's mantra throughout this episode. He snaps out of it by the end.
- If I Do Not Return
- Ineffectual Loner: Arthur tries this out, but it doesn't stick.
- King Incognito: Caerleon, though his medallion gives him away.
- Lady of War: Annis
- Master of the Mixed Message: Arthur toward Guinevere.
- No Hero to His Valet: Merlin says Artur is a hero ... to his people, not to him.
- Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Agravaine's take on Gwen and Arthur's relationship, right before he tries to talk Arthur out of pursuing it.
- Out-of-Character Alert: When Arthur breaks up with Gwen, she immediately realizes that someone put him up to it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Annis manages to give one to Morgana. It's one line, and it's the first thing in seasons to visibly shake her.
- Rule of Symbolism: Before battle, Arthur stands on a cliffside overlooking the approaching army. By himself. With no one else around. Completely isolated. Unaccompanied. Alone.
- Second Act Break Up
- Status Quo Is God: If you were hoping that Gwen would stay mad and not take Arthur back for an episode or two, you're out of luck.
- Take Me to Your Queen
- You Are What You Hate: It only lasts for a second, but Morgana is visibly shaken when Queen Annis points out that: "you are more like Uther than you realize."