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Recap: Merlin S 04 E 10 A Herald Of The New Age

A Herald of the New Age

Arthur, Merlin and the knights are on patrol when Elyan complains that someone (Gwaine) has drunk all the water from his flask. They're about to leave when Arthur notices an encampment nearby, strung with rags, ribbons and wooden symbols. Merlin identifies it as a Druid shrine, and they are all startled by a crow before Arthur orders them to move out. Elyan lags behind, having noticed a well full of water. He takes a few sips and jumps when he sees a small boy reflected in the water. He looks around but sees no one behind him.

Back in Camelot's armoury, Merlin has noticed that Arthur is strangely quiet. Gwaine throws him a canister of salt, telling him that a circle of salt will ward away evil spirits.

Merlin tells Gaius about the shrine over dinner, and is told that such places were made to appease restless spirits, with the flags put up as a warning. Gaius asks if anyone touched anything, as disturbing such a place would risk the release of the spirits.

Up in his room, Arthur is brooding over his uneaten dinner. In his own room, Elyan blows out his candle, only to be disturbed by the sound of dripping. He gets out of bed and tries to find the source of the noise, only to see a dripping wet child on the other side of his bed. Out in the hallway, Gwaine hears Elyan crying out and goes to investigate. Even though the child appears behind Gwaine, Elyan manages to come up with a cover-story about tripping over on the way to fetch water. Gwaine tells him a hilarious story about how Percival broke a man's wrist in the tavern, and reminds him that they have training in the morning.

As soon as he's gone, Elyan grabs salt from the cupboard and draws a circle with it at the end of his bed.

The following morning Arthur has fallen asleep face-first in his stew, and is awoken by Merlin. Arthur is not at all amused at Merlin's attempt at humour, and has his own back during the training session when he arms Merlin with a shield and procedes to beat it with a sword. Elyan goes next, but gets a little too carried away. Merlin ends up on the ground, and Arthur has to grab Elyan's arm to stop him.

As the knights disarm in the armoury, Elyan is once more startled by the ghost of the Druid boy who approaches him, arm outstretched. Gwaine gets irritated by Elyan pushing up against him, and responds by punching him in the face. Bwuh? Knocked unconscious, the knights take Elyan to his room and fetch Gaius. Lying in his bed, Elyan is just staring at the wall, and Gaius agrees not to tell Arthur about the incident. Gwaine and Leon leave the room, and after being unable to get a response out of Elyan, Gaius notices the circle of salt at the foot of the bed.

Later that night, Arthur is completely unresponsive to Merlin's attempts to get him to talk about Gwen, and Merlin storms down to the physician's quarters in a huff. Gaius responds by asking him if Elyan touched anything at the shrine. Based on the pile of salt at the end of his bed, Gaius and Merlin come to the conclusion that Elyan is possessed by a spirit.

Elyan wakes up and sees the child once more. For the first time it talks to him, asking him not to be angry. Elyan gets out of bed and touches the boy's shoulder, hugging him when he realizes how cold he is. The boy asks him to right the wrong that was done to him by killing the king.

Arthur is writing in his study when he's startled by Elyan's presence. Without a word Elyan attacks him, and Arthur only just manages to fend him off with assorted bits of furniture. He yells for the guards, who chase Elyan out of the room.

Agravaine orders the guards and knights to find Elyan, and Merlin informs Arthur that Elyan might be possessed by a spirit. Leon, Percival and Gwaine spot Elyan and corner him against a door. Percival calms Elyan down, lowers his weapon, assures him that they're all friends...and punches him in the face. What is wrong with these people?!

Elyan is shoved into a prison cell, where the boy appears to him once more and tells him that he failed him.

In the council chamber Agravaine is urging Arthur to have Elyan executed, but Merlin speaks up in his defence. Arthur orders both of them to leave the room so he can think on it himself, and Merlin decides he has to break Elyan out of the cells in order to exorcise the spirit from him.

Gaius gives Merlin a water flask full of a seditive, and using a quick spell to distract the guards with a rolling barrel, unlocks Elyan's cell door. They escape out through the tombs and into the forest, where Elyan sees the Druid boy and promptly knocks Merlin out.

By morning, Merlin is getting his forehead tended to by Gaius and the two decide to investigate the shrine. Once there, Merlin notices the well and hears the sound of crying and screaming echoing up from its depths. Having found plenty of crossbow bolts strewn about the place, they realize that the spirit is seeking revenge for Uther's genocide of the Druid people.

After another lame excuse to Arthur as to where he's been, Merlin takes his plate of half-eaten food and heads for the kitchens. There he notices a knocked-out guard on the ground, and races back to Arthur. Arthur only just manages to miss a crossbow bolt fired by Elyan, but notices soon enough that he is not only drenched in water, but speaking in a child's voice. As Elyan and Arthur fight, Merlin breaks through the doors with magic and prevents Arthur from killing him. Arthur does nothing as Elyan runs away.

In the throne room Agravaine is assuring Arthur that Elyan will be hunted down and killed, but as soon as he's gone, Arthur turns to Merlin and Gaius and says that he knows Elyan is possessed because of his voice. Gaius tells him of the persecution of the Druids at Uther's hands, and that the Druid boy cannot seek peace unless the perpetrator is brought to justice.

That night Merlin tells Arthur he can't be held responsible for everything that Uther did. Arthur tells him he's planning to get an early night, but sets Merlin the task of polishing his armour. On the way down the hall, Merlin notices a cloaked figure leaving the castle. He follows it to the forest, only to be startled by Arthur.

Arthur: Merlin.
Merlin: Fancy meeting you here.
Arthur: What the hell are you doing creeping around in the woods?
Merlin: I'm following you. What the hell are you doing creeping around in the woods?
Arthur: Something I should have done a long time ago.

The two of them make their way to the Druid shrine. Arthur draws his sword and lays it on the ground. Arthur confesses that it was not Uther, but Arthur who led the raid on the Druid camp. Elyan appears out of the darkness, dripping wet and speaking in the little boy's voice, telling him that he cannot rest. Arthur confesses that he was responsible for all the deaths that occurred in his place, and as Possessed!Elyan listens, he promises that the Druid people will be treated with the respect that they deserve. Elyan draws his sword as Arthur drops to his knees. Elyan places the sword on the ground and lifts Arthur back up to his feet before embracing him. He whispers: "I forgive you," in his ear, and Elyan steps back, mouth open, as the Druid spirit leaves him. Himself again, Elyan stumbles forward into Arthur's arms.

The following day Merlin commends Arthur on his moving performance at the shrine, though Arthur brusquely tells him that he did it to free Elyan. Merlin continues to wind him up, finally asking for a hug, and getting what is presumably an off-screen tackle in return.

Tropes

  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Elyan
  • Creepy Child
  • Continuity Nod: Gwen's exile is mentioned.
  • Demonic Possession: Kinda
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Merlin's joke about Arthur waking up at the wrong side of the table.
  • Easily Forgiven: Before Arthur realizes that Elyan is possessed and therefore not in control of his actions, Arthur is strangely forgiving of the fact that Elyan KEEPS TRYING TO KILL HIM.
  • Fridge Brilliance: The humour in this episode is rather strange and off-putting. Merlin's teasing is edgy, the knights' banter is grim, and people keep getting punched in the face. Of course, when you take in consideration the events of the last episode, it all demonstrates just how strained and emotionally exhausted everyone is.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Arthur realizes that he's morally culpable for the druid boy's behaviour and promises to grant his people their rights and freedom. He doesn't, not in this episode or any other. What's worse is that this actually leads directly to this death.
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted with the Druid boy.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: When apologizing to the boy who possessed Elyan, Arthur decides that the druids will no longer be persecuted, but instead given the respect they deserve. Merlin's reaction to this is kept off-screen, and he's seen as much more cheerful right after this, but otherwise they give little indication that, after four series, we've finally had a breakthrough.
    • Subverted. The beginning of series 5 makes it clear that Druids are still considered outlaws. Arthur presumably just lied to the spirit in order to free Elyan.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: One gets the sense that the knights' odd behaviour is the result of fallout from the last episode.
  • No Name Given: The Druid boy is never given a name.
  • Not Himself
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Subverted. The episode has us believe that Uther was responsible for the murdered Druids, but it was actually Arthur.
  • Red Herring: The spirit of the Druid boy appears soaking wet in a way that is highly reminiscent of the apparitions of drowned children that haunted Uther Pendragon, leading the audience to believe that it was at his hands that the Druid camp was massacred. However, it turns out that it was Arthur who was responsible for his death - leading one to question why the boy was wet at all.
    • If the pool of drinking water in the Druid Camp is a spring, with what Arthur said about some of the Knights who intentionally ignored his orders and slaughtered the women and children, its possible they drowned him there.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Elyan speaks with the voice of the child, which makes Arthur realize he is not himself.

Merlin S 04 E 09 Lancelot Du LacRecap/MerlinMerlin S 04 E 11 The Hunters Heart

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