Arthur's Bane Part I
It's been three years since the last series, and things are looking good in Camelot. King Arthur
has his Cool Sword
, Hot Consort
and Badass Crew
of Round Table Knights, but Merlin is rushing through the castle in search of something. Turns out he can't find Guinevere anywhere, but just as Arthur is beginning to lay into him, the Queen calmly descends the staircase with her handmaiden behind her. Merlin is off the hook, and exchanges a small smile with Sefa before they enter the throne room.
Arthur announces to those seated at the Round Table that he's just had news from the north. Gwaine and a patrol of Camelot knights have gone missing on their way to Ismere, a dark tower in the midst of a snowy wasteland. Despite search parties being sent out, there is no sign of them. However, a Flash Back
clues us in on what really happened: a wolf chased him down and (somehow) knocked him unconscious. It howls to the sky and a dark figure approaches. It's Morgana.
She takes Gwaine to the fortress of Ismere on board a large sled pulled by the wolves. From the battlements a man with the triskelion tattoo on his neck watches her arrival, and together they discuss their plans in the disused throne room. Ruadan is searching the fortress for something called the Euchdag, said to be the key to all knowledge, in the hopes that it will tell him the identity of "Arthur's Bane", but Morgana is growing impatient, particularly since she knows Arthur will send more men. Guards drag Gwaine into the room and kick him to the ground, but Morgana foregoes her chance at killing him - first she wants him to help her find something, and the camera pans down through the floor to reveal a huge catacomb of mines filled with workers
Back in Camelot, Arthur is holding a private council with Gaius, Elyan, Leon, Merlin and Guinevere. Elyan shares some of the rumours that he's heard: that the fortress of Ismere has been re-occupied by Morgana. Gaius points out that the missing men may well be a trap, but Arthur is determined to go to their rescue. Guinevere suggests that they at least approach Ismere from a different direction and travel through the lands of Queen Annis in order to take Morgana by surprise. Arthur agrees and cautions them all to remain silent on the matter. Merlin slips through the door and barrages into Sefa who drops the plate of food she was carrying. As the others leave the room, Merlin helps her pick up the fruit and partakes in some mild flirting.
The following day Arthur, Merlin and his knights leave Camelot for Caerleon. Arthur is hopeful that Gwaine and Percival (and the others) are still alive - which indeed they are, digging under the fortress for some mystery object. From talking to the others, all they know is that it's called "the key" and that Morgana is obsessed with finding it.
Arthur and his men approach the gorge that leads to Queen Annis's lands. Fearing an ambush, he sends Elyan along the ridge-line, only for Elyan to doubleback and tell him that he's found something. There's a ruined village in the gorge filled with dead people, and as the knights begin to check for survivors, Merlin hears a whisper: "Emrys..." He follows the voice down a crack in the rock-face to a subterranean cave. There an old man lies by a pool of water, and Merlin notices the triskelion tattoo on his wrist. As he touches it, the man grabs his hand.
Merlin: What happened to you? Who did this to your village?
Druid: That it happened at all is all that matters. I have been haunted by this moment for many years. Since long before you set foot on this earth, Emrys. I have waited for its arrival with sorrow in my heart, for even as Camelot flowers, so the seeds of her destruction are being sown. The prophets speak of Arthur's Bane. You would do well to fear it for it stalks him like a ghost in the night. Unless you act quickly, Emrys, even you cannot alter the never-ending circle of his fate.
The man dies, and his hand falls into the water. Merlin's eyes follow it as the water lights up with fire and dissolves into a vision of a battlefield strewn with dead soldiers. A young man with dark hair and blue eyes walks over the bodies and approaches Arthur, who looks surprised to see him. The youth draws his sword and stabs Arthur in the stomach, watching as the king falls to his knees before him.
Merlin looks up in shock as Arthur approaches, telling him that they're leaving as soon as the men have been given a proper burial. Later that night, Merlin sneaks away from camp and summons the dragon. Kilgharrah tells him that the tattoo identifies the man as a powerful seer, and that their meeting was no accident. Merlin fears that the vision of the battle will come to pass, and Kilgharrah responds that he must use his newfound knowledge to guide him.
The Camelot knights reach Queen Annis's castle where Arthur thanks her for safe passage and she welcomes him to her hall. Back in Camelot, Guinevere is worrying about Arthur's safety as Sefa serves her dinner. Gwen has lost her appetite and so offers her meal to Sefa, only asking that she sit with her for a while. Though Sefa demures on the subject of whether she
has anyone to worry about, she assures Gwen that Arthur will return safely. Gwen takes her hand in gratitude.
Over dinner in Queen Annis's court, Annis tells Arthur that Saxons have been raiding her villages and taking all the men they could find to Ismere - apparently not to raise an army, but to help Morgana find something. Annis suggests that Merlin provide some entertainment for the court and Arthur agrees. The knights look on in amusement as Merlin is roped into performing, but nobody notices when his eyes flash gold. Having cast a spell upon himself, Merlin astonishes everyone with an elaborate egg-juggling act.
Later that night Merlin broods as Arthur comments on how surprised he was at this latest hidden talent. Merlin only responds that they shouldn't go to Ismere.
Back in Camelot, Sefa leaves the city with a hooded cloak, watched from a castle window by Gwen. Sefa enters the forest and arrives at a strange ruin in the midst of the trees. She lowers her hood and jumps at the cawing of a crow as she enters. Before her a man kneels, chanting to himself. The torches blow out and Sefa suddenly has a knife at her throat. The man is Ruadan, and she tells him that Arthur has left for Ismere, and plans to enter it through Annis's lands. He immediately begins to gather his things to depart, but looks back at her once.
Ruadan: I hope they haven't ill-treated you.
Sefa: They have been good to me, father.
Ruadan: They are Pendragons. They are only good for one thing: death.
Sefa watches him go, looking troubled. On his horse, Ruadan heads for the mountains to cut Arthur off. Arthur and his knights leave Caerleon, with final words of warning from Queen Annis.
In her chambers, Gwen has noticed that Sefa looks a little troubled and confronts her with the knowledge that she left the city last night. Sefa searches for an excuse, but Gwen already has one for her: she simply assumes that she was off to meet a boy in the woods.
Up in the snowy realms, Ruadan enters Ismere and tells Morgana of Arthur's plans to approach from the west. She informs him that they'll intercept him that very night.
As the Camelot knights relax around a campfire, Merlin sits off to the side, staring into a pool of water. Arthur comes to see what's wrong, and Merlin once again shares his fears that death is waiting for them at Ismere. Morgana is too powerful, he says, but Arthur only cares about rescuing his men.
On horseback, Morgana leads a team of men armed with swords and flaming torches from Ismere. As morning breaks, they discover the Camelot knights and quickly surround them. Ruadan fights Sir Leon and manages to injure him. Arthur comes to his rescue and fights Ruadan off, only to be hit in the shoulder with a mace while his back is turned. Merlin hoists him to his feet and drags him away as Elyan and Leon continue to fight off Ruadan. Merlin manages to hide Arthur behind a tree and uses his magic to scare off the horses of those that are chasing them.
Some time later Arthur wakes up to discover that his men have been taken and he was knocked unconscious (again). He struggles to his feet, and the two head off.
In the mines below Ismere, Gwaine and Percival are asleep, though Gwaine is woken by a strange light in a nearby tunnel. Both of them spot the glowing light, but pretend to be asleep as two guards approach.
Arthur and Merlin are trudging through the wastelands toward Ismere, though Merlin is insisting that they return to Camelot. Arthur however, is just as determined to carry on to Ismere to rescue his men.
The surviving knights of the ambush return to Camelot, and Leon and Elyan tell Queen Guinevere of what happened: that both Arthur and Merlin went missing during the battle. When Gaius questions how Morgana knew that Arthur would be approaching from that direction, Guinevere deduces that someone betrayed them.
As night falls, Arthur and Merlin are trying to get some sleep when Merlin tells Arthur about the dead seer. Arthur ignores him. More warnings. More bickering. Arthur reiterates that he'll rescue his men or die trying. Merlin states that he'll protect him or die with him. If there was ever a time to turn Arthur back into a simpleton...
Still shirtless and marginally more sweaty, Gwaine and Percival are still working in the mines when the former notices the light once again. Percival covers for him whilst he investigates. He follows it down a tunnel and has almost reached its source when he's captured by two of the guards who throw him to the ground. He loses consciousness as they begin to kick him.
Arthur and Merlin wake up at the sound of approaching feet and watch as on a ridge above them, Morgana and her men search. Evading them, they carry on through the wilderness, discussing food, when Merlin notices a couple of dead rabbits on the ground before them. At the last second Arthur realizes it's a trap and lunges forward to pull Merlin out of the way, but the net is sprung and the two of them are caught.
Guinevere stands in the throne room of Camelot surrounded by Gaius, knights and the rest of the court. Sefa is forcibly escorted in and thrown at her feet. Gwen begins to question her and she soon cracks under the pressure, telling her that she went to meet her father and that he only wants what's rightfully his. Gwen points out that her actions cost the lives of many men and that by the laws of Camelot she is found guilty of treason. She's sentenced to death, and Gwen orders her to be taken to the cells. I'll say what you're all thinking: that Gwen has indeed managed to do in three minutes what Arthur couldn't over the course of two consecutive seasons: root out a traitor and deal with them.
Gwaine is lying bruised and battered on the floor of the mines, when something with long glowing hands approaches him and begins to chant. It appears to be a shiny miniature Conehead
. Or possibly a naked alien Gollum
. Either way, Gwaine's wounds begin to heal.
Back in the Net of Hopelessness
, Arthur and Merlin are struggling to free themselves to no avail. Morning comes and they're still hanging there, fast asleep with a dead rabbit between them. Suddenly the net topples to the ground and several men rush out from the undergrowth. One stands on Arthur's sword, preventing him from using it, and recognizing it as belonging to the King of Camelot. Arthur only asks that his servant be set free, but Merlin refuses to go. Just as things are about to go badly, someone else's voice shouts out: "Stop!"
A familiar-looking youth is standing on the edge of the forest. He approaches, pointing out that they should let the Lady Morgana decide their fate. Merlin looks stunned. Perhaps he recognises him from the past. Maybe from the vision he's just had. Or maybe he's just astonished that whoever this is has got a bigger scarf than him. Whatever the reason, the men back off and the youth extends his arm to Arthur. Arthur accepts and he's pulled to his feet.
Mordred: Hello Arthur.
, is that a Psychotic Smirk
- Blatant Lies: "If it were you missing, Merlin, I wouldn't bother." Oh really?
- The Bus Came Back: This is Mordred's first appearance since the end of series 2.
- The Cameo: Queen Annis has a few brief scenes, granting safe passage to Arthur and his knights.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Sefa passes on important information to her father, but also seems to have a genuine regard for the likes of Guinevere and Merlin.
- Continuity Nod: Mordred recalls that Arthur once saved his life back in The Beginning Of The End.
- Fanservice /Walking Shirtless Scene: Since Arthur spends much of his time clothed and in the wilderness, Gwaine and Percival fill in for their King by spending much of the episode shirtless. With close up scenes of them lying down next to each other, stretching their armpits to the camera.
- Figure It Out Yourself: Kilgharrah answers this when Merlin asks what he's supposed to do with the information that someday, somewhere, a black haired boy will kill/wound Arthur in a battle.
- Flash Step: Ruadan pulls off one of these when Sefa approaches him. He's about three feet away from her, the torches blow out, and a second later he has a knife at her throat.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Sefa was just being loyal to her father. Gwen is executing a traitor who may have got her husband and best friend killed.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Davos is an evil sorcerer? How many crazy sorcerous allies does Stannis Baratheon need?
- Implied Love Interest: Sefa to Merlin. It's a Red Herring to disguise her true loyalties.
- Instant Oracle, Just Add Water: Merlin sees Arthur's final battle when the seer's hand touches the water.
- Inescapable Net: Neither Merlin nor Arthuer can escape from it.
- In the Hood: Sefa and Morgana.
- Lady in Red: Guinevere's red dress seems all set to become her Iconic Outfit.
- Meaningful Name: Ruadan is the Celtic god of spying. The Euchdag is not an actual mythological creature, but is Gaelic for "charming girl".
- The Mole: Sefa.
- Mauve Shirt: Sir Leon, as usual. Admit it, when you saw Ruadan injure him in battle you thought The Worf Effect had kicked in and that Leon would be Killed Off for Real this time. He wasn't.
- Oh Crap: Merlin's reaction to Mordred. Also, Arthur's reaction to Morgana showing up for the battle.
- Pet the Dog: The only time Ruadan is not focused utterly on his task is when he tells Sefa that he hopes she hasn't been ill-treated in Camelot. In return, Sefa admits that they've been good to her.
- Ravens and Crows: Sefa is startled by one as she approaches her father in the woods.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Played with in regards to Guinevere, who appears as Queen for the first time and took some viewers by surprise by her rather cold sentencing of Sefa. Turns out it was just a bluff.
- The Reveal: Ruadan and Sefa are father/daughter.
- Risking The King: King Arthur personally searches for his knights due to his Honor Before Reason personal code, even after being ambushed and losing all of his men except for Merlin.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Arthur has long-since been established as this, but this episode also makes a point of demonstrating that Guinevere actively participates in the ruling of the kingdom: advising Arthur to travel through Annis's lands, attending council meetings, ruling the kingdom in her husband's stead, and passing sentence on a traitor.
- Savage Wolves: Three of them guard the fortress of Ismere.
- Shirtless Scene: Gwaine and Percival.
- Ship Tease: Merlin and Sefa.
- Shout-Out: Morgana in her winter furs and sleigh is highly reminiscent of the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, whilst the scene in which Merlin and Arthur hide from Morgana beneath the roots of a tree is staged almost identically to the scene in The Lord of the Rings when the hobbits hide from the Ringwraiths.
- Time Skip: Three years, the longest the show has ever jumped.
- Time Shifted Actor: As it's been seven in-show years since the character was last seen, Alexander Vlahos has taken over from Asa Butterfield as Mordred.
- Took a Level in Badass: During her three years as queen, Gwen has become the most competent monarch on the show, discovering the traitor before the episode is out and dealing with her.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Played with: Gwen didn't really have much choice considering how Sefa confessed to be the traitor, but she didn't look troubled at all about sending a young girl to her own death.
- Subverted. Gwen never intended to execute Sefa, just make it seem convincing enough to lure Ruadan away from Ismere. And it worked.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sefa, Ruadan, and Morgana all show traits of this.