The Kindness of Strangers
An Action Prologue
sees a robed man running through the forests at night with armed Saxons in close pursuit. Morgana watches from the trees, and a set of fireballs eventually flings the man off his feet. Morgana approaches as her men hoist the man to his knees, revealing him as Alator (last seen in The Secret Sharer
). She wants something specific from him: to learn the identity of Emrys.
The day breaks and Arthur, Guinevere and Merlin head out on a picnic. Whilst the trio get ready, Arthur throws a water-flask too wide and sends Merlin after it. Merlin heads out into the trees and notices the magical damage of the night before, finding a strange medallion on the ground.
On returning to Camelot, they are confronted with the appearance of many refugees who have arrived after their city was attacked by Morgana. Arthur orders that the garrisons be strengthened, but Merlin questions why Morgana would attack a city in which magic is legalized.
Gaius looks over the medallion and suggests that whoever dropped it didn't do so willingly. Merlin wants to head back to investigate further, despite Gaius's fears for his safety. Merlin returns to the forest and follows markings on the trees until he comes to an abandoned encampment. There he finds torn bits of paper with strange writing on them.
Back in the physician's quarters, Gaius identifies the language as Catha, and reads out a name on the paper: "Alator." They quickly realize that Morgana was after Alator in order to learn the whereabouts of Emrys.
In a ruin deep in the forest, Morgana has Alator tortured. Despite being severely beaten, he refuses to tell her where Emrys is. To this, she pulls out a small box and opens it to reveal the Naithair: the small snake that can cause immense pain - even to the Cathas who are trained to resist such things.
Meanwhile, Arthur orders Merlin to fetch flowers for Guinevere, who he wants to surprise with breakfast in bed. As he gathers them outside the castle walls, he fails to noticed the hooded figure watching him with a long drawn knife in hand (seriously, she's like right there
and he doesn't see her). He does however notice the knights on patrol, and is yanked behind a tree by the mystery woman so that they remain out of sight. She calls him Emrys and warns him that the king's enemies are closer than he thinks. She asks him to meet her in the temple in the forest to learn more, and slips away. Before she goes, Merlin notices a strange tattoo on her arm.
Merlin returns to the royal bedchambers with a tray of food (sans flowers) and leaves so that Arthur can get all the credit for giving Gwen breakfast in bed - however, she's not fooled, and pointedly thanks Merlin before he goes.
Back with Gaius, Merlin draws a picture of the tattoo and is told that it's the mark of a group of women who are initiates of the Old Religion. Merlin is more concerned with what she told him: that Arthur's enemies were closer than he thought. Merlin thinks she meant Mordred, but Gaius is convinced that it's just a trap set by Morgana who has learnt Emrys's identity from Alator. It seems an argument is about to erupt, but Gaius extracts a promise from Merlin that he won't go to meet her.
In the abandoned temple, Finna sends a message via a raven, mentioning the name "Morgana Pendragon" in her incantation.
Whilst Arthur is doing paperwork, Gaius approaches Arthur and tells him that a patient has recently confided in him: that a woman who practices the Old Religion has been seen in the vicinity of the temple. He believes that she's a threat. Arthur thanks him for the information, and goes down to inform his knights (who are playing keep-away with Gwaine's helmet) that he has a task for them. Merlin notes his closeness with Mordred, and his paranoia begins to take over.
Obviously, Merlin can't let the opportunity pass and sneaks out that night to meet with Finna. She initally kneels and introduces herself as a servant of Alator.
Finna: The great battle nears. The fate of Camelot rests in the balance. Only you, great Emrys, can ensure the triumph of the Once and Future King.
Before she can say anymore, they are interrupted by the approach of the Camelot knights and are forced to make a run for it. Merlin uses telekenesis and a ring of fire to slow the knights down, promising Finna that he'll find her later.
Alator is thrown into his cell after a torture session with the Naithair when the cawing of a crow alerts him. Finna's crow has arrived at the window and he takes the note from its leg. It tells him that she's found Emrys and that their mission continues.
Back in the throne room of Camelot, Arthur is not impressed at the ineptitude of his knights who failed to capture the fugitives. He orders that they continue the search and Merlin realizes that Gaius must have given him away.
As Merlin packs, Gaius owns up as to his mistake. Now there's nothing left to be done except for Merlin to find her again and find out why she was willing to risk her life to meet with him.
Morgana is still having no luck with Alator, who again vows that she cannot break him. Morgana slaps him when she reminds him that Emrys will be her destiny and doom, but is soon put in a better mood when one of her men brings her Finna's note, found in Alator's cell. She orders that Finna be brought to her alive. With a final bit of Evil Gloating
, she snaps Alator's neck with her magic.
As she moves through the forest, Finna avoids the knights of Camelot and leaves burnt sigils on the tree trunks for Merlin to find. Merlin follows, only to be found by the knights and told that he can't return to Camelot by himself - for his own safety he'll have to stay with them until the witch is found. As soon as night falls, Merlin prepares to sneak away from the campsite, only for Mordred to spot him leaving. Instead of waking the others, he states that whatever Merlin is trying to do, it must be important. He lets him go without a fuss, telling him that he'll cover for his absence with the other knights.
As morning breaks, Morgana's men have lost the trail, only for Morgana to notice the markings on the tree. Using her own magic, she tracks Finna through the forest. Just as Merlin catches up with Finna, Morgana's men attack. The two of them manage to deflect them with their magic, only for Merlin to be shot in the side with a crossbow bolt. Using his sword as a crutch and leaning on Finna, they make their way to a ruined watchtower.
Morgana and the Saxons come across their dead comrades and Morgana notices that there's blood on the ground that doesn't belong to any of them. From this, she deduces that Finna has been injured and hurries them on.
Finn and Merlin reach the tower and Merlin stops for a rest on a stone staircase.
Merlin: How do you know this tower?
Finna: When you've spent a lifetime running, you know all the places to hide.
Merlin: Running from... Arthur?
Finna: And his father before him.
Merlin: It won't always be like this. Things will be better.
Finna: That is why I was sent. To help you make it so.
Merlin: Why are you doing this for me?
Finna: Without you, Emrys, Arthur cannot build the new world we all long for.
Merlin: I don't understand.
Finna: For hundreds of years the Catha have guarded their ancient knowledge, but now the time has come to pass it on to you, Emrys, for only you can carry their hopes into the great battle itself.
By this point, the two of them have barricaded themselves into a tower room. Merlin looks close to passing out as Finna reaches into her robes and brings out a small ornate box. Morgana sends her men up the stairs after them, reminding them that Finna is to be taken alive. Meanwhile, Finna has one last message to impart, one given to her straight from Alator: "Do not make the same mistake as Arthur - do not trust the Druid boy."
They stumble up another flight of stairs and into a smaller room, where Finna tells Merlin that he must go on alone. They think that she's alone, and once they have her, they'll leave. Merlin argues, stating that they'll fight together, but she insists, asking only that he leave her his sword. They share a Held Gaze
and Merlin relents, leaving Finna to her fate.
As Morgana enters the room in Slow Motion
, Finna faces her bravely. As Morgana demands to know who Emrys is, Finna takes the sword and plunges it into her own stomach. Shocked, Morgana turns away and orders her men to burn the body. Meanwhile, Merlin collapses on the rooftop of the watchtower and calls to the dragon. As the clouds drift away from the moon, Kilgharrah swoops down and plucks Merlin from the rooftop.
Merlin wakes up on the forest floor the next morning to find his wound healed and the dragon watching him. Merlin thanks him for his help and notices that his wings are looking rather old and tattered. Kilgharrah confesses that he's getting old and reaching the end of his life.
Merlin: What will I do without you?
Kilgharrah: You will remember me.
Merlin: Will I see you again?
The dragon doesn't answer; he just turns and flies off into the distance.
Back in Camelot, the box lies on the table between Merlin and Gaius. Merlin gives Gaius a nod, and he opens it. Inside is a sealed note. Gaius opens it and reads:
Gaius: Let loose the hounds of war. Let the dread fire of the last priestess reign down from angry skies. Brother will slaughter brother. Friend will murder friend. As the great horn sounds, a cold dawn at Camlann. The prophets do not lie. There Arthur will meet his end, upon that mighty plain.
Merlin looks fairly gutted at this, realizing how many have suffered and died so that he might hear this. Gaius tries to comfort him, but they are interrupted by the warning bells. The knights have returned with a gruesome discovery: one of their own with a deformed face. The man has been suffocated by a spell that causes his skin to grow across his face. Gaius tells them that it's a punishment and an ultimate warning from the High Priestesses to their enemies. Morgana has declared war.
- Action Prologue
- Back for the Dead: Alator returns only to be swiftly Killed Off for Real.
- Big Brother Instinct: The Knights want Merlin to stay with them until they apprehend the sorcerer rather than walk back to the castle.
- Big Damn Heroes: Kilgharrah, again. And most likely for the last time.
- The Blank: Morgana uses a lethal version of this when she makes the skin grow over a knight's face as a warning to Camelot that she has declared war.
- Body Horror: See The Blank.
- Call Back: Plenty to the events of The Secret Sharer (particularly Gaius recalling that it was he who gave away Merlin's true identity to Alator), as well as the adage: "He is your destiny, and he is your doom."
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Except it doesn't work. That's what you get for trying to torture a Torture Technician.
- Continuity Nod: Alator from The Secret Sharer, the raven messenger service from With All My Heart (and earlier episodes), the Naithair from The Sword in the Stone Part I and the Saxons from Arthur's Bane all return for this episode. Morgana uses Merlin's magical GPS from The Dark Tower, although it was only because Finna left a magical trail and unlike Merlin she needed a spell to unlock it. The temple that Ruadan and Sefa used as a meeting place in Arthur's Bane is also revisited.
- Contrived Coincidence: Arthur stops for a picnic in the exact place that Alator was captured.
- Decoy Protagonist: Alator is a returning guest-star played by a relatively well-known actor. He's dead before the half-way mark, and his servant Finna takes over as the episde's Living MacGuffin.
- Defiant to the End: Alator, who never breaks and promptly tells Morgana that all her efforts were for nothing and she will die by Emrys' hand no matter what she does.
- Determinator: Merlin walks for miles with an arrow in his stomach. When he realizes he can go no further, he uses what he has left to call the Great Dragon.
- Dramatic Irony: In order to get Finna's warning about how dangerous the Druid boy is, Merlin first has to rely on Mordred not to tell the other knights that he's sneaking off in order to meet her. He even tells Merlin "be careful" as he goes!
- In the creepiest way possible without making it seem deliberate. They chose the right actor for him.
- The Knight's protectiveness of Merlin, when you consider that (not counting Mordred's magic, although Merlin would probably win anyway) Merlin can kick their asses to kingdom come without even trying hard.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Arguably, Alator. It's mainly done in order to demonstrate that Morgana isn't messing around and set the mood for the final three episodes, but it's still a rather anti-climactic end for a reasonably popular Recurring Character.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Finna, who kills herself rather than eventually break under Morgana's hand.
- Face Death with Dignity: Alator, Finna, and Kilgharrah all accept their death with grace.
- Foreshadowing: Morgana has an army of Saxons and has declared war. In addition, Merlin receives a message from the Catha that specifically mentions Camlann.
- Genre Savvy: Gaius tries to get Merlin to avoid meeting Finna, fearing it to be a trap. Knowing that his vague response signals that he intends to go anyway, he tries to cut him off at the pass by giving her location to Arthur.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Of course, it turned out it wasn't a trap, and Gaius caused a lot of trouble by forcing her to flee. To his credit, he owns up to his mistake.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Finna
- Idiot Ball: Why didn't Alator destroy Finna's note? Why did Finna feel the need to send a note anyway? And given that, why sign her name to it?
- It Has Been an Honor: Finna tells Merlin it was a privilege to know him.
- Kneel Before Frodo: Finna to Merlin.
- Neck Snap: How Alator dies, at the hands of Morgana. It really does show how powerful her magic is now. She doesn't even raise her hand, its just the trademark glowing-eyes.
- Never Mess with Granny: Finna. The women is over seventy (at least) and yet dashes around the forest, uses powerful magic against those attacking her, secures Merlin's safety, and goes out on her own terms, thwarting Morgana's plans for her.
- Power Levels: There's a nod to Merlin and Morgana's respective strengths in magic: Morgana uses a spell to use the magical GPS, which Merlin didn't even know existed. However, her mind's eye is inferior to his, as she couldn't use it until she found the sigils, whereas Merlin was able to find his way out without a trail.
- Red Herring: Whilst her loyalties are still up for grabs, the audience is privy to a scene in which Finna sends a raven messanger with an incantation that contains the name "Morgana Pendragon". Turns out, it wasn't to her that she was sending it, just her address.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Naithair
- Sanity Slippage: Morgana has gone to the point where she's sitting on a throne in the hall of an abandoned castle. To show her delusions of grandeur and the ultimate emptiness of her goals?
- Secretly Dying: Our answer to why the Great Dragon has been absent so long? He's dying of old age and hasn't told Merlin until now.
- Too Happy to Live: Though he's not dead yet, this trope would appear to be pre-emptively invoked when Merlin and Guinevere note how happy Arthur is.
- You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Kilgharrah calls Merlin "Emrys" for the first time before revealing he is dying.