Queen of Hearts
The doors to the great hall open to reveal Guinevere in front of a crowd of people, gliding down the central aisle to kneel on the dais before Arthur. Wearing Uther's crown, Arthur takes an ornately jewelled (and more feminine) crown from a manservant and gently places it on Guinevere's head, proclaiming her to be the Queen of Camelot. Merlin and Gaius watch from the front pews, and Merlin seems overcome with joy as Arthur helps Guinevere to her feet and they take their places on the thrones. The King and Queen smile lovingly at each other...
...and Morgana sits up in bed, gasping with shock as she awakens from her nightmare. In confusion, she touches the bracelet that is meant to prevent such dreams, and gets out of bed to stare out of the window. Behind her, Gwen approaches with a lit candle, asking if she's alright. Morgana urges her to go to bed, and though Gwen seems unnerved by the intense look she's getting from Morgana, she obeys.
The following morning Morgana is walking through the upper halls of the castle when she hears a voice whisper: "sister..." At the end of a corridor a door opens by itself and a torch bursts into flame. In what is clearly an unused room filled with cobwebs and dust, Morgause steps out from the shadows and Morgana rushes into her arms. Morgana tells her sister about the dream that has apparently been haunting her for quite some time now. Despite the fact that Morgause tells her that some dreams are so powerful that the bracelet cannot stop them and that some some futures are "as clear as cut glass", she also urges Morgana to ensure that Arthur and Guinevere's relationship is destroyed. This'll end well.
Morgana approaches Gwen as she's preparing food for breakfast and asks about Arthur. Gwen plays it casual, and refuses to divulge any information about the two of them, even when Morgana expresses faux-sympathy that the two of them can't be together. When Morgana tries to take her hand, Gwen uncomfortably squirms away.
Seeing that she's going to get nothing out of Gwen, Morgana watches Arthur carefully at breakfast. Uther is asking him about border-safety, but Arthur is completely distracted by the sight of Gwen filling cups around the table. When Arthur accidentally tips over a cup (much to Uther's frustration and Merlin's amusement) Morgana smiles to herself, knowing that he's going to be a much easier nut to crack...
Morgana joins Arthur as he looks over some official papers, and sure enough, has him spilling his guts in a matter of seconds. After flattering him a bit with talk that Gwen is always speaking of him, Morgana sympathies with their forbidden love and urges him to spend some more time with Gwen - after all, what Uther doesn't know won't hurt him. She leaves the room, leaving a thoughtful Arthur in her wake.
One segue later, and Merlin is telling Gwen that Arthur wants to spend the day with her. Gwen is hesitant, knowing the consequences if the two of them were caught, but Merlin is a Shipper on Deck at the highest level, and convinces her that going on a date with the crown prince is the best idea ever - he'll even escort her himself to a secret location outside the city walls. She finally agrees, and Merlin gives her a little "keep calm" sign at the door. In his absence, Gwen allows herself a little spin.
Up in her room, Morgana is casually playing with her jewellery and watching Gwen make the bed in the mirror. Nervously Gwen asks her for the day off tomorrow, telling Morgana that she's not feeling very well. Morgana grants her permission, and breaks out the Psychotic Smirk the second that she's gone.
The following morning, Guinevere checks her reflection in the mirror as she hears Merlin's knock on the door. She steps out from the back room to find Merlin looking at her a little strangely. "You look lovely," he tells her. She's not the only one checking her appearance, as out in the forest Arthur is taking the opportunity to fix his hair using the reflective surface of a tray. Unfortunately, Merlin and Guinevere catch him at it, and one fake bird-call later, Arthur realizes that they've arrived. Momentarily struck dumb by Guinevere, he manages to dismiss Merlin, and Gwen crosses the stepping stones in the stream that runs between them to join Arthur at the picnic he's prepared. Nobody notices Morgana on horseback, watching from the trees.
Uther is still having breakfast when Morgana joins him and asks him to accompany her on a ride. Uther declines, and Morgana brings out the Puppy-Dog Eyes, telling him that they hardly spend any more precious time together. Uther agrees, though seems in no hurry to leave just yet...
Arthur and Guinevere are enjoying each other's company, and when Gwen moves to set out the food he's brought, Arthur insists that she's not there as a servant. He tells her that being away from Camelot gives him a chance to be himself, and that sometimes he secretly dreams of becoming a farmer.
- Gwen: I can hardly see you toiling away in the fields all day.Arthur: Obviously I'd take Merlin with me, he can do all the hard work.
The Scare Chord kicks in as Uther and Morgana set off on their ride. Morgana challenges him to a race, and begins to lead him toward the picnic area, where Arthur and Guinevere are currently reclining on the cushions. Though Gwen is telling him that they'll have to return home soon, Arthur has spotted something over her shoulder, and advises her to keep still. Thinking it's bandits, Gwen looks worried as Arthur reaches for his sword... only for him to grab his glove and flicks it at what may or may not have been a real wasp. He lies back with a satisfied grin, and Gwen is charmed enough to lean over and kiss him.
Things are looking like they're getting relatively serious, when a noise interrupts the makeout session. Uther and Morgana have arrived, and the couple look up in shock as the cockblock of the century takes place.
Another segue later, and Arthur is fidgeting in the throne room, waiting for his father to arrive. Expecting a shouting-match, he's astonished when Uther bursts out laughing and claps him on the back.
- Arthur: I thought you'd be furious.Uther: I was young once, I'm more than familiar with the temptations of serving girls.Arthur: I'm sorry I kept it from you. I thought it for the best.Uther: No serious harm has been done. I can't allow it to continue, obviously.Arthur: What are you talking about?Uther: You can never see this girl again.Arthur: You just said that no harm had been done.Uther: You've had your fun. Now it must come to an end.
Arthur tries to argue that it doesn't matter that Guinevere is just a servant girl, but Uther shuts him down immediately. Before he realizes what he's saying, Arthur has admitted that he's in love with Gwen, and seems just as surprised by the revelation as Uther is. With that, Uther promptly banishes Gwen from Camelot, despite Arthur's vow that he'll never see her again. Things get tense when Arthur grabs his father's arm in protest, but backs down under Uther's implacable demeanor.
Up in his chambers, Merlin is trying to nudge Arthur towards the fact that Morgana is responsible for giving the game away, but Arthur is too distracted and angry. After a brief argument, Arthur relents and Merlin asks him what he's going to do. Before they can come up with a plan, Morgana steps in and Arthur asks to be alone with her. At least Merlin manages to give her a Death Glare before he goes. Morgana is all sympathy and sadness, and asks Arthur what he plans to do about the situation. Arthur says that he's going to leave Camelot with Gwen which...sounds like pretty fantastic news if you're Morgana, but for some reason she looks appalled at this. On to Plan B, then.
Back in her cottage, Gwen is packing her things and fighting back tears. In lieu of her invisible brother, Merlin is with her, and comforts her when she breaks down in tears.
That night Morgana plants a poultice under Arthur's pillows and then goes to Uther who is reading by candlelight. Uther confesses that he can't understand Arthur's new-found feelings for a serving girl.
- Morgana: It's strange...Arthur tells me everything, and he's never expressed any feelings for Gwen, and suddenly he's declaring his love for her.Uthur: What are you saying, Morgana?Morgana: I'm sure there's an explanation.Uthur: Speak your mind.Morgana: You yourself have noticed Arthur's strange mood. It's almost as though he's...been enchanted.
Them's the magic words, and what seems like mere seconds later, guards are ransacking Arthur's room. It doesn't take long before the poultice is found, much to Arthur's confusion.
Down in the throne room, Uther asks Gaius to identify the poultice, and he confirms that it's covered in symbols of the Old Religion. He goes on to agree with Uther's speculation that it might be used to make someone fall in love, and Uther orders that Morgana's maid be brought to him. Realizing what he's done, Gaius's Oh, Crap! expression sets in as he notices Morgana smirking away to herself in the corner.
Merlin rushes up to Arthur in his bedchamber, telling him that he's just seen guards dragging Guinevere into the palace.
Downstairs, Gwen is thrown down onto her knees before Uther whilst Morgana watches in the background. Uther dangles the poultice before Gwen's face and asks her to identity it. Gwen insists that she's never seen it before.
- Uther: Why else would Arthur fall in love with someone like you?Guinevere: I don't expect someone like you to understand that.
As awesome as this comeback is, it only gets Gwen slapped around the face by a suddenly-furious Uther. Morgana steps in with a false attempt at a defense, but Uther shuts her down as Arthur storms in. Uther presents him with the poultice, but Arthur is adamant that he's not under a spell. Uther simply counters that because he's under a spell, he can't believe anything he says as the truth. In an unexpected Continuity Nod, Uther recalls that Guinevere's father consorted with sorcerers against him, but Guinevere's fierce defense of her father only lands her in deeper trouble as Uther declares this as her motivation in enchanting Arthur. Gaius tries to speak up for her, but Uther has made up his mind.
- Uther: She has been found guilty of using magic and enchantments. She will be burnt at the stake.
Guinevere reacts with horror and Arthur begins to panic. He lunges at his father but is restrained by the guards. Gaius insists on a fair trial for Gwen, but Uther orders her to be executed at dawn - as one last attempt to secure Gwen's safety, Arthur offers to give up his right to the throne in exchange for her life. Believing this to be an Out-of-Character Alert, Uther takes this as final proof that Arthur is under a spell, and gently cups his son's face in his hand.
- Uther: My son would never do that. It is proof beyond doubt that you are enchanted.Arthur: I will never forgive you for this.Uther: She will die. The enchantment will be broken. You'll see I was right.
Uther marches out and the guards lift Guinevere from the floor to drag her away. Arthur lunges after her and manages to get close enough for a Last Kiss before they're separated by the guards. As he struggles, Guinevere's eyes fall upon Morgana, and she looks on with shock at the fact that Morgana is smiling to herself as she leaves the room.
A bell tolls at the break of the following day, and Guinevere watches from a cell as a pyre is prepared in the courtyard before her. Arthur watches the same sight from his bedroom window, looking completely gun-shot as Merlin approaches, telling him they need to find a way to smuggle Gwen out of Camelot. Realizing that he's not going to be much help, Merlin goes down to the dungeons under the pretense of taking Gwen some food. Merlin urges her not to give up hope, telling her that they need to find the person that really planted the poultice. Gwen confides to him that she noticed Morgana's strange behavior, and that it probably wasn't a coincidence that Uther found the two of them in the woods together. The guard returns and Merlin is forced to leave.
Back in the physician's quarters, Gaius is busy telling Merlin for the umpteenth time that Uther will never believe that Morgana is responsible for any wrong-doing. Merlin gets that look in his eyes that suggests he's about to come up with a plan that's either an Idiot Ball or Crazy Awesome depending on your point of view.
- Merlin: If we can't expose the true sorcerer, then we must invent one.
Using an aging spell, Merlin will disguise himself as an old man, let himself get caught in the act of putting an identical poultice under Arthur's pillow, and then simply use magic to break himself free of the dungeons. It's right up with there with one of Morgana's plots, but here we go...
Gaius warns him that aging spells are unpredictable, but Merlin refuses to let Gwen die. He orders Gaius to recreate the poultice while he prepares the spell in his room. A few minutes later, an old man in a red robe with long white hair and a beard emerges. Gaius claims that he'd never be recognized, though there's something familiar about the eyes... Seeing himself in a mirror, Merlin can't believe that one day he'll actually look like this, and he's not too keen on all the aches and pains either.
Using a staff for support, Old!Merlin heads down the upstairs corridor and spots Arthur in discussion with two of them guards. Arthur notices him slip into his bedroom and follows, catching him in the act of chanting a spell over the poultice. Introducing himself as "Dragoon", Old!Merlin confesses to placing the poultice under Arthur's pillow. Arthur seems ready to kill him where he stands, but as Old!Merlin points out - he's first going to have to ensure that Guinevere is set free. Arthur suddenly puts down his sword and asks if they've met, finding something familiar about his eyes. Old!Merlin telekinetically makes a helmet fly across the room and hit Arthur on the head before fleeing from the room, and Arthur just manages to call for the guards.
Old!Merlin does the old hide-behind-the-door trick, but finds that the spell to reverse the effects of the aging disguise isn't working. Arthur and the guards race after him as Merlin desperately tries to turn himself back. He makes for an open door, but Arthur pins his sleeve to the wood with a well-aimed dagger throw.
Uther and his court are looking over some papers when Arthur brings "Dragoon" before him. Gaius looks on in mild bemusement/concern as Old!Merlin is forced to stand before the court. Arthur tells him that he caught the old man planting the poultice under his pillow and hands over the evidence. Morgana looks on in astonishment at this unexpected turn of events. Old!Merlin freely admits to placing the enchantment over Arthur, claiming that he wanted to shame Camelot by having Arthur fall in love with a lowly serving girl.
- Uther: Have I wronged you in some way, old man?Old!Merlin: You have wronged so many people in so many ways. You're blinded by your hatred of magic. You have tortured and executed innocent people. You, Uther Pendragon, are a stupid, arrogant, old tyrant.
Arthur decides to step in, and Merlin lets loose another rant about how he mistreats his servants. Uther decides to get back to the point, and asks whether the servant girl was his accomplice. Merlin completely exonerates her from the crime, stating that she was also enchanted into falling in love with Arthur. Uther grudgingly orders that the girl be released, and tells Old!Merlin that he'll take her place on the pyre tomorrow. As he's taken away, Morgana hurries after the mystery man.
From the end of the corridor, Morgana watches him taken to the dungeons.
- Morgana: Do you know that man, Gaius?Gaius: I've never seen him before. Is there something troubling you, Morgana? I'd have thought you'd be relieved that the true culprit's been found.Morgana: Of course I am.
Merlin is pushed into a dungeon cell where he can see the pyre outside. Gaius is hurrying down a corridor when Arthur asks him if he's seen Merlin - and the famous "he's in the tavern" Running Gag begins. Gaius manages to speak to Merlin through the bars of the cage, who tearfully tells him that he can't reverse the spell.
- Merlin: I'm stuck like this.
Thanks Gaius. Big help. However, he does recall a spell in one of his books that will undo an aging spell, and tells Merlin to buy as much time as he can. Gaius works on through the night, trying to color-code a potion with a diagram in one of his books. Then he falls asleep.
Dawn breaks, and Merlin hears the bells as the citizens gather in the central courtyard around the pyre. Arthur and the guards come to fetch him. In an attempt to stall, Old!Merlin says he wishes to confess to more crimes - though Arthur points out that there's no point, as they can't execute him twice.
Gaius wakes up to find that the potion matches the color in his book, but just misses Old!Merlin being led away. Uther and Morgana watch from the balcony as Old!Merlin is escorted through the crowd, and Merlin searches through the faces for Gaius as he nears the pyre. Finally Gaius darts into place and pats the antidote as Uther begins his speech. Merlin lunges toward Gaius and grabs the potion, shouting that he'll have his revenge. Another spell sets the pyre alight, and in the chaos, he makes his escape.
Back in the palace, Old!Merlin hurries as fast as he can down a corridor, hearing the sounds of pursuit. He downs the potion, but sees no difference in his appearance. Arthur jogs down the hallway and sees something moving around the corner - he turns to find ... Merlin, looking a little worse for wear. Merlin has no idea where the man has gone, and Arthur blames the fact that he's apparently spent all day in the tavern.
Later that day, Gwen is collecting Morgana's laundry when Morgana enters the room, saying how relieved she is that Gwen is safe. They fake!hug and Gwen makes a quick exit - leaving behind a very confused Morgana, who has no idea how her plan went so terribly wrong.
Gwen is hurrying down a corner when Arthur lunges out of an alcove and pulls her in beside him. He tells her that Uther thinks that his feelings for Gwen were the result of an enchantment, and that they've got to tread more carefully in future. After ascertaining that their feelings for each other aren't just because of a magic spell, Arthur promises her that when he's king, things will be different. Gwen promises to count the days until then, and the two lean in for another kiss when they hear a noise down the other end of the corridor. Gwen slips away as the guards approach, but Arthur watches her go with a smile on his face.
Merlin returns from cleaning out the stable on Arthur's instruction, and Gaius feigns innocence as to where he got the idea that Merlin had been spending all day in the tavern.
- Abdicate the Throne: Arthur offers to do this in order to save Guinevere's life.
- All Just a Dream: The opening sequence.
- Almost Kiss: Arthur and Gwen's final kiss.
- Always Save the Girl: Arthur doesn't want to be king if it means giving up Gwen. Merlin risks everything in order to save Gwen's life.
- Berserk Button: Morgana knows just which ones to press to send Uther into a paranoid rage.
- Blame Game: Once Arthur and Guinevere are caught on their picnic, a lot of accusations are thrown around over who exactly is to blame. Only Gwen catches on to the fact that it was probably Morgana.
- Break Up Demand: Uther orders Arthur to stop seeing Gwen.
- Burn the Witch!: Guinevere, then Old!Merlin.
- Call-Back: To Guinevere's father's death.
- Call to Agriculture: Arthur tells Gwen that he has a secret dream of becoming a farmer (though he'd make Merlin do all the work).
- Cassandra Truth: The more Arthur insists that he's not under a love spell, the more Uther is convinced that he is.
- Catapult Nightmare: Morgana
- Continuity Nod: As Morgana wakes up from her nightmare, she looks at her bracelet.
- Death Glare: Merlin and Morgana.
- Dramatic Irony: Arthur saying Merlin couldn't keep a secret if his life depended on it.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Morgana dreams of Guinevere's coronation.
- Droit du Seigneur: Uther assumes this is what Arthur is up to when he catches him with Guinevere - and finds it hilarious.
- Embarrassing Cover Up: The "he's at the tavern" excuse is first used here.
- Entendre Failure:Uther: I know about the temptations of serving girls!Arthur: [paraphrasing] Huh?
- Everyone Can See It: Morgana tells Arthur that his feelings for Gwen are obvious.
- Flash Forward: Guinevere's coronation.
- Friendship Moment: Tons between Merlin and Guinevere. In fact, nearly everything that Merlin does in this episode is done out of his platonic love for Gwen.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: The picnic that Arthur sets up for Guinevere.
- Innocuously Important Episode: Although this is an important episode in terms of the progression of Arthur and Guinevere's relationship, it also introduces Merlin's alter-ego Dragoon, who becomes fairly crucial in the fourth series.
- I Will Wait for You: Gwen to Arthur.
- Love Potion: Aversion. Though Morgana creates a fake "love poultice", it has no effect on anyone.
- The Matchmaker: Merlin sets up the picnic between Arthur and Gwen.
- Meaningful Name: Dragoon is inspired by Merlin's affinity to dragons.
- Moment Killer: When your dad turns up out of nowhere right when you're in the middle of making out with your girlfriend in a secret location in the woods.
- Mood Whiplash: All over this episode. It's like emotional ping-pong.
- Mysterious Protector: Inverted with "Dragoon". On the one hand, he's genuinely trying to help Arthur and save Guinevere's life, but he can only do so by pretending that he's actually trying to harm them.
- Mythology Gag: Old!Merlin, of course.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: This is the first time that Merlin has ever attempted an aging spell, and though the episode does demonstrate that he has difficulties controlling it, the fact that he's temporarily de-powered by it is just as arbitrary as his usual ability to do whatever he wants with minimal effort.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Guinevere's are particularly noticeable in this episode.
- Out-of-Character Alert: Rather cruelly inverted when Arthur panics and tells his father that he'd be willing to give up his entitlement to the throne in order to save Guinevere's life. Uther takes this as final proof that he's been enchanted, claiming that "my son would never say that." Except that in this case, he would.
- The Promise: "When I am king, things will be different. We can be together."
- Secret Relationship: Arthur and Gwen's is temporarily exposed, and then concealed once more.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: After her dream of Guinevere being crowned Queen, Morgana seeks to break up Arthur and Gwen. She only ends up getting Arthur to stop dilly-dallying about his feelings for Gwen, admit to Uther (and himself) that he's in love with her, and the two of the promising that they'll wait for each other.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Guinevere, in the coronation scene and then for the picnic.
- Shipper on Deck: Merlin, for Arthur/Guinevere.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Guinevere, very much so, when Uther snidely asks her why his son would fall in love with someone like her, and she responds with an insult of her own.
- Tap on the Head: Merlin magically throws a helmet at Arthur's head.
- Theme Music Power-Up: The infamous violins are at full strength when Guinevere (in Morgana's dream) takes her first steps as the Queen of Camelot.
- Tonight, Someone Kisses: The Arthur/Gwen kiss was a prominent aspect of the "next time" trailer.
- Traitor Shot: Plenty, as usual, from Morgana.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Subverted horribly.
- Wham Line: "You can't forbid my feelings any more than I can. I won't deny them any longer, I love her. I love Guinevere."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Where on earth was Elyan during all this? Just a simple line to explain his absence would have been enough.
- He probably didn't even know. Gwen was dragged into the palace, given a brief Kangaroo Court hearing, and released before the day was out. He was working at the forge all day, why should he know what happens at the castle?
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Gaius asks this when Merlin comes up with the idea to have another sorcerer blamed for planting the poultice under Arthur's pillow. Merlin doesn't bother to answer.
- Would Hit a Girl: Uther back-hands Gwen across the face.