The Dark Tower
Guinevere and Elyan have come to lay flowers on their father's grave, and having paid their respects, begin the journey back to Camelot alongside the other knights. Enjoying each other's company and some banter, they fail to notice Morgana lurking about in the woods.
She rides ahead and casts a spell over a grassy meadow before hiding behind a tree. When Guinevere and the knights approach the meadow, they are immediately attacked by several snakes that cause the horses to panic and throw their riders. With Percival and Leon flung from the saddles, they are bitten by the snakes. Elyan yells at Guinevere to flee into the trees.
This she does, only to come face to face with Morgana. Though she turns her horse and tries to escape, it takes only a telekinetic pull for Morgana to yank her from the saddle. Guinevere is knocked unconscious.
The knights return to Camelot with Leon and Percival carried in on stretchers. It doesn't take long for Arthur to notice that Guinevere is missing, and Elyan admits that she was separated from the group. Angrily, Arthur orders a search party to be launched at dawn. Meanwhile, Gaius looks over the snake bites on Leon and Percival's arms, stating that both should be dead, but that dark magic has entered their blood-stream. Both realize that Morgana must have had a hand in this.
Merlin goes to Arthur's room where he's playing with Guinevere's belongings on her dressing table. Merlin promises him that they'll bring Guinevere home.
Back in the forest, Morgana gently strokes Guinevere's cheek until she wakes. It's already morning, and Guinevere sits up in shock to find her hands bound.
- Morgana: Good morning, my lady.Guinevere: What do you want with me?Morgana: I thought we could play a little game.Guinevere: A game?Morgana: To see just how much Arthur loves you.Guinevere: It won't work.Morgana: You underestimate his feelings.Guinevere: He's not stupid.Morgana: We'll see.
Arthur, Merlin and the knights ride out on their rescue mission and come across Guinevere's horse. Percival notices tracks heading east. Elsewhere, Morgana is on horseback, dragging a tied Guinevere behind her horse. On seeing her exhaustion, she offers her a drink that Guinevere refuses. Soon enough they're crossing a deserted wasteland toward a thin dark tower in the distance.
Back in the forest, it's gotten too dark to follow the tracks. Arthur isn't happy, but has no choice but to stop for the night.
Within the dark tower, Guinevere is led up a spiral staircase to a room without any light. Morgana bids her goodnight and locks the door behind her. The room fills with the sound of terrifying screams.
Around the campfire that night, Arthur tries to console Elyan, who blames himself for not staying at Gwen's side. Arthur leads him back to the camp, only for the peace to be disturbed when Leon and Percival wake up from a nightmare. They're shocked to discover that they both had the same dream about a Dark Tower in the middle of a wasteland. Arthur recognises their description of it, and it doesn't take long for them to realize that Morgana has taken Guinevere to the cursed Dark Tower and planted its vision in Leon and Percival's minds. By morning, Arthur makes an announcement:
- Arthur: I've decided to journey to the Dark Tower. It's my belief that Guinevere's been imprisoned there. I don't know what horrors will be waiting, so I'll travel alone.Elyan: No.Arthur: I'm sorry, I've made my decision.Elyan: You can't stop me, Arthur. She's my sister.Percival: Nor me, Arthur. She's our Queen.Leon: And our friend.Arthur: You can turn back, Merlin.Merlin: I made you a promise, remember?
Eventually the boys make it to a cliff that looks down on the Dark Tower, surrounded on all sides by a thick forest. What follows is a Two Lines, No Waiting plot-line:
1) Guinevere is tormented in the Dark Tower by visions of Elyan, Merlin and Arthur. At first they appear warm and loving, only to turn on her with cruel faces and mocking laughter. Occasionally Morgana enters the room in order to offer her a reprieve. At first she takes her downstairs to a banquet hall and tries to give her food, divulging that she too knows what it's like to be trapped in a small, dark room - only her ordeal lasted two years, shackled to the wall. Guinevere refuses to give in to her mind games, but the mental torture continues. Later Morgana enters in order to offer Gwen food and warmth, but again Gwen refuses. It's not until she endures a vision of Arthur laughing at her that she weakens and allows Morgana to comfort her.
- Morgana: It's alright. I'm here. I'm here. My darling, it was wrong to make you suffer. The mandrake root is cruel. It pierces the depths of your soul, twisting your unconscious into the very image of fear and dread. Gwen, you've been so courageous but it was necessary. Gwen, you're not alone now. You need never be alone again. I'm the only one you can trust. I'm all you have left in the world. The others hate you, taunt you.
Morgana seems to have broken her - but just as she's leading her from the room, Guinevere pulls back, declaring that she'd rather die than play Morgana's game.
2) Arthur, Merlin and the knights are trying to navigate the forest, only to discover (thanks to Gwaine's torn cloak) that they've been wandering around in circles. Arthur is furious, but the others convince him to make camp for the night so that they can think on the problem with clear heads in the morning. While the others are asleep, Merlin is awoken by a strange flickering sound in the bushes. He follows the noise and comes across Goth Tinkerbell crouching on a log, introducing herself as Queen Mab, the spirit of the bewildering forest. Though she seems quite capricious, she offers Merlin the advice he needs to escape the forest: that left is right and right is left, and the way behind is the way ahead.
- Mab: You have a mind's eye, Emrys. You must learn to trust in it. For far greater challenges lie ahead.Merlin: When we reach the Dark Tower?Mab: If.Merlin: What do you mean?Mab: You must beware, Emrys. The Dark Tower is not a place. It is the heart's rest, the mind's deepest fear, the stillness in a hummingbird's eye.Merlin: Stop talking in riddles!Mab: Then I shall talk in rhyme: Heed my words with due concern, for one of you will not return.
As Merlin turns to look at the sleeping knights, she disappears. The following morning, Merlin takes charge of the knights, insisting that he knows the way. They give him the benefit of the doubt, and sure enough, Merlin leads them through the baffling undergrowth to the forest's edge. They cross the wasteland filled with skeletons and enter the tower, only for Merlin to point out that it's far too easy.
Sure enough, as they enter a wide room paved with flag-stones, arrow begin to shoot out of the open mouths of statues lining the walls. Quickly realizing that weight upon the flag-stones are what sets them off, the boy begin to throw their belts and scabbards down on the floor in order to trigger them (with Merlin's magic deflecting a few stray ones). Elyan races ahead and makes it up another flight of stairs where he finds Gwen standing in a room with a levitating sword by her side. She warns him that Morgana has enchanted it to protect her no matter what, but Elyan refuses to leave her. He begins to fight the sword, and eventually manages to send it flying through an open window - but not before it inflicts a fatal wound. He falls into Guinevere's arms.
- Elyan: For a moment I didn't think I was gonna win.Gwen: Father would be proud of you.Elyan: And of you. So proud.
The others burst into the room as Elyan dies, and Arthur runs to Gwen's side.
Back in Camelot, Elyan's body is set adrift in a flaming boat as the court watches. Arthur stands by Gwen's side, and Merlin quietly confides in Gaius that he was warned one of them would not return. Gaius points out that Morgana no doubt intended the magic sword to be for Arthur - by giving his life, the King and Queen are safe.
That night, Arthur and Gwen are asleep when Gwen wakes up and slips out of bed. She throws on a black cloak and heads down the stairs, through the courtyard, and out into the forest. There Morgana is waiting for her. The two women hug and Guinevere assures Morgana of her loyalty.
- Morgana: You've done well to see past the lies to the real truth. You have an important part to play in the future. Together we will ensure the destruction of everything Arthur holds dear.
- Adaptational Heroism: Queen Mab prefers talking in riddles (or rhyme) and is a bit annoying, but unlike most other tales she's actually helpful and teaches Merlin the skills he needs to get them out of the forest.
- Bald of Awesome: Mab. At least, most of her scalp is bald. She seems to have some hair at the back of her head.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Gwen. And it looks set to stay that way for a while.
- Break the Cutie: Gwen Up to Eleven.
- Black Dude Dies First: Played with considering that Lancelot was the first Knight of the Round Table to die, but Elyan's still the first death this season.
- Call-Back: A subtle one - when Gwen goes missing, Arthur touches her belongings on the bedside table. When Morgana went missing at the end of The Fires of Idirsholas, Uther was seen handling Morgana's jewelry in her room.
- Catapult Nightmare: Leon
- Chekhov's Gun: The sword that Percival breaks on the vines and the bit of cloth that tears off Gwaine. Both wind up being used as markers.
- Continuity Nod: The mandrake roots, the death of Gwen and Elyan's father, and Morgana mentioning her mysterious two-year imprisonment.
- Continuity Snarl: Last time Morgana used mandrake roots, it was established that only those with magical powers could hear their screams. When locked in a room full of them, Guinevere is obviously hearing their screams and trying to block out the noise.
- Unless it was part of the hallucinations.
- Cruel Twist Ending: Having rescued Gwen and given Elyan a Viking Funeral, Arthur and Merlin are now totally unaware that Morgana's brainwashing actually worked and that Gwen is plotting against them.
- Damsel in Distress / Girl in the Tower: Guinevere. Both tropes are explicitly stated by Gwaine.
- Death In The Limelight: Elyan, who gets to have several nice scenes that explore his relationship with Gwen, Arthur and the Knights, and makes a Heroic Sacrifice at the episode's end.
- Eldritch Location: The Dark Tower.
- Evil Laugh: Gwen's hallucinations of Elyan and Arthur.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness
- Grave-Marking Scene: Gwen and Elyan visit their father's grave.
- Holding Hands: The siblings hold hands as Elyan dies.
- There's also a close-up on Gwen taking Morgana's hand.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Merlin's mind's eye. Kind of justified in that he learned about it from a very obscure source and so couldn't use it before this episode, but it still fits the trope. Time will tell if this is brought up again.
- Our Fairies Are Different: Queen Mab looks like a typical Winged Humanoid (if not a little Gothed up) but identifies herself as the spirit of the Impenetrable Forest.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Gwaine breaks up the tension whenever it gets too scary. At least in his plot-line.
- The Promise: Merlin promises Arthur that Gwen will be brought home safely, and he's a crucial participant in getting the knights to the Dark Tower.
- Psychological Torment Zone: The titular Dark Tower, as Gwen finds out firsthand.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The snakes.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Mab
- Sanity Slippage: Guinevere, complete with Troubled Fetal Position and Madness Mantra:''It's not you, it's not you, it's not you..."
- Save the Princess: Or in this case, Queen.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: This version of Mab carries a lot of the elements the Bard envisioned in his version of her and of The Fair Folk in general.
- Sleeping Single: Averted between Arthur and Guinevere, finally ending months of speculation in the fandom as to whether or not they share a bed. They Do.
- Spider-Sense: Mab informs Merlin he has a "mind's eye", which he uses to see the path to the other side.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Morgana tries to trigger this response in Guinevere.
- True Companions: Arthur intends to go alone since it's a dangerous mission. The Knights and Merlin will have none of it, and inform him that they're all coming with him.
- Tonight, Someone Dies: Arthur in the next episode promo at the end. Anyone buy it?
"Heed my words with due concern, for one of you will not return."
- An In-Universe example, said by Mab:
- Up to Eleven: In contrast to only needing one root to enchant Uther, Morgana has rooms full of them waiting for Guinevere. On top of this already being a magical tower.
- Viking Funeral: For Elyan.
- You Are in Command Now: Downplayed, but when they are lost in the forest and Merlin has a way out, all the Knights, even Arthur, follow him.
- You Have to Believe Me!: Merlin's argument when asking the Knights to follow him essentially boils down to. "Just trust me on this". Arthur, as is typical, starts to dismiss him, but the Knights point out that it can't hurt as they're already lost.