Merlin Club: The Tears of Uther Pendragon (parts 1 & 2) or The One Where Smirking is Synonymous with Evil
I’m so bummed I wasn’t able to watch Merlin with Jess and Jen this week, but I’m in the U.P (The Land of Very Little Reliable Internet) on a family vacation. But I wrote this out in advance. Yay Netflix!
Season three opens with Morgana having been missing for an entire year and Arthur, Merlin and the knights tirelessly searching for her. Uther is beside himself and even though his men are dying left, right and sideways, he refuses to give up the search, and Gaius’ attempt to talk some sense in him goes nowhere.
While Merlin and Arthur are searching (and sniping affectionately at each other) they’re attacked by a band of ruffians. Once the fighting is over, Morgana emerges from the misty woods, terrified bruised, confused and in a completely different gown (though still one of her own) than she was wearing when Morgause magic-ed her out of Camelot during the last episode of last season. Continuity, people. Come on.
Uther is relieved at having Morgana home, and Merlin is freaked the fuck out because he’s terrified that Morgana is going to tell Uther that Merlin tried to poison her. Gaius is all “whatevs, it was for the good of the kingdom” and completely dimisses Merlin’s fears.
The next morning, Gaius wakes Merlin to tell him that Arthur has requested his presence in Morgana’s chambers. He goes to her chambers where he overhears her telling Arthur how she escaped from the bandits. Morgana gives him a look over Arthur’s shoulder as she’s hugging him. She tells Arthur she needs to rest and he leaves. Merlin starts to follow him out, but Morgana tells him she needs to speak to him. She tells him she knows he tried to poison her, but she understands and would have done the same. Then she apologizes for everything she’s done.
Morgana goes to see Uther and he’s overjoyed to see her. There are tears, people. Tears. And Morgana gently wipes them away. Also, side note, Morgana has all of her original jewelry that she left Camelot with. Doesn’t anyone find it odd that she was with bandits and they didn’t take all her pricey rings and bracelet? She apologizes for all the wrongs she’s done to him. As she leaves, we see the first smirk of the season.
That night, Morgana rides out of Camelot – so what? No guards see/hear her? – to a rocky place somewhere outside Camelot’s walls where she meets Morgause who continues to wear Miranda Lambert’s castoffs. She tells her Morgause the everyone believes her story and hands Morgause the handkerchief she used to wipe away Uther’s tears. Morgause drops it into a cauldron full of some kind of horrible looking black goo. Next she drops in a mandrake root that screams as it’s engulfed in the goo. Morgana can hear the screams and Morgause is positively gleeful about it. Only those with magic can hear the screams. They’re concocting a spell to make Uther go insane.
Morgana hangs the dripping mandrake root under Uther’s bed. Later, there’s a feast to welcome Morgana home and Uther makes a toast and talks about how he loves her best. It’s implied. Whatever. After he hugs Morgana again (and she grimaces) he leaves the room a little woozy and needing air, and smirk number two appears.
Uther hallucinates that he sees Ygraine, his dead wife in the well, and she reaches out and grabs his arm. He. Flips. Shit. and starts screaming his head off and hyperventilating until the guards come running. Arthur, Morgana, Gaius and Merlin put an unconscious Uther into his bed, with Morgana being especially solicitous. As soon as everyone’s gone, her disgust reappears. As does her smirk.
Arthur demands to know what could have caused his father’s breakdown. Gaius says he doesn’t know, but Arthur, unlike his father, knows when Gaius is lying, presses him for more info. Gaius tells him that Uther was mumbling Ygraine’s name and that he’d seen her in the well Arthur is worried about rumors spreading.
He’s right to worry, because we next see Morgana gloating to Morgause about how rumors are spreading that the king is going mad. Morgana asks about Cenred (the king adjacent) and Morgause tells her that Cenred wishes only to please her as she readies another mandrake root for Uther.
When Morgana is sneaking back into Camelot, one of the knights spots her and notices the dripping mandrake root, so she stabs him with her dagger and pushes him off the parapet. The warning bells ring as Morgana is hiding the mandrake root in her room.
The next morning, Morgause rides to Cenred’s castle and he and Morgause have some argue-y magical foreplay. She outlines her plan to take Camelot and coerces him into participating.
Arthur warns Uther that Cenred is amassing an army, but unfortunately Uther is too busy seeing a dead druid boy he’d had killed years ago. He tells the child to leave him alone. No one else sees anything except Uther freaking out. He flips shit again and Arthur and Sir Leon have to drag him from the council room. Cue another smirk from Morgana.
The knight Morgana stabbed is found and Gaius has him brought to his chamber. He goes to see Arthur with the dagger that killed the knight and tells him that it belonged to the Blood Guard – those who protected the priestesses of the Old Religion, and that not all of them were wiped out in the great purge. Gaius also drops the bombshell that the dude Morgana stabbed is still alive. She races to Gaius’ chamber and poisons him with a big old bottle of hemlock. Annnnnnnddddd cue smirk.
That night, Merlin brings medicine to Uther who’s sleeping fitfully. He hears the dripping and discovers the mandrake root under the bed and has to hide quickly because Morgana has come into the room. She reaches under the bed without seeing him and grabs the root and leaves.
Merlin follows her into the forest where he sees Morgause and her guard approach. He overhears them discuss the crazy they’re inflicting on Uther and that Cenred’s army will ride on Camelot at Morgause’s command. Morgana also tells her sister that Merlin suspects her. And that he’s there in the woods with them. Merlin runs away and Morguase’s guards give chase, but he’s captured.
Back at Camelot, Gaius tells Arthur that he needs to assume control of the kingdom. Arthur refuses because he doesn’t want to give up on his father.
Morgause questions Merlin who’s now been chained up and when he doesn’t give her the answers she wants, she magically tightens the chains around him and walks away. Because, you know, you should always leave your prisoners unattended. Merlin tries to magically break free, but that only causes the chains to tighten further. He starts hearing strange noises in the woods and starts to panic.
Meanwhile Gaius is looking for Merlin and asks Gwen and Morgana about it. You’ll be unsurprised to know that there was smirking.
Back in the woods, we see what was making the unsettling noises. The giant scorpions of doom. Tons of them and they’re all coming for Merlin.
Arthur is keeping vigil by his father’s bed and Morgana comes to comfort him. She promises to look after Uther. And smirks.
Merlin uses magic to beat back the scorpions, but not before one stings him. Using his Dragon Lord voice, he summoning the dragon as Cenred’s army rides toward Camelot. As the scorpions creep forward again, the dragon swoops in to rescue him.
The next episode opens with Merlin waking in the dragon’s cave, sick from the scorpion’s poison. Meanwhile, Arthur is all pissed because Merlin isn’t there and he has to do shit for himself. Gaius worries about Merlin and Morgana skulks around the castle and creates a diversion to draw the guards away from Uther’s room so she can get in and change out the mandrake root while torturing him a bit with it first.
Merlin demands to go back to Camelot because the kingdom is in danger. And the dragon points out that Merlin’s desire to see good in people is pretty much his undoing. The dragon also trots out the unfortunate news that Merlin’s and Morgana’s fates are joined.
Merlin gets his the dragon to fly him back to Camelot. Before the dragon takes off, he tells Merlin that Arthur’s destiny and the future of Albion lie in Merlin’s hands. No pressure, man. No pressure. Merlin sneaks into Camelot and wakes up Gaius. Merlin tells him about Morgana and Morgause and brings him to Uther’s chambers where they find Uther’s room trashed and Uther whimpering in a corner in his nightclothes.
Uther’s having hallucinations of Ygraine and a bunch of drowned children. Merlin grabs the mandrake root and throws it in the fire, freeing Uther of the spell. Gaius medicates him. Merlin wants to tell Uther about Morgana’s treason. Gaius refuses to do it because Uther would kill them both. Meanwhile, Cenred’s army gets closer to Camelot.
The next morning Merlin goes to Arthur’s chamber which is a sty and Arthur bitches him out for being gone and leaving without his permission. They argue, Arthur throws shit at Merlin. Later, Morgana spots Arthur and Merlin walking through the courtyard and she’s all WTF because Merlin should be dead.
Morgana goes to Uther’s chamber to recharge the mandrake root and Gaius surprises her while she’s looking under the bed and asks if she’s lost something. Busted. She claims she’s looking for her earring. Nice save. Gaius passes on the news that Uther will make a full recovery and Morgana is not pleased.
Later, waiting in an alcove, she grabs Merlin as he’s walking by and threatens him not to breathe a word of what he saw or she’ll make his life short and painful. Morgana, honey, why not just kill him now? Loose ends, my sweet. Loose ends.
Sir Leon tells Arthur the news that Cenred’s army will be there soon and they have twice as many men. Arthur decides to prepare the city for siege. Merlin tries to tell Arthur not to worry. It doesn’t go well. Later, Gwen tries to tell Arthur the same thing. It goes marginally better.
Morgana watched Camelot prepare for siege and smirks a lot. Then, she sneaks out to meet with Morgause to tell her that Merlin is alive and has destroyed the mandrake root. Morgause tells her not to worry, that Cenred’s army is nearly there and that Morgana must play her part. Morgause gives her a staff from the High Priestesses of the Isle of the Blessed, and Morgana vows not to fail her sister.
There’s a big old siege preparation montage punctuated by longing glances between Arthur and Guinevere. Cenred’s forces will be there in a matter of hours. Arthur sits vigil a little longer by Uther’s bed until Merlin tells him it’s time. Before he leaves his unconscious father’s side, Arthur promises not to let him down. He then goes to ready himself for battle.
Merlin tells Arthur it’s his fate to be the greatest king Camelot has ever known and to trust in himself. Arthur studies Merlin for a minute then tells him that he’s wise. Then he goes to meet his troops in the armory and after a rousing cry of “For the love of Camelot!” they go out to load up the catapults to aim at Cenred’s army that has massed outside the castle.
Cenred begins his attack by hurling giant flaming balls of something at the castle and Uther wakes as they hit the castle walls. All of a sudden Cenred’s army rushes in. For all the talk of Camelot being impregnable, they got in pretty damn easily. Uther comes outside, dressed for battle and fights to defend Camelot.
Inside, Gaius, Gwen and Morgana are tending to the wounded and Merlin warns Gaius to keep an eye on Morgana before running back to the fighting to find Arthur. Arthur freaks when he sees Uther fighting and pulls him away from the battle. Uther takes a cross bow bolt to the leg and Arthur calls for the knights to retreat as Cenred’s army swarms the walls. They give chase and Merlin uses his magic to enhance the fire already burning to give the knights time to escape.
Morgana sneaks out of the hospital ward and runs to her room to get the staff. Gaius tries to follow her and when he doesn’t see her hiding behind the damn door, he leaves. Meanwhile the battle rages on and Arthur pulls the bolt from Uther’s leg and Merlin helps Uther away from the fighting and into the hospital ward.
Gaius tells Merlin that Morgana has disappeared. Meanwhile Morgana is down in the crypt and forces the staff through the floor. Merlin feels the magic and knows where to find her. Morgause feels it, too. In the crypt, the staff shoots out glowing blue beams and starts raising knights from the dead. Skeletal knights, but knights nonetheless. Oh, and they have swords.
They attack from within the citadel and are pretty much unstoppable. Mostly because they’re already dead. Arthur tells Merlin to tell Gaius to seal off the hospital while he continues to fight. The castle is soon overrun. The knights are trapped between Cenred’s army and the skeleton army. Things are not looking good for our heroes.
Merlin finds Morgana in the basement and confronts her and tries to convince her to use her powers for good. To find another way. But Morgana isn’t having it. She tells him there’s no other way. Merlin runs for the staff but Morgana blocks him and holds a sword on him. He grabs a sword and they fight while outside the battle continues to rage.
She knocks the sword from Merlin’s hand and with some whispered magic, he knocks in part of the roof and it hits her and knocks her out. With a spell and his sword, he cuts the rowan staff in half, severing its power.
The skeletons collapse, Camelot’s knights rally and they turn the tide of battle against Cenred’s army. Cenred calls off his remaining troops and they retreat. Morgause is furious.
The next day, Uther addresses his knights and praises Morgana for destroying the magical staff in the crypt and calls her a hero. Meanwhile, she and Merlin as having a stare down. Later, in Gaius’ chamber, Merlin is frustrated because Uther doesn’t see Morgana’s true nature, and Gauis warns Merlin to be careful of her.
And now…finally…it’s time for the questions.
And now, the questions.
1. If I’d written this episode…I would have made have made it clear why Morgana doesn’t just kill Merlin. He knows everything. Keeping him alive without some really clear and understandable reasons seems like a terrible idea.
2. The thing I loved/hated most about this episode. I’m still pretty bothered about the Merlin is still alive thing. NOT because I want Merlin dead (sheesh, Jess!) but because I want a solid reason why Morgana doesn’t just kill him. I’m all still annoyed about how Gaius is all set to lead the Morgana is Evil Parade. He acts like he had no part in driving her down this path.
On the positive side, I think it’s really sweet how Merlin’s belief in him lifts Arthur’s flagging spirits.
3. Something you’ve never noticed about this episode before. Morgana returned to Camelot in an different dress by with all her jewelry after supposedly being kidnapped by bandits.
4. Favorite Costume. Gotta give it to Morgana’s red cloak and dress. I also really like her armor, but I couldn’t find a decent picture of it. Besides, I like the Little Red vibe.
5. Here is Proof of some random head canon I’ve created. I didn’t create this, but I concur with it. Morgana and Morgause are supposed to be half sisters, and again, in this episode, she seem to have a lot more going on.
6. What Merthur moment did Jess have the naughtiest thoughts about? It has to be when Arthur asks Merlin if his “little bottom is sore.” I feel certain that in Jess’ head, the sore bum was for entirely different reasons. And also this.
7. What made Jen lose her shit (in a good or bad way) in a bad way? And for Jen, I give you all the smirks that have gone unnoticed in these two episodes.
Jess’ take on the episode is here
, and Jen’s is here