Written By: Julian Jones
Directed by: Alice Troughton
Brought to you by OBS Staff Member Karolina
Picture from Merlin BBC
We begin this episode where we left off – the knights (well, primarily Lancelot) are tending to a half dead Merlin , after his (literal) run -in with the dorocha. Leon and Arthur stand a little further away, both watching on somberly. Arthur states that they have to get Merlin back to Gaius – and Leon argues that that they cannot abandon the quest, that hundreds would die – not just Merlin- if they did. Lancelot states that he will take Merlin back to Camelot, cutting through the valley of the Fallen Kings to save time. Arthur looks conflicted, but agrees. As Arthur and Gwaine secure Merlin to his horse, Arthur quietly tells Merlin that this is his fault, and that he is sorry. Merlin, barely conscious, begs Arthur to let him go with Arthur, to which Arthur resolutely tells him that he is dying, and makes it clear that he is not sacrificing Merlin’s life. As Merlin and Lancelot ride off, Arthur watches them sadly.
As Merlin and Lancelot ride into the valley of the Fallen Kings, Arthur and he rest of his knights ride to the Isle of the Blessed. They begin some of their journey on foot, to give the horses a bit of a rest, and Gwaine gets distracted by the buzzing of bees, deducing that; bees = food. Leon, in the meantime, tries to reassure Arthur that letting Merlin go with Lancelot was the right thing to do. He tells Arthur (as the bees take out their revenge on Gwaine in the background) that if anyone can get Merlin back to Camelot safely, it’s Lancelot.
Lancelot and Merlin stop at a stream for a rest – Lancelot lays Merlin down next to him as he moves to gather some water in his hands. As Lancelot watches, Merlin’s hand falls gently into the water, and begins to lightly shine. All of a sudden, Lancelot hears a female voice calling his name. A drop of water raises from the stream, and a face of a female appears. She tells Lancelot that they mean him no harm, and that they are Vilia, spirits of the brooks and streams. She informs him that the tearing of the veil has disrupted the spirit world – and that both good and bad spirits roam free, but that can not continue for long. When Lancelot tries to reassure the spirit that Arthur is riding to repair the veil, she informs him that Arthur will need both Lancelot and Merlin’s help. She tells Lancelot that Merlin (actually calling him by name) is stronger than he gives him credit for. That the young warlock has a great future, and a destiny that has been written before the dawn of time. She informs him that even now, her sisters are healing Merlin.
With the knights, it’s return of the Wildren and gaia berries, as it is determined that the quickest way to the Isle of the Blessed, and to get away from the dorocha, is through what looks like the the caves of Andor (all three things first seen in Merlin s2 “Lancelot and Guinevere”). Gwaine complains a bit, until he is saved by Percival from a dorocha and they rush into the caves. Arthur explains to the knights that the wildren are completely blind that they have covered themselves in gaia berries to mask their scent from the beasts. When Gwaine hears that there is no chance that they will not run into wildren in the caves, he strategically places himself behind Arthur. Sure enough, they encounter some wildren and the knights hide. Unfortunately, one seems intent on sniffing Gwaine, who kills it with his sword. He looks to Arthur and the other knights for approval, only to be told by Arthur that he is a fool; while the one at his feet is dead -Wildren hunt in packs. The knights, hearing the cry of more angry wildren, flee.
Back in Camelot, distressed villagers get locked out of Camelot as Gwen informs Gaius that Agravaine has decreed that the city gates be closed at night fall. Gaius and Gwen confront Agravaine, who is in a council meeting, and he informs them that he did it to preserve Camelot’s supplies. Gwen speaks up, asking for a moment of the council’s time. Agravaine, with an amused look on his face, allows Gwen the floor. She speaks of how Arthur had taught her the importance of Camelot’s people and that he would never allow for this to happen. Agravaine attempts to placate her, but is told by Gwen that he is wrong. That those people behind the gates are the farmers and land owners – the people who provide Camelot with the produce that they eat, and that they bring with them far more than they take. She states that Arthur had left on his journey three days ago, and that it would take another three for him to reach his intended goal – unless Agravaine believed that Arthur would fail. Agravaine states that he did not believe that, and Geoffrey of Monmouth speaks up to agree with Gwen. Agravaine agrees for the gates to be reopened.
Lancelot wakes near the stream, to find Merlin no longer next to him. He calls out for Merlin, only to be shushed by Merlin, who is spearing fish. They tossle and joke for a bit, until Merlin makes his way to the horses to go and rejoin Arthur and the knights. Lancelot tries to tell Merlin that they are going back to Camelot, to which Merlin answers “You might be. Say hi to Gaius for me.” Lancelot states that Arthur is right about him, that Merlin never does what he is told, and Merlin agrees, doggedly making his way to the horses. With the knights, Leon attempts to get Arthur to rest, using the excuse that even Gwaine has gone quiet. Arthur argues back that that is a reason to keep going. As this is going on , Agravaine rides to Morgana , to inform her that the plan is going to schedule, and that even if Arthur makes it to the Isle of the Blessed it would be too late. Although the news that Agravaine brings appears to be in Morgana’s favour, she picks up on Agravaine’s unrest. They talk about Gwen, Morgana claiming that she is dangerous, and sharing with Agravaine the dream she had about Gwen seated on the queen’s throne of Camelot. Agravaine and Morgana plot Gwen’s death.
Back in Camelot, Gwen tends to a slightly more lucid Uther, who is asking for Arthur. Gwen tells him that he is on a hunting trip , and shall return soon. Agravaine is waiting for Gwen – he apologises for the way he acted, and she does the same. He asks her if she will join him for dinner, so he can seek her council over what the people of Camelot want. Gwen, surprised but flattered, agrees. Gaius enters at the tail end of their conversation, and after Agravaine leaves and Gwen tells him of Agravaine’s proposal, looks troubled.
Merlin and Lancelot try to make their way back to Arthur and the knights, and stop at a home where the dorroka have been, if the frozen body is any indication. Merlin lights a fire using his magic as they settle for the night, sadly telling Lancelot that he’s ‘not completely useless’.
Gaius looked troubled about Agravaine’s interest in Gwen with good reason, as the next thing we see is Morgana sneaking into Camelot, killing a guard on her way. Agravaine and Gwen speak about whether the people feel safe, and Agravaine creepily stands behind Gwen. Then lets her go, ordering his knights to walk her to her place “safely”. Of course, this is a lie, because Morgana watches on and knocks the guards and Gwen down to the ground with magic.
The knights rest while Arthur surveys the area. Elyan comes up to talk to him about what to expect when they reach the Isle of the blessed, but Arthur does not want to talk about it. Elyan gently reminds Arthur that he and the other knights would gladly lay down their lives for him, and that they are a unit, and he is not alone. He encourages Arthur to get some rest while he takes of watching. Arthur gratefully thanks him, only for the knights to hear the screech of a dorocha.
Gaius checks on Uther back in Camelot ; to find Gwen missing. He searches the grounds – only to find Gwen, passed out, with a head wound, about to be attacked by a dorocha, that Gaius easily dissuades with the torch he is carrying.
Lancelot and Merlin discuss the quest, Merlin telling Lancelot that he does not have to journey with him. Lancelot states that Merlin would not understand; that it does not make sense to him either. They speak of Gwen, and his promise to keep Arthur safe (something that Merlin assures Lancelot that he will do). Lancelot states that he will not come between Lancelot and Arthur, as Gwen loves Arthur, who is the better man.
Gwen wakes from her head wound, and Gaius informs her that he suspects foul play in regards to her injury – and that outright murdering her would be suspicious – so she was left for the dorocha.
Speaking of the dorocha – Merlin and Lancelot are attacked by a bunch of them in their hideout. Merlin makes the fire flare to destroy the first one – and then as he and Lancelot run through the forest, Merlin chants the call to kilgarrah, who appears and flames the remaining dorocha. Once the dorocha have been destroyed, Merlin gratefully bows to Kilgarrah. Lancelot is wary of Kilgarrah, but the Great Dragon knows of Lancelot – prophesying of “the bravest and most noble of them all” . Merlin informs the dragon of his plan to sacrifice himself to seal the rift to the spirit world, which seems to sadden the flying beast. Dragon says that rift must be sealed, but Calleach will demand a blood sacrifice. “It will be an empty world without you, young warlock,” Kilgarrah states, actually sounding sad.
The following morning, Lancelot questions Merlin’s decision, unsure if he would ever be willing to give up his own life. “You have to have a reason,” Merlin tells him. “Something you care about. Something that’s more important than anything.”
Lancelot and Merlin notice that they are not the first to reach the path, and Merlin asks if they will be able to make it by night fall. Lancelot answers there is only one way to find out, and they begin to ride. In the castle, Gwaine takes off his boots and socks, much to the disgust of Elyan and Leon who quickly move to the other side of the fire to sit next to Percival and Arthur, Gwaine complains about being the butt of their jokes and tells them to pick on Percival – to which Elyan and Leon answer that at least Percival bathes, and doesn’t set his socks on fire (yep, Gwaine’s sock is ,in fact, on fire). Arthur hears an noise, so the knights get ready to do battle. They see Lancelot, and Arthur, looking distressed, asks after Merlin. Lancelot answers “Bad news. He’s still alive” as Merlin appears behind him. Arthur looks happy and relieved as Merlin is engulfed in a hug from Elyan, Percival and Leon, and then a separate one from Gwaine. As the knights welcome Lancelot back and hug him, Arthur and Merlin awkwardly greet each other, until Arthur pulls Merlin into a one armed hug. Later that night, Merlin and Arthur quietly talk as they watch the knights sleep. Merlin tells Arthur not to sacrifice his life, insisting that he will take his place. “What is the life of a servant compared to that of a prince?” he reasons, but Arthur won’t hear of it. Instead, he makes Merlin promise to look after Gwen when he’s gone.
The knights finally reach the Isle of the Blessed, but are attacked by wyverns. Merlin fends one off with his dragon lord powers, but more descend on them. Leon, Elyan, and Percival remain remain behind to fend the creatures off, Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine and Lancelot continue to meet the Calleach.
They try to reason with the Callieach, who knocks out Gwaine when he tries to attack her. Arthur announces that he’s prepared to give up his life and approaches the rift, but Merlin casts a spell, knocking the prince to the floor.
With Arthur unconscious. Merlin steps forward. The Calleach seems pleased that Merlin is willing to challenge her, and Merlin once again reiterates that it is his his destiny to give up his life for Arthur, but the hag tells him, “Your time among men is not yet over Emrys, even if you want it to be.” She turns towards the rift, as does Merlin. While he was distracted, Lancelot has walked, with a peaceful smile on his face, into the rift. Merlin cries out – Lancelot is gone and the rift is sealed.
Returning to Camelot, a sombre Arthur pays tribute to Lancelot, swearing that he will never be forgotten. As his cloak and sword burn, Arthur declares, “He was the most noble knight I’ll ever know.” Camelot is in mourning and Gwen in particular is devastated by Lancelot’s death, telling Arthur of the promise she made him agree to. Arthur looks shocked and squeezes the sobbing Gwen’s shoulder as he walks away
Morgana is furious at being defeated. she’s certain that Emrys is to blame for her misfortune. She furiously tells Agravaine (who is trying to placate her) that he must find out the identity of Emrys.
Agravaine pays Gaius a visit, unaware Merlin is listening from this room. Agravaine enquires about Emrys, but Gaius claims that he’s never heard of him. As Agravaine leaves and Merlin emerges, Gaius grimly notes, that Morgana is the only one who could have heard that name from the Calleach – and that Agravaine is probably not as noble as he seems. Gaius warns Merlin that they must be wary of Agravaine – Morgana can never discover the true identity of Emrys.
Once again – I was completely blown away by this episode. I have to admit – I’m not a “fangirl for life” type person. I get bored or put off by many things in tv shows, either by over done story lines, boring subplots, or out of character moments with no plot or character development very, very easily. I’ve dropped shows I wish I hadn’t. And yet – with Merlin, even after four years ; same story, same lead cast, same setting – I’m more in love with this show than ever. The character development in this was great – Arthur being man enough to apologise to Merlin and care about his well being (and yet still make the decision that Lancelot should go off with Merlin, even though it was a hard one). The knights being so loyal to Arthur and being overjoyed when Lancelot and Merlin made it back to them . I loved Merlin’s continuing dedication to Arthur and I love that Merlin isn’t the comic relief (well, at least in these two episodes – and at the expense of Gwaine – but Eoin Macken pulls it off beautifully). My beautiful, outspoken Gwen of season 1 seems to be back too. I love this evil Morgana, who really is a lot more toned down than the Morgana of Season 3. I loved the throw backs to earlier seasons. I loved the vilia (even though I’m not quite sure what slavic water spirits are doing in the region of the valley of the fallen kings, but, hey) and the proof once again that not all magic is evil. Lancelot was noble, but not over the top. I loved his confusion on where he fit in to this story. Merlin and Arthur resting near each other and chatting about who will be the sacrifice was BEAUTIFUL. I love, love love love , how far those two characters have come. It’s what I always wanted to see.
I have to put a little side note in here – earlier this year, a close friend of mine and I were lucky enough to be in Pierrefonds and witnessed the shooting of the funeral scene seen in this episode. Bradley James – before they actually started filming – called out “We’ll miss you, Gaius” to a shocked crowd of fans (yes, I gasped and grabbed my friends’ arm). One thing was off though – the fact there was a sword in the fire. My friend and I discussed the scene on the trip back to Paris, and for days on end after – we concluded that if it was not Gaius – then it had to be Uther – due to the sword. So, well played, Mr James – you completely got us.
I loved these two eps because they had an amazing action /adventure feel, wrapped in pure fantasy and major hint of a legend that I have always loved.
What did you thing of the darkest hour parts one and two? We’d love to hear from you! Don’t forget to join us in the forum either!