Title: The Eye of the Phoenix
Directed by: Alice Troughton
Written by: Julian Jones
Special Guests: Eoin Macken as Gwaine, Emilia Fox as Morgause, Warwick Davis as Grettir, Donald Sumpter as The Fisher King
Picture: Merlin BBC
Arthur is preparing (with the aide of his ever-faithful servant, Merlin) for a ritual. He walks into the empty, darkish throne room and kneels on the ground, and closes his eyes. Merlin watches from the doorway, where he is joined by Gwen. He tells Gwen that Arthur is thinking, and when questioned about what , Merlin cheekily answers “You.” receiving a jab in the side for his trouble.
They leave Arthur kneeling there, and Merlin tells Gwen that Arthur must meditate on a quest he must complete. Gwen is sceptical, and incredulously asks if Merlin will stay with him all night. Merlin reprimands her, stating that this is one of the most important times of a young princes’ life. Gwen looks at Merlin, chastened but amused.
Merlin is found by Uther and his entourage, snoring outside the throne room. They sweep past him, and Uther rouses Arthur, telling him to reveal the quest he must take. Arthur tells them that he can see only one path; he is to travel to the realm of the fisher king, and retrieve the golden trident – spoken of in the legend of the Fallen Kings. Uther asks if Arthur understands that if he is to prove himself worthy of the throne; he must make the journey alone and unaided. As a worried Merlin looks on, Arthur answers affirmative.
Merlin is stuffing his face at breakfast with Gaius, who warns him he will get hiccups. Merlin asks who the Fisher King is. Gaius informs him that he was a sorcerer (was there any doubt?) who lived many hundreds of years ago. He was wounded in battle – the wound festered, and the infection not only spread through his body, but through his lands as well; leaving them a wasteland to this day. When Merlin queries why Uther is worried, Gaius informs him that some believe that the Fisher King is still alive, kept that way due to his magic. In addition – the Fisher King’s land is known by people in the North as the perilous lands, and few who ventured there have returned.
Arthur is preparing for the journey in his chambers while Merlin (who, indeed, has the hiccups, much to Arthur’s annoyance) does his chores. Arthur tells the hiccuping Merlin that he needs quiet, as this is the most important journey of his life. Merlin, instead of leaving him alone, looks at the maps on Arthur’s desk and queries why they are all different, only told that not many people have been there. Merlin chastises Arthur, asking why he couldn’t have chosen something a bit easier- Arthur bites back that as he is proving his worth to the people, a quick trip to the lower town to collect some herbs probably wouldn’t cut it. Merlin suggests coming with Arthur to help, again to be told that Arthur is to do this task alone and unaided, and that that wouldn’t change for Merlin. Merlin finally leaves, giving off one last hiccup (at least Arthur didn’t throw anything this time!)
Gwen and Morgana are in the market place, looking at material and having fun. Suddenly an old woman grabs Morgana’s arm, asking for a moment of her time, and calling her ‘sister’. Morgana realises that it’s Morgause, and wanders off with her, telling Gwen not to worry. When they are alone, Morgana is told that the enchantment that Morgause has will not hold, and to quickly tell her what Arthur’s quest is. Morgause then hands over a bracelet, instructing Morgana to give it to Arthur as a token, and then cast an enchantment on a likeness of Arthur, binding the magic to him. When Arthur does not return, Morgana will be the soul heir to the throne of Camelot. The sisters share a smile, and Morgause, as an old woman, hobbles off. She passes Gwen, who sees her in a reflection of a mirror – revealing it is Morgause. Gwen gasps and , panicked, asks Morgana is she is okay. Morgana dismisses Gwen’s concern, saying that the old woman had no money to feed her family, and it was their duty to help. She looks at a befuddled Gwen challengingly, and walks off.
Gwen waits outside Arthur’s chambers for him. He tells her that he’ll be careful, and when she says ‘for me?’ , he gives a slight nod, and leans in and softly kisses her. Arthur makes his way to the courtyard, where Merlin waits with Arthur’s horse. Morgana and Uther watch from the stairs, and Arthur bows to them. They return the gesture. Morgana comments that Uther looks troubled, and when he says that Arthur is ‘sole heir’ , Morgana tells him that she is sure a ‘Pendragon’ will rule Camelot for years to come (Since when does she identify as a Pendragon?).
Arthur mounts his horse, and he and Merlin share affectionate smiles. Merlin suddenly senses something, and glances at Arthur’s wrist, where Morgause’s bracelet lays. Arthur murmurs that it’s beautiful, and that it was a present from Morgana, and then rides off, leaving Merlin frozen in shock in the courtyard. Back in his and Gaius’ chambers, they rifle through books, trying to find the stone that Merlin saw. He insists that he sensed magic, and that if it was a gift from Morgana, that it had to mean that Arthur was in trouble. As Arthur rides to Mercia,Merlin and Gaius finally discover what the bracelet is – an ‘eye of the Phoenix , or ‘fire bird’. It will burn the life force of anyone who comes into contact with it – in this case – Arthur. The eye of the phoenix will burn the energy from him and if he wears it for too long, he will die. Merlin exclaims that he has to go after Arthur – but Gaius tells him that he cannot go alone.
Merlin rides from Camelot. At night, Morgana once again proves that she no longer cares for anyone but herself; as she binds the eye of the phoenix to Arthur’s life force, it flares with magic as Arthur sleeps restlessly. Gwen enters Morgana’s chambers without knocking and is told very forcefully to get out. Gwen, starting to see that her lady isn’t exactly who she used to be, leaves.
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WOO! The Fisher King! Okay, so, not the guard of the Holy Grail in this retelling, but still a very important part of this Prince Arthur’s Story. Or, is it MERLIN’S story? (And he wasn’t evil!) I loved that Arthur dreamt of a quest that he could not complete without Merlin, and that Merlin could not complete without him. The fisher king’s story was a sad one, and Merlin’s part was noble, and I’m so happy that it seems that, edging closer to the end of this season, Merlin is getting equipped with methods to stop Morgana. I love that Gwaine is loyal to Merlin, and, because of that, loyal to Arthur – and Gwaine still continues to be a wonderfully fun character.
I really, really enjoyed this episode. In fact, I loved it. It was a fun adventure – and I even loved the Arthur and Gwen moments. Oh, thank GOD Gwen knows about Mood Change Evil Morgana. THANK. GOD.
One thing though – ARTHUR. PLEASE follow in Gwen’s footsteps on getting a clue? Soon?? Please? The fact that Arthur doesn’t click to the MAGIC and STRENGTH reference that Grettir told him about, when Merlin and Gwaine show up still makes me worried for the intelligence of the Once and Future King, courageous as he may be.
Loved it? Hated it? Have your say!
(I’m putting in a little addendum -WARWICK DAVIS!! \0/ And I loved Grettir. Here’s a little name nerd sidebar – hello, another norse name in addition to ‘Freya’)