This week’s episode of Merlin opens with Nimueh in the ubiquitous cave (DRINK!) hanging out by her magical Baptismal font casting spells and whatnot using a silver chalice and what looks like a piece of clear plastic.
Spoiler Alert: It’s not clear plastic as they didn’t have plastic at Camelot, but you can be sure they had a crimper because Nimueh still looks like a refugee from a music video from the late 80s.
(Okay this picture isn’t the best for illustrating her anachronistic crimping, but you get the idea.)
Anyhoo… she casts a spell on this chalice and the target is clearly Merlin because a vision of him appears in the font. And also she says his name.
There’s a scene change and we’re in the Great Hall at Camelot where Uther and his knights meet up with the King of Mercia and all his knights.
We see Nimueh in disguise lurking in the background. You can tell she’s in disguise because she has a turban on her head. She’s masquerading as a servant. Which seems to be the best way to sneak into Camelot.
She purposely runs into Merlin later in the hallway while carrying a load of what appears to bedding and there’s some flirting going on. She introduces herself as Cara then sneaks into the King of Mercia’s chamber and switches out his goblet gift with her identical but poisoned one.
Meanwhile Arthur takes great glee in informing Merlin that he has to wear the official ceremonial robes of the servants of Camelot to the upcoming feast.
Behold the hat!
The treaty is signed and Merlin is there with Gwen. Nimueh catches Merlin’s eye and Gwen remarks that she’s pretty and apparently Merlin agrees a little too enthusiastically and Gwen gets pissy and huffs away.
The King of Mercia presents Uther and Arthur with some nifty, elaborate silver chalices to seal their friendship and all that jazz and Cara/Nimueh calls Merlin out of the Great Hall to tearfully tell him that her master has poisoned Arthur’s cup.
Merlin runs in, takes the cup away from Arthur, announces that the goblet is poisoned and everybody draws a blade. Including Morgana which is frankly…pretty hot. (Whatever. I find her attractive. Sue me. And my sister is wrong. Katie McGrath is not hotter as a blonde.)
There’s a whole lot of HOW VERY DARE THIS SERVANT BLAH BLAH BLAH and the take away is that Merlin has to drink the wine and prove whether or not it’s poisoned. Arthur does very sweetly try to protect Merlin by suggesting that his drunk, then offers to drink it himself. Merlin won’t let him and after some super dramatic music and a moment of thinking everything is cool Merlin starts to choke, falls to the ground and passes out.
Arthur carries Merlin to Gaius’ chambers and Gwen grabs the chalice for poison identification purposes. Gaius pretty quickly discovers the flower petal (the one that looked like plastic) and identifies it. He tells Arthur and Gwen that the only chance is making an antidote with a lead of the same flower that poisoned him – the aptly named Mortius flower.
He tells Arthur where to find the flower and that it’s guarded by a cockatrice (a super deadly dinosaur looking thing) and Arthur suits up while Nimueh rides on out of Camelot. Uther forbids Arthur from going after the cure saying Arthur’s life is worth more than a serving boy’s. He’s a total asshat. Arthur (disappointingly) goes to his room to pout and Morgana goads him into disobeying the king and saving Merlin. So Arthur rides out in the dead of night to search for the Mortius flower.
Meanwhile Merlin starts speaking Welsh aka magic and Gaius discovers that the poison’s potency was increased with the use of magic and suddenly all the pieces click and he realizes that Cara was Nimueh. Apparently turbans are the most effective of disguises.
Uther has a hissy fit when he discovers that Arthur is gone and is discussing it in his chamber with Morgana. The vibe here is definitely *not* of ward and guardian – they’re arguing more like a married couple who’s having a disagreement about their teenager.
Meanwhile, Arthur makes it to the cave, handily dispatches the cockatrice and runs into Nimueh who’s doing some really bad fake crying and Arthur is all, Yeah, I’ll help you. But you’re gonna have to wait until I help my buddy. So she offers to lead him through the cave to find the flower. He, being Arthur, doesn’t question that she knows what he’s looking for. He just blindly follows her in.
He figures out pretty quickly that she’s up to no good when she casts a spell and disintegrates the rock he was standing on forcing him to leap to this ledge and hang on with his fingertips. She says it’s not his destiny to die at her hand. Which is frankly bullshit. Because if you destroy the rock ledge that someone is standing on and he falls to his death that death is by your hand, bitch.
She takes off and leaves him to dangle knowing that HUGE HORRIBLE SPIDERS ARE COMING.
He fights them off and just as he’s being overwhelmed by the hairy bastards, a glowing orb appears. He thinks that it’s there to attack him, but he quickly figures out that it’s there to help him. Merlin and Arthur are connected even though Merlin is unconscious and Gaius notices that Merlin is holding an orb in his hand.
Arthur manages to get the flower, make his way out of the cave and ride back to Camelot.
As soon as he hits the drawbridge, he’s arrested.
And thrown in the dungeon.
And suddenly…I have the nearly irrepressible urge to write fan fic. It just suddenly…came over me.
Uther comes down to see Arthur to bitch him out for disobeying. Arthur begs him to give the Mortius flower to Gaius to cure Merlin, but Uther, in a fit of epic dickishness, crushes the flower and leaves it on the floor of the dungeon.
Arthur rescues the flower and sneaks it to Gwen when she comes down to bring him food. She races back to Gaius who concocts the fastest acting antidote in the history of ever. He sends Gwen on an errand and uses the forbidden magic in order to save Merlin. Gwen comes back, Merlin wakes up and she kisses him.
I can’t say all the things I want to say right here because of spoilers. And hooboy, it is super hard to keep my mouth shut. But know this, dear readers. I am *not* happy. I will say it’s not because I ship Arthur and Gwen. It doesn’t have anything to do with the source material even. But know that someday soon, I will go off on a tear about this.
Gaius convinces Uther to release the Mercians reveals that Nimueh is behind all this. Gaius asks Merlin if Arthur should be told the truth about Nimueh (and the plot thickens!) Uther and Arthur do a little wrap up on top of the battlements and discuss the mysterious woman in the forest and Uther misses a perfectly good opportunity to come clean with his kid but instead preaches against the evil of magic. But Uther does admit that Arthur did the right thing and that he’s proud of him – so parenting points there.
Arthur goes to visit Merlin under the guise of making sure that he’s coming back to work because good servants are hard to find. And there’s some lovely Merthurness there.
Cut to Nimueh looking furious.
4. Favorite Costume. Someday…I’m gonna make this dress. And the headpiece. This is happening.
5. Here is Proof of some random head canon I’ve created. Okay look. This first season is rife with sexual tension between Uther and Morgana. I think that they have a thing going on. Or at the very least, they want to. I also think Morgana might have some Daddy Issues. Honestly, since the writers were tossing out so many of the traditional story elements, I wish they just would have gone ahead and made Morgana Uther’s queen. That would have been spectacular conflict! But noooooo… Oh right, my flimsy proof is the conversation they have about Arthur.
7. What made Jen lose her shit (in a good or bad way) in this episode? The tone of the conversation between Uther and Morgana after Arthur disobeyed and took off. It’s not at all ward and guardian-like.