We begin with an outdoor establishing shot of Morgana’s hut. Hovel? Cave? Wherever she lives now. Uncle Agravaine is with an unconscious Morgana, stroking her cheek. I’m not sure I understand Uncle Aggy yet, but apparently he has genuine affection for his niece, in a kind of creepy way. Morgana dreams about her previous encounter with Emrys and awakens suddenly. She realizes that someone knew of their plans from the previous episode (yay for continuity!). Uncle Aggy believes that the old court physician, Gaius must be the one who knows the true identity of Emrys, and a plot begins to form in Morgana’s evil mind. They’ll get Gaius to lead them to Emrys, willingly or not. Mwahaha!
Arthur’s kingly sleep is interrupted by Merlin, and we have Bradley James’ shirtless scene #4857647. I’m not complaining, mind you; just an observation. Merlin tries to rouse Arthur, and drags him out of bed, literally. Merlin lists Arthur’s duties for the day. Alas; it’s hard work, being king.
Morgana rides to another kingdom (which looks somewhat culturally North African, how close is Camelot to Morocco?) and seeks out a monk-looking man named Alator, who’s a “Cather”. He is apparently, a powerful warrior-priest of the old religion. Morgana wants him to kidnap Gaius, and after trading her precious healing bracelet, he agrees.
Uncle Agravaine visits Arthur, sowing seeds of doubt about Gaius’ loyalties, and his involvement in sorcery. Arthur agrees to have Gaius questioned, but hangs back, allowing Agravaine to question the court physician. After the inquisition of Gaius, Arthur’s still not convinced the elder physician is guilty of anything, but possibly hiding something. I’m going to stop here for a second and talk a bit about Agravaine. While I’m not sure what his motives are, why he does the things the does; I have to say he is one manipulative, sly dog. While Uther was a shoot- first-ask- questions later type of figure, Agravaine gets what he wants through specious guile. Dude is so good at it; he’s slimy. More on that later.
Agravaine sends Merlin on a knife-sharpening errand, while the kidnappers arrive and free one of the horses from the stables. They’re going to try to make it look as though Gaius fled during the night. Gaius is kidnapped, and as Merlin sets the knife down on Arthur’s night table, the warning bells clang.
Uncle Aggy’s going to make sure incriminating evidence is found, by planting a book of sorcery in Gaius’s chambers. A search by guards yields this item, among other evidence of course. Later, Merlin stands silently nearby, as Agravaine convincingly condemns Gaius as a traitor. Colin Morgan is amazing in this scene, and moments later after Agravaine departs, when he defends Gaius to Arthur. Merlin states outright, that Agravaine is lying, and that because he’s an uncle, Arthur refuses to see who he really is. For now, Merlin is right. Arthur refuses to believe it.
Gaius is taken to a cave where Morgana tells him she wishes to know the whereabouts of Emrys. She’s certain he knows exactly what her hired priest is capable of, regarding extracting the information she seeks. Meanwhile, back in Camelot, Merlin struggles to piece together the mystery of his mentor’s disappearance. Gwen makes a brief appearance here, offering some comforting words, reminding us of their friendship.
Merlin later sneaks into Aggravaine’s chambers, and finds a chest containing books of magic. Agravaine sees Merlin leave. Sir Gwaine offers his help, and it’s nice to see the Merlin/Gwaine friendship onscreen once more, as I was beginning to think the knights of Camelot were becoming backdrop scenery lately. They leave together to find Gaius. Of course, Uncle Aggy sees them leaving, and promptly runs off to warn Morgana that Merlin is onto something.
Gaius is surrounded by a ring of flame, and ultimately reveals that Emrys is Merlin, and that he is the most powerful sorcerer who has ever lived. Merlin/Emrys, a man destined for greatness, who will unite the powers of the old world and the new, and unite Albion. The priest is moved by these words.
Merlin and Gwaine reach the cave, and split up in search of Gaius. Morgana and Agravaine aren’t far behind. Agravaine finds Gaius first, and just as he’s about to slice the elder’s throat, Gwaine arrives, and takes in the scene. He initially believes it was Agravaine who had Gaius abducted, but sneaky ole Uncle Aggy, claims to be helping Gaius, and is merely using his shiny dagger to check to see if poor old Gaius is breathing, you know, how you do that to see if there’s breath on the knife? Like most people? Come on! I was just checking his breath! Really, I swear! I told you Agravaine is a slimy dog. Somehow he gets Gwaine to believe him, but Gwaine also gets him to admit that Gaius had indeed been abducted.
Meanwhile in other parts of the cave, Merlin is caught by Morgana, who threatens to kill him for being a thorn in her side. As a blade hovers near Merlin’s chest, and Morgana spouts a few more evil threats, her hired monk, Alatar enters. She’s kind enough to introduce Merlin before she kills him. Alatar, obviously recognizing the name Merlin as Emrys the great sorcerer, realizes he’s just met the rock star of all sorcerers. He crouches in front of Merlin and tells Morgana that not only does he know who Emrys is, he knows exactly where he is. When Morgana orders Alatar to tell her, he turns, yells, “NEVER!” and then blasts her with his magical staff. Very cool. It seems that Morgana’s view is so narrow, that it would never occur to her that the great Emrys is the servant, who’s also a thorn in her side.
After Morgana is knocked unconscious, Alatar tells Merlin that he knows of the burdens Merlin carries, knows firsthand of the persecutions, and that he and many others would gladly give their lives to help Merlin build this new world.
Now back in Camelot, Gaius recovers from his ordeal. Agravaine tells Arthur that he’s misjudged Gaius and that they owe both Gaius and Merlin an apology. Meanwhile, Morgana awakens in the cave and finds her precious bracelet, a sign that her deal with Alatar is broken. Foiled again!
Gaius is ashamed for giving up Merlin’s secret, but Merlin assures him that he’s done no wrong, and that Morgana still does not know, as she hadn’t counted on Alatar’s true loyalties. Merlin wants to tell Arthur about Agravaine, but Gaius claims they don’t have any hard evidence, and that Arthur wouldn’t believe them.
Arthur enters, and this scene has to be my favorite of the entire episode. The conversation here between Gaius and Arthur is simply beautiful. Arthur admits to making a mistake, and Gaius reminds him that he’s looked after Arthur since he was a baby. He loves him too much to ever betray him. He tells Arthur he believes the abductors were in league with Morgana, and that they wanted information about Camelot, but got nothing from him. Arthur is grateful, yet concerned about Gaius lying with regard to the “sorcerer” who killed his father. Gaius says he chose to protect the sorcerer (Dragoon, who is actually Merlin as an old man), for fear Arthur would have Dragoon executed. Gaius goes on to say that the sorcerer did not kill Uther; he tried to save him, but Uther ultimately died of his injuries.
Gaius goes on to say that Camelot is filled with people of many different beliefs and backgrounds, all of them believe in the world that Arthur is trying to create, all of them protecting their new king. “One day you will understand just how much they’ve done for you.”
What worked: Character growth and relationships. As I’ve said, the scene between Arthur and Gaius was one of the best this episode. As Agravaine is trying to poison Arthur’s way of thinking, Gaius is a counterbalance this time. The young king is vulnerable and still unsure of himself. He needed Gaius there. When the show focuses on character driven episodes, it excels. What also worked was Merlin coming into his own. When Alatar bowed before Merlin, I got chills. Also, I loved that they remembered that Gwaine and Merlin were friends, and one of the knights had more to do.
What needs work: I’d like some clarity or back story about Uncle Agravaine. Hopefully this will unfold with new episodes, otherwise, he’s just a bad guy in league with Morgana, for reasons we can’t comprehend. If he has any love for his dead sister, that love doesn’t seem carry over for his nephew, Arthur. What does he get out of Arthur’s downfall and Morgana’s take-over of the throne? What needs more work: More knights, please and not just for scenery. Give them something to do aside from stand around and look pretty. Also, more Gwen, please.
Next week: A creature of magic called a Lamia, can control men’s minds.