It's time for another installment of Merlin Club! You can see Jess' take on it here. And Jen's here.
This episode opens in a cave with Nimueh, an attractive young sorceress with brilliant blue eyes (and a bad crimp job) is standing in front of what looks like a Baptismal font making a homely little clay fetus of some sort.
Then she puts it in a large egg, casts a spell over it in Welsh and the egg begins to pulse and glow with life. Then she flushes it down the Baptismal font and it shoots through the ground water system like it’s a pod in one of those vacuum tubes at the bank and ends up in a cistern under Camelot. It starts to crack open and Nimueh finishes her spell.
In the next scene we see Merlin and Gaius checking out a dead body laying in the middle of an alley in Camelot. The corpse is all gray with black veins. They load the dude up in a wheelbarrow that they just “borrow” from some poor peasant’s place and my kid chooses this point to look at the screen and immediately starts calling, “Bring out your dead.” And the other one hollers from the other room, “I’m not dead yet.” And chaos descends upon my house as the rest of the scene is reenacted because that’s what happens when you let your children watch Monty Python during their formative years.
Back to Merlin. After Gwen gives her father his lunch for the day, she runs into Merlin and flirts with him a bit, gives him a flower and goes on her merry way to Morgana’s chambers where we see again that Morgana is actually good friends with her chamber maid. Merlin and Gaius study the corpse they brought home with them and Arthur summons them both to the King. And we see the opposite of Morgana and Gwen’s relationship in Arthur’s interaction with Merlin. Arthur is incredibly hot, but he’s kind of an asshat for 88% of the first season.
There’s another gray veiny body in Uther’s room where he does king things. (I can’t think of what that room is called because I’m mostly frozen and I cannot brain.) Gaius suggests that it’s SORCERY and Uther sends Arthur out on a door to door search through the town to root out the evil sorcerer. Merlin and Gaius head out, too and Merlin stumbles across a dying man and wants to use magic to cure him, but Gaius is all NO! SCIENCE!
Gaius has mad autopsy skills and is able to test the contents of the first victim’s stomach. Meanwhile, Arthur and his knights bust in and start searching the room for evidence of magic. Arthur goes into Merlin’s room and calls Merlin in there. There’s some concern on the part of Gaius and Merlin because Merlin doesn’t pick up shit and they both know his spell book is likely lying around. Arthur goes into Merlin’s room and calls him in there, saying “Look what I found.” Spoiler alert – it was a cupboard to put away his shit. Not the magic book. But you know, moment of tension. Merlin and Gaius argue some more about Merlin wanting to use magic to cure people.
Arthur tells Uther that he hasn’t found anything to identify any sorcerers. Merlin and Gaius figure out that the disease is water-bourn. Gwen wakes her father and discovers he has the sickness. Merlin demands to be allowed to heal Gwen’s dad. Gaius predictably says no. Merlin sneaks out that night and places a little poultice thingy under Gwen’s dad’s pillow and poof he’s healed.
Hearing about the miracle the next morning, Arthur and his nights come to investigate and it’s determined that Gwen used magic to heal her father since she was the only one there with him. Gwen is arrested and thrown into the dungeon because she’s clearly the sorcerer that’s causing all the trouble.
Side note: Arthur is particularly hot in this episode.
Anyhoo Uther sentences Gwen to death by fire and Morgana argues with him about it. And Arthur defends Gwen, too. It goes nowhere, because, well, you know how Uther is about magic. Gaius gets his angry face on with Merlin about healing Gwen’s father and Merlin figures out that yeah, that was a bad move. But here’s what I don’t get. WHY would Merlin leave the damn thing under Gwen’s father’s pillow. He knows they’re searching the town for magic-y things. Bad move, wizard boy.
So now Gwen is in the dungeon, Merlin is vowing to save her. Merlin goes to Uther’s king type room where he’s doing king type things with his council members and confesses to being the sorcerer. There’s a pregnant pause and everyone laughs. Arthur immediately jumps into action to protect Merlin and explains that Merlin is in love with Gwen and also mentally ill. Of course, everyone believes him. So Merlin is left to figure something out.
Merlin and Gaius go on an adventure to find out what’s contaminating the water. They discover an Afanc – the clay creature who’s not a fetus anymore. It’s big and ugly and plague-y. Merlin goes to the dragon to get advice and gets riddles instead because the dragon gets off on being cryptic. But he hints that Merlin and Arthur must work together and use the elements.
Gwen’s execution is moved forward because a ton of people are dying. Morgana gets Arthur to help with some well placed snark and they go with Merlin down to the water supply to search for the Afanc. Happily, they have torches and when the creature attacks Merlin uses his magic to suck some wind down into the tunnel and increase the flames to destroy the Afanc. Nimueh has a tantrum.
After the Afanc’s destruction, people start getting better. Gaius brings Uther the Afanc’s broken egg and points out that it bears the mark of Nimueh. Uther flips shit. Merlin and Morgana go down to the dungeon to release Gwen. And Morgana tells him that she knows his secret. He of course thinks she’s talking magic. But she’s talking Gwen.
The episode closes with Merlin and Gaius eating a ridiculous amount of food for two people and Nimueh deciding that she’s going to take Merlin down. Cue tense music for next week’s episode.
Okay…now on to the questions!
1. If I’d written this episode, I would have changed… Honestly? This is so petty, but I would have taken the crimper away from the hair stylist. I can't take a villain seriously who employs crimping as a style choice.
2. The thing I loved/hated most about this episode. The thing I hated was the love/hate flirtyesque banter between Morgana and Arthur because of later revelations. The thing I loved was how Arthur defended Gwen to his father and gave some thought to his own future as the King of Camelot.
3. Something you’ve never noticed about this episode before. The first time I saw this episode, I didn't notice that the poultice was still all glowy when the knight picked it up from Gwen's father's bed.
4. Favorite Costume. I'm gonna go with Arthur's casual prince wear - long leather coat, breeches, boots...le sigh.
5. Here is Proof of some random head canon I’ve created. Yeah...I know. I'm lame. I still have nothing. :/
6. What Merthur moment did Jess have the naughtiest thoughts about? The lovely meaningful look shared by Merlin and Arthur when Arthur tried to protect Merlin by convincing everyone that Merlin is all kinds of crazypants.
7. What made Jen lose her shit (in a good or bad way) in this episode? I'm gonna guess it was when Merlin uses magic to save Gwen's father but can't be arsed to take care of the evidence.