Episode: A Herald of a New Age. Original air-date: 03/09/2012…so…yeah…turns out there was a new episode of Merlin two weeks ago. For some reason, this crazy blogger had it in her head that there wasn’t. I’m not entirely sure why I thought that, but we’re going to blame Fringe. And the fact that it’s not back on the air yet.
And I’m sad that I waited so long to see this episode because it was pretty fantastic, with Bradley James reaching a new depth to Arthur and lots of my Hot Knights present. There’s a reason they were the Nice Boys of the Week, and this episode proves it.
The episode begins, after a bit of ragging on the knights because Gwaine drank the last of Elyan’s water, with all of them stumbling over a shrine. We know this is creepy because the soundtrack plays the patented creepy music (pay attention: we’ll be hearing the patented suspenseful music later), and Merlin and Arthur in particular look perturbed. Even though they pretend to shrug it off, you can tell the atmosphere is bugging the rest of the knights. Merlin warns them to disturb nothing and to leave, as disturbing the smallest thing will upset the magic binding the restless spirit to the earth. For the most part, they obey; Elyan, in typical “first to die in a horror movie” fashion spots a well and slakes his thirst. Patented suspenseful music (see?) starts up and we see the reflection of what I’m going to call Creepy Drowning Kid, or CDK for short. Of course, when Elyan looks up, there’s nothing there.
Back to Camelot! The knights unpack their armor, talking over the strangeness, and Gwaine helpfully tosses Merlin a bag of salt. A ring of that, he says, at the footboard of his bed, will keep the spirits away—either that, or it’ll make great seasoning for Gaius. I enjoy how helpful Gwaine is. He’s looking out for Gaius’s epicurean adventures! Now that, my friends, is nobility at its finest.
Merlin talks over the shrine with Gaius and promises not to go back, which of course means he’ll be there at least three or four times by the end of the episode. Elyan has a restless night of sleep, what with his incredibly spacious (seriously, I want to be a knight of Camelot just for the accommodations alone) chamber echoing with the sounds of dripping—and CDK showing up. Worried, Elyan puts a ring of salt under his bed.
The next morning, Merlin finds Arthur sleeping in his dinner and has to keep a (mostly) straight face at the fact that Arthur’s own face is covered in stew. He’s more or less successful, but teasing Arthur about it at training leads to Merlin being the punch dummy for the day. Signs pointing to Elyan not being entirely sound when Elyan beats on Merlin just a little too hard. Later on, Elyan sees CDK coming at him (the kid is intensely creepy, for the record, as he’s dripping wet and staring, and lit with green light) amid the knight and suffers a full break-down. Gwaine punches him, knocking him out.
Knock-out punches: 1. Hugs: 0.
Gwaine, my beloved Percival, and Leon bring Gaius in, requesting that he keep this from Arthur as they don’t want the king to think Elyan’s loyalties are divided by his sister’s banishment. Gaius drops something and finds the ring of salt, which leads him into research mode. He and Merlin put it together that Elyan must have disturbed something at the shrine. The proof unfolds before our eyes as Elyan wakes and sees CDK standing in the room, staring at him. He assures the boy that it’s going to be fine and hugs him, exclaiming at how cold he is. The boy, of course, asks him to kill the king since his spirit won’t rest otherwise. It’s never something simple, is it?
By the way—knock-out punches: 1. Hugs: 1.
Elyan grabs a sword and heads for Arthur’s quarters. The king is able to fight him off with a stool and a table until guards arrive as backup. A manhunt begins; Gwaine, my beloved Percival, and Leon track Elyan and talk him down, Percival even going so far as to appear to hug Elyan—before he knocks Elyan out.
Knock-out punches: 2. Hugs: 1.
They throw the subdued Elyan in the dungeons, and I begin the countdown to see how long it is before they bust him loose. Camelot’s dungeons are like the prototype for Fox River, y’all. Merlin’s the person doing the busting this week, as he and Gaius believe that Merlin might be able to separate Elyan from his possessive spirit by magic. Unfortunately, this only works if Elyan is unconscious. Gaius, ever the boy scout, prepares for this by lacing a canteen with sedatives, which Merlin tries to give to Elyan once they’re free of Camelot’s walls. CDK creepily shakes his head from the green-lit sidelines, warning Elyan not to drink the water.
Want to guess what happens next? That’s right! Knock-out punches: 3. Hugs: 1. Merlin’s the one that goes down now. When he comes to, he and Gaius visit the shrine to get the full story about what sort of spirit’s causing trouble. Merlin hears the voices of a terrible slaughter, and thinks it’s the work of Uther as part of his magical genocide project. Gaius tells Merlin that the only way CDK will stop possessing Elyan is if the person who wronged these druids atones. That’s going to be impossible, as Uther is dead, they say.
They return to Camelot, where he checks in with Arthur (I was totally waiting for an “I was at the pub!” excuse to pop up again), who is still preoccupied and moody, presumably over Gwen and the fact that Gwen’s brother is out to kill him. Agravaine is pushing for Elyan’s head on a pike, of course. That guy pretty much only knows one tune, and the lyrics go Let’s kill all the things!
Arthur tells Merlin and Agravaine to leave him. Merlin, about to feast on some leftovers, spots a hand in the corridor, which of course means a dead guard. While I marvel at the fact that the guards are conveniently wearing red, Merlin races back to find that Elyan’s broken into the chamber and has locked everybody out. Elyan and Arthur get into a swordfight. Elyan speaks to Arthur in a voice that has decidedly not gone through puberty. He also drops all over the floor, even though it’s sunny outside. These clues lead Arthur to fully believe that Elyan is possessed, like Merlin’s been saying all along. Just as Merlin bursts in with magic at the ready, Arthur lets Elyan go.
Later that night, Merlin tries to talk to Arthur, but Arthur doesn’t want to talk. He sends Merlin to polish armor. While doing so, Merlin sees Arthur sneak out. Of course, he tags along, and of course, Arthur twigs to this. The men head to the shrine to confront Elyan and his CDK tagalong for the final showdown.
Here comes a moment where we get to see Bradley James shine as King Arthur, not just Arthur the slightly grouchy master-friend of Merlin. He confesses that it wasn’t Uther that led the raid on the druid camp, but him: he was young and foolish, and he felt he had to prove himself. Even though he ordered the women and children spared, they’d been killed as well, and it had been his fault. He kneels, fully expecting Elyan/CDK to take his life…and CDK forgives him with a hug.
Knock-out punches: 3. Hugs: 2. It’s a full count, though that’s a pretty super hug Elyan/CDK gives him, so maybe it should count for more. Elyan is returned to his king and freed from the perpetual dripping sounds. Happiness is mostly restored to Camelot. Merlin, sensing that I would be counting hugs vs. punches in my review, asks Arthur for a hug. This, of course, ends with Knock-out (and regular) punches: 4. Hugs: 2.
Merlin airs on SyFy on Fridays at 10/9c. My recap of The Hunter’s Heart will be up tonight or tomorrow.