Merlin 4.01 – The Darkest Hour Part 1

Previously on Merlin…

There is no Previously on Merlin, beyotches. The producers just throw you in cold, and if you can’t remember what happened the last three seasons it’s your own fault for not caring deeply enough about a land a myths and time of magic to take notes for later. JUST LIKE THIS RECAP.  Brace yourselves!

Before we get started, let me begin by saying I love this show with the heat of a dragon’s chili burp. I love the actors, the cheese, the amazeball special effects, the overall silliness and the overreaching themes. In short, this is the best drinking game in the history of television. Please to be finding your drinking Bingo card below.













And now, on with our story.

Here come the Knights of the Round Table on horseback, randomly scouting for danger. Either you recognize them (in which case you are free to lust after them) or you don’t (in which case they are Red Capes and, just like the Red Shirts in Star Trek, will soon be ded of evil). Arthur has approximately, oh, a dozen Knights patrolling the whole kingdom, half of which die every episode. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There’s the sexy Medieval ginger Sir Leon now, harassing unknown passersby. Ho, good woman in a hooded cloak who sounds just like Morgana! What’s your business here?! Why, it really is Morgana, and her business is to give all the knights a big old Magic Push (DRINK), because that is by far the favourite spell of wizards and witches in this realm. Bam! They’re all thrown back and instantly rendered unconscious from one bump to their noggins (DRINK). With a last smirk (DRINK again. No, really. You’re going to be in a coma by the end of the episode) Morgana hurries to the back of the cart she’s pulling by hand or possibly with Thestrals.  Morgause is hidden in the back, looking like the Phantom of the Opera, because of…the bad thing that Merlin and/or Gaius did to her at the end of last season? See, I can’t remember what happened either because I also didn’t take notes, so this should be fun. Anyway, she’s all bubbly-skinned and not doing well at all.

But enough of that downer! Back at the castle, here’s Merlin dashing about, looking just as skinny and adorkable as always, with a new hair cut and the exact same outfit he’s worn for the duration of the series. YAY! He goes to the royal kitchen to get Arthur’s shirt (because that’s where the king’s shirts are left to dry, of course), only to have some boob spill Gatorade fruit punch on it. Dammit! Sir Lancelot, looking unbearably fine and also hairy-chested happens by and tells a distraught Merlin “I’m sure a man of your talents can think of something,” with a waggle of his eyebrows (DRINK).  So Merlin cleans the shirt with a Tide To Go magic and rushes the shirt to Arthur.

Who is already dressed, of course, and it was all for nothing. It’s obviously a big day and Arthur is struggling with writing a speech, but it’s no biggie because Merlin’s already written it for him, by request. Arthur doesn’t like it, of course, but still wants Merlin to thank him for the privilege of doing it for him. How mean! (DRINK) It seems that nothing has changed in Camelot where these two are concerned.

Gwen meanwhile is unable to convince Uther to eat. He just sits by the window and stews. We find out it’s been a year since Morgana betrayed him (ah yes, and almost took over Camelot with her soldiers of eternal doooom, it’s all coming back to me now), and Uther is a broken man. You can tell because he’s got the shakes and doesn’t comb his hair anymore.

Sir Leon and Sir Elyan have recovered from their insta-concussions and are back at the castle to tattle on Morgana. As predicted, the Red Cloaks with them are dead. Morgana, you jerk! She inexplicably and helpfully told them where she was headed before she knocked them out, so Agravaine says he’ll send patrols out in search of them. Now, I have to admit that I have no damn idea who Agravaine is. Was he on last season? I don’t have a clue.  He’s Arthur’s uncle on his mother’s side, and Arthur obviously depends heavily on his council.  Anyway, you can tell he’s evil because his hair is so black. Arthur ignores this obvious clue and trusts him implicitly (DRINK).

That night they have a feast for Samhain to honour the passing of their ancestors. But that’s not all that’s happening this day of the year. Back to the evildoers, Morgana has taken Morguase to the Isle of the Blessed by creepy canoe, also just in time for Samhain’s eve. Morgana is none too pleased to kill off her BFF, but Morgause lies down on Ye Olde Human Sacrifice Altar and has the ceremonial dagger shined up and ready to go, so what choice does Morgana have? At the stroke of midnight, she does the stabbity as instructed, and Morgana is instantly knocked out by the Magic Push (DRINK TWICE. PS: Please, play my drinking bingo game responsibly and don’t fly commercial airliners whilst playing). You know who else feels it? Merlin, who goes into slo-mo lockdown before seeing an old woman who calls him “Emrys” (the ancient word for “jug ears”). He then faints, scaring Lancelot and embarrassing Arthur.

Morgana wakes up to find the same old woman in front of her. She’s the Cailleach, the gatekeeper between the spirit world and the BBC, and wouldn’t you know it, Morgana has ripped a great big hole in-between them. I hate it when that happens. The Cailleach breaks it to her that although her enemies will rue this day, so will Morgana. That’s because a dude named Emrys is, sorry to say, now her destiny and her doom. Oh snap!

Back at the castle, Merlin is taken to bed by Lancelot. No, not like that. Merlin is freezing cold, and Gaius can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. After a few hours cuddling in a Snuggie, he wakes on his own. He tells Gaius about the Cailleach, and how she called  him Emrys. Gaius doesn’t know what it means, but he does know that tearing the veil between them and the spirits is just asking for an ass-whooping. They seem mystified who could have done it…if only they knew of someone with powerful magic who was thought to be headed to that area earlier.

We find Arthur in bed with his shirt off (DRINK). Merlin arrives to pull open the curtains and wake him up, followed by Sir Leon who asks him to meet with council on an urgent matter. Apparently Arthur is a late sleeper, because he’s the very last guy to arrive. A village girl tells Arthur that her family and everybody else she knew were killed by screaming shapes with no faces. Arthur tells the knights to saddle up; they’re riding for the village at once.

On the way Arthur makes fun of Merlin for being nervous even though an entire village was wiped out by supernatural forces mere hours ago (DRINK). They arrive at the deserted village by dusk, and search it for survivors or M. Night. Shyamalan or what have you. They find some bodies, frozen solid, and a shadowy presence darting behind them freaks them all out. They begin to search the other houses, and Merlin wanders off by himself (DRINK), because what’s the worst that can happen other than dying a horrible icy death like the villagers, am I right? Sure enough, Merlin hears otherworldly screams, and suddenly a spirit plunges from the sky toward him. He tries to use magic, but it doesn’t work! Oh noes! Luckily, Lancelot has been stalking him, and saves Merlin with a wave of his torch. Whew! That was a close one! Knowing they can’t kill these things, they decide to head home.

It’s a good thing, because the spirits are already in Camelot, killing people left and right. One of them flies through a man right before Gwen’s eyes (and breasts), but she saves herself with a torch. Merlin arrives to find Gaius covering body after body with sheets. He tells Gaius that his magic doesn’t seem to work against the spirits. He’s scared, and feeling guilty he can’t do more. Oh, Merlin. How many times are you going to have to save Camelot before you believe that you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, Arthur likes you.

Gwen is so poor she can't afford the material for the front of her dress.

That night, Merlin is helping Arthur to bed (not like that) and drops a candle which rolls under a curtain. He’s too afraid to get it so Arthur gets it for him, making sure to tease him for being spineless even though the body count in the castle is approaching video game status (DRINK). Merlin points out that he’d rather be spineless than heartless, thoughtless and – in an Irish brogue no less – humourless. Ah, Colin me dear, your roots are showing. They hear ghostly screams from outside, and Merlin asks Arthur if he really isn’t scared. “Oh, I am, Merlin. Maybe more than you.” And then he kisses Merlin on the mouth. Okay, no he doesn’t.

The knights are outside searching for…I’m not sure what. Survivors? A really good conditioner for their luxurious hair? Whatever it is, Sir Percival decides to let the others go ahead so he’s completely alone and unprotected (DRINK). He finds three wee children hiding, and gets rid of his torch so he can carry all of them to safety. I’m not sure why one of the kids couldn’t hold it, but still. A spirit attempts a quad-kill (worth extra points), but Sir Elyan saves them at the last second with his torch. Whew! That was a close one!

The next day, practically the entire kingdom arrives at Camelot to be protected even though everyone there is dying, too. Serfs, not the brightest. Agravaine tells Arthur to turn them away, but Arthur won’t. Can’t they find some way to kill these spirits? Gaius says the only way is to repair the tear, just like an episiotomy. And that’s going to require another blood sacrifice. Just like an episiotomy! No sex for the spirit world veil for six weeks, if it knows what’s good for it. Arthur takes it upon himself to be that blood sacrifice, because the very best way he can serve his people is to die and leave Morgana to be the sole heir to the throne. Details, people, mere details.

Agravaine secretly gallops off on his black horse with his black clothes and black cloak. Subtlety, thy name is not Merlin. Where’s he going in such a hurry? Why, to see Morgana, of course. He gleefully updates her, but she still can’t stop thinking about Emrys. Agravaine scoffs, because hello, Arthur is practically dead already. Suuure he is. Who do you think wrote this episode, Agravaine, Joss Whedon?

Arthur meets with his father to tell him his plan, and that he hopes Uther is proud of him. Uther softly drools on his kingly garb in response. Arthur goes to leave, when Uther suddenly grabs him, crying, and begs him to stay. Arthur refuses, a single perfect tear coursing down his chiseled cheek. On his way out, Gwen suddenly grabs him, crying, and begs him to stay. But Arthur has a job to do, and that’s dying in a ritual where they could have used a goat instead.

Agravaine also begs Arthur to stay, but doesn’t cry at least. Arthur gives him the ring with his royal seal, so if Arthur is killed Agravaine can ascend the throne and take Morgana as his bride. I mean…because Agravaine is the only one Arthur trusts. Of course he is (DRINK).

Gaius finds Merlin packing to go with Arthur, because if it comes to it, Merlin will sacrifice himself so Arthur can be spared. They’re lining up to take the bullet around here, aren’t they? Gaius is very sad, and hugs him goodbye. Poor Gaius. Poor Merlin.

Gwen makes Lancelot promise to protect Arthur, and he does, swearing to protect him with his life. Gwen is so grateful she jumps on him and molests the hell out of him. No wait, that’s me. The knights (and Merlin) set out for the Isle of Misfit Toys, everyone on brown horses except Lancelot, who’s on a white steed. Foreshadowing or a sale on brown horses? Time will tell. They stop at a cave for the night, where Merlin promptly wanders off by himself to collect firewood (DRINK). He’s followed by Lancelot, though, and nothing bad happens because he’s just there to convey that he’s as willing to protect Arthur as much as Merlin is, maybe more. The spirits don’t care about exposition, apparently.

That night Morgana has a dream wherein all of Camelot is in ruins, its soldiers dead on a bloody battlefield. An old man (Merlin turned into Emrys) turns to her and says, “Is this really what you wanted, Morgana?” She wakes with a start, and instead of feeling bad hisses, “Emrys!”

Arthur and his men ride their horses past fields of dead bodies that don’t smell bad at all, until they come to an abandoned castle where they decide to camp out. They collect all the wood they can find to keep the spirits at bay, but it’s not much.  For once they huddle together in a group with their torches, keeping each other safe. All except Merlin, of course, who is trying without luck to start a fire with a piece of flint. He uses magic instead, because he’s since gotten a restraining order against the spirts keeping them at least 25 metres away from him at all times, and thus his magic is working again.

They run out of wood during the night, and Arthur volunteers to get more. Lancelot and Merlin trip over themselves to volunteer to go with him. Arthur agrees when Merlin reminds him that Merlin always gets the firewood. Arthur saves Merlin from a spirit while he gathers sticks, and they run into the castle to get away from it, unfortunately dropping their only torch on the way. They’re trapped there so long that the other knights go to find them, with one torch amongst all of them.

While they’re searching, Arthur and Merlin huddle together in terror, and have one of their famous talks, where Merlin is wise and Arthur is surprised as all get-out (DRINK), and soon enough Arthur admits he loves Merlin. Okay, no he doesn’t. This isn’t fanfiction, people. He just admits he loves him. Darn it, that just keeps slipping out. I mean, respects and admires him. The only time Arthur is ever nice to Merlin is in the dark.

Just as they’re bonding, a spirit attacks them. Arthur is about to be killed when Merlin shoves him out of the way in slo-mo and gets a spirit full-frontal in Arthur’s place. The knights come rushing in and chase the spirit away with their torch, but it’s too late. Merlin is dead. NOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hmm, maybe Joss Whedon really did write this episode.

Come at me, bro!