Title: “The Tears of Uther Pendragon: Part One”
Definitely an action-packed and exciting opening to the season with the first appearance of Morgana’s smirk of doom which becomes an incredibly common part of Series 3, which poses the hilarious question; Why does no one in the royal court know that Morgana is a traitor when she is pulling those obvious dark smiles? For me, Morgana is the main focus of the episode as she persuades Merlin that she will no longer meddle with dark sorcery, convincing Arthur and Uther that she will, from now on, show respect and gratitude to their kindness and will not question authority any more. It’s great to see more of the manipulative side of Morgana and the return of Morgause. I also really liked seeing Uther at probably his weakest point, when Morgana enchants him with a mandrake root. It’s definitely the first time we see some element of horror in the show as Uther hallucinates seeing the ghost of his own wife and a drowned young boy, haunting him of his past sins during the Great Purge whereby he would drown sorcerers, even if they were children. It’s so interesting seeing how much this effects Uther to the point where he is actually crying out with fear, because it’s something we’ve never seen before from his character. The cliffhanger is another incredible moment in which Merlin calls for The Great Dragon, for the first time ever, to save him from Morgause’ chains after he finds out about Morgana’s betrayal.
Title: “The Tears of Uther Pendragon: Part Two”
Camelot faces a battle like no other as Morgause allies with Cenred to take over Camelot. We’ve never witnessed a full-on battle against the kingdom before to this degree, and it’s made even more exciting when Morgana raises an army of the dead within the castle’s walls. One of my particularly favourite moments in this episode is when Uther, waking from the dark enchantment put upon him, realises that his kingdom is under siege and immediately begins fighting alongside his son. It’s a passionate side we don’t often see from the king regarding his love for Camelot. There’s also the amazing scene between Morgana and Merlin where Merlin is trying to persuade her from destroying the kingdom. It’s obvious that Merlin desperately wants to tell Morgana that he understands her loneliness completely, being a sorcerer himself. There are some strong, memorable quotes from that scene and I especially love when Merlin tries to tell Morgana that “We can find a better way” (“we” being so subtle but meaningful) with Morgana replying “There is no other way”. I think it just sums up their characters perfectly. Their views on their oppression and how to fight it contrasts so nicely and represents the different reactions that occur due to oppression. Merlin obviously wants his magic to be accepted and would want Morgana to join him in that revolution but Morgana’s destiny says otherwise and, by this point, she has already concluded that she will never achieve peace or freedom without violence and war.
Title: “Goblin’s Gold”
This episode is quite clearly all about the comedy as Gaius is possessed by a goblin and reeks shenanigans throughout Camelot, including turning the king bald, causing flatulence amongst Morgana and Gwen, giving Sir Leon and the other knights warts and turning Arthur into a donkey (that is, giving him the ears, the voice and the brain of one). Until this point we hadn’t really seen Richard Wilson take on a comic character; the majority of Gaius’ scenes and lines are quite serious. Although we do get jokes between Gaius and Merlin quite often, I don’t feel like we ever got to delve into pure comedy like what this episode does. It’s definitely a comic relief from the premiere two-episodes that were mainly tense and serious, and the threat of Morgana is undoubtedly lessened when she is farting in front of the royal court. Obviously, the scene where Gwen finds Arthur with donkey ears is a classic moment. I also really liked the scene where Arthur realises that Gaius is possessed because Gaius claims that Merlin is a sorcerer. No matter how many times Merlin is correctly exposed as being magical, Arthur will never catch on to the truth and thinks Gaius being possessed by a greedy, gold-licking goblin is more believable.
I am so happy that this episode is named after the character as I hadn’t remembered that the show gave Gwaine so much credit (the same credit that Lancelot’s character received in the Series 1 episode which was named after him). As you can probably tell, Gwaine is one of my favourite characters. I just love how loyal and honourable he is, as well as being hilarious and fun-loving. I also feel that he is the most in-depth and characteristic knight which is very special since the writers kind of gave up on developing each of the knight’s unique personalities in later seasons. The episode itself is driven on Gwaine’s morals and ethics, with the belief that “Nobility is defined by what you do, and not by who you are”. His friendship with Merlin is so nice to see, and Gwaine even falls fond of Arthur, disregarding his hatred for noble men and breaking his banishment from Camelot in order to save Arthur once again from thugs. It’s a favourite episode for me seeing Gwaine’s first appearances and beginnings of becoming the loyal knight of Camelot.
Title: “The Crystal Cave”
The plot of this episode is incredibly well-written as Merlin is shown a future where Morgana murders Uther and, in trying to stop it, actually causes the events. In my opinion, Merlin is the most frightened he’s ever been in this episode as he sees his vision coming true and, in fear and distress, accidentally mortally injures Morgana to stop the future from happening. On Morgana’s death bed Uther happens to let slip that he is Morgana’s father. I remember being completely stunned and shocked when I watched this for the first time as it changed the character dynamics massively. Morgana was now of royal blood and Arthur’s sister, which makes the war between the siblings even more interesting in later seasons. Merlin completely regrets almost killing Morgana and ends up saving her life with help from the Great Dragon, despite the dragon’s warnings about Morgana’s evil destiny. Morgana, whilst in her coma, overheard Uther’s confession and, although Morgause is rejoiced to hear the news that Morgana has rights to the throne, this only brings more hatred and anger to Morgana’s heart. After she is healed by Merlin, Morgana makes an attempt to kill her father for lying to her all her life, but Merlin saves the king just in time. It’s such a tense episode that has viewers, and Merlin himself, on the edge of their seat.
Title: “The Changeling”
Princess Elena is a character I’ve always liked and I’m probably the only person in thinking that she is the main focus of the episode. I just love her morals and personality, regardless of the fact that she had a Sidhe growing inside her leading her to eat frogs and behave clumsily. Most fans probably disregarded Elena and thought of her as a stupid, irritating, gross girl but I loved how courageous she was when it came to being herself, not caring what the social expectation set on her was. She was also prepared to marry Arthur, despite not loving him, to make her dad happy. She’s fun, adventurous and respectful to Arthur and I did love their friendship. It was also great to see Arthur stopping the wedding, exclaiming that they were marrying for all the wrong reasons; for convenience, not for love. Arthur inevitably did this for Gwen, giving her and himself hope for their future together. I only wish that Princess Elena had made a re-appearance in the show at some point.
Title: “The Castle of Fyrien”
This episode reminded me of the old days where Merlin, Arthur, Morgana and Gwen would go on missions and quests together as friends, accept now everything has changed and it’s kind of a warped version of the old days. Gwen is no longer embarrassed to talk to Arthur, and Arthur is willing to do anything for her (even if that means walking into Morgause’s trap to save Gwen’s brother). Also, Merlin is very much aware of the fact that Morgana is secretly plotting against them and feeding information to Morgause, and Morgana is equally aware that Merlin knows this. There’s a lot of action in this episode; horses, sword fights, magic. Morgause conjuring a fiery enchantment to kill Arthur was a personal favourite. We hardly ever get unique, visually stunning, spells in Merlin and, especially in later seasons, the writer’s always tend to turn to the “throwing-enemies-backwards-off-their-feet” spell instead of something cooler like fire. It’s great to see the powerful Morgause again and Elyan, Gwen’s brother, is also an interesting character. I never really favourited Elyan but, in this episode, I think we get to see more of his personality. As well as being skilled with the sword, to which Arthur himself compliments him, I also think he’s very genuine and modest and, although Gwen may think otherwise, really does care about his sister.
Title: “The Eye of the Phoenix”
I remember absolutely loving this episode; from the adventurous atmosphere, to Morgana’s evil plans, to the return of Gwaine, even Warwick Davis’ guest appearance as The Keeper of the Bridge, Grettir. Whilst re-watching, I realised that I knew the majority of the scenes really well as I had watched the episode so many times. Arthur visions his own quest to The Perilous Lands to retrieve the Fisher King’s golden trident; a challenge to prove whether he is worthy to be king. This is so tense because he even leaves Merlin behind in Camelot (I joke that he never goes on any quest without Merlin). The journey is made life-threatening when Morgana enchants Arthur with the Eye of the Phoenix which sucks the life force out of the victim. This enchantment is given to her by Morgause who uses an ageing spell to disguise herself as an old woman to get into Camelot. This is another great moment as we see the first successful ageing spell. The whole episode is great, especially with the re-appearance of Gwaine whose friendship with Merlin shines through in this episode as he helps him find Arthur. I also love how Grettir refers to the Arthur, Merlin and Gwaine trio as courage, magic and strength respectively. It just really connects the three of them, almost as three parts to one whole, and I wish the writers had played on this relationship later on in the show. Other highlights to this episode are the first appearance of the wyverns, distant cousins of the dragon who Merlin manages to command with his Dragonlord powers, Gwen discovering that Morgana is magical by hiding in her chambers and watching her perform an enchantment to weaken Arthur, and obviously the Fisher King’s warning that Camelot would be under attack soon and giving Merlin water from the Lake of Avalon to help him in the dark times to come. This obviously leads to the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur returning in the finale which is why it’s so exciting.
Title: “Love in the Time of Dragons”
This episode is probably my least favourite and least watched. I think this might be because the Gaius and Alice love story just doesn’t really work, and Alice’s character is not very interesting, especially since she is being influenced by the manticore monster throughout the whole episode and so doesn’t seem to have any personality of her own. The manticore itself is slightly horrifying, if not a bit weird-looking. However, it was nice to see the use of magic being used for good by healing the sick and dying. Additionally, Gaius destroying the manticore with his own magic was pretty cool seeing as Gaius never usually gets to perform spells and be part of the action like Merlin does. Other than that, this episode was really disinteresting for me. I appreciate that the writer’s wanted to give Gaius a romantic interest and see how it turned out, but sadly the earth didn’t move.
Title: “Queen of Hearts”
From my least favourite episode, to my favourite. For me, this story has everything. I would honestly regard it as a fantastic, medieval romantic comedy. Morgana foresees Gwen being crowned Queen of Camelot and, in a fit of anger and jealousy, frames Gwen for enchanting Arthur after Uther discovers the couple kissing in the forest. The king can not comprehend that Arthur has actually fallen in love with a serving girl and, with Morgana’s motivation (and her magical poultice planted in Arthur’s chambers), sentences Gwen to death for being a witch. Arthur and Gwen’s love truly shines through this episode as Arthur talks about his desire to get away from Camelot and his destiny as king, and live an ordinary life. Later on, when he discovers Gwen’s sentence, he even relinquishes his entitlement to the throne in order to save her, claiming that he and Gwen will leave Camelot and never return. This does nothing for Gwen’s sentence and the scene where she is dragged to the cells from the court room is absolutely beautiful as Arthur, also being held back, breaks free from the guards for a moment and kisses Gwen (in stunning slow motion), exclaiming “I will always love you”. It’s honestly heart-breaking and reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet or any other couple who were forbidden to be together because of their class, or family. Merlin, determined to save Gwen, transforms himself into an old man, using an ageing spell, and admits that he enchanted Gwen and Arthur to fall in love to bring shame to Camelot. These scenes are hilarious and it’s also interesting to see Merlin as a criminal sorcerer. It’s obvious that he realises how lucky he is to have his powers hidden from Uther and to live in peace. I love seeing the first transformation of Merlin to an old man which becomes so prominent in later seasons. It’s so nostalgic to see where the old man first started and the beginnings of his sarcastic, hilarious persona.
Title: “The Sorcerer’s Shadow”
As a tournament, whereby anyone is free to compete and there are no rules, begins in Camelot, a young boy named Gilli enters the competition using his magical powers to win the fights. It’s so interesting to see Merlin’s character being reflected in Gilli as they discuss their similar struggles and hardships. Both characters know what it’s like to be so incredibly powerful but to be treated like they’re nothing. Right down to their plain costumes and simple desires, the two boys are so similar and Merlin even reveals his own magical powers (a decision he never makes lightly) to persuade Gilli to drop out of the final fight against the king. Gilli ignores Merlin and attempts to assassinate Uther during the fight, to which Merlin is forced to turn against his own kin to save the king’s life with his own magic. After Merlin makes him loose the fight, Gilli repents on his wrongdoings and promises to use his magic for good from now on. Merlin states that one day their powers will be accepted and hopes that they will see each other again. It would have been great if either of these things happened during the rest of the show because I would have loved to have seen Gilli return. Merlin has had encounters with many sorcerers before this episode that reflect him in some way. Freya felt alone, like no one understood her and like she was a monster, and Morgana felt confused and scared of her powers just like Merlin, but none of these characters reflect Merlin quite like Gilli who is about the same age, has a similar appearance and a similar history (as he inherited his powers from his late father just like Merlin). That’s what makes this episode so special.
Title: “The Coming of Arthur: Part One”
The beginning of the best finale there is as Morgana and Morgause take over Camelot’s throne. Sir Leon plays a large part in this episode as he is healed by Druids using the Cup of Life, bringing him back from the edge of life itself. Uther, in fear, sends Arthur alone (obviously with Merlin as well), to retrieve the cup so that their enemies, Cenred and Morgause, can not utilise it’s power on their army. It’s always great to see Gwaine again as Merlin and Arthur find him in a slave trader’s prison; typical Gwaine. “Wrong place, wrong time, wrong drink” he explains. Courage, magic and strength are reunited once again as they fetch the cup, to which Cenred’s men ambush them and steal the cup from them. By the time the three of them get back to Camelot, picking up Elyan and Gaius on the way, the kingdom has been taken over by Morgause’ army which have become immortal thanks to the cup’s power. It’s heart-breaking to see Arthur finding out that Morgana is his sister and betrayed him and his father. Despite Uther’s tyranny and careless personality that we have witnessed from the start of the show, we can even feel sorry for the king as he is forced to kneel before his traitor of a daughter who he had given everything for and loved more than he could express.
Title: “The Coming of Arthur: Part Two”
After one week of Morgana’s reign, Uther is becoming mentally unstable which we have never really seen in the king before. We can’t be sure that Morgana and Morgause didn’t use magic to make Uther go mad but it’s assumed that the king lost his strength and character purely because his own daughter betrayed him and hates him more than he could imagine. This is a really powerful message that, even the most ruthless of rulers still have weaknesses and can be defeated by a simple attack on the heart. Arthur also appears to be struggling at accepting all these new revelations and even seems to detest his father for lying all this time about Morgana being his sister. We also get to see Gwen being a bit more brave and courageous than usual as she betrays her mistress, Morgana, in order to break Sir Leon out of the cells to find Arthur who has been hiding out in the forest with Merlin , Gaius, Gwaine and Elyan. Already we can begin to see the friendships blossoming between the knights as Gwaine and Elyan have come to know each other over the past week and, in my opinion, have a lot in common, as they are both thrill-seekers and adventurous. I know I have said that Series 3 develops on a lot of the Arthurian legend but, really, the final episode of the series does it all in one go. Merlin, using water from the Lake of Avalon that the Fisher King gave him, is greeted by Freya who presents the sword Excalibur to him so that he can fight Morgause’s army. The sword is the only thing that can kill something that is already dead, and so can defeat members of Morgause’s army who have become the living dead. Arthur also begins creating his Knights of the Round Table as he knights Gwaine and Elyan, as well as Lancelot and Percival who joined them in the forest. I’ve already expressed my concern of that fact that Arthur carelessly knights Percival who he had only just met like 5 minutes previously, but we’ll skip over it because it’s a very triumphant moment. Arthur sits as an equal with Merlin, Gwen, Gaius, Sir Leon, Gwaine, Elyan, Lancelot and Percival on a round table, exclaiming that they are all as important as one another, giving his most loyal followers hope for victory. With Lancelot and Gaius’ help, Merlin defeats Morgause’s army and mortally wounds Morgause herself to which Morgana emotionally causes the room to come crashing down using her growing powers. It’s very exciting to see Morgana caring so much for her sister and her outburst foreshadows to her even darker and more advanced powers in the following season. Arthur is unashamed to kiss Gwen publicly in the royal court yard after the battle implying that their destiny as king and queen is not far off and Uther’s broken heart also, along with the title of the episode, suggests that Arthur’s time as king is drawing near. (Personally, I didn’t catch on to this and had no idea that Arthur would become king in the next series. I really disliked his promotion to king so early but I’ll talk about that when I review Series 4.) Finally, as the Great Dragon warned him, Merlin, in an attempt to keep Excalibur safe, thrusts the sword into a lone stone in the middle of the forest. The last shot of the sword stuck fast in the stone is absolutely beautiful and is a worthy nod to the famous Arthurian legend which the show is inspired from.