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Cult Recap

'Merlin: 'The Sword in the Stone (Part 1)' recap

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Merlin S04E04

© BBC / Shine/Nick Briggs

Season 4, episode 12 | Aired Saturday, Dec 17 2011 at 20:10 GMT on BBC One

The two-part Merlin finale kicks off with a bang - literally! Agravaine openly betrays Camelot, leading Helios's troops into the city through the siege tunnels. A grand feast is interrupted as the kingdom comes under siege, with Arthur and his knights doing their best to fight off the evil forces.

Helios and his men cut a swathe through the forces of Camelot, with Arthur badly wounded in the battle. Merlin rescues his friend, but the King is stunned when he spots who's leading the attack - Morgana... and Agravaine! Arthur's furious, but the city has already fallen. "We can deal with your uncle later!" Merlin tells him.

Morgana now sits on the throne of Camelot and is determined to get her hands on Arthur. Gaius treats the King's wounds, while Gwaine and Percival barricade the doors to delay the approaching horde. Merlin wants to get Arthur to safety, but knows he won't leave Camelot willingly - using a spell, the warlock transforms the King into a dim-witted simpleton who follows his every command...

Percival leads Arthur away and Gaius instructs a reluctant Merlin to go with them. Both Gaius and Gwaine remain behind, standing their ground as Morgana and her minions burst into the room. But the sorceress is only interested in Arthur...

Merlin, Arthur and Percival have reached the woods on the outskirts of Camelot, where they unite with Elyan. Morgana's army pursues the group on horseback and, in the panic, the others lose track of Percival. The villains descend on the remaining trio, but Elyan sends Merlin and Arthur on ahead while he holds their attackers back...

Bradley James
Merlin
BBC

© BBC Pictures

Merlin S04E12: 'The Sword in the Stone - Part 1'

© BBC / Shine/Nick Briggs



Elyan's efforts are short-lived - he's captured and dragged before Morgana. When he refuses to reveal Arthur's location, she tortures him with a magical snake-life creature. Pushed to the very edge of human endurance, Elyan finally breaks and is dumped in a cell with Gwaine and Gaius.

Meanwhile, Arthur - still lacking most of his mental faculties thanks to Merlin's spell - dresses himself in a peasant's clothes to avoid detection. On their journey, Merlin and Arthur encounter Tristan and Isolde - two crooks who are smuggling their wares through the kingdom...

Merlin wants to accompany the pair to Lott's kingdom, and though Tristan initially refuses, he's soon convinced by a flash of Arthur's gold. However, neither Tristan or Isolde suspect that the bumbling Arthur once ruled the kingdom, boasting, "We're too quick and too smart for the half-wit king in Camelot."

But come the morning, Arthur is no longer a half-wit - Merlin's spell has worn off and he's back to his old self, albeit with no memory of the past few hours. Soon, the smugglers' camp comes under attack from Agravaine and his troops. As Arthur leaps into battle, Tristan and Isolde are stunned by his sudden return to form and are even more shocked when they learn his true identity...

Merlin S04E12: 'The Sword in the Stone - Part 1'

© BBC / Shine/Nick Briggs

Merlin S04E12: 'The Sword in the Stone - Part 1'

© BBC / Shine/Nick Briggs



The group makes it to safety, but Isolde is wounded in the battle. Though the rebellious Tristan is no fan of Camelot's king or his taxes, he agrees to work with Arthur long enough to find Isolde a place of shelter...

Pushing on, the group make camp at the border of Lott's kingdom. As night falls, Arthur begins to despair - he's hurting over the loss of Camelot and Agravaine's betrayal. But as usual, Merlin's around to comfort his pal, assuring him, "One day you will be the greatest king this land has ever known."

Back in Camelot, Morgana drags a starved Gwaine from his cell and forces him to engage in a fight to the death with a burly warrior. After a vicious brawl, the knight overcomes his opponent. He's rewarded with a single mouldy loaf of bread, but Morgana quickly sets two more men on him...

Meanwhile, Merlin takes Arthur, Tristan and Isolde to his home village, where he is warmly greeted by his mother Hunith (Caroline Faber). It's soon revealed that someone else has also taken refuge there - Guinevere! Arthur cannot believe his eyes when he's reunited with his true love...

But as darkness falls once more, Agravaine and his troops surround the village. They raid the town in search of the King, but Merlin, Arthur and the others are able to escape. Pursued through the woods by Agravaine's army, our heroes must run for their lives...

Merlin S03E13: Merlin
In a Land of Myth and a Time of Magic...
• A solid start to this year's Merlin finale, 'The Sword in the Stone (Part 1)' combines action, comedy and a dash of romance to great effect.
• One of the chief problems with this show is a sense of over-familiarity and repetition - Camelot's under siege again! As such, it's pleasing that this segment of the episode is wrapped up relatively quickly - Morgana, Helios and Agravaine seize control of the kingdom in about ten minutes and the remainder of the episode deals with the consequences...
• We were divided on the 'simpleton' Arthur - though the King's oafish behaviour did provide a few decent laughs, it seems like an odd decision on the writer's part to transform the character into a useless idiot when the stakes or so high...
• Once Arthur's wits return, it's a nice touch to see the character reprimand himself for being deceived yet again!
• The action sequences in this instalment were mostly well-handled, but was anyone else feeling a little bit of slow-motion fatigue by the end?
• Gwaine (Eoin Macken) has mostly served as comedy relief since becoming a series regular, so it's fantastic to see the character show off his physical expertise against Morgana's thugs.
• The charismatic Ben Daniels made quite an impact as the shifty Tristan, but it's a shame that Miranda Raison wasn't given much to do as Isolde other than be a wounded damsel-in-distress...
• One final point - where was the sword in the stone this week? That title was a tad misleading...

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