Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.04: "The Poisoned Chalice"

Sarah is back once again to continue her Summer TV Rewind of Merlin season 1. Enjoy!


“I’ll let his friends finish you off, Arthur Pendragon. It’s not your destiny to die at my hands.”
- Nimueh

Much like with the last episode, we begin “The Poisoned Chalice” in Nimueh’s cave. She’s chanting a spell that allows her to see Camelot (and Merlin). She’s enchanted a flower pedal and placed it in a goblet. Knowing what she’s capable of, we have to be suspicious. Next thing we know, we’re in the great hall of Camelot with Uther and his men approaching from one side and another king dressed in blue and his knights approaching from the other. This is probably just my weird brain but I was reminded just a tiny bit of the scene in Torchwood 2.01 “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” with Jack and John meeting for the first time. But, there are no hot kisses between Uther and Lord Bayard of Mercia. Just a firm hand grasp to signify that the two kingdoms will shortly be at peace. We see Nimueh amongst Bayard’s people and it’s obvious she catches Merlin’s eye.

We find Merlin complaining to Gaius about all the work he has to do. Gaius points out that he is a servant that’s his job. He’s about to complain some more when Nimueh, pretending to be a servant girl named Kara, drops the pillows and blankets she’s carrying. Merlin’s quite taken with her and he flits a little. It’s kind of cute, even though we know Nimueh is evil. And I hope it’s not just me, but her eyes are rather distracting. They’re so blue! Anyway, Merlin and Kara part ways and she heads downstairs and switches her own goblet for one that Bayard brought. In short order, Merlin is helping Arthur dress for the feast. There’s a brief comedic moment that the viewer can’t quite see because it’s from over Arthur’s shoulder as a point of view, in which he presents Merlin with what he says are the ceremonial robes of the servants of Camelot. We next see Uther and Bayard signing the peace treaty and Merlin in a ridiculous get up with a huge feathered hat. Gwen can’t help but tease him a little. The hat comes off the minute he sees Kara, and when Gwen remarks she’s pretty for a hand maiden, he tops her by saying she’s pretty for a princess. Gwen quietly stalks off to stand by Gaius. I love how jealous she is.

Bayard begins a speech to present the goblets, and Kara drags Merlin away. I have to say, she’s quite the little actress. Then again, it could be Merlin’s hormones running rampant, but he believes her when she tells him Bayard has poisoned Arthur’s goblet. Merlin rushes back in to save Arthur. Bayard is finishing his speech, and each time he pauses, Arthur goes to drink. He looks rather bored, honestly. But, Merlin shows up and accuses Bayard of lacing the goblet with poison. Both sides draw swords as Bayard denies the allegation. As is Uther’s way, he gets cranky and demands to know where Merlin got his information. Merlin says he can’t say and Uther is about to have him strung up. But instead, he makes Merlin drink from the goblet. If he dies, they know Merlin was telling the truth, and if he lives Bayard can do what he wants with Merlin. So, Merlin drinks from the goblet, there’s a brief fake-out where he thinks he’s okay, and then he crashes to the floor. Nimueh watches from behind a pillar in satisfaction at the outcome and darts away in the mayhem.

Arthur, Gaius, and Gwen rush Merlin off to Gaius’s chambers. Gaius quickly discovers the flower pedal hidden inside the goblet and identifies it as coming from the mortius tree. The only way to save Merlin is to retrieve a leaf from the same plant far off in a cave in a forest protected by a deadly and ugly creature whose venom, even one drop, is fatal. Arthur proclaims it sounds like fun and he’s off to go save Merlin. But, Uther isn’t having any of it. He says Merlin won’t be the first to die for Arthur and that Merlin’s life is worth less than Arthur. Arthur calls his father on his crap but gets grounded anyway.

Lucky for Arthur, Morgana drops by and gives him a little talking to. Amazing how his need to always impress her stirs him to action. He rides off into Nimueh’s trap because he has the need to be noble and fight for what he believes in. Honestly, not a bad trait. Back in Gaius’s chambers, Gaius and Gwen discover the effects of the poison have been sped up by magic. Gaius instructs Gwen to find Kara and fast. Merlin only has two days at most to live. Too bad Kara already left Camelot and is en route to intercept Arthur.

Uther has yet another hissy fit when he finds out Arthur disobeyed him. Morgana isn’t sympathetic in the least to the crotchety old King. She says Arthur’s old enough to make decisions on his own and have his own opinions. And she’s right. Uther just refuses to see it. Gwen returns to Gaius’s chambers with the news that no one has seen Kara since the banquet. Gaius isn’t surprised and tells Gwen that Kara (not her real name) is a powerful sorceress and she’s probably waiting for Arthur.

We see Arthur riding through some beautiful Welsh countryside as he goes in search of the mortius flower in the cave. No sooner does he reach the forest when he has to face off against the fatal-venom-ugly creature. It kind of looks like a giant lizard dinosaur with a snake tongue. Some entertaining CGI for sure. Being Arthur Pendragon, swords master extraordinaire, he handles the beast and saves who he thinks is an abused servant girl. It’s really Nimueh using her charms and freaking BLUE eyes to trick him. She says she knows where the flower is and takes him to the cave.

As Nimueh leads Arthur deeper into the caves, we see Merlin getting worse back in Camelot. He’s mumbling to Arthur (who of course can’t hear him) that it’s a trap and then tries to say a spell. Gaius assures Gwen it’s the fever and poison setting in. Back in the cave, Nimueh points out where the flowers are. They’re on a ledge across a rather deep looking cavern. There’s a rock formation that almost reaches to the other side that breaks right when Arthur needs it thanks to Nimueh casting a spell. He catches on pretty quick and manages to catch the other edge before falling into the cavern. That’s the least of his problems. A giant hairy tarantula the size of a tennis ball wanders over and tries to kill Arthur. It hisses too. Do spiders really hiss? Anyway, he manages to slice it in half but more are on their way. And they’re blocking his path to the much-needed mortius flower. Nimueh leaves him to his fate.

Back in Camelot, Merlin actually manages a spell in his delirium and produces a big ball of float-y light to guide Arthur through the dark and to the flowers. Arthur struggles to climb up the rock face and fight off the spiders. He gets some coma cheering from Merlin in the form of “go faster,” but he finally makes it out of the cave with the flowers in hand. He rides back to Camelot and is immediately summoned by Uther. Uther throws him in the dungeon for his disobedience. Arthur tries to tell Uther that it wasn’t Bayard who tried to poison him, but Uther yet again doesn’t listen and stomps on the mortius flower.

Gwen sneaks down to the dungeon with some bread and water for Arthur, and he slips the flower onto the tray. Arthur makes a show of rejecting the food to get Gwen out of there, and it’s not soon enough because the real maid bringing his food shows up. Gwen manages to get away and brings Gaius the flower. He knows he needs to use magic to make the potion, so he sends Gwen from the room. He starts to say a spell, stops, and then decides to hell with Uther. He mumbles a spell over the potion. He administers it to Merlin, but it appears that it hasn’t worked. Merlin’s heart has stopped, and he’s not breathing. Gwen is quick to blame herself and throws herself into Gaius’s arms. He too blames himself and they have a good cry together. And…up pops Merlin saying it’s disgusting and Gaius is old enough to be Gwen’s grandfather. Out of extreme happiness, Gwen plants one right on Merlin’s lips. They go away a little embarrassed.

Uther is busy planning his defense since word of Bayard’s arrest got back to Mercia. Gaius runs off to tell Uther that it wasn’t Bayard who poisoned the wine. He says it was Nimueh’s doing but Uther doesn’t want to believe him. Uther dismisses his men and Gaius asks if Arthur should be told about who Nimueh really is. Bayard and his army are soon seen leaving Camelot and Arthur and Morgana share a cute moment where he tells her that he had help and he is only alive because of whoever it was that guided him to safety. There’s even a little moment with Uther that’s kind of touching. Uther gives his usual “magic is evil” spiel and then says he’s proud of Arthur even though he disobeyed an order. It was the right thing to do.

It’s clear that Nimueh was after Merlin as well as Arthur and Camelot. She knows his destiny, too. But that’s for another day. Now, Merlin has to worry about getting better and getting back to doing Arthur’s bidding. But, thanks to the near-death experience, he and Arthur are fast becoming more than just master/servant. They’re becoming friends.

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