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TV Review: Merlin S1, Episode 3: The Mark of Nimueh

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Buy MERLIN – Series 1 Vol. 1 (BBC Series) [NON-USA Format / Import / Region 2 / PAL] on Amazon.

The tale of Merlin continues in an exciting, engaging manner in this episode, without any blatant anachronisms that could take the audience out of the story.

Rating: [rating:5]

(Spoilers After the Jump)

Recap:

The episode begins with a woman standing over a basin of water. She casts a spell over a round object, and looks satisfied that her plans will succeed.

Gaius is in town shopping for medical supplies, and Merlin is assisting him, when they find a man who has died. They have no idea what caused the death, except that the man’s skin has turned blue.

Soon, more people die of this same mysterious affliction, and Gaius is pressured by Uther to find a cure. Gaius fears that the sickness is caused by magic and Merlin offers to use his magic to rid the town of the illness. Gaius refuses, however, reminding Merlin that if he is caught performing magic, he will be sentenced to death! Merlin agrees to find a way to cure Camelot of the illness without using magic.

However, this agreement is put into jepoardy when Gwen enters Gaius’ chambers one day in tears, telling both Merlin and Gaius that her father has been afflicted with the same disease that plagues others in Camelot. Merlin, desiring to do something to help Gwen’s father, goes forth to him in the dead of night and performs a spell he’s been secretly researching, hoping that it will work with the aid of a poultice under Gwen’s father’s pillow. He does indeed cure Gwen’s father of the illness, which causes suspicions to be aroused by Arthur when, the next day, he sees Gwen’s father back at his trade, working, with no sign of the illness.

Gaius approaches Uther and tells him that it must be a sorceress that has performed a spell to inflict this disease upon Camelot. Uther commands Arthur to do a full search of the city, to find the identity of the sorceress so she can be punished for her treachery. While searching through the city, Gwen’s father’s room is searched, and Arthur finds the poultice under one of the pillows. Taking this as a sign that Gwen is the sorceress that has cast the spell of disease, Uther sends her to the jails to await punishment.

Merlin confesses to Gaius that it was he who cured Gwen’s father, and Gaius severely reprimands him for his actions. Merlin decides to go in front of Uther and confess his secret – which he does. However, Gaius being present, along with Arthur and Merlin, Gaius immediately denounces Merlin’s statement as the ravings of an unwell boy, and so does Arthur.

Merlin and Gaius, through rigorous testing and some exploration, find that Camelot’s water source has been tainted, and that a beast is present in the water. Gaius deduces that if the beast is killed, then the plague will release its hold upon the kingdom. But how to kill the beast?

Merlin seeks the wise counsel of the dragon once more, and learns that he cannot defeat the beast all by himself. He needs to seek the aid of Arthur, for only with his magical skill and Arthur’s prowess with his sword, will the beast be killed.

After some convincing of Arthur by Morgana, the three set out in secret to find the beast and destroy it. Merlin is reluctant to use his power, especially when Arthur and Morgana are so close to him that they could learn his secret, but when Arthur has no success in slaying the beast, it is clear that the dragon’s words were true: only magic combined with Arthur’s sword would vanquish the beast. Merlin casts a spell, careful to keep out of the sight of Morgana and Arthur as he does so, while Arthur attacks the beast. It is vanquished, and so is the plague.

The woman who originally cast the spell, gazes through her looking-glass basin at Merlin, Morgana and Arthur, and finds that her plans have been foiled by the young wizard. She however, has not been defeated, and so lives to create more torment for the kingdom of Camelot as the days progress.

Gaius approaches Uther and tells him that he’s seen the mark of Nimueh, a sorceress that was there when Arthur was born, and caused much trouble, on the victims of the plague, and is certain that she was the one to cast the spell. Uther is surprised – she couldn’t still be alive, could she?

However, as the signs point to Nimueh, Gwen is released, having been proven to not be the sorceress in question.

Review:

I thought this was a very solid episode. This is the first episode we see Merlin truly regret his magical actions, as they put Gwen’s life in jeopardy. We also see Arthur and Merlin working together for the first time, a partnership that lives in legend gets its start in this episode, which was very interesting to see.

I loved the twist at the end when Morgana reveals that she knows Merlin’s secret, but that she would keep it – after all, Merlin should be the one to tell Gwen he loves her, not Morgana, right? Merlin is stunned, and so was I! I kept thinking that Morgana knew of Merlin’s magical abilities, but it turns out it was something completely different.

This episode had edge of your seat action, drama, and humor, and was framed very nicely: the book-end of Nimueh in the cave was intriguing all the way through. We are made to never truly know what Nimueh has in mind, but we now know that her plans are never for the better!

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