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Review for Merlin Season One, Episode 4: “The Poisoned Chalice”

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

This tale was engaging, but I didn’t take away from it as much as I did the previous storyline. Still, it was a solid episode that furthered the character and plot development, and was interesting to watch.

(Spoilers after the Jump)

Recap:

The episode surrounds a meeting and planned alliance between Camelot and the surrounding kingdom of Mercia. Nimueh, aiming to sow further dischord between the two kingdoms, inserts herself into the party from Mercia as a servant. The night of a special feast commemorating the alliance, Nimueh she informs Merlin that the King of Mercia is planning to poison Uther and Arthur, and Merlin, convinced, attempts to stop the two Pendragons from drinking from the goblets. Though Uther thinks that Merlin is mad, he decides to let Merlin be the one to drink from the goblet to test his theory. Merlin does, and the poison acts quickly, causing him to fall unconscious.

Uther, taking this to be an act of war, confines the Mercia party to the dungeons, and begins to make preparations for the defense of his kingdom. Arthur, concerned for Merlin’s health, visits him in Gaius’ chambers, where he finds out from Gaius that if a certain flower that only grows in a certain part of Camelot is administered to Merlin, he should be cured of the poison. Arthur goes to his father, telling him of Gaius’ findings, and that he intends to visit the cave and retrieve the flower himself. Uther forbades his son, however, on the grounds that the Mercian armies would be amassing themselves in response to their king being captured by Uther, and that it would be too dangerous to venture out on such an errand. He tells Arthur that his servant Merlin was only doing his duty by testing the goblet before he did, and that if he dies, it will only be an unfortunate consequence, not something to be actively combatted by Arthur. Arthur leaves, upset that his father has reacted this way to Merlin’s plight.

The next day, Arthur sets out for the cave, intent on helping Merlin by finding the sought-after flower. Along the way, he meets Nimueh, who tries to distract him from his quest by claiming that she was attacked. Arthur, knowing that Merlin’s time is short, agrees to help her, but after he has found the flower. He ventures into the cave, where Nimueh casts a spell to cause giant spiders to attack Arthur, her previous obstacle of distraction not having worked. Back in Gaius’ chambers, Merlin finds himself in a magical link with Arthur and is able to discern that he is in trouble. Through his weakened state, Merlin casts a spell to give Arthur light to see his way out of the cave. Just before Arthur can escape the cave with his quarry, Nimueh reveals that she knows who he is, and Arthur returns to Camelot, his head spinning with questions. Upon his return, he is arrested by Uther for his disobediance and sent to the dungeons.

Uther goes to see his son, and smashes the flower that Arthur has retrieved. Fortunately, it’s potency has not been diminished, and through some crafty footwork from Gwen, the flower gets to Merlin and he is cured.

Uther forgives Arthur for going to search for the flower, and, after Athur inquires about Nimueh’s appearance, Uther reveals a few tidbits of information about her to satiate Arthur’s curiosity, without revealing too much.

Review:

In this second half of the two Nimueh-centered episodes, I really enjoyed seeing Arthur stick his leg out for Merlin. Even though it meant defying his father, he knew that it wasn’t right to simply let Merlin die, and was willing to stand up and act on that. I also enjoyed the connection Merlin and Arthur had while Arthur was in danger in the cave, because it once again foreshadows the legendary pair they will become.

Now that I’ve gotten the good stuff out of the way, I should point out the bad. Spiders? SPIDERS? I will admit to watching the cave scene between my fingers as I obstructed my view of the television with my hand. It did up the ante on the terror and danger of the scene to hear the spiders skittering along the wet rock of the cave, however, which I suppose was needed. I still say that butterflies or bats could have been a formidable foe…and far less terrifying…

Excepting the choice for the monster for this week, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I thought it continued the story arc elements from the previous episode well, while still creating enough of a standalone that viewers new to the series wouldn’t be too lost by watching this episode first.

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