“Heed my words with due concern, for one of you will not return.” ~ Queen Mab
Last time on Merlin, the Disir informed Arthur that it was time for him to face his judgment. His war against the Old Religion had angered the Triple Goddess and he must repent or his fate will be sealed. After Arthur and his knights confront the Disir about passing judgment on Arthur, Mordred is mortally wounded saving Arthur’s life. When Arthur returns to the Disir to beg forgiveness and for Mordred’s life, they force him to choose the Old Religion or seal his fate. When Arthur seeks Merlin’s advice, Merlin tells him to ban magic forever, letting Mordred die from his wounds and ensuring he would not be able to kill Arthur as the prophecy has shown. After Arthur tells the Disir he has decided to ban magic forever, they return to Camelot to find Mordred alive and well and Merlin realizes that by refusing the Old Religion, Arthur sealed his fate to die at Mordred’s hand.
The Dark Tower opens as Guinevere and Elyan visit their father’s grave and pay their respects before heading back to Camelot with some of the other knights. As they begin their journey home, Morgana sets a trap for them and casts a spell on a grassy meadow in their path. As the knights approach the meadow, snakes appear and attack them causing Leon and Percival to be thrown from their horses. The snakes bite them and Elyan yells for Gwen to flee to the forest out of harm’s way. As Gwen rides away from the snakes, she runs straight into Morgana, but before she’s able to get away, Morgana uses magic to pull her from her horse and knocks her unconscious.
When the knights return with injured Leon and Percival, Arthur quickly notices Gwen’s absence and Elyan admits they were separated during the attack. Arthur immediately orders a search party while Leon and Percival are checked out by Gaius who determines that they should be dead, but instead have dark magic coursing through their veins. The next morning, as Arthur, Merlin and the knights ride out on their rescue mission to find Guinevere, Gwen wakens in the forest to find her hands bound and Morgana at her side. Morgana ties Guinevere to her horse and leads her through a deserted wasteland to a thin, dark tower where Morgana puts Gwen in a dark room and leaves her alone for the night. As soon as Morgana leaves, sounds of terror shriek out filling the room as the darkness engulfs her.
After an unsuccessful day of tracking Gwen, the knights are no longer able to follow Gwen’s tracks because of the darkness and must camp for the night. After Arthur consoles Elyan about leaving Gwen behind, Leon and Percival suddenly awaken from a nightmare. They soon realize they had the same dream about a dark tower in the middle of a wasteland and when they describe it Arthur recognizes the tower and realizes that Morgana has taken Gwen to the Dark Tower, a place of terror that haunts the hearts and minds of men.
The next morning Arthur announces that he must go to the Dark Tower alone since it is too dangerous to risk the lives of others on this journey. The knights quickly protest and decide to join Arthur on his journey to save Gwen, their friend and beloved Queen. Before long they reach a cliff and are able to see the tower in the distance surrounded by a thick forest. After hours of wandering through the forest, they realize they have been going in circles when they find a piece of Gwaine’s torn cloak. Frustrated, with darkness setting in once again, they decide to camp for the night and address the problem with clear minds. While the knights all slumber, Merlin notices a glowing light and when he goes to investigate meets Queen Mab, the spirit of the forest. Though she talks in infuriating riddles, she advises Merlin that to navigate this forest he must keep in mind that “left is right and right is left, and the way behind is the way ahead.” Before she disappears, she leaves Merlin with a warning that one of them will not return.
Meanwhile in the Dark Tower, Gwen is tormented by visions of her friends and family as they come to her with comforting warmth and love only for them to taunt her with cruelty as their faces twist in mocking laughter. Morgana offers some reprieve when she takes Gwen to get some food, but Gwen refuses to play Morgana’s game, so Morgana returns her to the darkness. Visions continue to appear and mock her, while torturous screams fill the air. When Arthur appears and torments Gwen by laughing at her pathetic state, she finally breaks down and lets Morgana offer her some comfort. Just as Morgana begins to take her from the room, Gwen pulls back and once again refuses to play Morgana’s game.
The next morning, Merlin jumps to lead Arthur and the knights out of the forest. With no other option, they decide to give him the benefit of the doubt and Merlin, following Queen Mab’s advice, leads them out of the forest to the edge of the wasteland. They trek through it and quickly reach the tower, but Merlin becomes concerned about their ease in getting there. Just as they walk into the tower, arrows shoot out at them and they realize that the flagstones on the floor are traps set off by their weight that cause arrows to be shot out of the statues lining the walls. The men all begin to throw their belts and scabbards onto the flagstones to set them off and slowly begin making their way across the room when Elyan, worried about Gwen and feeling guilty about leaving her behind, charges ahead and makes it through the room. He quickly rushes up a staircase and finds Gwen alone in a dark room with a sword levitating at her side.
Gwen warns him that the sword is enchanted to protect her, but Elyan refuses to believe her. The sword attacks and Elyan begins to fight it. After the sword gets in a blow, Elyan manages to send it flying out an open window and as it comes flying back, Elyan closes the shutter and the sword gets stuck. Though victorious, he is fatally wounded and falls into Gwen’s arms where they tell each other that their father would be proud of them both. Just as Arthur and the rest of the knights burst into the room, Elyan dies in Gwen’s arms.
Back in Camelot after Elyan’s funeral, Gwen and Arthur are sleeping when Gwen suddenly wakes up and slips out of bed. She quietly sneaks out of the castle and heads out to the forest where she finds Morgana waiting for her. They hug each other and Gwen assures Morgana of her loyalty.
This season is a bit darker and probably the best season so far. Granted, that’s my opinion and I’m sure many of you disagree with me, but I think it’s the best. I have enjoyed every episode and the acting is superb. Angel Coulby was amazing in The Dark Tower. You really felt the strength and fear in her character as she fought against the tricks of her own mind and Morgana’s little game. It was hard not to empathize with Gwen as she was being tortured and then on top of all that, losing her brother, the only family she had left. Angel Coulby was brilliant with it all. And there is a subtleness to Katie McGrath as Morgana that I love. She’s evil with subtle hints of pure insanity and each episode the insanity shows just a touch more…and so does the evil. I love that!
When I first saw this episode, I was not expecting Elyan to die. Not Elyan! Okay, so yeah he has been in the background for a good deal of the show, so much so that it’s easy to forget that he and Gwen were even siblings, but still, I wasn’t expecting him to die. So who’s going to be next? Gwaine? Percival? Leon? I hope not! On that note, Morgana was pure evil in this episode. Showing the lengths she’ll go to in order to break someone. And not just anyone, but someone she once called a friend. Torturing Gwen’s mind and soul was terrible. And she did it without batting an eye. She probably enjoyed it too and now she’s got a brainwashed minion in Camelot yet again. How many times has this happened now? Wonder how long this will last before Gwen is discovered as a traitor. Then what? Are they going to kill Gwen? Elyan’s dead now, so I guess anyone’s fair game in this final season…. which doesn’t really bode well for Arthur’s fate, does it? (Still hoping Mordred doesn’t turn on him. He can’t!)
Stay tuned next time to see what Morgana has in store for her puppet queen in A Lesson In Vengeance.
Merlin airs Friday on SyFy at 10/9c.