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Merlin “The Hollow Queen” 

Photo Credit: Syfy

Guinevere ratchets up her efforts to put an end to Arthur Pendragon’s reign this week, while Morgana sets her sights on Merlin.  He is the thorn in her side who seems to be able to disrupt all of her plots against the King, and Morgana has had enough.  There is no love lost between the two since it was Merlin who once poisoned her long ago. She still does not know of his power and, thus, continues to underestimate him.

Merlin encounters a druid teenage boy, Daegal, who seeks assistance for his sister at the Valley of the Fallen Kings. Merlin is unable to resist a plea for help and sets off on the half-day journey with him. Gaius advises him not to go, because the Valley is too dangerous, but he should have known that Merlin would not heed his warning.  Meanwhile, Arthur is set to meet with Sarrum, a ruthless leader who has a reputation for brutality.  Arthur wants a treaty with Sarrum, and also wants to hear how Sarrum once captured Morgana.


The journey with the boy highlights how much Merlin has changed since the beginning. He has gone from being an impetuous youth to a responsible, caring man. Merlin also is no fool, though. En route, he begins to suspect that he is not being led to a sick girl. It’s a trap. When Merlin learns that the boy does not share his druidic power of telepathy, he knows he’s been deceived. He doesn’t realize, though, that Morgana is behind the plot. She knocks him unconscious (again), pours a liquid in his mouth, and kicks him into a ditch.

Photo Credit: Syfy

Merlin awakens only to discover that he has been poisoned. Even his magic cannot help him. Luckily, the boy can’t stand the guilt of leaving Merlin to die. He returns and saves him, and also tells him of Morgana’s plot against Arthur. Though his leg is injured, Merlin rushes back to Camelot. Along the way, he and the boy encounter bandits and Merlin has no choice but to use his magic against them. The boy knows his secret and Merlin must now trust that he will do the right thing and keep it to himself.  The boy has a reason to keep the secret; his mother also had magic and was killed by Uther because of it. It feels like Merlin wants to be more open with his magic. He knows that Arthur isn’t ready, though, and even tells the boy he thinks Arthur would hang him.  Merlin does a discredit to his friendship with Arthur by having so little faith. Arthur would likely be shocked and feel betrayed by Merlin keeping his magic a secret. But, he loves Merlin like his brother. He would certainly move past it at some point.

This is not a good episode for Arthur. Needless to say, Arthur is not too pleased that his servant has disappeared. With Merlin gone, he demonstrates that he is ridiculously helpless.  He refuses to put on his own clothes. When Gaius comes into his room, Arthur tasks Gaius with filling Merlin’s role. Arthur bends over with his arms outstretched, waiting for Gaius to slip the shirt onto him. The shock on Gaius’ face was hilarious and was only topped when he mistakes Gwen’s nightgown for Arthur’s shirt and tries to put that on him. Later in the episode, Arthur meets one of Sarrum’s men in a fighting demonstration. Arthur loses. Badly.  He ends up on the ground with the man’s sword at the back of his neck. This is all combined with the fact that Arthur has no clue he is being manipulated by Gwen and only narrowly escapes assassination thanks to Merlin. All in all, Arthur comes off as helpless and completely reliant on the assistance of others. By contrast, Uther appeared to be a much stronger leader. Something needs to change with Arthur.

We finally learn who kept Morgana and Aithusa in the oubliette. Sarrum tells Arthur that he found Morgana’s weakness: her love for Aithusa. Sarrum threatened to kill Aithusa if Morgana used her magic, and then imprisoned them for 2 years. During this time, the growing dragon was crippled and twisted by being confined to the small space.  This also likely explains why Aithusa can’t speak, as Merlin discovered earlier this season. It is encouraging that Morgana’s weakness involves love for another being.  She is still too far gone to hope for redemption, but at least there is a scrap of compassion and humanity left in her.

Arthur starts to worry about Merlin’s absence and Gwen tells him that Merlin’s gone off with a girl. Gwen knows that Morgana plans to kill Merlin. Merlin’s fate is of little concern to her, though, as she has bigger plans. To further her scheme against Arthur and to secure some vengeance for Morgana, Gwen asks Sarrum to murder Arthur in exchange for some of Camelot’s land.  After Arthur’s death, Gwen would then turn on Sarrum and ensure that he suffered an excruciating death. Of course, Merlin isn’t going to let that happen. He makes his way back to the castle and stops the assassination, but not before the boy takes a knife to the stomach and an errant arrow strikes Sarrum.

Merlin and Gaius know that they have to do something about Gwen. She is not going to stop trying to kill Arthur. Hopefully, in the next episode they will be able to release Gwen from Morgana’s control. While it has been great seeing the duplicity in Gwen’s character, it is time for Merlin to wipe that deceptive smile from her face. I am looking forward to the moment that Gwen realizes all that has passed and what she has done. It will likely be the best performance of the series for Angel Coulby.

Merlin airs Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy.

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