At Arthur’s coming of age ceremony, a mysterious black knight arrives in Camelot, to challenge the knights of Camelot to single combat to the death. As more and more of Camelot’s knights die, it becomes apparent that a secret of Uther’s past has come back to haunt him. Now Merlin must find a way to halt the revenge of a dead man before he kills Arthur and Uther.
In a crypt below Camelot, Nimueh performs necromancy on a sealed sarcophagus, chanting several magic words ending with “Uther Pendragon”. The crypt bursts open from the inside as a gauntleted fist smashes its way out, and Nimueh smiles in delight as the sarcophagus’ occupant hand bursts out.
Back at Camelot, Arthur comes of age and is crowned by his father as "Prince of Camelot" as everyone watches proudly, then a black-clad knight on a black horse bursts into the hall through the window. The knight casts his gauntlet onto the ground as a challenge which is taken up by Sir Owain. The knight states the rules; single combat at noon to the death before galloping out. Arthur angrily tells Morgana that Owain should not have picked up the Gauntlet. Morgana begs him to take Owain's place, however, Arthur states The Knights Code obligates Owain to fight as he picked up the gauntlet, despite Owain being a inexperienced knight of Camelot, and he is fully aware that the fight is to the death. Gaius claims to Merlin he does not know the knight, but he and Geoffrey of Monmouth recognize the crest and realize that the knight is Tristan De Bois. Gaius immediately goes to tell Uther, who already knows; Tristan De Bois had been killed twenty-one years previously by Uther himself, though Uther does not know how he has come back, since as he is quick to point out “Dead men do not return”.
The next day, Arthur attempts to teach Sir Owain how to fight when Guinevere comes in with a token from Morgana. Sir Owain and the Black Knight then fight; Sir Owain manages to stab the Black Knight in the belly, with no visible damage. The Black Knight then finishes off Sir Owain before issuing another challenge. Uther holds back Arthur allowing another knight, Sir Pellinore to take up the challenge. Arthur then confronts Uther about why he held him back. Uther justifies it saying that they should allow the other knights a chance to prove themselves and that Arthur is not to blame. In private, Merlin confides to Gaius that he saw Owain land a killing blow and that the Black Knight should be dead. Gaius mutters that perhaps he already is...
Merlin and Gaius go to Tristan’s crypt to discover that someone had already broken out of the crypt. Back at Gaius’ room, it is revealed that Tristan is the brother of Ygraine, Uther’s wife and Arthur’s mother. Tristan, blaming Uther for the death of his sister in childbirth, rode to Camelot and confronted Uther. Uther managed to kill Tristan in single combat, but with his last breath, Tristan swore he would return to Camelot one day and take his revenge; at the time, the threat was dismissed as a dying man’s ravings, but now Gaius fears Tristan’s threat is all too real. Gaius suspects that sorcery was involved: magic was used to harness the grief and rage of a demented soul, forming a wraith. When Merlin asks how they stop it, Gaius replies they can not; because a wraith is not alive, it cannot be killed by any mortal weapon, and it will keep on killing until it achieves its ultimate goal: revenge.
The next day’s challenge is the same as the first: Sir Pellinore fights the Knight and is winning, he then manages to stab the Knight (noticed by both Morgana and Guinevere and Uther). The Knight shows no sign of harm and finishes off Sir Pellinore. This time, Arthur throws down his gauntlet before Uther can stop him and issues his own challenge, to the shock of Uther. The Black Knight accepts and stalks away. Uther angrily tells Arthur he will revoke the challenge as he is Crown Prince. Arthur refuses as it is against the rules and that the Knights Code must be upheld, and to prove that he is worthy of the throne. Uther says that Arthur will surely die. Arthur comments that Uther has little faith in him.
Merlin suggests an idea to use magic in an attempt to destroy the Knight after realizing that it is immortal. Gaius goes to the King and tells him that Tristan’s tomb is empty and Tristan himself has been conjured from the dead. Gaius tells Uther not to let Arthur fight. Gaius tells Uther that no mortal weapon can kill the dead and that Arthur will die. Uther says that Arthur will not listen to him, prompting Gaius to suggest that Uther tells Arthur who the knight is. Uther reveals that Gaius has already sworn not to tell a soul and dismisses him ordering him not to break his vow. Meanwhile, Merlin attacks the Knight with magic, conjuring a ring of fire similar to the one Edwin conjured in episode 6. The magic has no effect and the Knight just stares at him, causing Merlin to confront Arthur, telling him to back out: Arthur still refuses stating he is not a coward.
In the dead of night, Uther is confronted by Nimueh in the council chambers, who states the wraith is her revenge for Uther banishing her from court and murdering so many of her fellow magic-users. Uther accuses her of killing Ygraine, but she insists she was Uther's friend and he welcomed her in his Kingdom, Uther states she betrayed his trust by allowing Ygraine to die however Nimueh states she had no choice: by using magic to conceive Arthur due to Ygraine being barren, Ygraine had to die to preserve the balance of the world as this is the law of magic, and that had Nimueh known the depths of Uther’s revenge and the terrible retribution he would seek, she would never have helped him. Uther wishes she hadn't, She then leaves stating that having so many people she loved die at his hands, and now Uther will share the same misery.
Merlin, with the help of Geoffrey of Monmouth, look for information on weapons that can slay the undead. After finding a cryptic reference to weapons blessed by a dragon by Sir Marhaus, Merlin gets a sword from Guinevere, who gives him the finest blade her father ever forged, then goes to the Great Dragon. The Dragon agrees to bless the sword, but insists it is only to be used by Arthur as his power will make it a very deadly weapon: and in the wrong hands, it could be used for terrible evil.
Gaius, at Uther’s request, drugs Arthur after Uther apologizes to him for his earlier fit of anger in the council chambers and asks him to promise to keep the truth of Arthur birth secret to which Gaius agrees, while Uther takes his place in the challenge. He meets Merlin in Camelot’s armoury and takes the sword for himself (remarking on its craftsmanship and excellent balance), using it to fight the wraith however he also thanks Merlin for his devotion to Arthur and asks him to keep Arthur safe. He meets Tristan at the arena and tells him he can have what he came for; the father, not the son. After a long and close-fought battle, the battle reaches a turning point when Uther knocks Tristan’s helmet off, revealing the wraith - a decaying, decrepit walking corpse. Furious, Tristan attacks with renewed ferocity, knocking Uther to the floor as Nimueh watches in glee. But Tristan’s sword becomes stuck in Uther’s shield; as the wraith works to free his weapon, Uther senses his chance and runs Tristan through; finally beaten, Tristan gives a scream of defeated rage before bursting into flames. A furious Nimueh, watching the fight in the crowd, slinks away defeated.
Arthur confronts Uther after the fight for having Gaius drug him, but Uther defends himself saying he could not allow the most precious thing to him to die. Arthur is surprised by this, having believed he was a disappointment to his father and playfully teases Uther on his weakness in footwork. The Great Dragon calls Merlin to him and asks about the outcome of the fight after Merlin tells him the sword worked well the Dragon seems pleased, however Merlin reveals Uther wielded the sword instead of Arthur and a furious dragon tells him that in Uther’s hands, the sword will only bring evil and that Merlin broke his promise to the Great Dragon about Arthur only wielding the sword. As he cannot destroy the sword, the Dragon orders Merlin to hide the sword where no one can find it or uses its power and states that Merlin is not yet ready to be fully trusted by the Dragon. Merlin sneaks the sword out of Camelot and casts it into a lake (Avalon), where it lands on the lake floor, a shot which is shown in the opening credits.
- Colin Morgan as Merlin
- Bradley James as Prince Arthur
- Richard Wilson as Gaius
- Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon
- Angel Coulby as Gwen
- Katie McGrath as Morgana
- John Hurt as the voice of The Great Dragon
- Michelle Ryan as Nimueh
- Michael Cronin as Geoffrey of Monmouth
- Christopher Fairbank as Tristan de Bois
- Kyle Redmond-Jones as Sir Owain
- Sean Francis as Sir Pellinore
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Release & Reception
- Excalibur premiered on Syfy UK at 7pm on September 10th 2017, immediately followed by The Moment of Truth.
- 6.47 million views.
- Uther is seen carrying Excalibur in his left hand before the fight, but fights using his right hand. Afterwards he removes his helmet with his left hand but throws Excalibur down moments later from the same one, despite the fact he used his shield arm to remove the helm.
- When Arthur is crowned crown prince, you can clearly see his hair is under the crown, but in the next perspective, his hair hangs over the crown.
- This episode was originally going to be named The Secrets of Uther.
- The episode was named after the famous sword, but the sword hasn't got any name in the episode, nor in the entire tv show.
- According to a Greek Magazine, Nimueh was spying on Merlin whilst he threw Excalibur into the Lake of Avalon.
- This marks the second appearance of the Lake of Avalon.
- Characters: Tristan de Bois, Nimueh, Sir Pellinore, Sir Owain, Geoffrey of Monmouth
- Locations: Lake of Avalon
- Magic: Elemental Magic (Fire spell)
- Creatures: The Great Dragon, Wraith
- Objects: Excalibur
- Sleeping draught
|The Dragon's Call • Valiant • The Mark of Nimueh • The Poisoned Chalice • Lancelot • A Remedy to Cure All Ills • The Gates of Avalon • The Beginning of the End • Excalibur • The Moment of Truth • The Labyrinth of Gedref • To Kill the King • Le Morte d'Arthur
Mini-episode: Merlin in Need