The Death Song of Uther Pendragon is the third episode of Series 5.
When a stranger gives Arthur the power to summon the dead, the king finds himself torn between head and heart. Unable to resist temptation, he seizes the chance to speak to the person he misses most - his father, Uther. But the spirit world is a dark and dangerous place... Little does Arthur realise that his decision comes at a terrible price. Against all odds, Merlin must right Arthur's mistake before Camelot and everything they have built is destroyed forever.
After a day of hunting, Merlin and Arthur ride through the woods on their horses as Arthur complains that Merlin scared all the game away with his sneezing. Suddenly, the pair's arguing is interrupted by the screams of a hysterical woman nearby. The young king instantly rushes off to investigate as a reluctant Merlin follows.
The two soon come across a village where the leader, Alrick, is about to have an accused sorceress, Valdis, burned at the stake. Arthur, with Merlin by his side, immediately orders a stop to the execution. Alrick angrily orders them to leave, saying the execution is none of their business. However, Arthur reveals his identity as king to the shocked crowd and says that since the village is within his lands, it is his business. Annoyed, Alrick tells the two that Valdis has cursed the village by spreading sickness with her magic.
However, when he discovers that no real evidence seems to exist and that Valdis hasn't even received a trial, Arthur orders her release and gives the villagers his word that he will take her to Camelot personally to be tried. While the majority of the village is satisfied with this, Alrick refuses, saying that Uther wouldn't have shown "the witch" any mercy. Arthur coldly says that he isn't Uther and again, orders Alrick to cut Valdis down from the stake. He still refuses and goes to light the pyre instead. Arthur draws his sword and warns Alrick that unless he complies with his orders immediately, Arthur will kill him where he stands.
Valdis is released into Arthur and Merlin's custody. The two head back to Camelot with the elderly woman, but soon realise that she is dying from the mistreatment she endured at the hands of the villagers. Before she passes away, Valdis thanks Arthur for his kindness and compassion (something she had rarely received in life), saying that they are the qualities of a good and just king. In her final moments, she rewards him with the Horn of Cathbhadh as a gift.
Back at Camelot, the two men show Gaius the horn, who explains that it is magical and has the power to summon spirits from the afterlife. The horn was originally kept by the High Priestesses on the Isle of the Blessed, but when Uther attacked, it was smuggled to safety before the temple fell. According to the physician, who had taken part in such ceremonies, long before the time of the Great Purge, each year at Beltane the High Priestesses would gather at the Great Stones of Nemeton and summon the spirits of their ancestors to ask for guidance. Gaius also warns Arthur that because of the horn's great power, it must be kept safe.
The night following is the anniversary of Arthur's coronation three years ago. At the dining table, Mordred watches Arthur, who appears very upset. Seeing Mordred's puzzlement, Elyan explains that Arthur is always like this on the anniversary of his coronation because it was the same day Uther died. A concerned Guinevere attempts to comfort him, but he assures her that he's fine. He kisses her on the cheek before leaving the table and goes down to his father's tomb to mourn.
Later, Arthur sits in his chambers, thinking. But, his silence is interrupted by a loud knock on the door. Startled by the sudden noise, the king knocks over a bowl of apples, which scatter across the floor as Merlin enters. As he tidies the room up, Arthur asks Merlin to ready the horses, but doesn't tell them where they are going and warns him not to tell anyone about it, even Gwen. When Merlin questions him, Arthur comically threatens him with a spoon to the face. Merlin originally ridicules Arthur's threat of a spoon, upon which Arthur hits him in the face with it.
The two ride out to the Great Stones of Nemeton. Once there, Merlin discovers Arthur intends to use the horn to contact Uther. Merlin warns him, reminding him of the horn's powerful magic and that there could be consequences, but Arthur responds by asking Merlin if he would do the same thing if he wanted to see his father. Merlin says he would, so Arthur walks into the centre of the stone ring. While a worried Merlin watches, Arthur blows the horn.
The veil opens to the spirit world and Arthur enters. Once there, he meets Uther. They both announce not a day goes by without them thinking about each other. Arthur says he often feels lonely and wants his father by his side, but Uther says he has a lot to say and to Arthur's shock, accuses his son of destroying his legacy. Arthur counters that despite their differences, he has brought peace and prosperity to Camelot. However, Uther claims that Arthur is being weak by trusting others and that the only way for his subjects to truly respect him is to fear him. However, Arthur retorts that he doesn't want to rule by fear, but by being fair and just. The bitter conversation continues as Uther chastises all of Arthur's doings since becoming king (marrying a servant, making common-born people knights, etc), Uther tells his son that he must leave or he will be trapped in the world of the dead forever. Arthur says this is not how he wants to say goodbye, but Uther says to think about what he said for it is not too late to change. But as he exits the veil, Arthur looks back one more time as Uther says that he loves him, but his action unknowingly releases Uther's spirit. That night, Arthur tells Merlin that his father does not approve of the way he has chosen to rule the kingdom. Merlin instantly defends Arthur, telling him Camelot is his to rule now, not Uther's.
The next day, a particularly boring meeting is being held at the Round Table when the double doors suddenly and mysterious fly open and slam shut several times. Despite being startled, Arthur has Sir Leon proceed with the report he was giving prior to the incident. However, the chandelier suddenly breaks loose and crashes down into the center of the table, damaging it and greatly startling the knights. After the meeting, Merlin follows Arthur down a hall as the king discusses repairing the table. But, Merlin isn't concentrating, thinking about the strange occurrences. He then senses a dark presence, indicated by a gust of wind and the candles flickering.
Later on, Percival is alone in the knights' chambers, undoing his armour. But, he suddenly senses a presence and calls out to see if anyone is there. A hanging shield is suddenly thrown onto the ground, startling the knight. Percival silently walks over to investigate and an axe suddenly flies of the weapon rack and hits him in the arm. Percival is immediately tended to by Gaius and Merlin, who reveals that the injury is not life threatening. While being treated, Percival says that he doesn't suspect that he was attacked and that the axe must have just fell. However, the physician says the wound is too deep for just a falling axe and that he was lucky he wasn't hurt more seriously. The knight then confides in the two, saying that he was probably just hearing things, but that he had sensed a presence and that it felt like someone or something was watching him.
After he leaves, Gaius sees Merlin is deeply troubled and asks what is wrong. Merlin then tells Gaius about what happened with the horn. The physician believes that if Arthur had looked back as he left the spirit world, a spirit could have followed him out. Deeply concerned by the increasing violence, Merlin immediately confronts Arthur, asking him if he had looked back as he left Uther in the spirit world. As Merlin continues to question him, the king reluctantly admits that he did, but Arthur refuses to believe that Uther's spirit is behind the recent events and asks Merlin to leave.
Elsewhere, Gwen walks down a corridor, but soon senses a ghostly presence when another gust of wind comes down the hall. She calls out, but the doors suddenly start to rattle and a nearby window starts opening and closing. The queen closes it, but the shutters start banging again and the candles lining the corridor blow out. Clearly frightened, Gwen tries to flee, but is attacked by an invisible force. She is thrown to the ground and dragged down the hall by her arms. When the presence finally lets go, she gets up and runs away as more objects are hurled after her. Luckily, she makes it to the kitchen and shuts the door just as a spear flies down the hall and embeds in the wood, missing her by inches. Then, pots and pans from nearby shelves begin flying around the room and one smashes Gwen in the head, knocking her out. As she lies unconscious, a fire magically starts and the room begins to burn. Fortunately, Merlin is walking by and sees the growing fire. He enters, finds Gwen and rescues her.
As Gaius tends to the queen's injuries, Merlin finally convinces Arthur that his father's spirit is responsible for the attack on Gwen and everything else that has been going on in the castle. Gaius tells Arthur and Merlin that they must find Uther's spirit and send it back to the spirit world by using the horn again, but only Arthur can make Uther go since he is the one who summoned him. He then gives the two a potion that will allow them to see Uther's spirit. They start their search in chambers beneath the castle and are met by Leon, who is on patrol. Merlin explains their presence by claiming to be teaching Arthur poetry for Gwen, much to Arthur's annoyance. The two press on and soon begin to sense Uther's spirit. As they search, Arthur says he never imagined that he'd have to hunt down his own father. Merlin assures Arthur that he is doing the right thing despite Uther's disapproval, stating that Camelot is a better place because of it. He also encourages Arthur to believe in himself more, stating that if he doesn't, his people have nothing to believe in.
Feeling more of the cold wind that indicates a ghostly presence, the two hear glass smashing in one of the storerooms and Merlin goes to check while Arthur enters the throne room. While Merlin's search only turns up a frantic pigeon, Arthur becomes trapped in the throne room when the doors slam shut and bolt from the outside. He calls out for his father, saying that he knows he's there. Turning around, he sees the ghost of Uther sitting on the throne and angrily demands to know why he is doing what he is doing.
Uther tells him he did not spend his entire life building a kingdom to see his own son destroy it. Ignoring him, Arthur accuses his father of trying to kill Gwen, which Uther admits to it. He states it was for Arthur's own good, saying a stupid servant girl knows nothing about being queen. A furious Arthur counters that Gwen is kind, strong, and wise beyond her years and that Uther has no right to meddle with his life simply because he dislikes his decisions. Uther claims that it is Arthur's trust in people that makes him weak and that he alone must rule Camelot. But, Arthur coldly states he would rather not rule at all than rule alone. He goes on to accuse Uther's hatred towards things that he alone saw as evil (magic being the most prominent) came from fear, not strength and it was that fear that led to his eventual downfall. Outraged, Uther firmly tells Arthur that Camelot must come before all else, even Arthur himself and knocks his son out by causing a shield to fly off the nearby wall and hit him in the head. Uther then approaches Arthur, but is interrupted by Merlin entering through the back entrance.
Merlin warns Uther to get away from Arthur, stating that the former king had caused enough harm in life and doesn't belong in Camelot anymore. However, Uther's spirit says that he will not be driven away, least of all by a useless serving boy. The ghost king then hurls a bench towards him, but Merlin blocks it with his magic, revealing his identity. Uther is stunned to see that the so-called "brainless" boy he had made Arthur's servant was in fact a sorcerer who had been hiding in front of him the whole time. However, his shock instantly turns to rage and he vows that he will not let Merlin or his kind to continue "poisoning his kingdom". But, Merlin retaliates by telling him all the time Uther ruled, all the time he was trying to force it out, magic had still flourished in Camelot because it was meant to be there and that Arthur is a far better and more worthy king than Uther could have ever hoped to become.
Now insane with rage, Uther's ghost screams and tries to attack him again, but Merlin sends him flying through the door with a stun spell. He then searches the halls for the ghost, using magic to light his way and he eventually ends up in the armoury. But, Uther traps Merlin by pinning him to wall with two spears. Grabbing a sword, the ghost menacingly says he will take great pleasure killing Merlin, but he is interrupted by Arthur entering with the Horn of Cathbhadh. Upon seeing his son, Uther pleads with him not to blow it, saying he only did what he did for the good of Camelot. But, Arthur isn't convinced, seeing that his father is no longer the person he once loved and respected. He tells Uther that he has had his turn and Camelot was now his to rule. In one final attempt to stop his son, Uther starts to reveal Merlin's secret, but Arthur blows the horn just in time, whisking his father's ghost back to the spirit world and Merlin's magic remains hidden.
The next day, Merlin is helping Arthur with his armour. Arthur says that he has accepted that while he may not be able to please his father, he will never abandon his other beliefs, especially his belief in equality for others, regardless of class. Merlin tells him he should not hit him anymore if he truly thinks that, but Arthur denies his request and says it's only horseplay. Merlin then grabs a glove, slapping Arthur hard across the head. While originally angry, Arthur laughs and tells him that he's doing it wrong and he will show him how to do it correctly. The two continue to laugh as Arthur puts on the glove and clutches his fist.
Main Cast Edit
- Colin Morgan as Merlin
- Bradley James as King Arthur
- Angel Coulby as Queen Guinevere
- Alexander Vlahos as Sir Mordred
- Eoin Macken as Sir Gwaine
- Adetomiwa Edun as Sir Elyan
- Rupert Young as Sir Leon
- Tom Hopper as Sir Percival
- Richard Wilson as Gaius
Release & ReceptionEdit
The Death Song of Uther Pendragon premiered in October 20, 2012 - 8.25pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. 6.86 million views.
Behind the ScenesEdit
- The banquet scene was the first scene of Series 5 that Angel Coulby filmed in 2012. (MerlinOfficial)
- Morgana does not appear in this episode and Mordred appears only fleetingly.
- This episode features a one-off change in the opening credits, as the opening credits of Series 5 are almost identical to the updated sequence introduced in Series 4, the only exception being a shot of Uther Pendragon, which has been replaced by a shot of Gaius. In this episode however, the version with Uther is used.
- This episode resembles the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus travelled to the Underworld in order to save his beloved, but was told not to look back at her until they are out of there, or she would vanish into thin air and he would never see her again. However, Orpheus chose to look back at his beloved, which caused her to disappear and suffer eternally. Likewise, when Arthur looked back at Uther, it caused his angry spirit to cause mayhem in Camelot. Both actions had disastrous results for the heroes' lives.
- The Great Stone of Nemeton looks like the Stonehenge which is in some legends about Merlin. Some people even say that Merlin created the Stonehenge.
- Many Merlin fans have criticised this episode because they believe that Uther's character was ruined, while other fans of the show say that Uther's characterisation is spot on. As he stated to Arthur, when he was mortally injured that he had always put his duties first. Which was contradictory to his previous comments and actions throughout the series; when he tried to sacrifice himself and his kingdom for Arthur and Morgana several times. Since, Uther had always said and proven that Arthur and Morgana's life was more important to him than Camelot and his own life, those contradictional statements and actions of season four (even though he sacrificed himself for Arthur in this very episode) and five cause great confusion within the fandom.
- Characters: Uther Pendragon, Valdis, Alrick
- Locations: Great Stones of Nemeton
- Magic: Elemental Magic (Fire spell), Stunning spells, Locking/Unlocking Spells
- Creatures: The Great Dragon
- Objects: The Horn of Cathbhadh
- Events: Feast of Beltane
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 BBC One - The Death Song of Uther Pendragon
- ↑ Ideasfilmsprod (archived version)
|Arthur's Bane • The Death Song of Uther Pendragon • Another's Sorrow • The Disir • The Dark Tower • A Lesson in Vengeance • The Hollow Queen • With All My Heart • The Kindness of Strangers • The Drawing of the Dark • The Diamond of the Day|