To Kill the King is the twelfth episode in the first series. It was broadcast on 6 December 2008.
When Gwen's father Tom unwittingly helps a renegade sorcerer turn lead into gold, he is arrested and faces trial for treason. Despite pleas from both Arthur and Morgana, Uther is adamant- Tom will be tried and, if found guilty, will be executed. Morgana tries to help Tom escape but tragedy ensues... and Morgana becomes hellbent on revenge. Merlin uncovers a plot to kill Uther, but will he try and stop it, or sit by and let it happen?
Tom, Gwen's father, goes to work for a mysterious man who has been paying him to melt down lead. Before Tom's eyes, the man produces a magical stone and uses a spell to turn the lead into gold. They are interrupted by Arthur and the royal guards, who arrest Tom, but fail to catch the sorcerer before he escapes. Meanwhile, Merlin is awakened by the sensation of strong magic.
Uther charges Tom with treason for helping a known enemy of Camelot. The man Tom was working for is Tauren, who leads a notorious gang of wizards with the aim of bringing him down. The king believes that Tom was supplying the sorcerers with weapons. Morgana fiercely denies these accusations, pointing out the large gaps in the so called evidence. Arthur also agrees that Tom is no traitor, but an unknowing pawn in Tauren's plans. Uther refuses to listen to either and declares that Tom will be given a fair trial, but Morgana doesn't believe him and tells Uther that if he executes Tom, she will never forgive him. Uther then orders Arthur to hunt down anyone who has been seen with Tauren or his men and departs, leaving an equally angered Arthur behind.
Gwen tearfully visits Tom in jail. He tells her he had no idea magic was involved (Tauren claimed it was a science experiment) and since Tauren had offered to pay him well for his assistance, knew he could give her a better life. Gwen is upset that he would turn to magic for money, but she swears to have him set free. She repeats everything he said to Merlin and Gaius, including the fact that a magical stone was involved and that Tauren had claimed to be conducting scientific experiments. From this and the large gold piece that was found on Tom, Gaius rapidly deduces that Tauren was performing alchemy. While visiting Tom’s forge to look for Gwen, Morgana finds the stone that Tauren used. Gwen turns out to be resting at Gaius’ house and Morgana states to Merlin her belief that the trial is a simply a formality and Uther plans to execute Tom anyway.
That evening, she goes down to see him in the dungeon and gives him the key to his cell. Tom knocks out a guard and escapes, but his disappearance is reported. Uther says the trial will now be a formality and gives the order for Tom to be killed on sight. Tom is eventually found by the guards, who execute him on the spot. A grief-stricken Gwen cries as his body is brought out.
Hearing Gwen's screams, Morgana rushes out on her balcony and sees everything. She furiously confronts Uther, calling him a tyrant who doesn't care about what happens to others as long as he gets what he wants and that Camelot is doomed with him as king. Angered by her insults, Uther has her dragged to the dungeons and chained up, saying she will remain there until she learns her lesson. As he leaves, Morgana screams that this only proves her claims even more.
At Gaius' house, Merlin is comforting Gwen when Arthur arrives. The prince tells her that her job is safe; she will not be thrown out of her home at the castle. He apologises for her father’s death and tells her that he never believed Tom was guilty. Gwen returns to Tom's house to get some things, but is attacked by Tauren. He threatens to kill her unless she can find the stone and return it to him within the next two days.
Morgana is released from the dungeons at Arthur's request, who promised Uther that she won't challenge his authority again, though he tells Morgana that he agrees with her. Before she leaves, she tells him that he will be a far greater king than Uther could ever hope to be. Arthur is clearly touched by her words. Morgana returns to her room and finds Gwen waiting for her. Gwen becomes upset when she discovers Morgana had spent the night in the dungeons on Tom's account, but Morgana tells her to go home and not to worry. Immediately, Gwen breaks down in tears, explaining that Tauren wants the stone. Morgana takes the stone and goes to the woods in Gwen’s place. However, Merlin is awakened by the stone’s presence and follows her.
After Morgana arrives, Tauren orders his men to kill her, but she hands over the stone and claims that she wants Uther dead too. They don't believe her until she shows them the cuts and bruises from the shackles on her wrists as evidence and Tauren orders his men to lower their weapons. He explains that his plan is to use the stone to turn lead into gold, which he then wanted to use to bribe the guards, allowing him access to Uther. Morgana decides that she would be better placed to betray the king.
Merlin visits the Great Dragon to ask for advice, but is told to let Uther die, as it is Uther who persecutes the use of magic and whose reign must end before Merlin can achieve his destiny. Although angry at Uther for what he did to Gwen and how the king persecutes his kind, Merlin believes he just can't let Uther be killed and doesn't know what to do.
Morgana goes to see Uther at dinner, initially it seems trying to apologize, but soon becomes angry again when the king says he's glad she's come to her senses. Again enraged by his selfishness, she lashes out at him, accuses him of killing her own father, Gorlois. Uther had sent Gorlois into battle, but not with the necessary reinforcements as promised.
Shocked by her words, Uther claims that he never meant for Gorlois to die and that the reinforcements had gotten there late, but she immediately rebuffs him, saying Uther just abandoned her father and now he let the same thing happen to Gwen. She starts crying and leaves as a stunned Uther watches her go.
Merlin asks Gaius if he thinks Uther is a good king. Gaius states that, although at times, his methods are unsavoury, Uther has brought peace to Camelot and always tried to protect its people. He thinks that Arthur is too young and inexperienced for the responsibilities of a kingdom just yet. Merlin refuses to explain the situation fully, but Gaius says he trusts Merlin to make the right decision.
A few days later, Uther summons Morgana and admits that he handled the situation with Tom poorly. She suggests they visit her father's grave at dawn and attempt to bury the past. Uther agrees and Morgana sneaks out to tell Tauren about this plan, unaware that Merlin is watching. The next day, as they ride out, Gwen finds Merlin watching them from a window. She can't understand why Tom tried to escape the night before his trial, but can only imagine it was because he knew he would be executed anyway. Merlin asks whether she would kill Uther if she had the chance and Gwen, horror struck, replies that it would be murder and make her even worse than Uther. Merlin decides she is right and runs back to his room, grabbing his sorcery book and Sophia's staff before setting out after Uther and Morgana.
At Gorlois' grave, Uther sorrowfully reminisces about his old friend. He tells Morgana how her father was always there for him when no one else was, treating him as a person first and royalty second. He also tells her how many times Gorlois saved his life on the battlefield, but that his greatest quality was never being afraid to question Uther's judgement, saying only a true friend would do that. Morgana states coldly that when she questions him, he clasps her in chains. Uther then tells her she has many of Gorlois' qualities and that whenever she stands up to him, he sees her father. Uther says he had forgotten that and had been letting his temper blind his reason, which is no excuse, and that he is truly sorry for hurting her (something he promised never to do).
Merlin confronts Tauren and his men with the staff, knocking out many of the men, but is knocked out himself when Tauren uses the stone to reflect the blast back on Merlin. Tauren then sneaks up on Uther and Morgana just as the king apologizes to her for executing Tom and promises to listen to her more. Before a shocked Morgana can respond, Tauren lunges at both of them. Morgana screams and Uther manages to dodge the first attack, shoving her out of harm's way as Tauren knocks him to the ground. The two men wrestle for control of Tauren's dagger, but Morgana grabs Uther's sword and fatally stabs the warlock. Uther and Morgana then embrace and decide to forgive each other as Merlin, who had regained consciousness, watches. When Merlin returns, Gaius tells him he knows that he helped Morgana defend Uther and that he is proud he made the right choice.
- Colin Morgan as Merlin
- Katie McGrath as Morgana
- Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon
- Angel Coulby as Gwen
- Bradley James as Prince Arthur
- Richard Wilson as Gaius
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Release & Reception
- Air date: 6 December 2008.
- 6.31 million viewers.
- A rerun of this episode was shown on the CBBC channel on the 1st October, 2011, the same day as the premiere of Series 4, The Darkest Hour. However, this was merely because an episode of Merlin is shown on weekends, rather than a special airing in the run-up to Series 4.
- To Kill the King premiered on Syfy UK at 8pm on September 13th 2017, immediately following The Labyrinth of Gedref.
- The dress that Tom gives Gwen disappears after this episode. Gwen never wears it at any point in the series.
- This episode marks Morgana's first attempt on Uther's life. Many follow in series 3 and in series 4, she finally succeeds killing him (The Wicked Day).
- This episode marks the death of Tom, Gwen's father.
- This episode shows the second appearance of Sophia's staff.
- Characters: Tom, Tauren, Gorlois
- Locations: Gorlois' Resting Place
- Magic: Mage Stone
- Creatures: The Great Dragon
- Objects: Sidhe Staff
|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