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Merlin: The Poisoned Chalice

“Say what you like about the food, but you can't beat our feasts for entertainment.”

After being cooped up in the castle for the last three episodes it is nice to finally get out and go off on an adventure. These quest-of-the-week episodes might be as formulaic and predictable as a Republican Presidential debate, but they're always a good excuse for showing off all that lovely Welsh scenery.

After spending the last episode cackling alone in her cave, Nimueh got to have a more prominent role this episode. Much as I like her, I don't think Michelle Ryan is a strong enough actress for this role. I think this character needed someone who was maybe a little older, more authoritative and whose line delivery isn't quite so flat.

Uther's bastard levels went through the roof in this episode. It wasn't enough that he made Merlin drink the poison just so he could have the pleasure of killing Bayard himself. Oh no, he also had Arthur tossed in the dungeon and refused to give Merlin the cure just to teach his son a lesson. He might look like Giles, but Uther Pendragon is definitely not a man I would ever want as a parent or an employer.

As far as Uther sees it, Merlin is nothing but a servant and servants, even loyal ones, are a dime a dozen. Heirs to the throne are not. Arthur doesn't see it like that. It's hard to believe that this is the same prince who was such a massive prat back in 'The Dragon's Call'. That guy didn't seem like the sort who would be willing to defy his father and risk his life just to save his useless manservant. Not that he loves him or anything. No, don't be so foolish. He just owes him for saving his life. That's all. He would do the the same if it had been any random servant. Honest.

Familiar Faces

King Bayard is played by Scottish actor Clive Russell. He's no stranger to Camelot, having appeared in the mini-series of The Mists of Avalon and Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur.

Merthur Moments

The whole episode is practically a Merthur Moment. But special mention has to go to the slightly erotic way Merlin moans Arthur's name while he's delirious with fever.

Notes and Quotes

--Arthur is dressed rather casually when King Bayard arrives at Camelot. You'd think for such an important event he'd put in some effort. Maybe Merlin forgot to wash his formal clothes.

--Gaius performs magic. With the door wide open. After all his stern talks, turns out he's just as reckless as Merlin.

--Arthur's quest leads to more naff CGI beasties. Include that old chestnut, the giant spiders. Has there ever been a fantasy show that didn't have any giant insects?

--For someone who is not destined to have Arthur die at her hand, Nimueh does a pretty good job of trying to kill him.

--Even when he's dying and delirious, Merlin is still able to work some powerful magic.

--Mercia was one of the seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy during the Middle Ages. The other six were Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex. Today the area is part of the English Midlands.

Gwen: “She's pretty. For a handmaiden, I mean.”
--Do I detect a note of jealous there, Gwen?

Gaius: “Arthur may give you a hard time, but at heart he's a man of honour. There aren't many who would risk what he did for a servant.”

Arthur: “Still alive then?”
Merlin: “Yeah, just about. I understand I have you to thank for that.”
Arthur: “Yeah, well, it was nothing. A half-decent servant is hard to come by. I was only dropping by to make sure you were alright. Check that you'll be back to work tomorrow.”
Merlin: “Oh, yeah, yeah. Of course. Bright and early. Arthur... thank you.”
Arthur: “You too. Get some rest.”

Uther: “You disobeyed me!”
Arthur: “Of course I did. A man's life was at stake. Do not let Merlin die because of something I did.”
Uther: “Why do you care so much? The boy's just a servant.”
--You should spend half an hour on Tumblr, Uther. It will make everything so clear.

Uther: “I expressly ordered Arthur not to go!”
Morgana: “It worked like a charm too.”
Uther: “Not another word!”
Morgana: “My lips are sealed.”

Uther: “What's the point in having people to taste for you if you're going to get yourself killed anyway?”
Arthur: “I won't fail, no matter what you think.”
Uther: “Arthur, you are my only son and heir. I can't risk losing you for the sake of some serving boy.”
Arthur: “Because his life's worthless?”
Uther: “No, because it's worth less than yours.”

Predictable but fun. Three out of four shots of the Welsh countryside.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. Mark - I love that you are going back and reviewing the older episodes...your reviews make me laugh out loud. I'm not sure at this point if I'll ever go back and rewatch these though, most of them are just too silly (and formulaic) - and I think now the show has moved beyond some (not all) of the earlier silliness.
    I understand this is a family show, and I appreciate that, but I like the more serious and darker aspects. Plus Katie McGrath does evil so well.

  2. That's a remarkable photo. The turban and her eyes match our web site. :)


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