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Merlin Club S01E04, “The Poisoned Chalice” or “The one with that hat”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

So, here’s a quick rundown of episode three: Some  guy who doesn’t get along with Camelot rolls in to sign a tenuous peace treaty, but Nimueh fools everybody by putting on a turban and sneaking in and alleging that the opposing king dude is trying to murder Arthur with poison. Merlin tries to stop Arthur from drinking the poison, and Uther is like, well, prove it, and he makes Merlin drink from the poisoned cup. The cup is poisoned, by not by the opposing king dude, but by Nimueh. But Uther doesn’t know that, so he throws the other king guy into the dungeon and prepares for war. Arthur wants to go out and save Merlin by getting this flower thing, but Nimueh traps him in the cave with a bunch of spiders. Merlin, in a deep coma, telepathically communicates with Arthur to help him retrieve the flower, and Merlin lives and war is averted and Nimueh is piiiiiiiissed.

If I had written this episode, I would have changed: Literally everything about Nimueh’s motivations. Spoiler alert, but she’s really mad at Uther. So, why does she go after Arthur? Okay, I can see that. But then Gaius is like, “She was trying to kill you, Merlin.” Wait, what? Why would she kill Merlin to get back at Uther? Is it Camelot she hates, and that’s why she set up a war? Is this a side quest? Get your shit together, Nimueh. Focus on one task. Stop getting sidelined by shit that doesn’t matter and kill Uther and make us all happy.

The thing I loved most about this episode: That Arthur is willing to defy his father and his king to save the life of a servant. Also, Merlin’s hat.

The thing I hated most about this episode: When Arthur returns from his quest, Uther imprisons him, takes the life-saving flower and crushes it, and throws it on the floor. And he’s like, “you can get another servant,” and I’m all… but you have the flower. You can save the kid’s life. You could banish him from Camelot or make him not Arthur’s servant any more. But what’s the point of killing him? At this point, you’re just being a dick.

Oh. Right. Never mind.

Something I never noticed before: At the banquet, when everyone thinks other king dude is trying to poison Arthur, all the knights of Camelot draw their swords… and Morgana pulls out a knife. It’s super subtle, and I never saw it before. Morgana = BAMF.

Favorite Costume: 


Here is proof of some random headcanon I created: Okay, I can’t do this without spoilering. So warning, the next sentence is going to be a spoiler. I cannot truly believe that they had planned for Morgana to be Uther’s daughter. Why? Because this was the first episode I ever watched, and because of the scene where Morgana and Uther talk about Arthur running off to get the flower, I thought she was the queen and Arthur’s stepmother. It’s just in the way the lines are written, as though Morgana is talking about a child and not her peer, and, as a few tweeps have pointed out, the weird chemistry between the two actors that creates this slightly off-kilter sexual tension. It severely grosses me out that she’s later revealed to be his daughter, because it only gets worse as the series goes on. I believe the Uther-is-Morgana’s-father storyline is a really unsuccessful retcon.

What object would Bronwyn steal from this episode?


What Merthur moment did Jess have the naughtiest thoughts about? I bet you anything it was the mental telepathy thing. I bet she has all sorts of half-finished fanfics about that.

Check out Jessica Jarman’s take on the episode here

Check out Bronwyn Green’s take on the episode here

Or check out The Merlin Club drinking game, which, you know. I’m sober, so I can’t endorse it. But it’s still funny.

That’s it for this week. Join us on Monday as we watch S01E05, “Lancelot” at 8pm EST on the hashtag #MerlinClub.


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  1. laine

    It is really sad how little effort the show put into Morgana’s character development after the first season. It seems like the writers put a lot of work into making her interesting in the first season. We get all these little hints, like the knife thing, that she’s a badass, and that her nightmares are prophetic. Then she basically does nothing but thrash around having nightmares and wearing super long sleeves for a while, and then suddenly she becomes a completely different person!

    February 14, 2014
  2. Crap, nearly snorted coffee out my nose at the giant spider pic. LMAO

    Totally agree that the writers couldn’t have done a whole lot of advanced planning with Uther/Morgana relationship. It’s a bit icky…as is the tension between Arthur and Morgana in some episodes.

    I MAY have some thoughts (*whispers* and fanfic)about the whole telepathic connection thingy between Arthur and Merlin. Damn it, Trout, it’s like you KNOW me or something! 😉

    February 14, 2014
    • Suzy

      The Uther/Morgana thing is waaaaay creapier that Arthur/Morgana. With A/M neither knows anything. Uther knows all along, so gross.
      Plus, my phone now recognizes Uther and Morgana as options! Not sure why, but that really makes me happy!

      February 16, 2014
  3. Bronwyn WOULD NOT steal the spider. In fact, she’s pretty sure there’s one like this already living in her basement which is why she can never do laundry again.

    Also, I completely agree with Laine. Morgana was shaping up to be such a great character. Until she wasn’t anymore. 🙁

    February 14, 2014
  4. imc

    I have only seen maybe one full episode of this rendition, so I don’t really know where the whole thing is supposed to come from… But I’ve read my share of Arthurian legends and novels and I would have assumed Morgana’s family relations were pretty common knowledge.
    It wouldn’t make much sense for it to be a retcon, unless the writers for this show had specifically chosen to make the character completely different from the source material, and later changed their mind.

    February 14, 2014
    • JennyTrout

      The whole show is basically a “What if they were in high school?” AU fanfic, so I never really expected them to stay true to the legends at all. Like, Guinevere is a servant girl named Gwen who flirts with Merlin in season 1, so I thought, “Well, all bets must be off, then.” The way they handled Morgana throughout the show makes me think they were never really sure what they were going to do with her.

      February 15, 2014
    • Mel

      I’ve seen a few different renditions of the Arthurian legend but the most constant has been the one put forth by the movie Merlin starring Sam Neill – in which Morgana La Fey was the daughter of a woman Uther fell in love with despite the fact that she was married, and he had to have her regardless, so he sent her husband off to war and used magic so he could fool her into thinking he was her husband. So, he basically rapes her. Nine months later Arthur is born, so Morgana and Arthur are half-siblings. Uther is Morgana’s step-dad, or ward, as he refers to her a couple of times in the BBC series.

      December 29, 2015
  5. Anyone else having dirty feels about Merlin’s feather cap? Surely there could be some amazing fanfic about Merthur and the feathers (Jess, I’m looking to you for this).

    Aaah Morgana. How do you solve a problem like Morgana? If you know the story, you know how she is going to turn out, but she had so much potential. Instead her development as a character becomes very fragmented and makes very little sense. We knew she was gonna get to point b (aka the dark side) at some point, but her journey to that point was treated poorly.

    February 14, 2014
    • *whispers* Yes there are some out there. I shall link later. Shhhhh.

      February 17, 2014
  6. Chris Borgars-Smith
    Chris Borgars-Smith

    I think the Xanatos roulette going on here is something like:

    Nimueh hates Uther, and wants him to *suffer*. So she wants Arthur dead. Unfortunately, she’s fated not to kill him. So she manufactures a scheme by which he will be placed in a position where she can get him killed, instead, by attacking Merlin and relying on Arthur’s overdeveloped sense of chivalry. Bonus: Mercia v. Camelot royal rumble.

    That said, it’s an utter crapshoot getting it all to work out, for realsies. Also in Uther Is Just A Dick And Doesn’t Have Any Critical Thinking Skills news, why would it even make sense for the other king to have poisoned the chalices and gone “HEY DRINK OUT OF THIS RIGHT NOW” while utterly surrounded? And why does Uther take “Merlin doesn’t immediately die” as a sign that the chalice was definitely not poisoned?

    June 5, 2014

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