When things start off with a cloaked figure fumbling his way through the dark, bad things are probably on the docket. It’s no different here when Daegal, a boy whose tattooed forearm identifies him as a druid, uses a hidden key to get into the castle proper and reaches Merlin, asking for the wizard’s help for his sick sister at the Valley of the Fallen Kings. Though initially hesitant to travel such a distance (a half day’s journey) for someone he doesn’t know, Daegal’s pleas for his sister eventually touches Merlin’s sympathies and he offers his aid.
Such a journey, of course, makes for more lies—or not truths—to be told to Arthur when he searches for his wayward manservant. Gaius doesn’t do too good of a job covering for Merlin nor acting as the de facto servant. The comedy of the elder physician trying to dress his king is one of the few spots of levity in an otherwise serious hour. As Merlin and Daegal travel through the woods, Arthur gets read to receive the Surram, the hard ruler who had at one point kept Morgana as his prisoner for two years. Arthur looks to create an alliance with the Surram in order to ensure a continued trajectory towards peace.Morgana once again gets the drop on Merlin
As Daegal gets to know Merlin during their jaunt, he realizes just how special of a person Merlin is, especially when he tells Daegal how “we all matter”. The hints of something not quite right with Daegal’s story is exacerbated when Guinevere, still under Morgana’s influence, uses the same route Daegal used to get into the castle to get out and leave a message for her newest BFF. And when bandits are out trolling the area and Merlin’s telepathy is ignored by Daegal, the wizard’s suspicions are heightened but, as tends to be the case with Merlin, he’s a step too late and Morgana gets the drop on him, knocking him unconscious and shoving a poisonous liquid down his throat. She pays Daegal his reward though the teen feels remorse at leaving the unconscious Merlin to die.
As Merlin fights for his life, Arthur gets better acquainted with the Surram. The man’s arrogance and cruelty is on display during their feast as he narrates his account on his capture and detaining of Morgana. He tells Camelot’s king of how Morgana’s white dragon, Aithusa, is the high priestess’s weakness. Though he wants to eliminate the threat Morgana presents, Arthur looks more than a little disturbed at the lack of humanity the Surram displays during their conversation. Guinevere leaves the dinner long enough to discuss the plan with Morgana—get the Surram to assassinate Arthur and then turn on him with the Knights of Camelot.
As Merlin awakens, weak and unable to heal himself, Gaius begins to fear the worst. Even Arthur is a bit worried about Merlin’s whereabouts, voicing his concerns to Gwen as she helps dress him for his bout with the Surram’s best sword. It’s quite an interesting fight as the king is defeated and takes stock in his opponent’s skill. As the Surram walks to his room, Gwen confronts him and whispers her plan to the power-hungry ruler. Though somewhat suspicious of her initial approach, they meet later to finalize the deal (one-third of Camelot’s lands as his reward), one that he is all in for though with the added prospect of eliminating Gwen once Arthur is killed.
Close to death, Merlin is added by a recalcitrant Daegal who, with Merlin’s direction puts together an herbal remedy for the poison though it takes an all-day slumber before Merlin is healed enough to move. When he presses Daegal on the betrayal, the young teen tells Merlin he believes Morgana’s plan is to kill Arthur. On their rush back to Camelot, Merlin’s wounded leg gives way, alerting a bandit camp of their presence. Merlin has to use magic to disperse the ruffians and Daegal’s amazed that such a talent would be loyal to a king who despises sorcery. It only further serves to tell Daegal of just how special Merlin is.
As Arthur prepares to sign the treaty with the Sarrum, Gaius tells his king of Merlin still not being back. Afraid that Arthur wouldMerlin and Daegal arrive in time to stop the assassin
stall the signing and her plan for his assassination, she makes up Merlin visiting a woman, a prospect Arthur believes without so much a second thought. Everything is in play as Merlin and the Surram stand next to one another about the roundtable and the assassin takes aim with a cross bow. Merlin and Daegal reach the killer in time. Merlin hurls a spear through him and the impact re-directs the shot into the Surram. Merlin goes to celebrate with Daegal but the teen has been mortally wounded. He asks Merlin if he had finally done something right, at which the wizard replies that he had. The boy dies and as Merlin and Gaius give him a proper burial, the wizard is done being reactionary and is more determined than ever to do something about Guinevere.
If the few episodes before weren’t enough, “The Hollow Queen” provides all we need to know about how far Gwen has fallen under Morgana’s spell. It will take Merlin, Gaius, and Arthur to break Morgana’s hold over Camelot’s queen. The question becomes how will Merlin and Gaius be able to convince Arthur that his wife is conspiring with the kingdom’s greatest enemy.