Cursed explores the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake with a twist. Traditionally, Merlin uses magic to seal a sword in stone and Arthur proves his worth by pulling it out. The sword is eventually damaged in a battle with Lancelot, but the Lady of the Lake restores the sword to its former glory, paving the way for Arthur to become king.
King Arthur isn’t the focus of Cursed, however. Langford plays Nimue, a Fey (or fairy) who is destined to become the Lady of the Lake. However, when we meet her, she’s seen as an outcast by both her peers and Elders thanks to an incident she experienced as a child. After her mother’s death, she meets Arthur (Devon Terrell), an unexpected partner as she undergoes a quest to deliver a powerful sword to Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård). Along her journey Nimue must take on the Red Paladins, a group trying to rid the world of magic, as she tries to figure out her own destiny, protecting herself and other outcasts like her.
“It's telling a story of a true heroine that is capable and strong and not just altering a story because she's a woman,” Langford told Refinery29 ahead of Cursed’s release. "[It's] something I wish I'd had growing up."
Ready for some magic, fairies, and mystical sword battles? Let’s dive in.
Episode 1, “Nimue”
We meet Nimue as she rides her horse along an idyllic grassy hill, but something is afoot — the wind is howling and the birds are flying in a spiral. She makes her way to an open market of sorts, where a young boy named Squirrel (Billy Jenkins) is walking through where people are picking vegetables... and Squirrel is surreptitiously picking everyone’s pockets.
As they chat, a woman walks by and calls Nimue a witch, disgusted. Nimue takes the remark in stride, but she’s forgotten an offering before heading to the pyre. As she assembles her bouquet of wild flowers we see just how magical — and sinister — the land truly is. A nearly cartoonish flower floats in the air as sapphire-coloured fly buzzes by, giving Disney-movie-come-to-life vibes (or a very weird dream), but then the wind starts howling again, whispering, “Save them” over and over again. We meet our first talking animal as a deer with a raspy voice approaches Nimue to deliver a message: “Death is not the end, Fey queen. Save them.” Then, suddenly, someone shoots the deer with an arrow (guess no one could save the deer).
“What did you do?!” Nimue asks, aghast, as a few men come over to collect their supper. They warn each other not to get too close to “this witch” or they’ll “get the worms” (what exactly do these people think witches do?). “Even her dad left her,” one remarks, sparking a flashback of a young Nimue pleading with her Papa to come back. “You’re cursed, Nimue,” we see a slightly older Nimue told in a flashback as the men heckle her. Nimue shouts at Benue to get out of her forest as the bow in his hand turns into a snake, tightening its grip around his arm. Green veins begin to appear on the sides of Nimue’s face and neck until she finally lets him go. During a flashback we get a sense of why her Papa left. “She brings a darkness, a curse,” he says. Nimue’s mother Lenore (Catherine Walker) arrives and finally snaps her out of it. Nimue lets him go, but not without a scolding from dear mom of course.
Nimue is understandably upset over the entire encounter. Her mother tells her not to be ashamed, but Nimue points out a major difference: she’s the one called “demon” and “witch.” “Are you the high priestess now or my mother?” Nimue snaps.
It’s ceremony time and everything looks eerily out of Midsommar, only slightly moodier. The Elders’ robes are dark, the sky is gray and cloudy as people circle a large fire, unlit torches in hand. Nimue reluctantly makes her offering. “As Sky Folk we are born in the dawn to pass in the twilight,” Nimue’s mother says, arms outstretched. It’s nightfall before we know it and the flames dance and sparkle, ready to choose a new Summoner. “The Hidden are with us,” Nimue’s mother notes. (Who are these Hidden?) They swarm Nimue, much to everyone’s dismay — she’s marked by dark gods, the others complain.
Nimue gives all the angsty 13 Reasons Why energy as she refuses to be Summoner and storms away. Her mother isn’t having it, though. The will of the Hidden is clear, she explains, and the power is a gift. It should be used to guide and serve Nimue’s “kind.” Nimue marches away, ready to get on a ship and leave. Nimue’s friend Pym (Lily Newmark) catches up to her, ready to talk her out of it. “Who cares what those shriveled onions think?” she asks. (A fair question!) Nimue has made a decision and isn’t changing it. “Oh my Gods,” Pym says — a subtle yet brilliant adjustment of the phrase for an Arthurian universe — as she insists on tagging along.
We meet Father Cardin (Peter Mullan), an evangelist and leader of the Red Paladins who wants to rid the world of magic, and his red robe. He’s explaining to a young boy that they must expel the weeds — the demons — from God’s garden, regardless of just how scary the weeds are. The boy, apparently an unsuspecting “demon,” is grabbed and taken away as Father Cardin sits up and we see just what his world looks like. There is chaos and destruction all over the hill as crosses and fires burn, people dash around on horseback.
Meanwhile, a Moon Wing has appeared and tells her story to Nimue’s mother. She talks of the men in red robes who burned the trees and killed people in their sleep with smoke. She looks exactly like her name, pale and almost as if she’s wearing clouds for clothes and hair. A man in a hooded robe sporting some serious guyliner (with tears, of course!) walks away from the flames as the Moon Wing tells her story: the Weeping Monk (Daniel Sharman), a crusader who hunts the Fey for the Red Paladins. The Red Paladins are moving north and they’re in their path.
Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård) is far from any magician you pictured in your mind. There’s no white beard and flowing purple robes here — instead, we meet Merlin as he sulks in the corner of a tavern, hood drawn over his face so you can’t see his eyes... because he’s asleep. It turns out to be a ruse, though, as he grabs Hook, who’s trying to search his robes, and holds a knife to his eye. He threatens to turn them into mole rats but doesn’t actually commit. Did Merlin lose his magic?
Over at the castle, King Uther Pendragon (Sebastian Armesto) is getting some unpleasant news as Merlin is brought in, bare-chested and apparently drunk. Turns out most blame the king for the drought (in addition to the Fey’s witchcraft). Merlin, meanwhile, had promised them rain, but he claims weather is too fickle. The king is facing problems and Merlin might have the answer no one wants. The Shadow Lords could slow Carden’s march — but it’s not rain, so it’s not good enough.
Nimue and Pym are riding Nimue’s horse as they discuss the mission. Gawain (Matt Stokoe) took the Brass Shield, the only ship that crosses the sea to the desert kingdoms, but Nimue wants to get on it. She’ll cut her hair so no one knows she’s a girl and she’s got 20 silver — she’s got this, folks. They arrive at the dock and the ship isn’t there, however, and won’t be back for six months. Nimue and Pym make their way through the village to a man who’s singing to a small crowd. He spots Nimue and serenades her. Nimue walks away so he chases her, turning his flirt and exchanging names so they aren’t strangers — ladies and gentlemen, meet Arthur. The trio grab drinks as they learn about each other. Arthur may be young and scruffy (and, apparently, has a history of thieving), but turns out he’s a knight. A man interrupts to wage a dice bet: if he wins, he gets a kiss. If Nimue wins, she gets 10 silver. Arthur warns Nimue the dice are weighted but she presses on anyway, knowing she can use her powers. Nimue and Pym try to make a quick escape once her secret is revealed, but several of the Red Paladins chase them through the crowd.
Merlin, meanwhile, is speaking to a shopkeeper and looking for a mysterious Number Three item. The keeper opens a drawer and pulls back a cloth to reveal an infant with three faces on its head. This doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere good.
Arthur finds Nimue and Pym hiding from the Red Paladins in the woods and offers them good company and terrible wine. At his place, Arthur is teaching Nimue to fight, which of course means very close contact and a near-kiss by the fire... until Nimue catches him off-guard and headbutts him. (She’s definitely someone you’d want on your side in a tavern fight.)
Merlin is thumbing through a book of magic, where we see some familiar imagery, including the Number Three baby and a sword.
Nimue and Pym leave Arthur behind as they discuss the almost-kiss. It turns out Nimue had a vision, but she won’t budge. They’re interrupted by a horse galloping past them, its saddle on fire. They ride in the direction the horse came from only to see a chaotic, fiery battle with the Red Paladins, where Pym is taken. Nimue hides on the sidelines until she spots Squirrel and pulls him out of the fight. As he escapes, Nimue is captured by one of the men in red robes and is dragged by her hair to Carden. As Carden instructs the man to throw Nimue into the fire everyone in a red robe is shot with an arrow, allowing Nimue to narrowly escape.
Nimue finds her mother laying on the ground, bloody, a sword by her side. She gives Nimue a mission: Take the sword to Merlin. Nimue’s mother sacrifices herself to one of the Red Paladins so Nimue can escape.
Over at Merlin’s, things are completely casual. It’s finally raining, but not without a dose of danger. Merlin is standing on a ledge as a terrified knight stands behind him. The clouds and rain turn red — the gods, it seems?
The king and his people, meanwhile, are celebrating the end of the drought with a large meal and a tankard of rain. As he takes a sip, however, something is terribly wrong: The rain that fell on the castle seems to be blood.
As Nimue finds herself trapped on a rock, surrounded by angry (and honestly, kind of animatronic-looking) wolves, Merlin is struck by electricity and catches fire. Nimue pulls the sword out and slays the wolves. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that she’s got this sword fighting thing down.
Burning questions: Who are the Hidden, and why did they select Nimue to be the Summoner? Why did the ship leave early? What did Merlin do with the Number Three to make it “rain”?
Episode 2, “Cursed”
A young Nimue wakes up as both her parents are fast asleep on either side of her in bed. Nimue and Pym begin an early-morning game of hide and seek, Pym hiding in the shadows as Nimue makes her way through the forest and down a dark path. Meanwhile, adult Nimue is making her way through the forest looking for Squirrel, who’s hiding out from the Red Paladins — but one of them spots Nimue first.
Back in time, young Nimue makes her way into a cave and trips over a rock on the ground. Pym’s voice apologizes, a childlike “sorry,” but the voice then distorts, becoming deeper and demonic, similar to the deer last episode. “I was just so hungry,” it says. A large bear with red eyes approaches Nimue from behind, growling and pawing at her — it's one of the dark gods. Her mother senses something is wrong and instructs Nimue from afar to call to the Hidden with her thoughts to help her. Adult Nimue finds herself in a similar scenario as she struggles with the Red Paladin. The bear collapses into a disgusting splat as adult Nimue wakes up on the ground, bloodied with the sword by her side.
The king is banging on Merlin’s door, commanding him to answer. He’s furious about the blood rain, claiming it makes them look bad, but a drunk Merlin just wants a little more time to study the omens.
Carden is walking through the woods with the Weeping Monk, surveying the pulpy corpse Nimue left behind. They know the Fey sword is still out there, and the Weeping Monk notes Nimue’s tracks. A group of Paladins pray on the ground nearby as one of their own is caught in a twisted web of snake-like tree roots. Carden berates them, pointing at the trapped man — he’s the enemy.
As adult Nimue cleans her sword in the water we see flashbacks of her mother carrying young Nimue from the cave to inspect her injuries from the bear. Lenore pleads with Jonah, Nimue’s father, to help her. Even though Nimue survived, the others think the demon will come back for them.
Squirrel runs out of the bushes only to come face-to-face with the Weeping Monk, who wants information on how many people survived. Squirrel spits at Monk, calling him scum (a very bold move given their size difference).
Nimue continues her search for Squirrel but runs into trouble with one of the Paladins. She asks a man operating a horse-drawn carriage to give her a ride, claiming she has an ailing tooth, but the Paladin is suspicious and asks him to pull her tooth in front of them. They both comply and he pulls Nimue’s tooth out before proceeding.
Squirrel, meanwhile, is travelling with the Weeping Monk, chattering away about horses just like any child would. Nimue makes it into town, where the crier is warning everyone about her existence. So much for a quiet getaway.
In another flashback, Jonah is returning a pre-teen Nimue, who tried to run away. Lenore is grateful while Jonah is angry, claiming Lenore spoils her. Nimue feels unwelcome by her father and everyone around her, including the other children, because of her scars.
Squirrel is laying down as a group of men come for the Weeping Monk. They want to know why the Monk took Squirrel, but it turns out Squirrel is just the bait — the men were his true targets. He quickly vanquishes them all as Squirrel watches, horrified. The Monk unties Squirrel and instructs him to tell the other Fey what went down.
Nimue runs into Arthur in the town and explains that everyone is gone. Right away they are approached by onlookers, including Bors, the man she swindled in the tavern, who recognise her as the witch. He demands Nimue give him her sword as two men restrain Arthur, but Nimue has other ideas. She slices the man’s hand off and Arthur breaks free. The two jump on a horse and ride away, narrowly making it under the gates. Once they’re safe, Arthur berates Nimue for her actions. He’s complicit in this now, too, and there’s going to be a price on his head. Nimue explains that they killed her mother, but blames herself for everything that has happened. Arthur finally softens and tries to warm her up, kneeling by the fire.
In another flashback, a slightly younger, seemingly more carefree Nimue walks through the forest in a light blue dress, holding hands with a young blonde boy. Just when she thinks he’s about to kiss her he declares, “Witch!” and other teens come out from hiding, tying her to a tree. The back of her dress slips, revealing the mark of the dark gods. One of the teens is sucked into the roots of a nearby tree as the other two plead with Nimue to let her go. They cut the roots free and run away. Later, Nimue sits by the water as Lenore reminds her daughter that she is a warrior and will survive anything — even a bully.
Arthur is marvelling over Nimue’s sword as they take refuge in an abbey. He cuts through the air as the sword makes a tinkling noise. He suggests Nimue sell it, but she explains her mother’s dying wish to give it to Merlin. “You can’t change her fate, only your own,” Arthur tells Nimue, but she vows to keep her mother’s dying promise.
Merlin arrives at the scene of Lenore’s death. He closes her eyes, picks her up, and places her on the raised pedestal, reciting a spell about passing in the twilight. There appears to be a deep connection between the two. Merlin is then walking along a road, kicking crosses down while a ghostly person in black robes passes him. He asks if the Widow has come for him. “Not just yet,” they respond, a demonic tinge to the voice. He lied about the sword and the Shadow Lords will see it as the final betrayal. No one wants the Church to obtain the sword, the Widow explains, because then they will control who wears the crown. It turns out Merlin created the words that set everything in motion — “Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true king” — but he doesn’t believe there’s one true king; the sword is cursed. The Widow demands Merlin finish the war as Merlin, not the “piteous creature” he is.
“I have no magic, that’s what the sword took from me,” Merlin explains.
“Even more reason to reclaim it,” the Widow responds.
Merlin refuses to allow that to happen though, leaving the world “lost.” He asks the Widow where the sword is. She senses both fear and great power around it, as Arthur gently takes the sword from a sleeping Nimue’s arms. Merlin’s got a plan, however, to melt the sword, regardless of how difficult it might be — and with the Widow’s help.
Arthur is walking through a hallway with the sword on his back, Sister Igraine (Shalom Brune-Franklin) on his heels. He’s off to fulfill a dying wish, he tells her before leaving with the sword — alone.
Burning questions: How did Lenore and Merlin know each other, and what does Nimue have to do with it? Who is Sister Igraine, and how is connected to Arthur?
Episode 3, “Alone”
A young Arthur’s wooden sword fight is interrupted. His father, a knight, had been injured in a fight. Arthur kneels by his side as he tells him his dying wish: to bring back the knights’ honour.
Adult Arthur rides on his horse through a village, the sword strapped to his back, as passersby speculate he’s there for a tournament. Nimue, meanwhile, wakes up in the abbey to a young sister, Iris, watching her, the sword nowhere to be found. Iris claims to have an unusual talent: if she stares at someone long enough she can see the demon in them. Sister Igraine enters and ushers Iris out before slapping Nimue. Sister Igraine wants to hide Nimue in the abbey, but Nimue shoves her aside and steps out, Red Paladins including Carden swarming the area. Nimue returns to the abbey, she encounters Abbes Nora. Nora suspects something is up but believes Nimue’s lie that she’s a pregnant woman named Alice, leaving her in Igraine’s care since there are injured Paladins in the building as well.
Igraine and a well-disguised Nimue enter the room where the Paladins are being kept. The injured one is bloody, with bits of branches and roots coming out of places they most definitely should not be. The other Paladins blame “the Fey girl” for his fate. Igraine pulls a root out of the man’s throat. Nimue leaves to get dressings but overhears Carden talking about the sword and takes a jug from an unsuspecting nun to give herself a reason to enter the room. Carden knows a Fey witch escaped with the sword — the symbol is marked on Nimue’s victim. The Weeping Monk enters with lists of the Fey Elders who are still alive. Carden wants the Paladins to make the Fey extinct so they can possess the sword. “Then, and only then, the heavenly fires will come for Merlin,” he says. Nimue pauses as she exits the room, but the Weeping Monk senses something different about her presence as he subtly looks behind him. He searches her room, finding her clothes and giving them a deep sniff. Someone’s been found out.
Meanwhile in the room with Nimue’s victim, Nimue and Igraine are examining his unusual burn from the sword. Igraine figures out the burn is inside him, its power drawn from the four elements, water, earth, air, and fire. The Monk, meanwhile, informs Carden the enemy is in the building.
Arthur, still holding onto the sword, meets up with his Aunt Marion. He wants Sir Ector’s sponsorship for the tournament, he explains. Nimue is tending to her patient with Fey remedies — a major risk given the sheer number of Paladins in the building. Nora comes into the room to check his status and tries to hide the Fey treatment just as Carden enters, asking if any new girls have joined the abbey. Nora puts the pieces together and covers for Nimue, leading Carden to demand he question all the sisters one by one.
Over at the castle, King Uther is bringing his mother warmed milk with honey, but as the two bicker, he has an ulterior motive. Merlin has gone missing, he explains, but it turns out his mother can see everything that goes on from her perch — including Merlin’s blood rain-filled ritual during the lightning storm — and she suspects Merlin is up to something.
Nimue is hiding from the Paladins as she spots Igraine with another sister. Crying and upset, the two kiss before spotting Nimue. She won’t tell anyone what she saw, she tells Igraine, because what they did isn’t wrong. The Paladins round up everyone in the abbey as Nimue stumbles upon sheets detailing their plans and maps. She rolls them up and stuffs them in her sleeve but is nearly caught by a Paladin who tells her to go to the barn. Nimue takes a turn and burns the Paladins’ plans in the fire.
Arthur, carrying his head high and with the sword intended for Merlin, visits his uncle, Sir Ector, to ask for his sponsorship. Arthur agrees Sir Ector might have knights worthier than him, but insists he can best them. Arthur wants the opportunity to earn his uncle’s respect. Sir Ector seizes him up, seeing the potential in Arthur, especially if he wears his father’s armour. Does he have a worthy weapon, though? Arthur pulls out the sword and tells Sir Ector an extremely fabricated tale of how he ended up with the sword: He saved a girl’s life in Hawksbridge, and she gave him the sword in return. Sir Ector buys the story and doesn’t seem to recognise the sword.
The Widow joins Merlin in the tavern, who is — what else? — drinking. We get a glimpse as to why Merlin is this way. He’s lived “too long,” he says, and has seen so much over his years that he begins to forget what wonder feels like... but wine can almost taste like wonder. The Widow has had a vision and will not let Merlin destroy the sword in the Fey fire. Merlin won’t die if it is destroyed, but will suffer so much that he will beg for the end.
Arthur and Sir Ector take a seat in a tavern, but up walks Bors, and he is unsurprisingly still seething about having his hand cut off and being out so much silver. He asks Arthur if he’s explained how he came to possess the sword. Bors reveals Arthur has been with a Fey girl and Sir Ector demands the sword’s truth. Arthur admits he stole the sword and Sir Ector says he is worse than an embarrassment.
Over at the abbey, everyone is gathered in the barn so the Paladins can question them and the Weeping Monk can try to suss out the Fey in their midst. Nimue and Igraine are with the injured Paladin, who is healing thanks to the Fey treatment they gave him. He suddenly takes a turn for the worse and more Paladins come in to pray over him, but Nimue and Igraine depart just as the Weeping Monk enters the room.
Igraine gives Nimue directions to get to Arthur, revealing she’s his sister. That isn’t the biggest surprise, though: Igraine isn’t even her name. There was a mix-up when she arrived at the abbey and Igraine is actually her grandmother’s name — she’s Morgana. She gives Nimue a hug and promises her she isn’t alone. Nimue departs on a boat.
Merlin asks to be taken to the king as a group of men pounce on him. He sinks into the dirt. That’s, uh, one way to travel?
Burning questions: Which king is Merlin visiting? Who is the Widow, and what has she seen?
Episode 4, “The Red Lake”
Igraine, er, Morgana is hitting her face to make herself look like she’s been beaten up. She’s “found” by two Paladins and tells Carden that the witch ran towards Hawksbridge, trying to throw everyone off Nimue’s scent. The Paladins are taking a woman out of the abbey as Carden gives a grand speech about everyone entering war and asks Morgana to be his soldier. “Yes, Father,” she replies (as if she’s got any other choice).
Nimue docks her tiny boat and comes across Dizier and his wife, Clothilde. In the wagon are two members of the Snake Clan, a father and child. They are immediately wary of Nimue, but she promises she won’t hurt them. Dizier knows Nimue is Fey, and that Morgana sent her — turns out Morgana has been operating a Fey Underground at the abbey and is a key figure in the Resistance (well, that certainly sounds familiar!). Survivors are leaving signs for others in the trees and rocks called Nemos. Nimue needs to head to Gramaire, but the others warn her it’s too dangerous and risky. She refuses to tell them about the sword’s existence but tells them she’s after an item key to everyone’s survival. Dizier accepts this and changes course to Gramaire.
Pym, meanwhile, has turned up after hiding in the traps but is wide-eyed, covered in dirt and speechless. A young man finds her but his mother won’t have it since she’s of Fey kind, so he drops a bomb on everyone (including Pym): They’re going to be married, so of course she has to stay. Once his mother leaves it turns out it wasn’t just a cover. He really wants to get married, and fate has swept her to his door. Uh-oh.
Arthur is on a wagon with several Paladins. The road to Gramaire is blocked off by other Paladins, as everyone has figured out Morgana-slash-the Wolf-Blood Witch is at the abbey and they’re after the sword. The Paladins in the wagon are gleeful, as they have the sword and, to put it in their words, “the bloke who nicked it.” The Paladins in the wagon insist on bringing the sword to Carden themselves.
Merlin, meanwhile, is being carried by a group of Afflicted, a rag covering his eyes, towards what looks like extremely wet, swampy ruins. They’re all hissing as they lead Merlin to their king, Lord Rugen. Rugen’s look is a far cry from King Uther — his crown isn’t gleaming, but the ruby in his right eye certainly is. Merlin wants to know what Rugen has heard about Carden. The Red Paladins have forced everyone off the road, including merchants, and Merlin won’t do anything about it — Rugen is pissed. Merlin wants the Shadow Lords, including Rugen, to possess the Sword of Power before Uther finds out it still exists. Merlin claims he doesn’t want it for himself, but for Rugen. (Anyone else not buying this?) Merlin gifts Rugen an ancient torque to prove his good faith.
Over at the abbey, Iris is suspicious of why the witch didn’t kill Morgana. The wagon Nimue is on, meanwhile, has been stopped by the Weeping Monk. Dizier lies and says Nimue is his niece, Johanna, and they are in the leather goods business. It fools the guard and they’re allowed to head to the gates of Gramaire. The Weeping Monk sees right through it, however, and informs the Paladins and Carden. Around them in the trees and on the ground are the symbols Dizier was talking about — Nemos.
Over in another wagon, Arthur is taunting a Paladin, telling him a story about a former cell mate as he surreptitiously picks the lock on his handcuffs. He manages to escape from the wagon, but the Paladins quickly stop so they can chase him.
Rugen brings Merlin to his treasure haul. He’s got every sort of gem and valuable one would normally expect to see — pigeon-blood rubies, the Chalice of of Ceridwen, and in the middle, a decaying skeleton of a woman with carefully-stacked rocks for wings and emeralds for eyes, the green Fey fire that forged the Sword of Power burning in front of her. Rugen places the torque on the neck of the skeleton, Boudicca, making her complete.
Nimue’s wagon reaches Gramaire and she departs, leaving Dizier and the others behind. Over at the abbey, Iris is praying intensely and asking for a sign from God so she can do his well (I guess when Carden says "no," you go to the top?). She throws a Bible at a pot, knocking it over and revealing a necklace inside. Iris marches to Morgana with the necklace, but she’s gone. Morgana is leaving the abbey from the same exit Nimue did, but not without a goodbye (and kiss) from Celia first.
Nimue approaches Ector’s castle, but the knights standing guard won’t let her in. Arthur spots her, relieved to see her safe, but she draws a knife on him, demanding her sword. Arthur informs her the Paladins have it and that he just escaped them, but Nimue wants to know just where he ditched them. As they make their way through the woods they find the wagon Nimue had just been on, Dizier and everyone else dead at the hands of the Paladins. Nimue makes her way through the woods, whispers and a mystical twinkling leading her to the sword.
The Paladins are bathing in the water, having left the sword behind in their wagon (smart move, guys). Nimue asks the sword to give her its power as it glows. One of the bathing Paladins pauses as he looks in the water — they aren’t alone. Nimue stands up from under the water in all her future Lady of the Lake glory and stabs him with the sword before turning to the other bathing Paladin and slicing his neck. Other Paladins join the sword fight and Nimue slays most of them except for one, who puts her in a chokehold, bringing her underwater. She can hear Lenore’s voice telling her, “Take this to Merlin” as Arthur slays the last of the Paladins and pulls Nimue out of the bloody water.
Nimue and Arthur find the little girl from the wagon, who is still alive. They need to get her somewhere safe, an impossible task — but the old Fey symbols in the woods offer directions that Nimue understands. Meanwhile, Iris is walking away from the abbey as it burns behind her, screams piercing into the night. Pym heads down to the docks where she saw an attractive trader earlier that day, likely seeking him out, while Merlin wakes up and grabs his torch, going after the Fey fire with the keys he stole from Ruger. He manages to fill a thermos with the emerald flame, but he isn’t alone in the cave. Ruger’s Afflicted descend from all sides, snarling and chasing Merlin. He jumps on his horse just in time to escape them. Nimue, Arthur, and the child make it to Nemos. “We’re home,” Nimue says.
Burning questions: Who is Boudicca, and what does her completion mean? What will Merlin do with the Fey fire? Are Nimue and Arthur truly safe in Nemos?
Episode 5, “The Joining”
The episode opens with a grisly scene: Cumber the Ice King (Johannes Haukur Johannesson) swiftly chops a knight’s head off with an axe as onlookers donning heavy furs watch. Cumber addresses another man kneeling on the ground, terrified. He wants him to pass on a message to Uther, the “king of lies,” that the true blood heir to House Pendragon has arrived.
Nimue wakes up in a cave, where Arthur has been guarding her sword. He’s already feeling out-of-place in Nemos since he’s got too much “man blood.” Morgana enters and Nimue tells her the news about Dizier before they go on a walk through the woods. In Nemos, the scenery is ethereal, the lush green trees and grass bathed in a golden sunlight — no clouds here. They gossip about Merlin and Arthur as they walk. Morgana is skeptical of Lenore’s dying wish and doesn’t want Nimue to get distracted with a silly crush (seems some problems are universal, even in mythical universes).
Merlin’s escape from Ruger’s isn’t going so well. He’s made it quite far on horseback but he’s stopped by a group of knights in the woods who charges them with treason. He sends his horse away to the Widow as he’s surrounded by the knights. Carden enters a tent surrounded by people with gold faces, but they won’t allow the Weeping Monk inside. Inside is a man bathing who Carden addresses as “Your Holiness” — seems there’s someone above him. Carden is instructed to get the sword and deal with her, or the Trinity will assume command of the Red Paladin army... and they don’t have mercy. Carden exits, furious with the Weeping Monk, blaming him for their failure to capture the sword.
Iris, wrapped in a red cloth, approaches a group of Red Paladins sitting around a fire in the woods. She wants to be a Red Paladin, but they mock her since she’s a woman and tell her to bring them the Wolf-Blood Witch’s head, laughing.
Pym has managed to sneak onto the ship with the Red Spear and her crush, Dof. The other vikings want to drown her after seeing her long hair and piecing together that she’s Fey, but he convinces the others to keep her around for her healing talents.
Morgana and Nimue are heading to visit Yeva (Olwen Fouéré), a Moon Wing elder and sorceress who is their best chance at finding Merlin. Morgana abandons Nimue at the entrance — no man blood permitted. Inside the cave, Yeva is crouching on the ground, wearing a dirty white fur of some kind. Nimue smells “wrong,” Yeva says, not like Sky Folk, and that Nimue’s father was right to fear his blood. Yeva eventually agrees to pass a message to Merlin using her bird, Marguerite, even though he’s a traitor.
Over at the castle, King Uther’s mother has harsh demands for her son: Kill Merlin, ally with the Red Paladins against the Ice King, and throw him into the sea. Once there are no kings to resist it will be easy for him to reclaim the sword. Simple…
Arthur and Nimue exit a cave into an idyllic, paradise-like setting. The rocks are shining, the sun is setting, and there’s a hot spring nearby. Arthur quickly strips down and hops in the water (oh, hello), coaxing Nimue to join him. He turns his back as she removes her clothes, self-conscious about her scars, and joins him. The two have a deep conversation where Arthur tells Nimue about his father. (That’s one way to get to know someone.) Nimue thanks him for telling her about his story and inches closer to him, angling for a kiss. Arthur clearly wants it but pulls away at the last second. “You deserve someone good,” he tells her. He’s afraid of messing their potential relationship up and doesn’t want to hurt her. Nimue turns around and gets out of the water, frustrated as she reveals her scars to him.
Over on the ship, Pym is turning to the bottle as the vikings come to her one by one with their ailments. Some are bloody gashes and arrows stuck in places they should not be while others demand of a different kind of healing; “I’ve been having dark thoughts as of late,” one viking tells her. Dof approaches her one night but she’s pretty much over being on the ship. He takes her hand and pinches her ear, trying to make her feel better.
Uther visits Merlin, who’s chained up in a cell. He’s decided the blood that fell on the castle isn’t theirs but Merlin’s because of his drunkenness and loyalty, and the only solution is an execution. Merlin has until the morning to deliver the sword or the mob will have his head. (No pressure!)
Over in the woods, Iris is sitting by a fire keeping warm as a group of Fey approach her, offering to keep her safe. At the castle, it’s morning and Merlin is being brought to the guillotine as Uther’s mother looks on from her tower. As Uther sentences Merlin to death, Marguerite the bird arrives with the message from Nimue. The letter offers to bring the sword to Merlin, saving him from execution this time.
Arthur approaches Nimue, who’s glammed up with lipstick and a new dress for a Joining — a wedding-like event — that night. He wants to tell her he’s leaving, but she insists he comes, if only to forget about everything plaguing them for an hour. The chemistry between the two is insurmountable as Nimue asks him to stay and they finally kiss. It’s interrupted, however, by the Green Knight’s arrival, and in the excitement Nimue and Squirrel reunite. The Green Knight, it turns out, saved him. The knight takes off his helmet to reveal the one person Nimue was least expecting: Gawain (Matt Stokoe), one of her oldest friends. The two embrace (much to Arthur’s dismay), shocked to see the other alive. (Does anyone else sense a love triangle forming here?) Iris, meanwhile, is ushered into the Joining, where the other Fey console her and tell her they’ll be safe from the Red Paladins since the Wolf-Blood Witch is there. You can practically see the cogs spinning in Iris’ mind.
Merlin visits the queen regent in her tower, wanting to tell her the story about the midwife. It had been a cold night in May but people stood beneath the stars holding candles because a king was being born that night. The child struggled inside the queen regent, a stillborn boy. The queen regent huddled with the midwife and created a plot. The midwife paid a family for its baby boy, but days later that mother was found dead, likely poisoned. Merlin insinuates the midwife is alive and well, under his protection, to the queen regent’s dismay.
Nimue shows Gawain the sword. He informs her the weapon, known as the Sword of the First Kings, is their history, their hope. Gawain thinks Lenore’s dying wish to give it to Merlin is wrong. He thinks it’s a bargaining chip so Merlin will protect Nimue, but Gawain insists he will protect her (not that she needs it, as we all know by now).
As they return, Morgana is crying because the abbey has been burned to the ground, no survivors — including Celia. Iris stands on the sidelines, expressionless over the pain and suffering she caused.
Nimue visits Yeva, who has an answer from Merlin. The Hidden will take Nimue to Merlin, it’s too unsafe on the road. Memories will come to Nimue — possibly good, possibly bad — as the voice of the Hidden. Merlin awaits Nimue on the road to the Between. Nimue experiences a series of memories, most prominently her father leaving because there’s a curse in her blood, riding away as a young Nimue pleads for him to stay. Nimue awakens in the temple where her mother died, Merlin standing on the other side of the platform. Nimue explains Lenore is her mother and what her dying wish was. Nimue pieces together why Lenore asked her to bring the sword to Merlin: He’s her father. They both gasp and Nimue awakens.
Burning questions: What kind of havoc is Iris going to wreck with the Fey? If Merlin is Nimue’s real father, then who is Jonah?
Episode 6, “Festa and Moreii”
The Weeping Monk shoots a flaming arrow into the Fey’s fields. Carden has a new plan to get rid of the Fey kind: Starve them out, burn their fields, scourge their farms until they panic.
Nimue is insistent on bringing Merlin the sword, but Gawain is incredulous. He believes the sword could help them win the war against Carden and the Weeping Monk as their fields burn. A grinning Arthur interrupts the conversation, an unwelcome third wheel to Gawain. Gawain insists on accompanying Nimue, but Arthur was already planning to tag along. Nimue is aghast — she doesn’t need an escort, she tells the rivals. The men are determined to make her choose, so she selects Kaze (Adaku Ononogbo), a woman who has been standing nearby watching over the entire discussion. Morgana wants to tag along as well, still upset about what happened to Celia. She doesn’t live for the Fey clans anymore, Morgana says, but she isn’t sure who she lives for now.
The three set off on horseback as Merlin packs his belongings, stumbling upon a small wooden jewellery box with a tiny dried flower inside it. We see a flashback of Lenore rolling the fresh flower between her fingers, an intimate memory for Merlin. Uther enters the room, curious to see where Merlin is heading to get the sword.
Merlin sets off on his journey, but the queen regent is watching over his moves. The Fey, meanwhile, are struggling: There’s only one mill left and one route to it. Arthur is suspicious that the open road is a trap set by the Red Paladins and offers to tag along as protection. Gawain is clearly not thrilled by the prospect of having to travel with his love triangle rival.
Nimue, Morgana, and Kaze arrive at the castle. Kaze urges Nimue to convince Uther to work against the Paladins and Weeping Monk, while Morgana reminds her to listen to the Hidden. Merlin and Nimue come face-to-face. Nimue kicks off with the heavy questions: Did he love her mother? Merlin confirms he did. He believes she once loved him. The two engage in a terse conversation as Nimue appears to change her mind, feeling pressured to give him the sword. Suddenly there are voices surrounding the pair, prompting Nimue to draw the sword. The voices belong to Festa and Moreii, born of rival clans, he explains. They hid in the castle and drank hemlock so they would never be separated. Nimue isn’t here for storytime, though — she wants answers as to how she came to be, why Merlin left her. Merlin believes he will just disappoint her. He chose the location, he explains, because Festa and Moreii will allow Nimue to see the past with her own eyes.
Squirrel approaches Gawain, asking if he should carry a sword or spear to accompany them on the journey, but Gawain won’t allow him to tag along. Squirrel returns to the children’s room, where Iris approaches him, asking about his bow.
Merlin brings Nimue to the bench where Festa and Moreii died with a promise that he will never deceive her. She sits across from him, the sword on her lap, as Merlin pulls out a necklace that will draw the lovers. She’s transported to a pair of Merlin’s memories of Lenore. In the first, Nimue and Merlin stands on the sidelines while Merlin makes his way to the temple where her mother died. He lays on the ground as a sweeping Lenore comes to his rescue, refusing to allow him to die in the house of the Hidden. In the second memory, Lenore and Merlin are walking through the woods, Lenore casually flirting with him as she asks Merlin about himself. She informs him the Fey hate him and if they found him they would kill him. “I would die happy,” he tells her.
While Gawain and Arthur try to one-up their battle stories en route to the mill, Squirrel is teaching Iris how to use a bow and arrow. Squirrel tries to pretend the target is a Paladin, but Iris is struggling. Once she begins talking about how her family abandoned her, however, she makes her target, spooking Squirrel.
Merlin and Nimue have departed his memories. He’s trying to teach her how to control the Hidden — it typically comes to Nimue with anger, but she can create an intention and surrender it to the hidden. Nimue faces a tree with bare branches. Leaves and fruit begin sprouting from it. The key to getting it to work turned out to be thinking about someone Nimue loved — her mother? Or perhaps Gawain or Arthur? Hmm.
As Merlin and Nimue eat, he reveals the sword used to be his but that he no longer wants it. Merlin grew dependent on the sword with time and it overcame him. Nimue is confident she won’t run into his issues because every enemy of hers is certain to be defeated with it. Spoken like a true warrior.
“Sword or no sword, those enemies will find you and kill you,” he warns Nimue. He refuses to share his plans for peace but wants Nimue’s trust. Nimue just wants to see the past, and she’s stubborn about it. Merlin brings Nimue to a memory that no child should ever see of their parents as Merlin and Lenora hook up. Nimue turns away and next we see the aftermath as the two lay down — the full memory of the purple flower he found earlier. He asks her about marriage, but it turns out she’s already been promised to Jonah, though she doesn’t love him.
In the next memory, Lenora is cleaning the temple as Jonah and his father arrive. Jonah seems disinterested while his father views Lenora as worthless since she has no dowry and there are no offerings in the temple (even though that’s uh, not something she controls — that’s on the worshippers, buddy). Merlin stands near an entrance to the temple and casts a spell. In the next memory, Lenora and Merlin are having a fierce fight. They’ve destroyed each other, they conclude, as Merlin stalks away. Lenora discovers the sword under the platform in the temple and drops it as if it’s burned her. In the last memory, she asks Merlin to leave her if he truly loves her so she can marry Jonah. He departs as Lenora sits down, shock and grief overcoming her. Nimue snaps out of the memories as Merlin lays on the ground, drunk yet again, repeating, “No more.”
Nimue takes the necklace from Merlin and asks it a dangerous question: “Show me what he doesn’t want me to see.” Nimue is taken to a town engulfed in chaos: There are fires burning everywhere, bloodied bodies on the ground as shirtless, growling men and Red Paladins fight each other. Wielding the sword, Merlin swiftly slices two people cowering in fear. Nimue snaps out of it and turns the sword on Merlin, horrified at what she saw. “I’ve lived many lives,” he tells her. “Some contained terrible mistakes.” How many have died by Nimue’s hands, though? Nimue is certain her cause is just, the same way Merlin was certain of his cause. Revenge took over him and it will do the same thing to her, he warns.
Merlin reveals his true intention to melt the sword in the Fey fire and destroy it. He swears he will do everything to protect the Fey, but he doesn’t want Nimue — or himself — to have the burden of the sword.
Meanwhile, a group of Pendragon soldiers are approaching the castle while Morgana and Kaze stand guard. Merlin swears he didn’t send them, but Nimue doesn’t believe him and repeats her mother’s words back at him: “Let this be the last time I see your face.” The three make a swift exit, leaving Merlin with Pendragon’s soldiers.
Gawain and Arthur are nearly at the mill and still bickering. Gawain wants everyone to dismount and head over on foot, while Arthur disagrees. The men listen to Gawain while Arthur confronts him. Arthur and a boy who has been following him around, clearly idolising him, hang back. Arthur intends to teach him a few tricks but the boy is shot by an arrow from the Weeping Monk at a distance. A second arrow pierces through the air, directly aimed at Arthur... and we cut away.
Burning questions: Uh, did Arthur survive that arrow attack?
More to come. Check back for the full recap next week.