Elyan becomes possessed by a dead druid boy seeking justice.
While travelling in the woods, the knights come upon a druid shrine. Merlin warns against touching anything as it could be cursed but Elyan quenches his thirst in the well nonetheless. Upon returning to the castle Elyan begins to have visions of a young druid boy. These visions lead him to attack his fellow knights and even Arthur, landing himself in the cells. The knights believe his anger may be cause by Gwen’s banishment but Merlin begins to believe otherwise. Merlin frees Elyan from the dungeon but Elyan attacks him and goes off on his own. Elyan returns to the castle to kill Arthur confirming that the little druid boy is controlling his mind and wants justice for his own murder and the attack on his village. Arthur travels back to the shrine and apologizes for the attack, promising that the druids will be left in peace from now on and causing the spirit to decide to spare him.
“A Herald of the New Age” is nowhere near as emotionally charged as last week’s episode but it’s not a bad outing for the show. There hasn’t been much focus on Elyan since he first appeared last season so it is good to finally have an episode devoted to him, even if he is possessed throughout most of it.
When Gwen was banished last week Elyan, who the audience should assume would be upset seeing as his sister was sent away never to return, got nothing more than one camera shot. This week at least the knights frequently question whether Elyan’s behaviour is due to what happened with his sister (and Gwaine does mention that Elyan was upset even before the trip to the shrine) eluding to the fact that he might actually care (something that the show hasn’t done a very good job of displaying to us thus far). Gwen and Elyan may not be the closest of siblings but I would expect Elyan to have at least some loyalty to his sister.
In the same vain, “Merlin” can occasionally forget important plot points for an episode if they don’t fit the story particularly well. That can be seen up to even earlier this season when the episode “Aithusa” immediately followed Uther’s death in “The Wicked Day” but made almost no mention of it. Thankfully the same mistake isn’t made here. Though Gwen doesn’t appear in the episode her absence is notable and it clearly effects the behaviour of the other characters.
We all know that Uther was no fan of the druids. Anyone who practiced magic should be eliminated in his books. Arthur has sometimes shown glimpses of being more lenient towards magic users but for a long time he did little more than follow his father’s orders. Presumably the attack that Arthur lead against the druids is referring to his attack on the druid camp back at the beginning of season two when Morgana ran away but was assumed kidnapped (“The Nightmare Begins”). Sometimes it feels as though the writers of “Merlin” can forget what has come in previous episodes or rehash certain things so I was relieved to see an episode where someone was forced to atone for actions which we the audience had actually been able to see (unless of course this druid boy was killed during some other attack).
Though it’s not really a part of this episode, it would be interesting for the show to explore Merlin’s relationship with the druids further. They’ve helped him out in the past and perhaps an episode where Merlin teams up with the druids would give us a glimpse of the potential Merlin has.