A boy in a neckerchief strides over a hill and down a rutted wagon road, past gorgeous mountain vistas, as John Hurt says that nobody can know their destiny, they must live and learn. And without even a spoiler alert, Hurt tells us that this kid is going to father a legend, and that his name is Merlin. A big white castle rises above the woods, and is apparently his destination. Camelot! Camelot! Camelot! (Sadly, it does not appear to be a model.)
Opening credits. We pan up from Excalibur lying at the bottom of a lake to see Merlin's face, a knight on horseback, some knights fighting, then somebody turning into a mummified corpse (!), a creepy old lady, snakes striking, horrible gnawing monsters, and then Camelot. Which is on top of a hill, and not surrounded by woods like in the opening scene. A few of the shots are from the first two episodes, so I'm assuming the rest of them are from episodes as well. Creepiness is coming.
As Merlin strolls across the town square, the credits tell me John Hurt is the voice of the Great Dragon, who is apparently also the narrator. Merlin stumbles upon a slow drumroll and an execution in progress, as Anthony Head (who, despite introducing himself as Uthur Pendragon, shall henceforth be known as "King Giles") explains what the man did from up on a parapet. Apparently, Thomas Collins has been conspiring to do enchantments and magic, and as everyone knows, such practices are banned on penalty of death. Show's over, folks! Merlin looks sad.
A girl watched from the window and looks sad. King Giles signals for the axeman (and the slow, slow drummers) to let the beat, ummm, drop? The girl turns away like she's going to be sick. King Giles explains that when he came here, Camelot was in bad shape, but, like the Ghostbusters, he cleaned it the town, driving away magic. To celebrate 20 years since they captured the Great Dragon (John Hurt NOOOOO!), KG declares a festival, and says the festivities begin... now. Hey, how about a little time to plan, dude? Put up some decorations? Also, why the hell is he locking up dragons, when they're kind of his symbol? His last name means "Chief Dragon." Maybe they'll change it to mean "guy who literally pens up dragons so they won't eat our sheep"?
As King Giles leaves to get the party started, a wail splits the air -- it's Thomas' mom, and she's the old lady from the credits. She says King Giles is the only evil in this kingdom, and that she will get revenge, a son for a son. Whoa, threatening a prince? Not cool. KG orders her to be seized, but she grabs her pendant and starts speaking in parseltongue or something, and the wind starts whipping, and she kind of breaks up and blows away. It's hard to describe, because it's so awesome-looking. Also, if that's the kind of magic she does... yeah, kill her. She's clearly evil.