Merlin: A Herald of the New Age

•December 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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.

Andrea

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Merlin: Lancelot Du Lac

•November 28, 2011 • 10 Comments

Morgana plots to prevent Arthur and Gwen’s wedding by bring Lancelot back to life.

Calling Agravaine to his chambers late at night Arthur informs him that he intends to marry Guinevere whether or not his uncle approves of the match. Agravaine takes the news straight to Morgana, whose anger over seeing a servant girl take her throne becomes too much for her. She decides to reawaken a shadow of Lancelot in the hopes that sending him to Camelot will reawaken Gwen’s past feelings for him. In Camelot, Arthur proposes to Gwen who accepts and their engagement tournament begins. The shade Lancelot shows up at the tournament and has everyone believing the story of his return from death but Gwen’s feelings for him are long gone so Morgana enchants a bracelet that will make Gwen unable to resist Lancelot. Merlin becomes suspicious of Lancelot’s return and questions him about his own magic but Lancelot is unable to remember that. After proving that Lancelot is a shade, Gaius and Merlin work to prevent his eventual attack on Arthur assuming that he’ll try and kill Arthur in the jousting tournament. Instead Lancelot yields to an injured Arthur confusing Merlin. That night Gwen and Lancelot meet in the council chambers and Agravaine brings Arthur down from his room just in time to see the two kiss. Furious, he attacks Lancelot but Gwen breaks up the fight and both are sent to the jail cells. Arthur speaks privately with Gwen in the council chambers where she confesses that she has no idea why she did what she did and Arthur informs her that Agravaine is pushing for her execution. Instead he decides to exile her. After receiving and order from Morgana, Lancelot commits suicide in the dungeons and Merlin takes his body to the lake of Avalon to receive a proper send off.

It’s not often I get emotional watching a TV show (except when they kill animals because that’s just terrible) but it was impossible not to during this week’s episode of “Merlin”. I’d venture that, without a doubt, “Lancelot Du Lac” is the darkest episode of “Merlin” to date. Through Morgana’s enchantments two characters find their names and lives (or death in Lancelot’s case) ruined for something that wasn’t their fault at all.

Arthur and Gwen haven’t exactly had an easy time of their relationship in the past. Everything from enchantments to arranged marriages to exile has threatened to break them apart but they’ve made it through. Of course their wedding couldn’t be any easier especially if Morgana had something to say about it. With lesser actors this episode just wouldn’t work but Angel Coulby and Bradley James play every scene perfectly. Especially well done is the difficult scene in the council chambers where the two characters try to figure out what went wrong before Arthur exiles Gwen for what she’s done.

In the past enchantment episodes of “Merlin” have all been resolved easily enough. It never takes Merlin long to figure out that a person is acting strangely and then find the solution but this week not even Merlin knows what really happened to Gwen (though maybe he should have at least tried a little harder to question her about what happened). As far as he, Arthur and even Gwen herself are concerned she kissed Lancelot of her own free will. As painful as this is for everyone I feel especially bad for Gwen who is forced to live with the guilt of doing something she didn’t want to and she has no idea why.

This episode sees the return of Santiago Cabrera as Lancelot but he isn’t the Lancelot we knew before. It’s sad to see him as a shadow of the good man he was before but Santiago does a beautiful job of portraying this change. He plays everything well enough to persuade the other characters that he is the real Lancelot but also making it clear to the audience that he is not the man he was. Despite this his suicide in the jail cells is a very sad moment as is Merlin’s final send off to his friend in the Lake of Avalon.

Morgana’s had a lot of unsuccessful plans in the past but it’s more her bitterness than her brains that has her coming up with this idea. All of her problems would be solved if she killed Arthur (seeing as he couldn’t marry Gwen if he was gone) but she can’t see past the anger she feels at the idea that a servant would sit on “her” throne and so she lashes out at Gwen instead and her relationship with Arthur.

I’ve never really been a fan of the love triangle in Arthurian legends between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Their problems often tend to make one of the characters look like a saint who has had their life ruined by the other, horrible person (whether the horrible person is Guinevere, Arthur or Lancelot depends on the version). The writers of “Merlin” though make it possible to feel pain for all the characters without blaming any of them and that’s a great achievement. “Lancelot Du Lac” is particularly well written, as incredibly tragic as it is, and Lucy Watkins again proves herself as one of the best writers on this series.

Andrea

Merlin: Lamia

•November 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A mysterious girl has the knights acting strangely.

An old friend of Gwen’s comes to Camelot seeking assistance. In her village several people have become sick but no physician is available. Gaius is busy in Camelot but he suggests sending Merlin in his place along with the knights and Gwen. When they arrive they find people effected by some kind of magic and set off to bring Gaius back to the village. In the woods the encounter bandits and their prisoner, a girl named Lamia. After meeting her, the knights become overly protective and insist on taking the girl home before returning to Camelot. The knights ignore the protests of Gwen and Merlin that they should return to Camelot first. Meanwhile, in Camelot, Arthur notices the group has been gone too long and goes out after them. With no way to convince the knights to do as they say, Merlin and Gwen leave a trail for Arthur to follow in the hopes that he will find them. Lamia leads them to an abandoned castle and begins to attack members of the group one by one. It turns out that Lamia is behind the mysterious sickness found in the village and she gives it to the knights as well. Merlin and Gwen attack the Lamia in its snake form and hold it off long enough for Arthur to arrive and kill the beast.

The knights have been consistent background players this season but finally with “Lamia” we get a chance to see them all in action. Of course they aren’t really in their right minds most of the time. Percival is perhaps the first to fall for Lamia’s “charms” instantly defending her from Merlin who she is wary of. Apparently she isn’t a fan of warlocks. It doesn’t take long though before Leon, Elyan and Gwaine are all also under the spell leaving Gwen and Merlin powerless to defy them.

The other group in this episode features Arthur, Gaius and Agravaine trying to find the missing knights. Agravaine does everything he can to convince Arthur that hunting for them is not necessary but Arthur won’t hear of it. At this point Agravaine must be finally realizing just how much of a threat Gwen is to his position as Arthur’s advisor. I mentioned last week that Agravaine is very adept at manipulating Arthur but this episode and “His Father’s Son” show that isn’t really the case when it comes to Gwen. Arthur won’t leave her to fend for herself in the woods any more than he was willing to end their relationship a few episodes ago.

“Lamia” is the annual Gwen and Merlin solve a mystery episode, something I always enjoy. Merlin and Gwen don’t get a lot of scenes together and both tend to be quicker at figuring out problematic people or situations than Arthur so when they work together the show gains a different dynamic. If only it happened more than once a year. In this week’s episode Gwen comes very close to finding out the secret Merlin has been hiding for years now and I almost wished she had found out or will find out soon. Gwen is smart enough to know that there must be a reason why Lamia can’t control Merlin she just can’t figure out what it is and in the end Merlin is nearly forced to show her his magical powers in order to save their lives.

Andrea

Merlin: The Secret Sharer

•November 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Gaius is kidnapped and forced to reveal Merlin’s biggest secret.

After Morgana’s attack last week, Morgana and Agravaine determine that Gaius must know the real identity of Emerys and they formulate a plan to get the information from him. Agravaine convinces Arthur that Gaius is the traitor in Camelot leading Arthur to believe that Gaius has run off when he disappears from the castle the following morning. Merlin tries to convince Arthur otherwise but he will not send out a search party. Morgana enlists the help of high priest Alator to kidnap and interrogate Gaius. Gaius is not quick to reveal the true identity of Emerys but eventually it is forced out of him and Merlin is at risk of being exposed. From the dirt on Agravaine’s boot, Merlin and Gwaine figure out where Gaius has been hidden and go after him, followed by Agravaine. Agravaine finds Gaius first and prepares to kill him before he can reveal who kidnapped him but is stopped by Gwaine. They return Gaius to Camelot. Merlin comes face to face with Morgana and eventually Alator but when Morgana asks after Emerys’ identity, Alator refuses to tell her. He knocks her out and tells Merlin of his support.

Gaius is a character that doesn’t always get a lot of attention on “Merlin”. Sure, he seems to know absolutely everything but he doesn’t often play a significant part in the action. This week though, Gaius is in the spot light forced to try harder than ever to keep Merlin’s magic a secret.

“The Secret Sharer” starts as a continuation of last week’s episode where Arthur learned of a traitor in Camelot and Agravaine began to plant the seeds in his mind that it might be Gaius. The two question Gaius about his views on magic and whether he knows the sorcerer who killed Uther and its clear that Gaius is keeping something from them. That said Gaius is quite good at telling the truth but leaving out the important bits he doesn’t want Arthur or Agravaine to know. Richard Wilson puts in a great performance this week from his torture to his moving talk with Arthur at the end of the episode.

Though Agravaine’s advice to Arthur hasn’t exactly proved itself Agravaine continues to be a master at manipulating him. He knows just how to convince Arthur that Gaius is the traitor but also how to make Arthur feel that he is always the one making the decision and not his uncle. I’ll admit that Agravaine makes a much better traitor this season than Morgana did last season. He’s very good at keeping his real feelings under wraps (unlike the continuous smirking Morgana did).

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this episode is the introduction of Alator. So far most of the characters we’ve met with magic aren’t the nicest of people. Many of them have been angry with Uther’s persecution of their kind and rightfully so but they are almost always presented as bad guys. There have been a few magical people who seemed to be more like Merlin in their views but with Alator we see a character that could be very helpful to Merlin in the future. With a high priest on his side Merlin would certainly have an easier time of creating the “time of Albion”.

That begs the question, when exactly did Morgana become a high priestess and what exactly is required for this transition? As far as we know Merlin isn’t a high priest but he’s bested Morgana in every magical show down the two of them have had so clearly the title doesn’t mean very much.

Andrea

Merlin: A Servant of Two Masters

•November 6, 2011 • 3 Comments

Morgana captures Merlin and bends his mind to her will.

While travelling in the woods, Merlin, Arthur and the knights are attacked by a group of bandits. Merlin gets injured and he and Arthur become separated from the other knights. Arthur tries to get the injured Merlin back to Camelot but Merlin uses magic to create a rock fall stopping most of the bandits and cutting Arthur off from him. Arthur sends out the knights to look for Merlin but they have no luck. When Morgana realizes she’s captured Merlin she decides to manipulate his mind so that he’ll be forced to kill Arthur. Arthur and Gwaine head out to search for Merlin themselves eventually finding him covered in mud and bringing him back to Camelot. Merlin starts exhibiting strange behaviour causing Gaius and Gwen to become suspicious of him after he poisons Arthur’s food. They remove the snake’s head causing Merlin to do Morgana’s bidding and believe the problem is solved until the head grows back. Gwen and Gaius incapacitate Merlin again and temporarily immobilize the snake. Merlin goes undercover as the older version of himself to Morgana’s hovel to destroy the multi headed snake creature eventually defeating her and regaining the ability to think for himself permanently.

With these last two episodes this season of “Merlin” has improved greatly. Last week’s episode showcased the more serious side of the series while this episode managed to incorporate the humour as well making it a significant improvement on the attempts at humour in “Aithusa” two weeks ago. In “A Servant of Two Masters” writer Lucy Watkins (who has yet to write a bad episode of “Merlin”) proves that you can give all the characters a strong role in a story and incorporate all of their respective relationships.

It’s been too long since we saw Merlin and Morgana face off directly and this episode showcased them very well. Katie McGrath’s acting has improved considerably (maybe because they aren’t forcing her to do that smirk every five minutes anymore) and watching her torture of Merlin gives the audience a great look at her rivalry with him. I can’t wait for the time when Morgana eventually finds out about Merlin’s magical abilities because I’m sure that will make their interactions even more interesting as they’ll be on more even footing. At this time she still believes herself to be superior to Merlin because of her powers despite the fact that he always seems to thwart her somehow.

I also enjoyed the scenes between Morgana and Emerys. Her dreams of him have clearly been haunting her as she darts back out of the hovel the minute she sees him inside going through her things. And even after she eventually enters Morgana is unwilling to believe that Emerys’ appearance is not a trick of her imagination.

Continuing from my comments on last week’s episode, the relationship between Merlin and Arthur is again well presented in this episode. It’s good to see Arthur’s worry over Merlin and his comments to Merlin at the beginning about being a hero are well done as well. It’s clear their friendship is growing and Arthur is beginning to realize the people in his life who he can really trust (ie. not Agravaine).

Arthur is often presented as not the smartest of the characters. He is entirely oblivious to Merlin’s attempts to kill him (to be fair Merlin is a terrible assassin) but he does show off his smarts in another area. Arthur’s mind is largely occupied with trying to find the traitor who gave away his and the knight’s route to the bandits. It’s interesting to hear who Arthur is less sure about as he debates with himself whether Percival or Elyan would have reason to betray him. In the end he comes to the right person though, eventually realizing that his uncle could easily be the one behind the leak. Agravaine is quick to turn the blame to Gaius instead (something which looks like it will be spilling over into next week’s episode) insisting that he has nothing to gain from helping Morgana.

This of course brings up the question; why is Agravaine helping Morgana then? It seems the show isn’t quite ready to tell us the answer to that yet. When Agravaine finds an injured Morgana it’s clear that he cares for her quite a bit as he’s practically in tears. With so many failures on Agravaine’s part, Morgana seems to be unsure whether he is really a use to her and it will be interesting to see how he responds to that if she decides she no longer needs him.

With Arthur oblivious to Merlin’s assassin tendencies it falls to Gwen and Gaius to solve the problem of the week. Most of the humour comes in through these two and their attempts to get at Merlin without making Arthur suspicious. It’s not often the writers give Gwen the opportunity to do comedy and Angel Coulby proves this week she can do it just as well as the boys can.

It looks as though next week’s episode will continue the search for the traitor and with the blame pointed at Gaius, things certainly won’t go well.

Andrea

Merlin: His Father’s Son

•November 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A decision of Arthur’s brings war to Camelot.

Upon finding the king of Caerleon and his men trespassing in the woods of Camelot, Agravaine encourages Arthur to force the king to accept a treaty or face his own death. The king refuses the treaty and Arthur kills him causing the wrath of Caerleon’s queen. Agravaine continues to advise Arthur that he should rule the kingdom with his head and not his heart, eventually convincing him that his feelings for Guinevere are a liability. Morgana travels to Caerleon to join forces with Queen Annis against Arthur, offering her magical abilities. With war looming Arthur begins to regret taking the advice of his uncle and decides to avert the war but suggesting trial by single combat. Arthur decides to fight Annis’ champion but Morgana puts a spell on his sword in an effort to make Arthur lose. Despite her efforts, and with some help from Merlin, Arthur wins the fight and Caerleon’s army withdraws. Arthur expresses his desire for peace with Annis and she sends Morgana away warning that Morgana may be more like Uther than she thinks.

It’s not easy being king and Arthur’s learning that the hard way. He may have spent his life preparing to one day become king but the change from following his father’s orders to making his own is not an easy one. It’s no surprise that Arthur starts this episode by yielding to Agravaine’s advice all too often. Luckily some help from Merlin and Gwen makes Arthur realize that sometimes Uther’s way wasn’t always the best and he shouldn’t try to be his father.
“His Father’s Son” is one of the best episodes so far this season. As much as like the character of Merlin, I find that episodes focusing on him tend to forget all the other characters (as happened last week) while episodes about Arthur tend to be more well-rounded.

“His Father’s Son” includes some great moments between the characters. This season has really shown progression in the friendship between Merlin and Arthur and this episode continues that. The throwing of objects at Merlin’s head has stopped and Arthur finally seems willing to admit that he sees his servant as a friend. The scenes with Arthur and Gwen show progression in their relationship as well. Gwen knows immediately that it wasn’t Arthur’s idea to end their relationship and, though she is upset, she seems to know that he’ll come around.

This episode also featured a great guest star performance from Lindsay Duncan as Queen Annis. So often the show’s villains can seem to be without motivation. To further the plot they show up trying to kill someone with no real reason why. With her king’s death though, Queen Annis has every reason to be angry and want for revenge on Arthur. In the end though Arthur proves that he can be better than his father by risking his own life to avert a war, sparing her champion and promising peace throughout the land. At that point Annis realizes that Arthur is a much better choice to have on the throne of Camelot than Morgana and she tells her as much. Though Morgana comes to Annis under Gorlois’ name it is obvious that Morgana is much more like her father Uther than she wants to admit. They may have been fighting for different things but they both do it in the same manner.

Agravaine manages to make it through another week without drawing too much suspicion to himself but, with the way his suggestions turned out this week, it seems Arthur may not be listening to him as much in the future. It will be interesting to see how Agravaine’s role changes now that Arthur realizes he may not want to rule in the way his uncle wants him to.

Andrea

Merlin: Aithusa

•October 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A stranger comes to Camelot in search of a dragon egg.

After stealing from the druids, an old apprentice of Gaius’ (Gaius Baltar, uh I mean James Callis) arrives in Camelot looking for the third part of the Triscellion of Azkenan (I have no idea how that is supposed to be spelled). He wants the triscellion to open the tomb of Azkenan and steal the dragon egg within. Gaius refuses to help him but Merlin is intrigued by the idea of a dragon egg and offers to steal Arthur’s key and get him into the vaults so they can get the third part of the triscellion. Borden betrays him and knocks him out after escaping from the vaults and Merlin must go after him with Arthur and the knights. When they reach the tomb Borden triggers the booby trap, knocking him out and allowing Merlin to sneak in first. He gets the dragon egg but must fight with Borden to escape before the entire tomb collapses on them. Merlin takes the egg to Kilgarrah and hatches it bringing another dragon into the world, Aithusa.

Kilgarrah has been proclaiming himself as the last dragon for quite some time now but with this week’s episode of “Merlin”, he gains a buddy. At the outset of the episode I was really expecting this new dragon to be a girl (you know so there could be more dragons later) but apparently not. We’re stuck with just the two boys. Although considering dragons seem to require human’s in order to hatch, who knows how they reproduce.

After three weeks of death on “Merlin” it seems as though “Aithusa” was shooting for more of a comedy style. Sadly none of really seemed to resonate with me. Usually I like the humour of the show but something about this week’s seemed to be pushing it too far. I’m not sure whether it was Merlin pulling down Arthur’s pants in the middle of a meeting (probably not a good thing to have happen to the king) or the weird interaction with Merlin and the knights but it just didn’t sit right to me.

Merlin shows this week he still hasn’t grown out of his sometimes overly trusting nature. He doesn’t think twice about trusting Borden despite the warnings Gaius gives him. In the end of course Merlin manages to get the dragon egg from him and helps to double the population of dragons so I suppose things didn’t turn out too badly for him.

It was good to see the druids back this week but it seems as though their warnings didn’t amount to much. They warn Merlin about the booby trap in the tomb but what good is a booby trap that merely knocks out someone temporarily giving them enough time to go in and steal the egg after they wake up. Azkenan should have though harder about that. Also the tomb itself doesn’t seem to be very well hidden. Seeing as it’s quite a tall tower I would expect that there are other ways to get to it that don’t involve crawling through a cave and walking through a waterfall but magic works in mysterious ways I suppose.

The girls are entirely absent from this episode. In the case of Morgana I’m not surprised as the episode doesn’t seem to have any bearing on her evil plans but this is the second episode in a row with almost no Gwen either.

In the end, the most important part of “Aithusa” is the new dragon that has been hatched. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of the creature. It was pretty cute after all. Maybe Merlin can walk it and train it.

Andrea