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

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

Merlin: The Wicked Day

•October 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

An assassination attempt leads Arthur to turn to magic.

With Uther’s health, Arthur is not eager to celebrate his birthday celebrations but an improvement in his father has things turning around. Uther insists on attending the celebrations which involve some risky knife throwing at the prince. It turns out some of the entertainers were hired by Odin to kill Arthur. They drug Arthur in an attempt to kill him easily but Uther regains his senses just in time to fight off the assassin, being stabbed in the process. Gaius tells Arthur there is nothing to be done for his father so Arthur begins to express interest in using magic to cure his father. Merlin sees this as an opportunity to change his views on magic so he disguises himself as an old man and presents himself as a sorcerer who can help the king. Merlin does all he can to save the king but an enchantment by Morgana results in his spells having the opposite effect and the king dies. Arthur has little time to mourn for his father before he takes on the responsibility of the crown becoming the legendary King Arthur.

After three seasons of not killing characters, it seems as though “Merlin” has taken a turn this season. Three main or reoccurring characters have died in the past three episodes. At this rate the entire cast of characters could be dead by the end of the season. Maybe next year can focus on their ghosts? Truthfully I don’t expect the writers will be killing off any other main characters in the next few episodes. At least that should give the audience the time to recover from this first set of episodes. Uther’s been a staple on the series since the beginning. Largely his job has been to screw up things for everyone else. After all, he’s the reason Merlin’s magic has to be hidden, the reason Gwen’s father is dead, the reason Morgana went evil and the source of so many other problematic incidents in the show’s history. Still Uther always seemed to be a good but flawed man. His obsessive hatred of magic was his greatest failing and, after this episode, it may take quite some effort to prevent Arthur from following the same path. At the very least I will definitely miss Anthony Head’s presence on the show.

With “The Wicked Day” following so closely after Lancelot’s death, I almost found it hard to be as upset about a second character. In that respect I feel as though maybe Uther’s death should have been put off a little bit longer. This early into the season it feels as though there wasn’t much reason to let the character live past last year’s season finale. Still Colin Morgan as Merlin and Bradley James as Arthur put in some very strong emotional scenes to make us feel the loss of Uther as strongly as his son does.

This episode seems a prelude to what Arthur’s views on magic will be. He hasn’t really spoken openly on the issue since Morgause showed him his mother back in the second season. Because of this fact I was a little shocked when Arthur claimed to know that his mother was killed by magic. As I recall, that is what Morgause told him but Merlin refuted her claims in order to prevent Arthur from killing his father. I had expected the real revelation to Arthur about his mother’s death to be a big thing on the show but it seems it’s happened sometime in the background instead.

Merlin wants so badly to show Arthur that magic can be a tool for good that he becomes blinded to what could go wrong with his plan. In the end Arthur’s opinion of magic is only damaged by the sorcerers attempt to help. Interestingly enough, the original script for this episode has been made available and it includes a conversation between Arthur and Gwen (really there were about 5 scenes cut from the episode, all of them involving Gwen) earlier in the episode where he discusses his belief that not all magic is bad. I really wish this scene hadn’t been removed as it’s interesting to hear Arthur’s frank beliefs on magic before Merlin’s failed attempt to save his father.

Agravaine continues his constant trips to Morgana’s trips this week as he does her bidding in Camelot. I really can’t fathom how no one notices the fact that he leaves Camelot every five minutes.

Though Morgana finally gets her wish this week and kills Uther, she doesn’t seem entirely happy about it. She covers her emotions when Agravaine asks why they are not celebrating by saying that they still have Arthur to get rid of but the look in her eyes says differently. It seems that Morgana may have spent a long time wishing Uther dead only to realize after it happened that it hasn’t really made her happy at all. Somehow I don’t think gaining the throne would make her any happier either.

We all knew that somewhere down the line Uther had to die to make way for the great King Arthur. Now that it’s happened it’ll be interesting to see where the show goes from here. Long live the king!

Andrea

Merlin: The Darkest Hour

•October 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Morgana tears the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Apologies for my very long disappearance. Real life has been taking up too much time but “Merlin” is back and that means I should get back to reviewing as well.

A year-long break hasn’t lessened Morgana’s anger any and she and Morgause decide to tear the veil between the two worlds unleashing deadly spirits on everyone in Camelot (and presumably places outside of Camelot as spirits probably don’t respect borders). For the gateway to be opened though, a sacrifice is required and Morgana is forced to kill her sister to take down their enemies. A young girl reports the deaths of everyone in her village when the spirits came so Arthur and the knights decide to check it out. They find people frozen and eventually they find the spirits themselves which can only be kept at bay by fire. Merlin realizes he can’t use his magic on them making him more scared than ever. The spirits begin to attack Camelot and Arthur and Merlin learn that the only way they can be stopped is if another sacrifice is made to close the tear in the veil. With the knights they travel to the Isle of the Blessed but, on the way, Merlin nearly dies saving Arthur from one of the spirits. In part two, Arthur sends Merlin and Lancelot back to Camelot and continues on with the other knights. Merlin begins to recover and convinces Lancelot that they should turn back and help Arthur. Meanwhile, in Camelot, Arthur’s uncle Agravaine decides to shut Camelot’s gates, stranding many of the common people outside of Camelot with no protection from the spirits. Gwen convinces him that this is not what Arthur would do and that the people bring with them more than they take and he allows the gates to be reopened. Agravaine goes to report this to Morgana as a mere annoyance but Morgana is insistent that Gwen must be killed before she can become queen so the two trick her into giving advice to Agravaine late at night and then, when she travels back to her own house, she is open to attack from Morgana who leaves her unconscious. Luckily Gaius finds Gwen just before she can be killed by the spirits. Reunited with Merlin and Lancelot, the knights go to the Isle of the Blessed where Arthur intends to sacrifice himself. Just before he can offer himself up, Merlin knocks him out and tries to take his place but in the end it is Lancelot who walks through the tear while Merlin is distracted. The gateway is closed and Camelot mourns for its fallen knight.

The events of last season’s finale have changed things in Camelot but the characters have all begun to fit into their new roles after a year. Morgana’s failed attempt to take the throne has her and her badly injured sister on the run and has left Uther unable to rule. In his stead Arthur’s been forced to take up his duties with the help of his uncle Agravaine. The knights seem to have settled into their positions and Uther is certainly in no state to strip them of their knighthoods even if they were commoners before. Gwen has taken up a new job looking after Uther and Merlin is much the same as ever.

Together, the two parts of “The Darkest Hour” make for a strong episode. The spirits of the dead are among the worst creatures to strike Camelot especially because Merlin’s magic cannot fight them. The episode also does a great job showcasing all the characters including the new members of the cast and what part they’ll play this season.
Unable to use his magic, this episode gives us a chance to see Merlin feeling helpless for perhaps the first time ever. In the past he’s always had his magic to fall back on even if he had to hide his use of it but here he has no choice. Not only are swords useless against the spirits, but spells are too. Even without his abilities though, Merlin is unwilling to let Arthur die to close the veil and is intent that, should it come down to it, Merlin would take Arthur’s place. Of course the show is called “Merlin” so it doesn’t take much thinking to realize that Merlin won’t be the one to die but still, it’s a nice gesture.

Taking over as the ruler of Camelot, even if he is not yet king, would not have been easy for Arthur. It must have seemed a great help when Agravaine offered to come to Camelot and help his nephew but of course, that would be too good to be true. We, the audience, know that Agravaine is not the helpful uncle he pretends to be but instead reports all his findings back to Morgana. At this point it seems a little odd that Agravaine would have chosen to side with Morgana over Arthur. As Ygraine’s brother, he really has no family connection to Morgana at all but he is still willing to betray his nephew for her. The end of this episode suggests that maybe she has seduced him or maybe he expects some kind of power from her when Arthur and Uther fall. Hopefully more light will be shed on this in the future.

In the year of Arthur’s rule, it’s clear Gwen has gained some confidence in her own opinions and in her knowledge of how Arthur wants to rule. She asks Gaius to talk to Agravaine about his decision to close the gates but when Gaius believes the conversation to be hopeless she steps in and gets the leaders of Camelot to see her point of view. Agravaine plays it well perhaps realizing that, should Arthur return, Gwen will report back to him about what happened possibly making him out to be less than trustworthy. With this in mind (and with the knowledge that Morgana wants her killed) he apologizes to Gwen and convinces her to give him further advice. Except, of course, it must be done at night with no one else around (warning bells should have been flashing at this suggestion). Agravaine seems to debate killing Gwen on his own but makes the choice to leave her to Morgana instead who does and even worse job of killing her. I see the merits in leaving her to be killed by the spirits but you’d think Morgana would at least stick around to check that everything worked out.

This episode opens with the death of Morgause who’s been a major villain on the series for a couple of seasons now. Of course it isn’t terribly surprising that she met her end (I’m more surprised it didn’t happen at the end of last season) because Morgause served as a crutch for Morgana. With her sister gone, Morgana will now be forced to come up with her own evil plans. In a way it looks as though this season may parallel last one. Morgana takes the place of the outside evil planner that Morgause had last season while Agravaine takes the place of the evil person hiding out in Camelot. Hopefully this year the characters will be a little quicker to catch on.

Unfortunately for Lancelot, he got too much screen time for his own good in this opener. A large part of the second half of this episode focused on the relationship between Lancelot and Merlin making it clear that Lancelot would be the one doomed to die. At least he did get a good send off. Lancelot and Merlin’s discussions covered most aspects of his thoughts and feelings and gave us some closure on the character. Not that I was any less sad when he died of course. I’ll certainly miss him and his knowledge of Merlin’s magic. It was nice to occasionally have a character, other than Gaius, who knew what Merlin could do and who could help protect Merlin from being too open with his gift. Still, I’m not entirely convinced this is the last we’ll see of Lancelot. Maybe Morgana will bring him back and control his mind in an attempt to split up Arthur and Gwen. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Andrea

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

•October 3, 2011 • 4 Comments

A very beardy Doctor

Here we are again at the end of another season, can you believe it?! Now we have to wait until Christmas! Argh!

The Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill (how bloody weird is that?!) has a very beardy Doctor out of his cell and wants to know why the time is always 5:02 pm. The Doctor breaks out this crazy convoluted story. Explaining to Churchill that his death is a fixed point in time and he decides to try and figure out exactly what the Silence are and why he has to die. He meets up with some of our favourites from the past season, most importantly the itty bitty people in the shape-shifting robots (aka. the Teselecta). They send the Doctor to head of the big blue dude from the end of last season, Dorium Maldovar. His head is in one of the boxes that we see the Order of the Headless Monks with earlier on in the season. Dorium says that the Silence need the Doctor to die so as to prevent the answer to the oldest question in the universe in the “fields of Trenzalre, at the fall of the Eleventh”. The Doctor still isn’t ready to go to the lake until he realises an old friend, Brigadier Lethbride-Steward, has died; this causes the Doctor to go to lake. He gives the Teselecta the TARDIS blue envelopes to deliver to Amy, Rory, River Song, and Canton Everett Delaware III inviting them to watch him die, as we saw in the first episode of the season.

So, basically, we get a bit of a repeat from the first episode with the Doctor going down to the astronaut and the others watching him. Inside the suit is a younger version of River Song who has been trained to kill the Doctor by the Silence and Madame Kovorian. River Song doesn’t want to kill him, but can’t stop the suit. The Doctor points out her future self and we find out that she goes to jail anyway for killing him so his murder is unavoidable and he forgives her. In a twist, River Song drains the suit’s weapons power and prevents his death. Time gets crazy, and all of Earth’s history starts happening at once but it is always April 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm.

Back to the Holy Roman Emperor and the Doctor, we see them talking in a large room and the black marks appear on Doctor’s arm, as in the first couple of episodes, indicating that he’s seen the Silence. Above them is a lot of Silence, hanging upside down like the freakiest bats you’ve ever seen. Suddenly, the Doctor is rescued by Amy who hasn’t forgotten who the Doctor is, but she has forgotten she’s married to Rory. They go to a place called Area 52 which is in a pyramid filled with Silence in liquid full body sized tanks as well as Madame Kovarian. River Song is there too and knows that the whole time mess is her fault and  won’t let the Doctor touch her. Everyone is wearing eye patches now and that is because they are “eyedrives” which is basically and external hard drive for your brain so they can remember the Silence.

Surprise, surprise this was a trap organised by Madame Kovarian and the Silence start escaping, overloading the eyedrives and killing everybody. The Doctor and River go to the top of the pyramid while Amy finally figures out who Rory is and helps him defeat some of the Silence. The Silence decide they have no more use for Madame Kovarian and overload her eyedrive too. Rather than help her, as we are sure most other companions and the Doctor would have done, Amy puts the eyedrive back in place in order to kill Madame Kovarian for taking Melody. Everyone is reunited at the top of the pyramid where upon accepting all of reality is breaking down (which happens a lot lately) the Doctor marries River Song and whispers something in her ear. She says that he told her his name and they kiss and reality goes back to normal where River kills the Doctor.

River Song pays her parents a visit, it seems to be right after the “Flesh and Stone” episode in River’s timeline. Why Amy tells her that she recently had been through the Doctor’s death, River says that the Doctor lied when he said he told her his name instead, he told her to look into his eye. She did and saw the Doctor had been miniaturised in a robot duplicate of himself and that he was not actually killed at the lake. River, Amy and Rory are overjoyed that the Doctor is still alive. We see the Doctor bring Dorium’s head back to the storage area with the zombie skulls and that with the Silence thinking he’s dead, he can keep a low profile. As the Doctor is leaving, Dorium tells him that the question still has to be answered and calls “Doctor who?” after him.

I’m thrilled the Doctor is alive and will be back for future seasons. I kind of figured out the plot as soon as we saw the mini-people but it was still fun to watch. I’m not sure about the whole name thing; remember in “Silence in the Library” when we first meet River Song, the Tenth Doctor says that River Song knew his name which is why she trusted him. I’m not sure how this can be since this is the infamous question that is to kill the Doctor and they’ve gone and lived their lives in opposite directions. Either way, I have a sneaking suspicion that River Song isn’t gone for good, so this story line will continue on and on. Not sure if Amy and Rory will be back, but I could go for a fresh start! I’m still super confused about this little girl we saw so much in the first episodes, where is she?

Overall, this was a decent season for the first half before the break and went downhill a bit until last week’s episode. Let’s hope that’s an anomaly for the writing team!

Time to wait for Christmas and our special!

Until then!

C