Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2013

In the third episode of Season 5 of Merlin – “The Death Song of Uther Pendragon” – the series takes a real shift, and although I didn’t feel the episode as complexly well-plotted as some, it did provide plenty of dramatic atmosphere and interest.

Arthur Arthur and Merlin both have key life-changing moments in this episode. The two are traveling when they come upon a group of villagers about to burn a witch. Arthur decides to order them to release the witch – something they point out would not have been done by his father, but Arthur replies that he is not his father. Despite his being in agreement with his father about forbidding magic in Albion, he is not as stringent about it.

The witch thanks him for his saving her, although it is too late for her. Before she dies, she gives him a horn that can allow him to speak with the dead. Soon after, the three year anniversary of Uther’s death approaches, causing Arthur to want to see his father again. He and Merlin then travel to the Stones of Nemeton (which look a lot like Stonehenge). Arthur blows the horn and enters through a light that appears where he speaks to his father, but the meeting is not cordial. Uther upbraids him for making commoners into knights and marrying Guinevere and destroying tradition. Then he orders Arthur to go before he his trapped in the spirit world. Unfortunately, as Arthur leaves, he looks back in his father, resulting in Uther having the ability to leave the spirit world and visit Camelot.

Uther’s ghost is a far cry from King Uther, a troublesome spirit intent on having Camelot ruled the way he used to. After doors fly open, a chandelier falls, and other strange events happen, Merlin realizes Uther is haunting the castle. Arthur is not convinced until Uther’s spirit goes after Guinevere, trapping her, throwing things at her, and trying to burn her. Fortunately, Gaius has a potion Merlin and Arthur can drink to help them defeat Uther.

In the final battle, two key things happen. First, and only after Arthur is knocked unconscious, Merlin stands up to Uther, who laughs at him as a servant boy until Merlin reveals he has magic and tells him he was always wrong about magic. I loved this scene where Colin Morgan’s eyes flare and he steps into his power (just as happened when he revealed his magic to Agrivaine last season). Arthur rejoins the battle and blows the horn to send Uther back to the spirit world. Uther tries to warn him that Merlin has magic, but the horn’s sound drowns out his words. Merlin’s secret is safe still. But, secondly, it is key that Arthur has confirmed he will not live in his father’s shadow. He tells Uther he had his chance to rule, and now it is Arthur’s turn.

Although this episode is not tied to the bigger overarching plot of the Arthur-Morgana conflict, I think it is a key scene because it shows Arthur thinking for himself and I suspect it is hinting toward the time when Merlin will be able to reveal to Arthur that he does have magic.

SyFy, in advertising this episode, made a point of talking about the bromance between Arthur and Merlin in this episode. Many fans want to believe there is some gay erotica going on here, but I think it is clearly Merlin’s loyalty to Arthur that makes him affectionate toward him. If they were not master and servant, wizard and king opposed to magic, they would be able to express themselves more clearly to one another, but all the tension and magic would be lost. It’s so much more fun watching Arthur hit Merlin and then claim it’s horseplay.

Bring on the last 10 episodes of the series. I will be watching. Who knows? Maybe this time the story of Camelot will have a happy ending.

_______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This post is a follow-up to my previous post on the first episode of the new season 5 of Merlin. The first and second episodes together make up the “Arthur’s Bane” story.

MerlinTVshowThis second episode was far more effective and action-packed than the first. Guinevere proves herself less hard-hearted than we expected, admitting to Gaius that she will not kill Sefa but use her to lure her father to Camelot since he is the real threat. In this strategy, Guinevere is successful. The father manages to free Sefa but is wounded in the process and although they escape from Camelot, he dies immediately after while Sefa flees. I suspect Sefa will show up in a later episode this season.

I did not mention in my last post anything about the strange luminous looking being that cares for Gawain and which many bloggers and commenters have mocked as being an E.T. creature – the creature does look extra-terrestrial, but no real resemblance to E.T. itself. It turns out this creature is the Key to all Knowledge that Morgana seeks. It is the last of its kind and it tells Merlin that he can ask any questions he wants, but after it informs Merlin that knowledge is both a blessing and a curse, he decides it best not to ask any questions, then changes his mind and asks if Mordred is not Arthur’s Bane then who is, for earlier Arthur’s Bane had been prophesied as his downfall. The creature replies that it is Arthur himself.

I love this detail, and it is the kind of detail that Merlin pulls off so successfully, not always giving us what is expected but rising above into metaphor and mystery. Of course, the psychological outdoes the dramatic in the series – Arthur will be his own downfall, just as anyone can choose whether or not to let circumstances or his own flaws defeat him. We will have to wait to see how Arthur is his own bane – will Merlin’s vision of Mordred slaying Arthur turn out to be true, or can it be changed and Arthur’s fall will come about another way – will the series choose to change the tragic ending of the legend or be traditional instead?

The biggest shock in this episode suggests a leaning toward the traditional storyline. Morgana, about to destroy Arthur when she finds him in the caverns beneath Ismere, is stabbed in the back by Mordred in a shocking twist of events. The result is that Merlin is surprised that Mordred saves Arthur – leading to his question of who is really Arthur’s bane – and Arthur has Mordred accompany him back to Camelot where Mordred is rewarded by being made a knight. First, let me point out here that Merlin has saved Arthur plenty of times but no knighthood has ever been installed upon him. Secondly, Mordred is a member of Arthur’s court now, as is typical in the legend (although not Arthur’s son or nephew in this series) and consequently, we can assume that perhaps Mordred will now try to bring about the fall of Camelot from within.

In the final scene, we see Morgana and her dragon making their way through the snow near Ismere. She has apparently survived Mordred’s attack – a strange moment because she clearly seemed to be dead when Mordred stabbed her, and one would think Arthur would have made certain she was dead and seen her body burnt or buried, or have sought to help her if she were still alive (after all, she is his sister). The series’ need to keep Morgana alive is understandable, but no explanation given of how she survived or why her body was not disposed of is a bit of a stretch.

As for the dragon, questions are left open. Merlin earlier tried to stop the dragon from attacking and is surprised when the young dragon cannot speak, finally asking the dragon who has done this to him since the older dragon in the series always speaks. Did Morgana cut out the dragon’s tongue or make him unable to speak, and if so, why would she do so? While she and the dragon are both part of the Old Religion, Morgana leads the dragon on a leash, clearly not respecting him but treating him like a pet for her own purposes. We shall just have to wait to see how these two characters will resurface and whether they will ally themselves with Mordred in a future episode. I’ve learned to expect anything from this series.

_______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Read Full Post »

Season 5 of the hit series Merlin premiered on Sy Fy last night (BBC viewers have already seen the entire season). Fortunately, I’ve avoided all the spoiler sites before viewing this season. I haven’t been so excited about a season premiere in years since this will be the last season of Merlin and it’s been my favorite television show since the cancellation of The Lost World (that’s another Arthurian blog for the future). All that said, I was a bit disappointed in this season premiere, although I did a good job of setting up the rest of the season, which I trust will just continue to build.

MerlinTVshowAs usual, there was plenty of repartee between Merlin and Arthur. The series is worth watching if only to watch the interaction between these two characters. Colin Morgan is a fabulous actor and his character really came into his own at the end of last season when he openly demonstrated his magic to Agravaine. Bradley James also plays his somewhat stuck-up Arthur quite well. These two characters did not disappoint at all.

The season opens after three years of peace in Camelot, followed by the disappearance of Gwain (why isn’t his name spelled Gawain in the series?), Percival, and several other knights on a mission. Arthur sets out to find the knights. Gawain and Percival are revealed to the viewer as imprisoned in a dark cave with the others, apparently being forced to pound rocks and do hard labor – although I noticed it couldn’t be too hard since their hair was still combed perfectly and they were devoid of sweat. I won’t give away much more of the plot. Arthur and Merlin have yet to find Gwain and company when the episode ends.

Then there was a young serving girl at Camelot named Sefa who seemed to have eyes for Merlin. She and Gwen become friends, but she is also the daughter of a sorcerer so she ultimately betrays Guinevere and Camelot’s trust. When Guinevere discovers this, since Arthur is away seeking Gwain, she sentences Sefa to death. Clearly, the viewer is to be stunned by Guinevere’s harshness, and Gaius appears surprised from the expression on his face. What is up with Guinevere’s lack of humanity? She is following the rules of Camelot, but considering her own father was burnt at the stake by Arthur’s father, you would think she’d be a bit more sympathetic (I never have figured out why she stuck around Camelot after that happened; I’d have left rather than marry the son of my father’s murderer – I’ve never been a fan of Uther in the series) – that said, Guinevere assumes Sefa’s father is siding with Morgana, who is a threat to everyone at Camelot. This scene suggests something major is going to happen with Guinevere this season – we will have to wait and see. Throughout the series (no offense to Angel Coulby’s acting skills; it’s the weakness of the script at fault), Guinevere has been the least appealing character, having no real chemistry with Arthur and being somewhat unbelievable as his love interest considering she is a serving maid. And while I’m all for multiculturalism, we never have had an explanation for why Guinevere and her family are the only black people in Camelot – where did they come from? I am hoping there is some mystery about Guinevere’s past, perhaps one even she does not know, that will be revealed before the season is over.

Finally, for me the highlight of this entire episode was the appearance of Mordred at the end, no longer a boy, but a young man, and still in alliance with Morgana. When Merlin and Arthur are captured and their death appears imminent, Mordred appears, making certain their lives are spared, at least temporarily, so he can bring them to Morgana.

As for what happens next, we must wait but the previews for the future episodes look fabulous. Will magic and the old religion ultimately prevail – a part of me seriously hopes so, but regardless, I’m sure Morgana will be defeated (poor Morgana, most interesting character in the show, most misunderstood – but someone has to be the villain). For magic and the old religion to be restored, it will take Merlin revealing his secret of having magic to Arthur. And since Merlin in this episode had a dream that Mordred would slay Arthur, I don’t foresee a happy ending. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see how the rest of this season plays out. Will the legend’s ending be changed? Even if a happy ending is created for the series, the end of the best Arthurian television series ever will be a sad one.

_______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Read Full Post »