Ahhh, now that's more like it! After last week's uninteresting outing, Merlin is back with an excellent episode that really gives Bradley James (Arthur) and especially Colin Morgan (Merlin) a chance to show us how good they are! But at the same time it's a very frustrating episode as we don't appear to be any closer to Merlin revealing his true nature to Arthur! If anything that moment has just been significantly pushed back. :o(
The episode starts with three old women chanting in a dark cave. They are the Disír, sorceresses and soothsayers who represent the voice of the "Triple Goddess". It appears the Gods of the Old Religion have pronounced Arthur's Judgement, and he has been found wanting. To inform the "Once and Future King" of this the Disír give the warrior Druid Osgar a "runemark" for Arthur. Arthur being the sceptic that he is pays no attention to these old superstitions, despite Merlin's sour face, until Gaius presses upon him its significance. So Arthur arrogantly goes to confront the Disír and is not at all pleased with the result! During this confrontation Mordred is mortally wounded protecting Arthur, and when Gaius can do nothing to cure the enchanted wound (and Merlin refuses to help because the Dragon has once again told him the "Druid boy" must die if Arthur is to live and now he's finally listening to him), then the only other option is for Arthur to return to the Disír and beg them to save Mordred. In exchange they ask that he (and Camelot) embrace the Old Religion and Magic. Arthur turns to Merlin for advice. Poor Merlin! Just what he's been hoping all these years that Arthur would do... but he can't allow him to make a decision that would save Mordred! Merlin is haunted by his vision of Mordred killing Arthur at the battle of Camlann and it's been affecting his judgement and behaviour ever since then.
Merlin telling Arthur how he knew the cave and the area around it was sacred, with a childlike look of wonder.
"Everything here, so full of life. Every tree, every leaf, every insect. It's as if the world is vibrating. As if everything is much more than itself."
Arthur sits up to pay attention, and the look on his face is the one he gets whenever Merlin surprises him by dropping his guard and showing how truly wise he is.
Then of course when Arthur asks Merlin his opinion on what he should do (concerning the Old Religion). Merlin's face throughout this conversation speaks volumes:
"- What would you do if you were in my place?
- Me? I'm just a lackey and maker of beds.
- Lackeys can be wise... It's not like you to be silent.
- The Kingdom's future is at stake.
- And a man's life.
- You must protect Camelot. You must protect the world you've spent your life building. A just and fair kingdom for all.
- You'd have me sacrifice a friend?
- I would have you become the king you're destined to be.
- If I do save Mordred, all my father's work will be for nothing. Sorcery will reign once more in Camelot. Is that what you'd want?... Perhaps my father was wrong. Perhaps the old ways aren't as evil as we thought. So what should we do? Accept magic? Or let Mordred die?
|- There can be no place for magic in Camelot."|
Merlin's face!!! It's heartbreaking to watch as he forces himself to say that last line... This is the second time that he goes against his own nature to keep Arthur from accepting magic in order to protect him (here from dying at the hand of Mordred, and back in season 2 when Morgause showed him the spirit of his mother who revealed that he had been conceived through magic and that's why she died and so he went in a rage to kill his hypocritical father but Merlin stops him from an action that would haunt him forever).
And this is what's so frustrating! Can't anyone show Arthur a middle path? I thought he'd perhaps agree to a truce with the Disír. No longer condemning all practitioners of magic, only those who use it for evil. He'll never accept magic unless someone proves to him it can be a force for good, that not all magic is bad nor all users evil. Merlin this is supposed to be your job! ARGH!!! And with this we appear to be even further away from Merlin revealing his true nature to Arthur. Grrrrrr....
For a more detailed (and fun!) review of this episode head on over to Billie Doux.
Elements from Arthurian Legend:
- Nothing new (the usual knights, Camelot, Guenevere, Merlin, Arthur, Mordred etc.). Just an insistence upon the fact that Mordred is destined to kill Arthur. And as in many of the tales Arthur is growing quite fond of Mordred (which is always what makes the final betrayal all the more bitter).
- There's a reference to Merlin's skills as a physician (he's been learning from Gaius), which is in line with many of the tales and legend which portray him as a skilled healer.
- Note: no Round Table! Is it still being repaired after Uther's ghost smashed it? Or do they not use it for small council meetings?