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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Merlin: The Coming Of Arthur - Part Two


Our story opens a week into the reign of Queen Morgana, with Arthur demoralised and hiding out in caves along with Merlin, Gwaine, Gaius and Elyan, Gwen's brother.

Gwen, still feigning loyalty to Morgana, manages to help Sir Leon (Rupert Young) escape from the dungeons of Camelot - little realising that she has been magically 'spiked' by Morgana and Morgause to lead them to Arthur's hiding place.

In the meantime Merlin - using the gift the Fisher King gave him - receives a vision from Freya (Laura Donnelly),  guiding him to the Lake of Avalon to retrieve Excalibur from its watery depths, as this is the only weapon that can defeat Morgana's undead army (turns out they're more zombified than immortal).

Escaping Morgana's troops with the aid of Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) and new arrival Percival (Tom Hopper), Arthur and his band retreat to an old abandoned castle, where they stumble across a round table of the old kings and Arthur explains its idea of equality, then promptly knights all the warriors in his entourage and lays out a commando-style plan to break into Camelot and rescue his father.

Lancelot (being aware of Merlin's abilities) and Merlin conspire to use this attack as a cover for their own plan to empty The Cup Of Life of its blood sacrifice - thus ending the spell of 'immortality' on Morgana's legions.

The Coming Of Arthur - Part Two was a rousing and rollicking finale to this (generally) thrilling season of Merlin, drawing heavily on the show's continuity (which is something I always approve of, as it's both a reward for viewer loyalty and a way of weaving its own complex mythology).

Of course, it's easy to pick holes - such as why Morgana and Morgause didn't simply slay Uther straight away when they took power (although it will be interesting to see how Anthony Head plays this 'broken' Uther in the next season) - but that doesn't detract from the fact that it was a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling climax to a much improved year on this ever-growing show.

Both Arthur and Merlin have developed as characters in these seasons and even Gaius made a comment to Merlin about how he has come a long way since he first arrived at Camelot; that holds true for the whole programme as well.

The limits of a 50-minute episode, with so much story to squeeze in, also meant the final confrontations might have seemed a bit easy at times, but director Jeremy Webb hit all the right beats, focusing on the key issues (such as the romance of Arthur and Gwen becoming public, and Lancelot's repressed envy), yet leaving enough doors open for plots to continue through into the next season.

Yes, honestly, I would have liked next season to open with Arthur as king, but enough has changed with the unmasking of Morgana as "the big bad" that Season Four of Merlin can only keep getting better from here on.


4 comments:

  1. A truly brilliant episode, yet so frustrating at the same time. After an entire series (multiple series, for that matter) where *nothing really happens* to advance the plot, so much occurs in this one episode that it's like watching a speeding train in comparison to the rest of the series.

    We have the finding of the Round Table, the /founding/ of the Round Table, the Knighting of darned near everyone, the public declaration of love between Arthur & Gwen, the breaking of Uther, the Sword in the Stone.... and I'm sure more things that I missed on first viewing.

    Much as this episode was fantastic to watch, I really hope they fix the pacing of events in the next series otherwise I'll only bother tuning in for the finel episode because that, it seems, is when the plot happens.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very good point. I don't think it helps that the "knights" who were previously introduced (particularly Lancelot) were then whisked off again out of the story.

    I did like that Merlin kept Excalibur a secret from Arthur and then put it in the stone at the end, for when it was needed, thus managing to cover both the Lady In The Lake myth and The Sword In The Stone myth.

    But, yes, if the show has a problem now it's with pacing, caused mostly by its apparent need to throw in "light-hearted" stories when what the season really needed was 13 weeks of main plot, main plot, main plot.

    Nevertheless, I certainly enjoyed this year of Merlin far more than I did this year of Doctor Who.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I did not read this post, nor did I read the comments - I'm cunningly avoiding spoilers, see. I plan on getting this show on DVD as soon as fiscally possible. But in the meantime, I'd like to recommend Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles. This offers another, and quite bloody good, take on the Arthur-myth.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good move, Harald - these reviews are often rather spoilerific and are most certainly written for people who've already seen the episode or aren't that bothered by spoilers :)

    Bernard Cornwell is one of my favourite authors, having been introduced to him by my late father. I inherited wonderful hardback editions of the Warlord Chronicles from him - but have never got round to reading them. They're now moving onto next year's "reading list". Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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