Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.02: "Valiant"

Another installment of the "Merlin" Summer TV Rewind from our lovely guest blogger Sarah...


“How can you go out there and fight like that?” “Because I have to, it’s my duty.”
- Merlin and Prince Arthur

Uther has decided it’s a good time for a tournament and knights from all over the realm have come to Camelot to compete. We first see a man walking into what appears to be a blacksmith’s shop, and he meets with a creepy little man about a shield. The shield bears three intertwined serpents that come alive when a spell is said. The creepy man hands it over, and all he gets for his trouble is dead. The first man, who turns out to be Knight Valiant of the Western Isles, arrives in Camelot and enters the tournament.

Merlin’s first day as Arthur servant isn’t exactly what he expected it would be. He’s basically a moving dummy for Arthur to wail on to get ready for the tournament. It does have a bit of comedy to it in that Merlin is just so bloody awful at parrying Arthur’s blows. And he gets knocked on the head a few times. Merlin gets a nice massage and some grief from Gaius about how being Arthur’s servant could end up being fun. Merlin’s not buying it. The next day he’s managed to wrangle Gwen into helping him figure out how to put on armor. After all, she’s a blacksmith’s daughter and knows everything about armor.

The tournament begins and we get a fun montage of fighting in which Arthur (the reigning champion, gee no surprise there) and Valiant move up the leader board. After the day’s festivities, Merlin is quickly tasked with cleaning Arthur’s armor and chainmail and repairing his shield and sharpening his sword. Way too much for any normal person to do in a night. Good thing Merlin’s not normal. In short order he has everything going along quite nicely via magic when Gaius interrupts and everything comes crashing down.

At the big reception to welcome all the knights that have come, Valiant manages to schmooze with Uther and flirt rather confidently with Morgana. The champion of the tournament has the honor of escorting her to the final festivities and Valiant says he will win at all costs. Creepy much? I think so. And so does Arthur. Even though he tries to brush it off and make it look like he’s not jealous, he really is. He may not say it but he has a thing for Morgana.

The episode wouldn’t be complete without some creeping around by Merlin. In fact, throughout the remainder of the episode he does a bit of creeping. He’s in the armory when he hears a hissing sound. He’s drawn to Valiant’s shield and he sees a painted serpent’s eye glow red and wink at him. Before Merlin can do anything, Valiant appears and scares him off. Merlin makes a show of it as he grabs random armor (claiming it’s Arthur’s) and runs out.

Day two of the tournament arrives and Merlin manages to dress Arthur and not forget anything. In fact, Merlin looks quite proud of himself for his efforts. There’s some more montage fighting and then we see Valiant fighting another knight. The other knight is knocked to the ground and it’s the first time we see Valiant using his shield. One of the snakes bites the other knight and it arouses Merlin’s suspicion. His fears are confirmed when Gaius points out fang marks on the knight’s neck and the symptoms of poisoning. Merlin rushes off to spy on Valiant whom he finds feeding a mouse to the snakes on his shield. Merlin may be magical but he is definitely not the best at the quiet getaway. Luckily he’s quick enough so that Valiant doesn’t see him.

Merlin goes straight to Gaius and tells him what he’s seen. Unfortunately, Gaius says there’s nothing they can do without proof, or an antidote. Uther wouldn’t believe either of them but he would certainly believe another knight. So they have to convince Arthur of Valiant’s treachery and nurse the injured knight back to health.

Day three of the tournament finds Arthur and Valiant have climbed to the top of the leader board and will be facing each other in the final. Merlin is more determined than ever to find proof that Valiant is using magic and to stop him from using the shield against Arthur. While the knights are dining with the King, Merlin once again sneaks into Valiant’s chambers and cuts off one of the snakes’ heads. Another daring and slightly comedic escape ensues before Valiant can find him. With venom from the snake, Gaius can now make the antidote and Merlin can show Arthur that the truth. Of course the CGI snakes from the shield are far more convincing than the rather sad fake snake head Merlin is now toting around. Still it does the trick and Arthur has requested an audience with the King.

Things are looking good for Arthur and Merlin’s case against Valiant. They present Uther with the fake snake head (god it’s so cheesy) and Uther is rather annoyed that someone would dare use magic in his kingdom. Things take a turn for the worse however when Gaius shows up and reveals that the knight has died. Uther becomes enraged that his son would make up such baseless accusations about another knight and would do so on the word of a servant. The anger and outrage must be a Pendragon trait because Arthur gives it to Merlin good and sacks him for making Arthur look like a fool in front of the entire royal court.

Merlin leaves Arthur alone and goes to tell the Great Dragon that his stint as Arthur’s servant is over and that their destinies can’t be linked. The Dragon says that it’s just the beginning of their destiny. Merlin doesn’t quite believe the Dragon, and he ends up outside sitting on the steps feeling rather sorry for himself. Gwen shows up and tells him that he has to show everyone that he was right and they were wrong. He has no idea how he’s going to do it until he spots a statute of a stone dog and the idea hits him. He’s going to make the stone dog come alive. That way he can make the snakes on Valiant’s shield do the same. This is probably the funniest part of the whole episode. Merlin trying all manner of pronunciations of the spell is really amusing, especially with Gaius blissfully ignorant and asleep in the next room.

Morning dawns and Arthur faces off against Valiant. They’re in the middle of a pretty brutal fight when Merlin finally gets the wording right and the stone dog becomes a rather angry Doberman. Merlin races off to the tournament grounds just in time to save Arthur from being snake chow. The snakes come alive but Arthur chops their heads off with the help of Morgana (throwing him a sword) and then runs Valiant through the gut with much cheering from the crowd.

That night at the feast, Arthur looks pretty pleased to be back in his father’s good graces, even if Uther won’t actually apologize. He is also pleased to be escorting Morgana. That happiness, however, is short-lived because the two can’t seem to go for very long without arguing. They end up going their separate ways in a huff and Arthur complains to Merlin that Morgana is unbelievable. In what I think is kind of an important moment, Arthur apologizes for not trusting Merlin and then gives him a laundry list of chores that need doing in the morning. Guess destiny is once more, back on track.

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