Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.05: "Lancelot"

Sarah joins us again for a recap of Merlin episode 1.05...


“You played God, Merlin. You set him on a path of your choosing and tonight you brought him triumph, but who knows what the future may hold.”
- Gaius

We find Merlin out in the forest picking mushrooms when a loud screech echoes through the trees. He looks up and a giant griffin is charging him. Merlin does his best to scamper off to safety, but he trips. Just as it looks like the beast is going to swallow him whole, a man appears out of nowhere and fends off the griffin. He and Merlin take off when it becomes clear a sword isn’t doing much damage, and the griffin loses interest. Merlin thanks the man, whose name is Lancelot, for saving his life just as we notice Lancelot is wounded. Merlin gets him back to Gaius, who assures Merlin that the wound is superficial and the fever it has induced will pass by morning.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Uther are at one of the outlying villages. A large pillar of smoke is billowing up from the center, and Arthur reports that the creature has wings (it didn’t leave any tracks) and wasn’t interested in livestock, only people. Uther isn’t pleased by this (but rarely is he ever happy?) and orders Arthur to post sentries at all the outlying villages. They need to be prepared if the beast heads for Camelot.

The next morning, Lancelot is back on his feet and feeling pretty good. Merlin promises he can talk to Arthur and see about getting him to consider accepting Lancelot as a Knight of Camelot. They head down to the training ground where Arthur is proctoring the last round of tests for knighthood, and the guy he’s up against loses in short order against Arthur. Arthur complains that the guy he just fought was the third to fail that month. Merlin suggests he meet Lancelot because he saved Merlin’s life. Arthur says the only way it will happen is if Lancelot is of noble blood.

Of course, Lancelot is not of noble blood. Gaius explains that Uther created the first code of Camelot (only those from noble bloodlines can become knights) to keep the kingdom safe. He needed a way to be able to trust each knight with his life. So that automatically means noblemen who swore their allegiance to him and Camelot. Lancelot explains his motivation to become a knight (his village was slaughtered when he was a boy), and he seems pretty put out that his life-long dream that he’s trained so hard for has come to a premature end. But Merlin’s not discouraged. He slips off to the Records hall and uses magic to forge a seal of nobility for Lancelot.

At first, Lancelot refuses to accept the fake seal. But Merlin convinces him that once Lancelot’s in, he’ll be judged on his merits alone and he’ll outshine everyone else there. Once Lancelot agrees to it, Merlin takes him to see Gwen so she can outfit him with clothes and chainmail. It would be a sweet scene where she does her innocent flirtation, except the flirting is directed at Lancelot. Yes, the man is very attractive. But it’s quite obvious Merlin does really fancy her. Of course he denies they’re anything but friends when Lancelot comments on how nice Gwen is.

Lancelot, now all in his knightly get-up, approaches Arthur. He tries to hand Arthur the seal of nobility and gets punched in the face. Arthur says his reflexes are too slow and to come back when he’s ready. Lancelot says he’s ready now, and Arthur tells him to go muck out the stables. That night, Gaius finds out what Merlin’s done and he’s none too pleased. Lancelot isn’t that happy either as he comes in covered in muck.

The next morning, Arthur challenges Lancelot to a fight with broomsticks. It’s fairly entertaining and ends in Arthur inviting Lancelot to basic training. But there’s not going to be much of that because the griffin attacked another village closer to Camelot. So, Arthur moves Lancelot’s final test up, and Lancelot shows why he’s so good with a sword. He even manages to trick Arthur into thinking he’s been beaten. The next thing he knows, he’s being knighted by Uther.

The party gets underway, and of course Uther has to be a mega spoil sport. He has Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Court Genealogist, check the authenticity of Lancelot’s seal. Which of course is found out to be a fake. But Lancelot doesn’t know that yet. He’s off drinking too much and hanging out with Arthur. Merlin even teases Gwen that Lancelot likes her. He tries to get her to admit who she’d rather choose, Arthur or Lancelot, but she refuses. It’s a little obvious what the writers are trying to do, but for the moment it was entertaining. Unfortunately, Merlin’s scheming has drawn Uther’s suspicion, and Lancelot is dragged out of Gaius’s chambers the next morning.

Lancelot doesn’t deny the truth, and Uther has him sent away. Arthur tries to argue on Lancelot’s behalf, that his deception was wrong but he only wanted to serve. As usual, Uther doesn’t want to hear it. Merlin goes to visit Lancelot in the dungeon, and Lancelot tells him that all the decisions to go forward with the deception were his own, not Merlin’s. Merlin doesn’t want to believe Lancelot, but he’s left with no real choice. Shortly, he and Gaius determine that the beast actually is a griffin. Just as they make this discovery, the beast attacks Camelot. Arthur and his knights do their best to defend against the griffin, but when their weapons break against the creature’s skin, they’re at a distinct disadvantage.

When Gaius tells Uther that the creature is born of magic and can only be killed by magic, we get the usual Uther Pendragon response; a glower, some anger and this case massive denial. He orders Arthur to ride out by nightfall and kill the creature. Merlin worries that if Arthur faces the griffin again, he’ll die. Gaius says Merlin is the only one who can save Arthur and Camelot. But Merlin feels it’s too much to ask. Unfortunately, Merlin has no choice. After all, his destiny is tied to Arthur.

Speaking of Arthur, he slips down to the dungeons and releases Lancelot. But not after a brief talking-to about how Lancelot doesn’t dress or sound like a knight but he fights like one. All Arthur can do is grant Lancelot his freedom. Lancelot can’t ever return to Camelot. Meanwhile, Merlin tries to make a spell work that will infuse a weapon with enough magical power to kill the griffin. It kind of reminds me of the bit in Valiant with the dog statute, except this time we get some amusing positions and Gaius prodding him on.

As Arthur and his knights ride out to face the griffin, Lancelot goes to Gwen for armor and weapons. He says he has a duty to protect Arthur, knight or not. Gwen begs him not to go, but he says he has no choice. [Editor’s note: This part totally had me humming “If Ever I Should Leave You” from the Lerner and Loewe musical] Luckily, Gwen races off to tell Merlin of Lancelot’s plan in time for Merlin to catch him. They find Arthur in the woods. He’s unconscious but alive. The rest of his knights weren’t so lucky. Lancelot goes to face off against the griffin in what appears to be a joust. Merlin gets the magic working and Lancelot’s spear kills the beast. Arthur wakes up just in time to see what Lancelot has done and he’s thrilled.

We see two similar scenes, one between Merlin and Gaius and one between Uther and Arthur. The latter however, ends in a massive shouting match between father and son. Arthur says he’ll accept nothing less than Lancelot’s full reinstatement of knighthood for his actions. Uther refuses. Lancelot makes the ultimate sacrifice (okay so maybe not the ultimate one) by leaving Camelot to keep father and son from being in conflict. He rides off, but not before telling Merlin he saw what Merlin did and his secret will be safe. Merlin’s sure he’ll see Lancelot again someday, once the rules of Camelot are not so rigid.

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