Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.08: "The Beginning of the End"

Sarah is back to discuss one of her favorite episodes of "Merlin" for our Summer TV Rewind...

“What have these people done to you? Why are you so full of hate?”
- Morgana

Before we begin this episode recap I just have to warn you that this is one of my favorite episodes of series 1. So, with that out of the way, here we go. We begin with a man and a boy in cloaks walking through the center of Camelot. They stop at a vendor who hands over a pouch of supplies. Unfortunately, the vendor has ratted them out to the guards. With knights in pursuit, the man and boy take off. One of the guards manages to inflict quite the painful wound on the boy and we cut for a moment to Merlin walking through a corridor and turning because he heard the scream. The man sends the boy through a gateway and allows himself to be arrested.

We find Merlin still walking through the corridor when the boy cries out again for help. Merlin wanders into the area where the boy is hiding and they have a little telepathic conversation. The boy begs Merlin to help him because the guards are searching for him and they’ll kill him if they find him. Merlin tells the boy to run, and the guards spot him before he and Merlin race inside. Merlin ends up taking the boy to Morgana’s chambers where she allows them to hide while she distracts the guards. She assures them that it’s just her and Gwen in the room and they haven’t see anyone run by. By this point, the boy has passed out from the wound on his arm.

Arthur and Uther are in the throne room discussing why the man (a Druid) must die. Arthur says that the man was only there to collect supplies and that he meant no harm. The Druids are a peaceful people. Uther says they cannot show weakness. Arthur (we really are starting to see why he would be such a great King) says that mercy can be a sign of strength. Uther is done listening and storms out, but not before ordering Arthur to find the boy. Back in Morgana’s chambers, she and Merlin watch as the Druid is executed. The boy cries out again telepathically as the man is beheaded and the mirror hanging opposite him shatters. We get a rather disturbing split image of the boy in the broken glass.

Next we find Merlin back in Gaius’s chambers, and he asks if Gaius knows much about the druids. Gaius is quick to ask Merlin if he had anything to do with harboring the boy. Merlin at first denies it but then admits that he couldn’t help it. He heard the boy calling out to him and he couldn’t let him get hurt. Gaius reminds Merlin that now more than ever, he needs to be careful. Merlin heads back to Morgana’s chambers to check on the boy, and they have an interesting conversation about magic. Morgana wonders whether magic can choose a person. We get that nice little hint that was laid in the previous episode that she’s coming into her powers. Merlin doesn’t really say much on the subject, but you can tell he’s dying to tell Morgana his secret. He asks her why she’s helping the boy, since she is the King’s ward and could get in huge trouble if she was discovered. She says she couldn’t see an innocent child put to death. Merlin comes up with a rather lame reason for his involvement; it was a spur of the moment decision.

That evening, Morgana and Uther are dining together. The room is rather quiet and Uther comments that Morgana looks troubled. She says she’s fine and that he shouldn’t worry. Before long, Arthur arrives with the news that they’ve searched everywhere and the boy can’t be found. Arthur actually looks exhausted from the search. He says maybe the boy already left the city but Uther refuses to believe that a wounded boy could evade the guards long enough to get out. He orders Arthur to double his efforts and find whoever is hiding the boy. Morgana throws in a bit about the Druids being the undoing of the kingdom to appease Uther, even though we know she despises what he’s doing. Arthur seems rather surprised by her remark but trudges off to do his father’s bidding.

The following morning, Merlin and Morgana hover over the boy. He’s burning up and Morgana says they need Gaius before it gets worse. Merlin says they can’t get him involved. Morgana insists they need a physician to get the boy better so they can get him out of Camelot. Merlin says he’ll treat the boy even though he doesn’t exactly know how. Before they can do anything else, we get one of my favorite scenes in the episode. Arthur’s come to search Morgana’s chambers for the boy. Merlin hides behind the curtains while Morgana and Arthur banter. It really is entertaining and I wish the writers would actually let them have some sort of romantic relationship. They have far better chemistry than Arthur and Gwen. Morgana manages to get Arthur out of the room before he really does any looking. Merlin, meanwhile, enchants the boy’s boots out of view.

Merlin is back in Gaius’s chambers reading up on infections and gathering some supplies. Just as he’s about to leave, Gaius returns and spots the book open on the table. Merlin admits to reading it and Gaius gets rather excited about teaching Merlin science and medicine. Merlin tries to get out of the impromptu lesson, but Gaius sternly insists he sit down. Merlin finally escapes and returns to Morgana’s chambers. He tries to treat the boy, but by the following morning, it’s clear he’s not doing well.

Merlin makes a visit to the Great Dragon and learns that, like him, the Dragon could hear the boy calling out. Merlin asks why the boy has been calling him “Emmeris,” and the Dragon explains that Merlin has many names and there has been much written about him that he hasn’t discovered yet. Before the Dragon takes off to a different part of the cave, he tells Merlin he shouldn’t protect the boy because they are nothing alike.

Merlin tells Gaius the truth about the boy. After some arm twisting and a tiny guilt trip, Merlin convinces Gaius to help them. Gaius agrees to treat the boy but stresses that he won’t be tied to anyone found helping the boy escape. Shortly before Merlin and Gaius return, Morgana is tending to the boy and he telepathically calls out her name. It’s the first time he’s made contact with her. And knowing the writers, it won’t be the last. The guards are now searching everyone leaving the town, so Merlin suggests a secret exit in the armory that leads to the lower town. Morgana insists that the boy is her responsibility so she’ll help him escape. But first, they need the key. And thus we get a really amusing scene of Merlin stealing the key from Arthur at dinner. They key floats around behind Arthur’s head and it is yet another bit of physical comedy from Bradley James. Arthur ends up skulking out of the room banging on his ear.

Merlin hands over the key to Morgana, and she and the boy take off to the armory. Their disappearing act would have gone off without a hitch if a servant hadn’t seen them. I think it’s interesting that the costume designers put Morgana in a cloak similar the ones the Druids were wearing. She has a dark red cloak on which contrasts nicely with the boy’s sort of forest green. Arthur gets to the armory and realizes his key is missing. He orders the guards to sound the warning bell. Just as the bell sounds, Morgana and the boy arrive at Gwen’s house. Gwen hands over some food and Merlin says he’ll take them to their horses. Morgana denies their help, saying she couldn’t live with herself if anything happened to them.

Morgana and the boy take off but are quickly found by Arthur and his men. They’re cornered, and Arthur orders Morgana (though at the moment he doesn’t know it’s her) to turn around. She does so, and Arthur is more than a little shocked. He has them restrained in what would be a move befitting his father. Speaking of, Uther, in typical fashion, orders the boy be executed at dawn and orders Morgana to not speak to him until she is ready to apologize. He really can be an angry, mean, bastard sometimes. Morgana, back in her chambers with Merlin, says she won’t let the boy die and begs Merlin to help her. They have this sort of unspoken conversation where it looks like they both want to admit they have magic but don’t say a word. Merlin, weighing the words of the Dragon, ultimately agrees to help.

Meanwhile, Arthur is trying to convince his father to simply imprison the boy because he is so young. Uther ignores that option because he thinks it would give the boy time to grow up and use his magic to destroy Camelot. Might not be that far from the truth one day. But, Uther won’t have his mind changed. We see quite the double standard actually. He’s executing the boy but letting Morgana live. When Arthur points this out, Uther uses the promise he made to her father as the reason. Arthur says that if Uther goes through with the execution, Morgana would never forgive him. Uther is apparently not interested in Morgana’s forgiveness.

Arthur returns to his chambers to find Morgana waiting for him. She knows he doesn’t like what his father is doing but Arthur says his father’s mind won’t be changed. Morgana begs Arthur to help her. That she knows he can’t just stand by and let it happen. I guess the wooing works because Arthur agrees to help. They wrap Merlin into the plan as well. Merlin, by this point is really starting to think helping the boy is a bad idea. The Dragon didn’t come out and say that it was related to his destiny with Arthur but it’s probably crossed Merlin’s mind by now. But, he’s got no choice but help Arthur. Morgana will be dining with Uther to divert suspicion away from her when the boy escapes. Merlin goes to see the Dragon again and we get confirmation that the boy is a danger to Arthur. The Dragon says in no uncertain terms that Merlin has to let the boy die to protect Arthur.

We get the great escape underway and all ends well. Morgana makes amends with Uther, even though she doesn’t want to. Merlin, at the very last second, helps Arthur get the boy out of Camelot and Arthur delivers the boy to his people. Just as Arthur leaves the boy, we learn his name; Mordred.

I like that they are introducing this plot point early on. Though, later in the series (series 2 at least) the plotline gets a little ridiculous with fleeing and just missing being captured. Knowing what I do about the Arthurian myth, I like how they are ultimately laying out this particular point. It doesn’t hurt that they’re giving the myth some freshness by showing that the boy, who could potentially bring down Arthur, isn’t directly fighting Arthur. We don’t see it quite yet but that bond that Morgana developed in this episode is going to come back to possibly bite everyone in the butt.

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