Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.09: Excalibur

Sarah is back with another installment of her Merlin Series 1 Summer TV Rewind.  Enjoy!


“That is my fault and not yours. You are my only son and I wouldn’t wish for another.”
- Uther

We begin in a crypt in the evening hours. There’s very little light around and the room is full of stone tombs. The camera moves to one particular tomb and we find Nimueh enchanting the body inside. The body rises in dark, dented armor and we immediately cut to a far happier scene. Arthur, being of age and heir apparent, has become Crown Prince of Camelot. Uther looks so happy. Gwen teases Merlin in the background that he’s proud of Arthur. Merlin tries to brush it off just as the knight we saw rise from the tomb crashes through a stain glass window and throws down a gauntlet (it’s a piece of armor that covers the hand and wrist) for a challenge. Arthur starts to put away his sword when one of his knights, Sir Owain, accepts the challenge, a fight to the death. By the look on Uther’s face, you know there’s something hinky going on.

Merlin and Gaius have retired to Gaius’s chambers for the night, and Merlin keeps pestering Gaius with questions about the knight and where he comes from. Gaius insists he has no idea who the knight is or where he comes from and tells Merlin to go to bed so he (Gaius) can finish his work. Meanwhile, Morgana is begging Arthur to put a stop to all the craziness. He tells her there’s nothing he can do. Owain picked up the gauntlet and he must fight. It’s the Knight’s Code and Arthur can’t go against it. Once Merlin has gone to bed, Gaius slips out to visit Geoffrey in the records room. It’s clear that Gaius was lying to Merlin. Gaius saw the crest and Geoffrey confirms it belonged to Tristan Dubois. Gaius brings this news to Uther but Uther says that dead man can’t rise. We also learn that Uther killed Tristan twenty years ago.

The next afternoon, we find the Black Knight waiting for the challenge to begin. He’s just standing there, not moving. In the castle, Arthur is trying to prepare Owain for the battle. Owain seems pretty confident that he’ll win but Arthur isn’t so sure. They’ve never seen the Black Knight fight, and it could be disastrous. Gwen arrives to give Owain a token from Morgana for luck. The fight quickly commences and it’s clear that the Black Knight has better skill. Owain holds his own for a short while and it looks like he’s landed a mortal blow but the Black Knight isn’t phased in the least. A few more parries and Owain is dead. The Knight throws down the gauntlet again and Arthur starts to jump over the barrier to get it when Uther stops him. Sir Pellinor takes up the challenge. As the Black Knight walks away, Merlin and Gaius wonder whether the Knight really was injured or if he’s already dead.

Arthur demands to know why Uther stopped him from accepting the challenge, and his father gives him some half-assed reason about letting the knights prove themselves. Arthur argues that Pellinor isn’t recovered from a previous fight, but Uther says tough luck. There’s nothing he can do, and he walks out (typical Uther). Next we find Merlin and Gaius checking the crypt, and they discover Tristan’s tomb has been broken into (or as Gaius says, someone’s already broken out). Gaius explains that Tristan was Uther’s brother-in-law, and after Igraine died, Tristan challenged Uther to single combat. Uther won. It’s most likely the Black Knight is a wraith, the spirit of a demented soul conjured by great magic. No mortal weapon can kill it. Too bad for Sir Pellinor. Much like Sir Owain, Pellinor puts up a good fight but dies in the end. Before the Knight can draw his challenge a third time, Arthur challenges him. Uther looks really pissed. And he yells at Arthur once they’re back in the castle. Arthur gives the argument that he can’t break the Knight’s Code. There can’t be one rule for him and one for all the rest. He’s going to fight.

Gaius brings the news of Tristan’s empty tomb to Uther, and they have quite the heated argument about whether to tell Arthur the truth about his birth and who Tristan is. Uther, saying he’s the King and wont’ be told what to do, isn’t going to tell Arthur. Merlin’s decided to take it upon himself to try and stop the Knight with some magic. Unfortunately, it fails. So does his attempt to convince Arthur to pull out. Merlin tries to make Arthur see that his people know he’s courageous and a great warrior but pulling out would show great wisdom, another kingly trait he needs to have. Arthur isn’t having any of it.

Back in the throne room, Uther is pacing about when Nimueh shows up unannounced. Uther demands to know why she would come to his kingdom after everything that happened. In this scene, we learn that Nimueh allowed Igraine to have a child, even though she was barren. Unfortunately, the balance of life and death had to be preserved and so Igraine died while Arthur lived. Nimueh says she had no idea it would be Igraine that would die. Uther doesn’t believe her. Interestingly, Nimueh says that if she’d known what would happen (Uther going uber anti-magic) she wouldn’t have granted his wish and given him a son. It kind of makes her seem a little less evil.

Merlin makes a trip to see Geoffrey to find out if there is anything about a weapon that can kill the dead. After some bemoaning of Merlin to hurry up, they discover a fable in which there was a sword, begotten in dragon’s breath. Merlin takes off with the idea and stops by Gwen’s place to ask for her father’s strongest sword. It’s another cute Gwen/Merlin moment where they have some awkward pauses. Meanwhile, Arthur’s watching the knight standing outside waiting when Morgana comes in and again begs him not to fight. But he’s sporting that Pendragon stubbornness and says he has to. She claims she understands and leaves.

Uther visits Gaius and apologizes for his temper. He’s going to take Arthur’s place in the fight the following day. Igraine gave her life for their son and now he must as well. It seems rather selfless but with Uther it’s kind of hard to tell sometimes. Uther reasons that if he dies, the wraith will also and Arthur will be alive. He also asks Gaius another favor which we see a little later come to fruition.

Once Merlin obtains a sword from Gwen, he goes to see the Great Dragon. The Dragon, in a bit of comedy, tells Merlin that his knowledge of Merlin’s life isn’t universal. Merlin explains the situation and the Dragon agrees to burnish the sword under one condition- it must be used by Arthur and him alone. No one else may use it. Merlin promises Arthur will be the one to use it and leaves. Gaius drops in to see Arthur and slips him a sleeping potion, which knocks him out for the rest of the night and into the following day. Plus, he’s locked in.

Shortly before the fight, Merlin happens upon Uther getting ready for battle. Uther orders Merlin to help with his armor. While doing so, Merlin tries to dissuade Uther from using the sword the Dragon burnished but to no avail. Uther is amazed, however, at Merlin’s loyalty and tells him to look after Arthur (presumably, after he’s dead). Uther goes to meet the wraith for battle and we actually get to see Anthony Head do some stunt fighting. It’s pretty cool. The sword works as it’s supposed to and slays the wraith. Arthur wakes up during the fight and tries to get out of his room. He finally manages and confronts his father after Gaius dresses a wound. Gaius seems pretty impressed by the sword too. Arthur and Uther have a rather important heart-to-heart in which Arthur admits he always figured Uther was disappointed in him. Uther says that was never the case and that he wouldn’t wish for another son but Arthur.

That evening, Gaius and Merlin are eating dinner and Merlin is unusually quiet. He ends up going to see the Dragon (after being beckoned in the middle of the night), who is rightly pissed that Uther used the sword rather than Arthur. The Dragon orders Merlin to take the sword and toss it. So we see him go to a lake far from Camelot and toss the sword in, which gives us the very opening shot in the title sequence. Overall, I like how this episode introduced the concept of Excalibur. I expect at some future point in the storyline, we’ll be seeing the sword again.

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