Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.11: "The Labrynth of Gedref"

Please welcome Sarah back once again for another installment of Summer TV Rewind...


“A unicorn is pure of heart. If you kill one, you must make amends by proving that you are also pure of heart.”
- Anhora

Merlin and Arthur are out in the woods hunting when Arthur spots an animal moving in the woods. He sends Merlin to check it out and discovers a unicorn. Merlin’s rather taken with the beast. He tries to get it to leave, but Arthur shows up and kills the unicorn. Merlin tries to apologize to the unicorn when Arthur takes the beast’s horn as a trophy for his father. Just as they leave, Merlin sees a hooded man as ominous music plays.

Uther is thrilled with the gift and thinks Camelot will be the envy of other kingdoms. Gaius warns that there are old tales that slaying a unicorn brings bad luck to the one who killed it. Both Arthur and Uther dismiss this. Well, they don’t have long to wait until things start going wrong. All the crops in the kingdom have died and withered and there isn’t much grain to ration. Not to mention, all the water has dried up and turned to sand. Uther is convinced now it is the work of sorcery. He implements a curfew and a penalty of death on all looters.

That night, Merlin and Arthur are out (Arthur tells Merlin to go home to avoid the embarrassment of locking up his own servant) when Arthur spots the hooded man from the woods. He and Merlin chase after the man but come up empty. It’s like the man’s made of smoke. Then again, he’s magical so…go figure. Anyway, the man, Anhora, tells Arthur that by killing the unicorn, he’s brought draught and famine on his own people. Guess Gaius was right. Anhora tells Arthur that he will be tested, and if he fails, even just once, Camelot will be damned forever. But, no pressure, really. Merlin reports back to Gaius, and Gaius impresses upon Merlin the urgency with which he needs to convince Arthur that Anhora is telling the truth.

That night, Merlin and Arthur are on watch when Arthur spots someone sneaking into the granary. The man they find claims he’s taking the food to feed his children. Arthur knows the penalty for looting is death but lets the man take the grain anyway. The next morning, water has returned to Camelot. Merlin tells Arthur that he thinks it was a test from Anhora and succeeding was what returned the water. Before Merlin can way much more, Arthur goes to check the guard and we see just hundreds of people in line waiting for what little food there is left. Morgana and Gwen manage to distribute a little food Gwen smuggled from the kitchens. That night, Merlin’s made rat stew (there was a rat plaguing Arthur’s room) and Arthur mocks Merlin and forces him to eat too. However, Arthur decides that they will seek Anhora out the following day to try and lift the rest of the curse.

While they’re searching, Arthur spots Anhora walking. He chases after Anhora and finds the man from the grain stores. There are lots of bags of food around. Arthur’s annoyed but starts to walk away. Unfortunately, his ego and sense of honor (read: pride) get in the way as the man taunts Arthur. The man says that Uther wishes he had another son and that Arthur isn’t worthy of the throne. This is just enough to piss Arthur off and challenge the man to a swordfight. It’s not the usual kind of fight scenes we’ve seen. It’s much more angry and haphazard. Arthur is willing and about to kill the man when he disappears and Anhora replaces him. Arthur tries to take his anger out on Anhora but it’s pretty hard to kill someone who just disappears when you try to attack. Anhora says that because Arthur was willing to kill to protect his pride, he’s failed the test and Camelot will suffer. Arthur says that his people didn’t deserve this and they didn’t do anything. But Anhora only disappears in time for Merlin to find him.

When they return to Camelot, they find that the remaining stores of grain have all rotted. There’s no more food in Camelot. Arthur says there’s some stores left in the castle but it won’t go far. Uther, in response, tells Arthur to stop rationing food because they need it to feed the army. Arthur thinks that’s a stupid idea and they should ask for help. But no, Uther could never ask his enemies for help. It’s just a sign of weakness. Arthur storms out. Uther really can’t handle asking for help. He’s such a man. Seriously. Kings are supposed to protect their people. I think it’s a little sad that Arthur sees that and he’s just a kid (well okay so he’s like 20 but still). That’s one of the things the writers have been doing all series. They’ve been showing us Arthur evolve and grow past his father’s expectations and beliefs. He still may mostly agree with his father regarding magic but he’s far wiser when it comes to running the place.

Merlin seeks out Anhora and begs him to give Arthur one more chance to prove himself. Merlin’s confident Arthur will succeed because he cares so deeply for his people. Anhora grants the second chance, and Arthur rides off to the Labyrinth of Gedref. Merlin’s been instructed to stay behind, but since when does Merlin do as he’s told? Arthur arrives at the labyrinth and enters. Merlin does as well, and he finds Anhora. Merlin learns the maze was really for himself, not Arthur. We get some crazy fantasy music going during the labyrinth scene. All drums and chanting voices. Reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings. When Arthur finally manages to get through, he ends up on a beach somewhere and discovers Merlin and Anhora. Anhora explains that there are two goblets on the table and both must be drunk. One contains a harmless liquid, the other a deadly poison. All the liquid must be drunk and only one person may drink from each goblet. I like this scene because it reminds me of the bit in The Princess Bride when Wesley outsmarts Vizzini.

After much arguing, Arthur distracts Merlin long enough to steal the other goblet, pour it into his own and down the whole thing. Merlin’s horrified when Arthur keels over but Anhora explains that it wasn’t really poison, just a sleeping potion. Arthur has proven himself to be pure of heart and as such, the curse is lifted. Merlin and Arthur return to Camelot to find the crops have grown again and all is well with the kingdom again. But there is something Arthur must do before he can celebrate. He and Merlin go to the forest and bury the unicorn’s horn. Just as they finish stacking rocks atop it to keep it from being disturbed, Merlin spots the unicorn. When someone who kills a unicorn proves they are pure of heart, the unicorn with live again.

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