Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.10: "The Moment of Truth"

Our always-insightful guest blogger Sarah returns to continue her Summer TV Rewind of Merlin series 1...


“When the time is right, the truth will be known. Until then, you must keep your talents hidden. It’s better for everyone.”

We open on a peaceful little village with children running about and adults carrying bundles of wood and tending to farm animals. Almost immediately, however, we’re interrupted by a horde of men on horseback, led by a scarred man named Kanen [Editor’s note: it’s Doctor Bashir!]. He’s come to collect the harvest, by force. Hunith, Merlin’s mother, tries to stand up to him and gets a shiner for her trouble. Kanen gives the villagers one week before he returns, and he wants all of their food. Hunith goes off the Camelot to seek help.

Arthur’s managed to get Hunith an audience with the King, but it doesn’t go well. Their village lies in another kingdom, and if knights of Camelot were to enter, it would be an act of war. Uther can’t risk the lives of hundreds for one small village. We get a short scene on a tower with Merlin and Arthur. Merlin explains that he’s going home because he has to look after his mother. Arthur understands and wishes he could have done more to help. It’s one of those times where the writers sort of bang you over the head with “Arthur will be a great King”. All the same, I thought it was rather touching. A short while later, Merlin is packing with Gwen’s help. She gives him a sword and packs some armor. When he protests that he can’t carry all of that, Morgana appears, dressed not in her usual flowing gowns but a kind of gauzy shirt and pants. She tells Merlin he’s not going alone. She and Gwen are going with him. It’s the least they could do after all he’s done for them. That night, Hunith tells Merlin he shouldn’t have let the women come, but he couldn’t talk them out of it. Sometime after their fire goes out, Merlin hears horse hooves in the forest. It ends up being Arthur, come to help them. Merlin’s grateful for the extra assistance.

The next morning, they arrive in Merlin’s village just in time to find Kanen and his men ransacking the place. Arthur manages to fight off a few men. Merlin does the same with the help of a little magic, and even Morgana gets to kick some barbarian ass. Katie McGrath looks pretty awesome handling a sword, not going to lie. We meet one of Merlin’s childhood friends, William, and he doesn’t look pleased to see Arthur around. Arthur starts speaking to the villagers and telling them they need to stand up to Kanen and his men, but William isn’t having any of it. He doesn’t trust Arthur and his “kind.” Merlin tries to talk him out of his dislike, but it’s no use. That night, we get another interesting Arthur/Merlin moment. Arthur wants to know why Merlin left his home village. Merlin can’t just come out and say it’s because he has magic. So he just says he didn’t fit in anymore. The next morning, Merlin’s a little unsure of himself. He says he’s just Arthur’s servant, but Hunith tells him it’s more than that. Arthur cares for Merlin. While Merlin’s out gathering wood, he and Will have another encounter. It starts off in a joking manner but quickly falls serious. Will is hurt that Merlin left their village after Will found out about Merlin’s abilities. Merlin tries to explain that his destiny is tied to Arthur and if anyone found out about Merlin’s powers, he couldn’t protect Arthur. William isn’t too pleased with that answer. We move to a practice montage of Arthur teaching the men to fight. Morgana and Gwen press upon Arthur the fact that there aren’t enough men to fight and that the women should be allowed to join in. Arthur says it’s too dangerous. That night Merlin overhears Morgana and Gwen talking, and it seems to reassure him of Arthur’s friendship when Morgana says that Arthur wouldn’t be there if he didn’t care for Merlin.

The next day, Arthur is trying to rally the troops, as it were, to come up with a plan to force Kanen and his men to fight on their terms. He’s interrupted by a woman’s scream and a dead Matthew (one of the villagers) riding back on a horse. Arthur had sent him to be sentry. Once again, William tells Arthur that they’re going to lose. They’ll be slaughtered. Arthur tries to defend his position but fails. He can see that William may be right. Merlin begs William to stay and join them, but William says he can’t. He says Merlin is really the one abandoning their people because he won’t use his magic to stop Kanen. Merlin is clearly hurt by this and leaves Will to his packing. I have to wonder if, since there’s so little Uther in this episode, Will is somehow taking his place, just on the opposite side of the issue. Merlin goes to Arthur and explains that William’s father died serving their King and is therefore distrusting of all nobility. But Merlin’s confident they can still beat Kanen. Gwen speaks up in a rather uncharacteristic moment and tells Arthur that the women have just as much right to fight for their lives as the women do. And thus we find ourselves in the rousing speech of the episode. Arthur shows he can be a good King and treat people like his equals. He gives this great monologue about how the villagers are fighting for so much more than Kanen is. They’re fighting for the right to survive and live each day of their lives. It really is inspirational.

When Merlin gets home, Hunith tells him to be careful because she knows he’s going to try and use his magic the following day against Kanen. Merlin says that there’s no choice between protecting people and revealing his gifts. He’d reveal them in a heartbeat to save those he loves, and if Arthur does find out and doesn’t accept him, then Arthur isn’t the friend Merlin hoped he was. The next morning, Gwen finds Arthur out in the woods and she’s brought him some breakfast. Arthur kind of turns his nose up at it and Gwen scolds him. She’s immediately apologetic for her tone but he waves it off. She’s right and he should be more grateful. I’m pretty sure this is the writers trying to lay the groundwork some more for Arthur/Gwen.

Merlin and Arthur have one last touching moment (well, okay, so not exactly touching) where Arthur tells Merlin to put his own armor on. Obviously, Arthur can actually dress himself! Merlin is about to tell Arthur about his gift when Morgana shows up and reports Kanen and his men are close. The villagers hide, and soon Kanen and his band of forty thieves (okay I couldn’t resist the Aladdin reference) arrive. The first defense, a fence hidden by hay, goes up without a hitch but Morgana’s having trouble with the flints to light a line of fire. Merlin manages to get it started, but not after briefly drawing attention to himself. The fight begins in earnest and it looks like Arthur and the villagers might have a chance. We see more of Morgana and Gwen in action and I have to say, very well done. Will shows up to help, and before long, he and Merlin realize that things aren’t actually going well. Merlin summons a giant gust of wind that does the trick, but Kanen’s not done. He and Arthur have quite the knock-down-drag-out fight, in which Arthur wins. Just as Arthur demands to know who made the wind and Merlin’s about to confess, Kanan uses his last strength to shoot one final arrow, and Will saves Arthur’s life by sacrificing his own. On his deathbed, Will lies and tells Arthur he was the sorcerer, not Merlin. It’s a mixed reaction from Arthur. He says he wouldn’t kill Will but later tells Merlin it was dangerous to keep the information secret since magic is dangerous. Hunith impresses upon Merlin that he needs to go back to Camelot with Arthur. Even though Merlin can’t tell Arthur the truth, it appears that Arthur is the friend Merlin hoped for.

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