Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.12: "To Kill the King"

Our guest blogger Sarah returns again to recap the penultimate episode of Merlin series 1...


“You have blood on your hands, Uther Pendragon. Blood that will never wash off.”
- Morgana

Before we start this recap, I just want to warn you that is not one of my favorites. I don’t really like the leap they’ve taken with Morgana. That being said, let’s dive in. We begin with Tom, Gwen’s dad, sort of bouncing happily along in town, and he finds Gwen cleaning a rug. He scares her and hands over a really nice button and a very expensive looking dress. Gwen’s a little concerned at the cost, but Tom assures her that things are looking up for them. Night falls, and we see Tom at the forge smelting lead when a man appears. By the hood and creepy entrance we know he’s a sorcerer. He pulls out this stone thing and turns the lead into gold. Arthur and his men show up just as the process finishes and Tom’s holding a block of solid gold. Meanwhile, Merlin’s been awakened by the use of magic. Keen senses that boy’s developing.

Merlin tells Gaius about being woken by the use of magic. He’s not sure about what’s going on, but it soon becomes clear. Gwen arrives and tells them her father’s been arrested and charged with treason for helping a known sorcerer. Meanwhile, Morgana is trying to plead Tom’s case. She fails, of course, because Uther is a stubborn bastard and Arthur’s still just scared enough of his father to not really question things. But, this sets Morgana on the war path the rest of the episode. And that part of the storyline is what irritates me so much about this episode. We’ve seen Morgana disagree with Uther’s policies before but never so openly. Yes she got caught helping Mordred escape, but what transpires later in this episode is more than that. It’s hostile.

Anyway, Morgana goes in search of Gwen and finds the stone Tauren (the sorcerer) used to turn the lead to gold. She holds it, and it starts to glow and resonate. Merlin gets the same look on his face as when he woke up the night before. Morgana quickly hides the stone and slips off, and she finds Gwen asleep in Gaius’s chambers. Merlin begs Morgana to speak to Uther but she tells him that all Uther sees are enemies, even if it’s not true. After Morgana leaves, she sneaks into Arthur’s chambers and steals a key (presumably to the dungeon) and slips it to Tom. That night, as rain pours outside, Tom wonders whether to use the key or not. Unfortunately, he makes the stupid move to actually escape. Uther flips out and orders Tom to be killed on sight. Arthur argues that the trial is in the morning. Uther barks out that the trial was a formality and he’s a dead man. Tom gets caught and is killed. Gwen’s distraught, as she should be, and Morgana goes on a crazy ass tirade.

This is part of what annoyed me so much. I mean, I like that she’s contrary to Uther in a way that Arthur isn’t. But she’s kind of just exploded at Uther and it seems a little sudden. Maybe it’s just that she finds the injustice of killing Tom so horrible, but it seems not entirely related to that. She harkens back a little to The Beginning of the End when he almost made her an enemy. And perhaps like an enemy, Uther locks Morgana up in the dungeons. She continues to rant that he’s a tyrant and only interested in himself. I personally would have liked to see a slower burn on her anger and have these bigger displays of defiance lead up to series 2. We get these bigger displays in series 2 but, yeah, it just kind of annoyed me.

Arthur shows up and tells Gwen her job is safe. Her house is also hers for life. It’s a small comfort, and Arthur also apologizes. He tells Gwen whatever she needs or wants, all she has to do is ask. Upon rewatch, I thought she would say she wanted her father back but she just meekly thanks Arthur. Next we see Arthur, he’s gone to see Morgana in the dungeon. At first she’s berating him, calling him daddy’s little helper. He’s come to let her go. He tells her though that he promised his father she’d never challenge his authority again and that she’d learned his lesson. If it happens again, he might not be able to help her. In a moment of compassion, Morgana admits that Arthur is a better man than his father and always has been. We know that’s obvious.

When Morgana gets back to her chambers, she finds Gwen there, and after a short talk in which Gwen tells Morgana she shouldn’t have gotten involved, Morgana learns that Tauren attacked and threatened Gwen. Under the guise of informing the guards to go meet Tauren in the woods, Morgana takes the stone and heads out herself. She held the stone for a minute or two and made it glow. Merlin, of course, woke up, and he follows her to her meeting with Tauren. To use a much loved “Leverage” phrase, Morgana gets Tauren to give the Evil Speech of Evil, wherein he tells Morgana he plans to use the corruption in Camelot to take down Uther. The gold he will make will go towards paying bribes. Morgana says he’ll need someone close to Uther and offers herself.

Merlin’s pretty out of it the next morning (almost walks into the broom cupboard because he thought it was the front door) and seeks out the Dragon. Merlin’s conflicted about what to do, and the Dragon doesn’t help. All Merlin gets is the Dragon’s own hatred of Uther and saying that he (Merlin) should let Uther die so Arthur may become King. That evening, Morgana sets her plan in motion. She speaks with Uther and brings up her father. He died in battle and she tries to make Uther believe her reaction was because Gwen’s loss stirred up old memories. By the following day, she convinced Uther to go with her to her father’s grave. Meanwhile, Merlin’s had a talk with Gaius about whether Uther is a good King or not. Merlin’s still not convinced, but Gaius says that despite his (many) failings, Uther has brought prosperity and peace to Camelot. That night Merlin sees Morgana meeting with Tauren. The plan is set. She and Uther ride out the next morning and Gwen and Merlin have a little talk. It spirals into Merlin asking Gwen if she had the power over life and death if she would kill Uther. She says no, and that it would make her a murderer and she couldn’t stand being on his level. Merlin races off to stop Morgana from harming Uther.

Morgana has her Druid cape on as they ride out to her father’s grave, and it’s obvious she’s still pissed with Uther. The violins rise just as Merlin arrives with the staff from The Gates of Avalon. Morgana and Uther are making their way down a hill. Merlin takes out two of Tauren’s men. Uther and Morgana end up making up (Uther tells Morgana that she’s so much like his father and he regrets killing Tom) just as Tauren makes his move. They spar a little and just as Tauren’s about to stab Uther, Morgana steps in and kills Tauren. It would seem that Morgana’s hissy fit of the episode has passed and all is once again happy in Camelot. I just wish the writers would keep her arc a little more consistent.

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