Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer TV Rewind: Merlin 1.13: "Le Morte d'Arthur"

Sarah is back with us again for the final installment of her Summer TV Rewind of Merlin Series 1. She'll most likely be back again later this fall once ABC ever gets around to setting a premiere date for "Body of Proof."


“To save a life, there must be a death. The balance of the world must be restored.”
- Nimueh

Once again, we find Arthur, Merlin and some knights doing some hunting in the forest. I guess they get bored easily and find hunting to be a good way to pass the time. I’d find it rather boring myself, but then I’m not a man in a fictitious kingdom. Anyway, they’re off hunting, and we hear sounds of some rather big beast. Out of nowhere it appears, and right off the bat you know it’s magical. It’s got the body of a giant leopard and the head of a snake. It makes for an interesting visual. It kind of hisses more than anything, and unfortunately, once Arthur, Merlin and company manage to lose it, they’ve also lost one of their own.

Arthur and company have returned to Camelot, and Gaius explains that the creature they faced was the Questing Beast. It’s mainly believed to be a myth, but Gaius says that if the beast shows up, it’s a very bad omen. Uther dismisses Gaius’s warning (no surprise there) and orders Arthur and his men go out at dawn and kill it. That evening, Gaius urges Merlin to be careful and to learn what he’s up against. The Beast carries in its bite the power of life and death, the principle at the heart of the Old Religion (magic). One bite from the Beast and the bitten will die. There is no cure. That night, Morgana has another dream in which the Beast attacks Arthur. In the morning, she begs him not to go and makes quite the spectacle of herself, but Arthur doesn’t listen. They find the beast soon enough, and Merlin ends up killing it. Not before Arthur is bitten, however. Merlin tries a few spells, but it doesn’t help. Uther arrives and is actually crying and distraught over his son’s fate. It reminded me a little of “Excalibur” in that we finally saw a sensitive side of Uther. We get a very powerful scene with Uther carrying Arthur through the courtyard, and Uther just crumbles to the ground in devastation. The score at this point is beautiful and really enhances the moment. For those of you who have seen “Doctor Who,” it’s kind of like the haunting music during really sad moments, almost like the music during the final bit of the end of Series 2 when the Doctor says goodbye to Rose on the beach in Pete’s World.

Of course, Merlin is spurred to action. He seeks out the Dragon who tells him that Merlin just doesn’t know the right magic to save Arthur. He must go to the Isle of the Blessed and there he will find the answer. Gaius cautions against going because the Old Religion will demand a price, a life in return for Arthur’s. Merlin doesn’t seem fazed by this, as he’s willing to give his own life to safe Arthur. He rides out, leaving Uther, Gaius and Gwen to care for Arthur. While Merlin travels, we see Gwen take over Arthur’s care and it’s a rather touching scene that sets out more of the Arthur/Gwen dynamic which is explored more in series 2. Gwen has a lovely speech about how Arthur will live so he can be the King she sees in him and that Camelot will be a fair place. Outside, the people have begun to hold a candlelight vigil. Uther says they’re saying goodbye. Arthur will need a miracle to survive.

Merlin arrives at the Isle of the Blessed to find none other than Nimueh waiting for him. She tells Merlin that she can’t have power of life without expecting something in return. He assures her he will pay whatever price and that Arthur’s life is worth one hundred of his own. Nimueh makes it rain and explains that if Arthur drinks water from the Cup of Life, he will be healed. As Merlin leaves, Nimueh says she hopes he’ll be happy with their bargain. It was rather creepy, I must admit (and she’s far creepier than her part in “The Planet of the Dead” “Doctor Who” special). Anyway, Merlin returns, and the water revives Arthur. Merlin’s pretty pleased with himself, as is Uther for having his son back. As Merlin and Gaius leave Arthur’s chambers, Morgana grabs him and pulls him partially into an alcove and tells him that this is just the beginning. They’ve really made Morgana kind of crazy in this episode.

Arthur remarks that he remembers Gwen talking to him, but she denies it and leaves the room. That night, Merlin’s waiting to die, since he assumes that he’s the life Nimueh is taking, when a figure begins walking through the courtyard of Camelot. The figure makes their way to Gaius’s chambers and collapses on the floor. It turns out to be Hunith, Merlin’s mother, and she’s gravely ill. Of course, Morgana’s seen it and wakes up screaming. The next morning, Merlin wakes to find Gaius tending to his mother. He freaks out and makes a second trip to see the Dragon. Merlin makes all sorts of accusations that the Dragon knew his mother would be sacrificed and that the Dragon would have Merlin murder her. The Dragon claims they are kin, he and Merlin, but Merlin denies it. He says he’s never going to set the Dragon free and that they’re through. It was kind of like a big break-up in a way. Very emotional. And then, Merlin does his own little walk of memory lane with people, à la Tenth Doctor in “The End of Time Part 2.” He tells Gaius all the things he’s learned and will never forget that Gaius taught him. He visits Arthur and says that Arthur will be a great King one day but that he needs to learn to listen as well as he fights. Gwen’s looking after his mother, and he tells her not to lose her heart. Merlin’s intent on sacrificing his life to save his mother’s when he discovers Gaius has already left to sacrifice his life for Hunith so that Merlin can fulfill his destiny with Arthur.

Gaius bargains with Nimueh to give his life to save Merlin’s mother. She completes the ritual just as Merlin arrives, and we get the big final battle they’ve been building to since her introduction at the beginning of the series. Merlin tries a spell, but Nimueh just stops it. She sends a couple fireballs his way and one hits him. She thinks he’s dead when Merlin stands up and commands lightning to strike her. She ends up exploding (bad guys tend to do that on this show), and Gaius’s life is restored. Gaius remarks that Merlin will be a powerful warlock yet. Back in Camelot, the Dragon is throwing a hissy fit that Merlin killed Nimueh (presumably) and Morgana wakes up as if from one of her visions and we cut to the end credits. Here endeth series 1 of Merlin.

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