Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer DVR Dump: Merlin 5.03: "The Death Song of Uther Pendragon"

“You have always done what you thought to be right, even if you knew your father would disapprove of it. Do you not see how different you are from him? Camelot’s become a better place since you became King.”
- Merlin

Arthur and Merlin are on their way back from an unsuccessful day of hunting (thanks to Merlin coming down with a cold) when they hear a woman screaming. They happen upon a village where a woman is about to be burned at the stake. Arthur handily puts a stop to it, pulling the “I’m King…and I’m not my father” card. The woman dies that night as the boys tend to her but she passes on a gift, a horn that can summon the spirits of the dead. Gaius (really only good for info dumps these days which is rather sad) explains that the High Priestesses used to use the horn to summon their ancestors and it was smuggled away from the isle of the Blessed during the Great Purge. That evening just so happens to be the anniversary of Arthur’s coronation and Uther’s death. He’s rather melancholy about the whole thing and ends up ordering Merlin to get supplies and horses for a secret mission.

They arrive at the sacred stone outcropping that the High Priestesses used to commune with the dead and Arthur plans to do the same with his father. I was excited to have Tony Head back, even for just one episode, and he is Uther at his best. Arthur goes in thinking he’ll have a lovely chat with Dad and instead gets berated for the choices he’s made. Uther’s spirit believes Arthur’s choice to make common men knights and marrying for love make Arthur weak and that relying on others is also weakness and he’ll never be respected by the people if they don’t fear him. Really, Uther is just a big jealous baby that Arthur is so well liked by the people. But the conversation shakes Arthur a bit. He starts to doubt himself, despite Merlin telling him otherwise. Upon their return to Camelot, things start going wonky. During a council meeting, all the doors in the chamber burst open of their own accord and the chandelier falls to the table with a crash and cloud of dust (my first thought was they need someone to clean that thing more often). Merlin is starting to get worried about this but Arthur just brushes it off.

It turns out Merlin is right. The chandelier is only the beginning. That evening as the knights are getting out of their armor, Percival is left to finish up by himself. A shield falls to the ground and as he goes to investigate, an axe falls on his shoulder. He’s lucky he didn’t lose the arm. So obviously Uther’s spirit is taking a crack at Arthur’s council and his common knights. Arthur refuses to believe his father has anything to do with this. Gaius explains that if one were to look back as the veil between the worlds closed, it would unleash the spirit. Good job, Arthur!

Next, of course, the crotchety old bastard goes after Gwen. She’s walking down a corridor and pretty soon, things are flying all around her, forcing her towards the kitchens. She ducks into the kitchens just in time to avoid being impaled by a spear. But there are plenty more projectiles for Uther to play with where she is and she gets knocked out and a fire starts. Merlin is out walking when he sees the smoke. He manages to get in and rescue Gwen but she’s got some smoke inhalation issues. With rest, she’ll be fine. Arthur is still being stubborn about not believing it could be Uther’s spirit. He really is dim sometimes. Everything his father hates bout what he’s done in Camelot has just been attacked and threatened. He’s got some blinders on when it comes to his particular daddy issues (unlike Morgana who is clearly bat shit about hating their father). But as he stares at his unconscious wife, Arthur gives in and asks about ghosts. Gaius (ever the info dump) tells him they have to force Uther back to the spirit realm using the horn. Of course they need to be able to see him first. So as Gaius mixes up a potion, Merlin and Arthur hang out in Arthur’s chambers.

The hunt for ghoul-y Uther is actually rather amusing. There’s some shadow play which gives Colin and Bradley plenty of comedic beats to play and as they walk about they run into Leon. They need a cover story for why they’re wandering about the castle so late at night and Merlin comes up with poetry. Leon laughs but leaves them to it. Arthur glares at Merlin who then retorts that he didn’t know what else to say. Arthur of course would prefer he used something that didn’t make him look like a love-struck teenage girl. I liked that even with all the crazy ghost stuff going on, this episode felt a lot lighter than it could have. I really think the two leads have become so comfortable with each other after five years and they’re allowed to just riff (in character of course).

There is a bit of a somber tone to their search as Arthur laments the fact he’s hunting his father and he always just wanted to make papa proud. Merlin points out that Arthur has always done what he thought was right, even if Uther wouldn’t like it. And Camelot is a much better place for it. The conversation is cut short when Arthur spots his father’s spirit. Arthur follows him to the throne room where they have another heart to heart and Arthur actually grows a pair. He says he’d rather not rule Camelot at all than rule it alone like Uther did. So Uther’s solution is to knock his son unconscious and kill him. Nice guy. Really.

Merlin steps in and finally gets to say some much needed things to Uther. He reveals hi magic and even sends Uther’s spirit flying through a door. And then he makes the bonehead mistake of going into the weapons room. With all the pointy spears and what not. He gets stuck on two (they pin his coat to the wall) and Uther is about to do him in when Arthur races to the rescue, blowing the horn and dispatching Uther’s spirit before he can spill the beans on Merlin. It would seem things are getting back to normal in Camelot as Arthur prepares for a day of training and comes to the conclusion that he can’t always please his father. We end on a somewhat comedic beat where Merlin smacks Arthur on the head with a glove (Arthur says he doesn’t hit Merlin, it’s just friendly slaps and horseplay) and Arthur then puts on said glove and makes a fist, intent on showing Merlin how to do it right.

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