The Adventures Continue

Sherlock – Season Four

The final season of Sherlock, so far. Not terribly sure we’ll get another season, since Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch are both busy with other projects. This is not my favorite season, but I guess the ending is somewhat satisfying. The Six Thatchers picks up where season three ended, Sherlock is back in England to solve the final Moriarty mystery. In the meantime, while he waits for clues, he continues to solve cases. And Mary and John’s baby arrives, a little girl they name Rosamund Mary, “Rosie.” I adore the scene where Sherlock is minding Rosie and speaks in eloquent sentences that boil down to: “If you’d like to keep the rattle, than don’t throw the rattle.” To which Rosie promptly responds by throwing the rattle back in Sherlock’s face!

Sherlock is put on the case of the mysterious death of a young man in a parked car in England when he was supposedly on vacation a week prior. Turns out, he wasn’t gone, he had hoped to surprise his father at his birthday the week prior, but had suffered some sort of stroke or something and died in the midst of the surprise and wasn’t discovered for a week. But what fascinates Sherlock is a smashed plaster bust of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A slew of alike busts end up smashed. He stakes out the final bust and confronts the criminal, thinking it’s connected to Moriarty. It’s not, it goes back to Mary and her past as an agent. Her team was betrayed on their last mission and the only other survivor thinks it was Mary’s fault. it wasn’t, but Mary doesn’t want to put John and Rosie in danger, so she sneaks away, using her old skill set. Sherlock and John track her down and the old teammate dies when the police interrupt their discussion.

Sherlock promises to keep Mary safe and they all return to England. Sherlock first suspects Lady Smallwood, then realizes it was her secretary. He confronts her, as does Mary. The woman essentially did it for money, pulls a gun on Sherlock and Mary and hopes they will let her go if she promises to stop. Sherlock annoys her, but Mary jumps in front of the bullet. Mycroft, Lestrade, and John are on the scene. Mary apologizes to Sherlock for shooting him last year; they’re even now. She dies in John’s arms. John’s anger and grief are a bit hard to watch (meaning wonderful acting).

At home, there is a disc that arrived for Sherlock, labeled “Miss Me?” We all think it’s from Moriarty. No, Mary, getting Sherlock’s attention. She has one last case for Sherlock, save John Watson. Except, John doesn’t want to see Sherlock.

This carries over to The Lying Detective. John has gone to another therapist and during his session, a fancy red car shows up. Then we jump to Culverton Smith (played by Toby Jones; we’ve seen him in Ever After, Amazing Grace, The Hunger Games and the Captain America movies as Dr. Arnim Zola. He was the Dream Lord in an episode of Doctor Who during Matt Smith’s stint as the Doctor; he has also voiced Dobby in Harry Potter) hosting a gathering of his friends; he wants to confess something. Honestly, he creeps me out from the start. From there we see that Sherlock is not doing well separated from John. Smith’s daughter approaches him; she wants Sherlock to stop her father, he wants to kill someone. But Sherlock is off his game, he’s not able to keep up with his brain. Though he comes around in time to stop the woman from killing herself with the gun in her purse; and gives an excellent message (still reeling himself from Mary’s death):

Taking your own life. Interesting expression, taking it from who? Once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death happens to everyone else. Your life is not your own, keep your hands off it.

And Sherlock, well, Benedict, is rather impressive quoting Henry V‘s “once more unto the breech” speech. At that point, Mrs. Hudson coerces Sherlock into the trunk of her red sports car and drives to John, bringing us back to the start of the episode. Then they meet Culverton Smith and follow his day to a hospital, where the man creeps everyone out asking about serial killers (Sherlock had accused him of such on Twitter earlier). Sherlock hopes that Smith’s daughter will help put the nail in the coffin of his accusation, then it turns out the woman he met was not Smith’s daughter. Sherlock is very high at the moment. Smith won’t press charges, but he’ll take care of Sherlock.

John (after he beats up Sherlock a bit, Sherlock is fine with he, he did kill Mary) meets up with Mycroft in Sherlock’s flat. Mrs. Hudson takes control of the situation; she understands Sherlock where the other two men do not. Sherlock is emotional; that’s why he shoots the wall and stabs a problem. There is another disc, waiting for John. She orders Mycroft’s team out, and even Mycroft Holmes himself: “Get out of my house, you reptile.” John watches her message to Sherlock (he’s been seeing her ever since her death. It’s rather funny when “Mary” points out what Sherlock is doing to John and that what she is saying is John’s own brain). For Sherlock to save John, he must go to Hell; John will save him and in saving Sherlock, will save himself.

Back at the hospital, Culverton Smith has snuck into Sherlock’s room. Sherlock reveals that he wants Culverton to help kill him; increase the dosage on the drugs. But that takes too long for Culverton; smothering will be quicker. John bursts in at that point. Sherlock has managed to capture Smith’s confession in a listening device in John’s cane. Once in Baker Street again, “Mary” urges John to remain with Sherlock. Emotions come out and are dealt with. John reveals that he was cheating on Mary; he was texting a woman from the bus. It never went farther, but he wanted it to. And John urges Sherlock to respond to Irene Adler because he knows there is no guarantee how long you have with someone. John breaks down and Sherlock hugs his friend.

sherlock hug john

Things are better. Sherlock and John solve cases, Sherlock wears the hat. There may be a “thing” between Smallwood and Mycroft, interesting. John visits his new therapist again. She brings up the secret Holmes sibling that has been hinted at for years. Turns out the therapist was the woman that Sherlock met and talked out of suicide and she was the woman from the bus that was texting John. She is Eurus (the East Wind), the Holmes’ sister. The episode ends with her holding a gun on John.

The Final Problem is Eurus. Sherlock gives his elder brother a fright in his own home in order to make deductions (part of that may have been influenced by John). Though we do discover that inside Mycroft’s famous umbrella is a sword! Then a pistol! (Though, why is there a clown?) Mycroft reports to Baker Street the next day and finally reveals that Eurus is indeed the youngest of the Holmes’ siblings. But Sherlock doesn’t remember her. Childhood trauma, Mycroft explains. Sherlock blocked it. Eurus is a quantifiable genius, but she didn’t process things the same way as most people. She locked up Redbeard and wouldn’t tell anyone. Then she set fire to the family home. She had to be locked away. Mycroft eventually told his parents that she started another fire and died. Instead, she’s in Sherrenford, a maximum security prison. A drone flies into the flat with a motion sensor grenade. The three men wait until Mrs. Hudson is out of danger, Sherlock even brings up the possibility of John calling his daughter but there is no chance, then they move. Sherlock and John leap out a window and Mycroft is to make for the stairs.

Sherlock gets to be a pirate for a moment and commandeer a boat to get to Sherrenford. John is taken into Sherreford with a sea captain, who turns out to be Mycroft. Sherlock is already disguised as a guard and makes his way down to meet his sister. Mycroft berates the governor of the prison for the compromise in security; obviously Eurus made it out of the prison against his orders. And there was a psychiatric exam against his orders as well. Eurus can reprogram people, never to good results. This unfortunately includes the governor of the prison. And there is no glass on Eurus’s cell. She attacks Sherlock.

Mycroft’s Christmas gift is revealed to have been an unsupervised five minute conversation with Moriarty. Moriarty recorded lots of things for Eurus. (Yeah, not a good idea to put the two most dangerous psychopaths in the same room, especially when they both have a vendetta against Sherlock.) Eurus is now in control of the facility and has a series of tests lined up for her brothers and John. She is testing Sherlock’s emotions and logic First, either Mycroft or John will have to shoot the governor in order to save his wife. Mycroft refuses. John accepts, but ultimately can’t do it. The governor does it for them, but that breaks the parameters and Eurus shoots his wife anyway. Next, Sherlock is to solve a case with little information and pass judgment on three brothers for a murder. Eurus in due course kills all three, not understanding the hesitancy to take someone else’s life. Next, Eurus has wired explosives in Molly Hooper’s flat. Sherlock has three minutes to get Molly to say “I love you.” Poor Molly. It’s true, she has always loved Sherlock. Molly asks Sherlock to say it and mean it first. And he does. Molly whispers it in return. Turns out, there were no explosives; she just put her brother and a dear friend through emotional turmoil for nothing. Sherlock smashes the coffin in the room. All three men need hugs. But they must solider on.

In the next room, Sherlock is to choose which man to kill; only he and one other can continue on. Interspersed is a phone call with a scared little girl in a plane about to crash. Sherlock can be remarkable with children. Mycroft first tells Sherlock to shoot John, which John agrees. But Sherlock realizes that Mycroft is trying to goad him into killing his older brother. He cannot choose; both men are important to him. They are tranquilized. Sherlock wakes up in the burnt out family home, Musgrave Hall. Now, he has to find where John is trapped; the same place as Redbeard. Though there was one detail that Mycroft never told Sherlock. Redbeard was never a dog. “Redbeard” was Sherlock’s childhood best friend. They played pirates together. And Eurus had wanted to join, but boys being boys, they didn’t let her, so she chained the boy to the bottom of a well and let him drown. The little song she sang comes into play, along with the mismatched dates on the gravestones. Sherlock finds Eurus and figures out there was no actual plane that was about to crash; it was Eurus being scared and confused all her life.

A change comes to Sherlock and his family (which includes John). Sherlock now supports Mycroft, especially when the elder has to explain all that has happened to their parents. Sherlock visits Eurus and they play violin duets; she can never rejoin society, not after all she’s done. There is a sweet scene of Sherlock playing with John and Rosie. The parting words are Mary’s; she has always known what her men are. In the end, it’s all about the legend, the stories, and the adventures of the detective and his doctor. Her Baker Street Boys.

One element that I do like about this season is it humanizes the characters, particularly Mycroft and Sherlock. Sherlock admits that he can get full of himself. He is willing to kill himself to save John, even though he really doesn’t want to die (oh my goodness, whoever has to listen to that recording and hear Sherlock almost in tears saying “I don’t want to die…”) He truly views John and Mary as family. He lets Mrs. Hudson handcuff him to take him to John. And Mycroft is revealed to have always cared for Sherlock, and not just in passing. He protected him from the truth of what their little sister did (I can’t scrounge up too much sympathy for a person who knowingly and willingly let another child die, then wished the same upon their brother). As Lestrade says at the end, Sherlock Holmes is a good man.

The Eurus spin doesn’t quite sit well with me. The reveal of Mary’s old team seemed rushed. And Culverton, while extremely creepy, also seems contrived.

Now, for my favorite part of Sherlock…the fandom!

The Hillywood Show has done a parody video. I’m personally not familiar with the song they parodied, but the video is quite excellent. And check out the behind the scenes videos and video diaries; they filmed on the same location as scenes in the show, to the confusion of some British fans (their make-up is spot on). And Percy Weasley from Harry Potter guests stars at their Mycroft and Osric Chau (Kevin Tran from Supernatural and he has worked with the Hillywood girls before) is their Moriarty. There is a whole slew of other parodies; I started with the two Supernatural videos.

The fans already thought that there was another Holmes sibling long before Season Four, though it was a younger brother. Notice the new, young “Q” in Skyfall? (This is the theory I abide with) Could “Q” stand for Quentin, keeping with the unusual names? Ktwontwo has a whole series written about this family. Another fanfiction author, A Wandering Minstrel, suggests Trevalyan.

superwholock crowley
This is an actual conversation that came up at a convention. Mark Sheppard is a staple to fantasy shows including Doctor Who and Supernatural; of course he knows about Superwholock.

And then there is the whole “Superwholock” crossover deal. It’s a combination of Supernatural with Doctor Who and Sherlock. It’s funny, though I don’t quite understand how all three get squashed together. Maybe it’s angels? Sherlock states he’s not one of them, Doctor Who has the Weeping Angels, and Castiel is an angel. Ultimately it may boil down to they were the three most popular shows at the same time for a while.

After the Holidays: We’ll get back to some other historically based movies, starting with Master and Commander

Sherlock Still Has to Wear the Hat

The Abominable Bride

The special 2016 New Year’s Sherlock special we got, set immediately after season three. They do a quick recap, “so far on Sherlock” then pose “alternatively…” All of our favorite characters are back, but set in Victorian England like the original work. We start with a Victorian re-telling of how John and Sherlock met, complete with Sherlock whipping a corpse in the morgue. Some time has now passed and John has been publishing his Sherlock stories in the Strand magazine (which is how they were originally published). The Abominable Bride is a case, briefly prefaced by Mary disguising herself as a client in order to visit her husband. A few comments made about a woman’s place in Victorian England; they are right on the cusp of the right to vote. Lestrade enters with the tale of a woman dressed as a bride shooting into a crowd, then committing suicide. But the strange part is, the next day, she appears in physical form to kill her husband. Molly Hooper poses as a man and Anderson works beneath her (a bit funny). She/he stands up to Sherlock, which is also awesome and reflective of hr progression in characterization. Sherlock begins to wonder if this is connected to Moriarty’s resurrection.

Months have passed and Mycroft calls for Sherlock, though he is humorously obese. Five more murders have occurred and he knows that a woman will be waiting for Sherlock and Watson at Baker Street upon their return. Her husband has been sent orange pips and knows his death is imminent (played by Tim McInnerny, who has appeared in Game of Thrones, Outlander, the live-action 101 and 102 Dalmatians, and Black Adder). John wonders if it could be an actual ghost, Sherlock insists it isn’t. They fail to save the husband. A note is later attached to the body: “miss me?” Some newer phrases start popping into Sherlock’s dialogue, like “virus in data” (this is alongside popular phrases like “the game is afoot;” they changed it to “the game is on” in the new series since most people don’t say “afoot” anymore). Floating newspaper clippings are a stand in for the Mind Palace. And Sherlock’s famous seven-percent solution is openly mentioned. Sherlock confronts Moriarty but finds no answers.

victorian sherlock

We’re jarred to the present by the airplane (from the end of season three) landing. Sherlock has delved deep into himself, wondering how he would have solved the famous case if he had been around at that time. Mycroft interrupts his younger brother, demanding if Sherlock has made a list. Ever since he found Sherlock years ago overdosed, he has made his brother swear to make a list of everything he has taken. Sherlock was high when he got on the plane; turns out solitary confinement is the worst thing for Sherlock. Mycroft reminds his brother “I will always be there for you.” I adore the sentiment we are seeing; I am a sucker for brotherly relationships [ooo, that gives me an idea of an essay to write]. Moriarty was wrong about Mycroft and Magnuson was correct; the eldest Holmes is not the Ice Man, but Sherlock is his weakness.

Back in Victorian times, word gets to Sherlock and John that Mary is in danger. Sherlock will always protect Mary, of that John can be certain. I also adore that they show Mary kicking butt!. She’s working for Mycroft and has found the heart of the conspiracy. Sherlock proposes that it was a group of women who banded together to extract revenge on the cruel men of their lives. The bride did not actually shoot herself the first time. Which left her able to kill her husband, then had help killing herself so a positive identification could be made. The rest were copy cat killers. There are tricks that can be used to make a ghost appear and in conclusion, the wife killed her husband. But underneath it’s still Moriarty. Sherlock is stuck dreaming between the present-day world and Victorian world. Again, he confronts Moriarty, though at the famous Reichenbach Falls. John comes as back up and kicks Moriarty into the falls. This aids Sherlock in waking up (though he has to fall again).

And he’s back and ready for the case. Mycroft asks John to look after Sherlock and there’s a note in his book about “Redbeard;” that’s been popping up lately. Sherlock knows that Moriarty is dead and he knows what he’s going to do next. A tiny kicker with Victorian John and Sherlock discussing the future; Sherlock has always felt that he was a man out of time. And now we’re ready for Season Four!

Up Next: Season Four

“We solve crimes, I blog about it, and he forgets his pants.”

Season Two

A Scandal in Belgravia picks up right where The Great Game left off, in the pool, with Sherlock pointing a gun at a collection of bombs. Then Staying Alive echoes through the room from Moriarty’s phone. He asks to take the call and starts congenial, then becomes angry at what the mysterious caller is telling him; “and know that if you are lying, I will skin you,” he drags out. Turns out for Sherlock and John, “Sorry, wrong day to die,” but warns them he will be in touch. On his way out, still on the phone, he tells his friend, if they’re right, they will be rich, and if they’re wrong, they will become shoes. We see a woman end the call, then ask another mysterious person, “Have you been wicked, your highness?”

John’s blogs bring in clients, advancing the duo, particularly Sherlock, to the status of Internet phenomenon. The press start showing up at crime scenes and Sherlock has to don the infamous deerstalker hat to hide his face. Sherlock attempts to solve a case from home, wrapped in a sheet, while John does the legwork on location. Then they’re both taken to Buckingham Palace. And…Sherlock still can’t bother to put on pants. Mycroft comes in to tell Sherlock he has a new case, but the client must remain anonymous. Sherlock refuses at first, even threatening to walk away while Mycroft holds the sheet (there’s a hilarious blooper of Benedict falling over in one take). He does take the case; the royal family is being threatened with scandal due to a dominatrix, Irene Adler holding compromising photos on her phone. This is the woman from the start of the episode. Irene receives photos of Sherlock and prepares for his arrival while Sherlock prepares to meet her. He has John punch him in the face (which John always hears when Sherlock is speaking, “but it’s usually subtext”) so he’ll appear suitably distraught to gain entrance to Irene’s residence.

Irene shocks Sherlock by entering the room stark naked. He stumbles a bit and can’t read her like he normally does. She further turns the table and asks Sherlock about his latest case; “brainy is the new sexy” (I totally agree). She eventually dons Sherlock’s coat to make John more comfortable, but they’re ploy to find the phone is interrupted by American CIA agents. They threaten John to make Sherlock open the case (the combination is Irene’s measurements) and with a hint from Irene, Sherlock warns his sidekick “Vatican cameos!” so they all duck as a gun takes out their opponents. Sherlock almost gets away with the phone, but Irene drugs him and escapes. She does return the coat while Sherlock sleeps (and reveals the solution to the case, where a backfiring car covers up a boomerang accidentally killing its owner), and also has now programmed his phone to moan sensually whenever she texts. Which hilariously interrupts Sherlock telling Mycroft off for yelling at Mrs. Hudson to shut up.

This transitions into a Christmas party at Baker Street. Sherlock actually apologizes when he embarrasses Molly Hooper, then his mood turns when he discovers that Irene Adler has left her phone, her insurance policy, for him. He warns Mycroft that they will find the woman dead that evening. He and Mycroft identify the body later that evening. Mycroft even offers Sherlock a cigarette which signals that Sherlock is suffering emotional pain. Sherlock tries to unlock Irene’s phone, but only has four attempts and discovers that if the case is forced, measures are in place to destroy the information. John is picked up while he’s out; he assumes it’s Mycroft again, but really it’s Irene. She’s not dead and she needs her phone back. And…Sherlock is listening. he’s in a bit of a daze as he makes his way back to Baker Street, but then he’s frighteningly focused when he discovers that Mrs. Hudson is in danger. The CIA agents are back. The leader is taken away in an ambulance, after falling out the window, several times. Sherlock declares England would fall is Mrs. Hudson ever left Baker Street.

sherlock and irene

Then he discovers Irene in his bedroom. She has a case for Sherlock. She has an important e-mail she got a hold of that needs decoding. Sherlock manages to crack it in less than a minute. Irene is impressed: “I would have you right here on this desk until you begged for mercy, twice.” Sadly, if we recall, she’s in the league with Moriarty and sends damaging information out. Moriarty contacts Mycroft and Sherlock has just set back a joint operation that could lead to a dangerous group, just to impress a woman. Irene attempts to blackmail Mycroft into her demands, but Sherlock has finally figured out her code to unlock her phone: I AM SHERLOCKED.

This puts Irene in danger. Mycroft visits John later so the man can inform his flatmate that the woman is in witness protection when really she’s dead. However…when we see her send her final text, a phone moans nearby. Sherlock is on hand to save her.

Hounds of Baskerville brings a familiar BBC face to play, Russell Tovey has appeared in Doctor Who and plays George the werewolf in Being Human (I only watched that show because Aidan Turner [Poldark, Kili from the Hobbit, and ironically Luke the werewolf from The Mortal Instruments movie] played Mitchell the vampire). One of the bar owners was Little John in BBC’s Robin Hood series as well. In this episode Russell is the client Henry Knight who witnessed his father murdered as a boy on the moors outside the Baskerville Army installation. He believes he saw a gigantic hound with red eyes tear his father apart. Sherlock is desperate for a case (so desperate, he begs for drugs) and almost doesn’t take it, until Henry specifically says, “it was a gigantic hound.” Hound is a more archaic term, why does he use it?

We get some gorgeous shots of Dartmoor. The consulting detective and his blogger sneak onto the base using Mycroft’s keycard and find a connection to an e-mail a child sent; her mother works for Baskerville, which explains the glowing bunny that shortly afterwards disappeared. So there is something strange going on at Baskerville. Sherlock convinces Henry to take them to Dewer’s Hollow (where the devil supposedly pops up). It’s foggy, they hear rustling. Then Sherlock sees a hound. He denies it to Henry, but John finds him later freaking out. “Once you rule out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be true.” John in turns call Sherlock “Spock” (There is Star Trek trivia that in the fourth movie [not the new ones], Spock quotes that line, claiming one of his ancestors said it, thus connecting Sherlock Holmes and Spock. NuSpock also quotes this line). Sherlock insults John, who goes for a walk.

Come morning, Sherlock apologizes in the way that he does. And another familiar face for him, Lestrade has come, on orders from Mycroft. John muses that it helps with Sherlock’s Asperger’s (I have no way of knowing one way or another if that is a true statement). Sherlock sends John to search the labs and freaks his friend out. Then discovers that the sugar he thought contained the drug does not. He must consult his Mind Palace. Henry had started to remember two words associated with the night his father was killed, “Liberty, In.” Sherlock also realizes that “hound” may actually be an acronym. It is. There was a CIA project years ago codenamed “H.O.U.N.D.” that took place in Liberty, Indiana. It was supposed to be part of chemical warfare and drive the enemy to terror and fear. But it adversely affected the subject and the project was scrapped. But a doctor from that time has started it up again.

Henry, with a gun because he’s starting to see the hound at his place, heads to the Hollow. Sherlock, Lestrade, and John race after him and run into his old family friend, Doctor Franklin, who has worked on the American project. Turns out, what young Henry had seen was Doctor Franklin wearing a gas mask and killing his father. The drug is aerosol form and is hidden in the fog of the hollow. Oh, and there is an actual dog; the pub owners had one that they hoped to capitalize on the tourist craze, but it grew too wild. They claimed to have had it put down; no, they just let it loose in the hollow to terrorize people. Franklin runs to escape prison…into a minefield.

At the very end, Mycroft lets Jim Moriarty leave interrogation, after having written “Sherlock” around his cell.

This leads right into The Reichenbach Fall. Sherlock’s popularity is on the rise, not that he really cares. He’s started solving high profile cases, even receiving the insufferable deerstalker hat as a gag gift from Scotland Yard. Then Moriarty simultaneously breaks into the three most secure places in London, including the Crown Jewels. He goes on trial and Sherlock is called in as a witness. In the loo beforehand, he’s cornered by a “fan,” actually a journalist who wants “the real story” on Sherlock Holmes. He dismisses her. Sherlock deduces afterwards, that Moriarty wanted caught. And he manages to be found not guilty. Jim visits Sherlock at Baker Street and informs his nemesis that the final problem is approaching. Every fairytale needs its villain. Sherlock needs Jim. Mycroft warns John briefly of an upcoming exposé on Sherlock, but more concerning is four assassins moving in nearby.

There is a kidnapping case. Sherlock solves it. But when he goes to visit the girl, she screams at the sight of him. Donovan, alongside Anderson, who have never liked Sherlock, start to believe that he staged the whole thing, just so he could solve it. John knows Sherlock is not a fraud, but Lestrade gets in trouble from his superior and has to come arrest Sherlock. John is offended by the superior and punches him, Sherlock uses it as an opportunity for the two of them to escape. Sherlock tracks down the journalist, who startlingly has a clear history of Sherlock’s childhood and a mysterious source, Jim Moriarty, who claims to be an actor named Richard Brook that Sherlock hired to play his nemesis. I hate this part; I dislike this woman. She got turned down by Sherlock but is so desperate to prove her career that she eagerly laps up a story to explain that he’s an ordinary man. As Sherlock tells John, it’s a lie wrapped up in a truth, so people will believe it.

Sherlock retreats to St. Bart’s and quietly enlists Molly Hooper’s help. She is a kind hearted person and has offered to Sherlock, even after he’s mean to her, that if he ever needs help, she’s there. He trusts her and tells her, she has always counted. “I think I’m going to die,” he tells her. “What do you need?” she simply asks. “You.”

John races off to Baker Street, thinking Mrs. Hudson is in trouble. But she’s fine (aside from an assassin is standing next to her). John then races back to St. Bart’s figuring that Sherlock is planning to face Moriarty alone. The opposing players meet on the roof. Staying Alive plays again and the final problem is that Moriarty has grown bored of Sherlock. Claims he’s ordinary; he’s beaten him. Sherlock retorts to the criminal, “Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them” [and he sounds so much like Kahn at that moment.] There was no magic key. He paid off guards, just like he blackmailed the jury. And now, to end his story, Sherlock must die. Sherlock must commit suicide; if he doesn’t, three gunmen are set up to kill John Watson, Greg Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson. Sherlock thinks for a minute he would be able to get the information out of Moriarty, he figured out that in German, Richard Brook translates to Reichenbach, Sherlock’s fame-making case and he can prove that Jim created a falsesherlock call identity, but the insane man shoots himself in the head. Now Sherlock has no choice. John has arrived on scene; Sherlock makes him stay back. John calls his phone. Sherlock claims he has lied to John the whole time; John does not believe him. Sherlock jumps. John rushes to him, but is first hit by a bicyclist, and then the people won’t let him near Sherlock.

I still tear up at the end when John begs Sherlock for one more miracle, “just, don’t be dead.” John tells Sherlock’s tombstone that he was the best man, the most human person he had ever known and he will never believe that Sherlock was lying. He owes Sherlock so much. The camera follows John as he leaves the cemetery and pans to Sherlock watching.

I enjoy this season more than the first. I like the hour and a half long episodes because it allows the writers time to fully develop a story and delve into nuances.  There’s humor and action mixed in with the mystery and drama.  Sherlock still shows us that he is human and experiences human emotions, as much as he may deny them.  He trusts Molly more than John at the end to help him pull off his suicide.  He recognizes on his own that he hurt John’s feelings at Baskerville.  I wish we had a more satisfying end to Moriarty, and more public, after what he put Sherlock through.  And as Season Two ends, I desperately want to start watching Season Three.

Next Time: Season Three

“Because Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day, if we’re very, very lucky, he may even be a good one.”

Sherlock – Season One

One of BBC’s incredibly popular shows, despite the fact that there are only three episodes per season and we’ve only had four seasons and one movie in seven years. Made Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman household names (they would team up again as the dragon Smaug, and titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, and as already stated, both appear in the MCU. We’ve seen Benedict briefly in The Other Boleyn Girl and Amazing Grace.) We have become “The Fandom that Waited.” Oh, there’s lots to discuss about the fandom and theories…we’ll cover that in the last post. Created by Mark Gatiss (who also plays Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft and has appeared in Doctor Who and written a few episodes) and Steven Moffat (an integral writer to Doctor Who since 2005), both of whom are professed Sherlock Holmes fanboys. It’s BBC, so many actors pop up in the show who have been on others.

In A Study in Pink, we’re first introduced to John Watson, a war veteran attending a session with his psychologist, who suggests he keep a blog describing his day. John (they go by first names in this rendition since it’s modern times, compared to Victorian when it was more common to be referred to by surnames) comments, “nothing happens to me.” Going on at the same time, Scotland Yard is investigating a string of suicides that are connected, but they’re unsure how, since they’re suicides. Detective Inspector Lestrade heads the case and gets texts during a press conference, the last one saying “you know where to find me. SH.” John runs into an old friend, who remarks who knows someone else in need of a flatmate. Then we’re introduced to Molly Hooper, who plainly has a crush on Sherlock and does favors for him in the mortuary, like, letting him whip a corpse for a science experiment. Stamford brings about John to meet Sherlock, Sherlock easily deduces John’s purpose, and finally introduces himself on camera: “the name is Sherlock Holms and the address is 221B Backer Street.”

sherlock intro

John follows Sherlock on his case, telling his potential flatmate that yes, he would like to see more trouble. “The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!” Sherlock pronounces as they sweep out of the flat. We discover that most of the police force dislike Sherlock, some even calling him a freak to his face. One officer, Donovan, warns John that Sherlock is a psychopath and one day, the body they discover will have been put there by Sherlock. Sherlock has already raced off for more clues and John starts to make his way back to the center of town, though pay phones keep ringing as he goes by. He eventually answers and is picked up by a car and meets a mysterious man, well dressed in a suit and carrying an umbrella. The man claims to be Sherlock’s arch enemy, the closest thing a man like Sherlock has to friends. He worries about him and offers to pay John to pass along information. The man deduces that John is not traumatized by the war, like his psychologist suggests; he misses it. His hand does not shake when in stressful situations. John receives a text from Sherlock: “come at once if convenient, if inconvenient, come all the same. Could be dangerous.” John turns down the offer and gets dropped off at 221B.

Sherlock has found the missing pink suitcase so he can carry on with the case; there is also an absolutely hilarious conversation between the two men on dating. John asserts he is not gay and the subject doesn’t seem to interest Sherlock (oh boy, fans play around with this a lot). They do grab some dinner (well, not really. Sherlock doesn’t eat and they’re off chasing a cab before John can eat. He does leave his cane) and ultimately arrive back at Baker Street to find a drugs’ bust going on in their flat, conducted by Lestrade. Lestrade needs Sherlock to cooperate (and we, along with John, find out that Sherlock may have illicit drugs in his possession, though he seems to use cases as a way to get high instead). Sherlock corrects Anderson of forensics “I am not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath, do your research.” Then later yells at Anderson while he’s trying to unlock clues: “Anderson, don’t talk out loud, you lower the IQ of the whole street,” and tells everyone to shut up and has Anderson turn his back. He silently leaves with a waiting cabbie, who is apparently the serial killer. John tracks him but ends up in the building next to where Sherlock is engaged with the killer. The killer simply gives what he considers a 50-50 chance to his victims, two bottles, with identical pills, they just have to figure out if he’s placed the good or bad bottle in front of them. Sherlock is ready to play the game, particularly intrigued when the killer mentions he has a sponsor who is very interested in Sherlock. He pries a name out of the man after John shoots him: Moriarty.

The wrap-up is a bit funny, the police keep putting a shock blanket on Sherlock and he starts to rattle off his deductions on who shot the serial killer, until he realizes it was John. Then he tells Lestrade to ignore everything he’s just said, “I’m in shock, look, I’ve got a blanket.” Sherlock meets up with his new flatmate and thanks him. They giggle a bit, which they really shouldn’t do, but are stopped by the well dressed man John met earlier. Nope, not Moriarty like we might have first guessed, it’s his elder brother, Mycroft. He really does worry about his brother. He remarks to his P.A. that John Watson could be the making of his brother, or make him worse.

The second episode, Blind Banker manages to tie a Chinese crime syndicate to mysterious graffiti in an international bank and the murder of a stock tradesman. Turns out the tradesman, along with a journalist and I’m sure many others, acted as couriers to smuggle stolen artifacts out of China to sell at auction for huge profit. All involved with the Black Lotus syndicate are tattooed on the bottom of their foot and communicate with an ancient Chinese cipher involving a book, which turned out to be London A to Z. John and Sherlock get some help from a young woman who works at the museum. John starts to see a young woman when he gets a side job as a physician; Sherlock tags along on their date to the Chinese circus, which acts as a cover for the syndicate. John’s girlfriend, Sarah, is kidnapped alongside John because he was mistaken for Sherlock (he had been mocking his friend earlier and was overheard). Sherlock rescues them, though the leader gets away. Not for long; she’s tied into the organization with Moriarty.

In The Great Game, Sherlock is given a series of cases to solve, with an innocent life at stake with each one. It’s all kicked off with a bombing across the street from 221B. And Mycroft needs a case solved involving missile plans. When Lestrade calls Sherlock in, he remarks “I’d be lost without my blogger,” and encourages John to come. The first case calls upon the pink phone from their first case (John’s blog is more highly read than they realized) and has pictures from the other flat at 221 Baker and shoes from the first case Sherlock tried to solve. He ultimately solves the case so a innocent person won’t be blown up.

The second case involves a bloody car and ultimately a cover-up for someone to disappear. The third case is about a celebrity’s death. Sadly, the old woman who was the in-between for Sherlock and the mastermind is killed; she was blind and wouldn’t be able to read a text and so she started to describe the mystery man’s voice and was killed in an explosion. John works Mycroft’s case while Sherlock is busy. The fourth case involves a new painting that a gallery has procured which is actually a fake. It’s down to the wire and a kid’s life is on the line before Sherlock realizes the painting included an astrological event that hadn’t occurred at that time.

sherlock meets jim

There’s still one case left: Mycroft’s. The brother to the fiancé of the man who was killed did it on accident and hoped to cover it up. Sherlock intends to meet the bomber at a local pool; then John steps out. He’s wired up and there’s a sniper to keep things on track. (Sherlock dear, please do not scratch your head while holding a loaded gun!) Then Molly’s boyfriend Jim, whom Sherlock commented was gay, steps out. His surname is Moriarty and he’s a specialist, just like Sherlock. While Sherlock is a consulting detective, Moriarty is a consulting criminal. And he doesn’t want to kill Sherlock yet, that wouldn’t be fun. He’s saving that for something special. No, if Sherlock doesn’t stop prying, Jim will “burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.” Jim strolls off. “Catch you later,” Sherlock says in farewell. “No you won’t!” Jim calls back. But Jim does come back, “I’m so changeable,” it’s his only weakness. He cannot let Sherlock and John live. Red sniper dots hover on Sherlock and John and Sherlock aims at the bomb vest as the music crescendos, Sherlock and Jim face off, building tension…and…black. Cliff hanger!

The acting is superb in this show. At the end, oh, we hate Moriarty, but we want to know what he does next…the cliffhanger only encourages us more. He’s all laid back and la-la-la, then shouts “that’s what people do!” when Sherlock mentions people have died as a result of the game Jim Moriarty has played with Sherlock.

While Sherlock flaps about showing off his intelligence and spouting that he is a sociopath and doesn’t have friends, he clearly has come to care quickly for John Watson. There’s a brief look of horror on his face when it’s John who steps out at the pool. For a moment, we and Sherlock wonder, was John only playing at being Sherlock’s friend? Was it all a set up? And then, Sherlock is anxious to get the bomb vest off his friend and save his life. He calls John an idiot only so much that everyone who is not Sherlock is an idiot. Yes, he doesn’t understand all the social niceties, but we still want to see him succeed. He comments to Jim at the pool, “I have been reliably informed that I don’t have one [a heart].” “Oh, we both know that’s not true,” Jim replies.

John is the audience, quite impressed by Sherlock and willing to take him under his wing and try to acclimatize him to proper society, because he finds the cases thrilling as well. He’s only just met the strange man, but refuses to take bribe money to spy on him. (Of course, Sherlock remarks that John should have accepted the offer and they could have split the money; because Sherlock knows it’s Mycroft.)

Personally, I highly recommend the show. I like the inclusion of modern technology to keep with the times. It makes me think, because I’m trying to solve the case and the twist, but I also know that Sherlock will solve it in the end.

Next Time: Season Two

These Names Will Never Die

Troy

I’ll be honest, I watched this film originally because it has Orlando Bloom in it. And I probably only bought the DVD because I found it in a bargain bin at some point. Released a year after Gladiator, it is part of the early 2000s rash of “epic” movies. It’s an adaptation of Homer’s great epic poem The Iliad. Greek mythology is not what I tend to study, so I have not read this (I think part of it is that I can never keep their names straight; same with Roman names. They’re all the bloody same!) It has an all-star cast as well. Brad Pitt stars as Achilles. Brian Cox is Agamemnon, the king of the Greeks and Julian Glover is Triopas, king of Thessaly, an opponent of Agamemnon. Brendan Gleeson is Agamemnon’s brother Menelaus, king of Sparta (yes, when I hear Sparta now I think of 300. Yes, I’ve seen the movie; no, we will not be covering it [that was far too much death for me; though it was fun to learn about it a bit as part of A.P. English class]). Diane Kruger (she’ll later be in Copying Beethoven and the National Treasure movies) is the famous Helen. Peter O’Toole is king Priam of Troy; Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom play his sons Hector and Paris, respectively. James Cosmo is back as Glaucus, Julie Christie is Thetis, Achilles’ mother. Oh yes, and that’s Sean Bean as Odysseus! It’s been pointed out that Odysseus stars in the sequel to the Iliad, the Odyssey, so he can’t die in this story. Huzzah for Sean Bean.

The film opens telling us these events took place 3200 years ago, with a scrawl setting the stage; Agamemnon has spent decades warring with the kingdoms of Greece and forcing them into an alliance. His greatest warrior is Achilles, but Achilles disdains Agamemnon and threatens all that the king has built. Sean Bean narrates part of the prologue, that we ask ourselves, will our actions echo across the centuries, will strangers wonder how bravely we fought and how fiercely we loved? The idea of being remembered for all time crops up throughout the film.

Achilles is called to defeat Thessaly’s hero in single combat. He does so in one move. He asks the opposing army “Is there no one else?” Meanwhile, Sparta is working on a peace treaty with Troy, tired of fighting all these years. Seems to be going well; until Paris meets up with Menelaus’ wife, Helen. They’ve actually been meeting secretly for several nights and they have fallen in love (apparently, Menelaus is a terrible husband). Now they wish to run away together. And they are dumb enough to do it. I get this is an epic poem and a literary classic, but reading and watching enough royal shows, I have to point out; they knew what they were doing was wrong. There would be terrible consequences and they really don’t want those consequences; and yet they did it anyway! Yes, they loved each other. But a war got started because of it. People died. You couldn’t have left well enough alone, Paris? Hector is a nice older brother and will protect his young brother. Troy welcomes their new princess.

trojan princes

Agamemnon doesn’t care about the slight to his brother’s honor; he’s just happy to start a war with Troy. But, he’ll need Achilles, however much the warrior annoys him. There is one man that Achilles will listen to: Odysseus. His argument to his friend is “this war will never be forgotten, nor the heroes who fight in it.” Even Achilles’ mother says the same; he could stay where he is and have peace and a family, but eventually forgotten. Or he could fight in Troy and win more glory and the world will remember him; but it will be his doom. We all know what Achilles chose. His ship is the first of the fleet to land on Troy. The Greeks take the beach and Achilles attacks Apollo’s temple and has a short encounter with prince Hector. He tells the Trojan prince “go home, tomorrow we will have war.” Another twist is thrown in; Briseis, the niece of the king is a priestess of the temple and is gifted to Achilles. He’s surprisingly gentle with her. But Agamemnon tries to take her for Achilles disobedience. Achilles is ready to defend her, but Briseis declares “I don’t want anyone dying for me.”

Paris challenges Menelaus to single combat to prevent more death. But he loses the duel, saved only by crawling to his brother and Hector killing Menelaus. Agamemnon attacks and Troy proves why they are so hard to defeat. Odysseus finally suggests retreat. He speaks to Achilles after the fight, insisting that the Greeks need him, the soldiers need the morale boost. Achilles rescues Briseis. He once again tries to care for her and she resists at first, holding a knife to his throat. Until he starts kissing her and she drops the knife. I swear, this movie is more about their connection than Helen and Paris. Achilles still insists that he is sailing for home; he will not fight for Agamemnon.

achillesThe Trojans attack at night with giant fire balls, which leads into the Trojan army advancing. Achilles joins the fight and faces Hector. Hector cuts his throat and reveals that it is Achilles’ beloved younger cousin. Hector declares enough for one day. Achilles’ second in command delivers the news. The next day, Achilles rides alone to the gates of Troy and demands Hector to face him. Hector, an honorable man, faces Achilles. And behind the scenes trivia reveals that Eric Bana and Brad Pitt did not use stunt doubles for the duel. (They also has a gentleman’s agreement to pay for every accidental hit; $50 for each light blow, $100 for each hard blow. Brad Pitt ended up paying Eric Bana $750; Bana didn’t own anything to Pitt.) It’s a good duel, but really didn’t enrapture me. Achilles defeats Hector, then ties his body to his chariot to drag back to the Greeks. That evening, king Priam comes to Achilles to beg for his son’s body, so he can have an honorable funeral. “Even enemies can show respect.” Achilles relents and allows Troy to have their twelve days of mourning, and lets Briseis return to Troy. Agamemnon is furious.

Odysseus has a plan; his men start building. He makes it look like the Greeks have left and they have left an offering of a large wooden horse. Paris advises his father to burn it. He’s ignored. His father ignored Hector’s advice as well. The Trojans drag the horse into their city and celebrate. At night, Odysseus, Achilles, and others emerge from the horse and set about taking the city down from the inside. They get the gates open to let in the army. Well, Achilles is off running to find Briseis, who is looking for Paris. Helen, Hector’s wife and son, and as many others as they can find escape through an old tunnel that Hector showed his wife (because he was smart and knew what could happen). Paris refuses to leave and passes the sword of Troy to a young man so the Trojans will always have hope and can start over. Paris joins the fight with his bow (which is hilarious, because Orlando Bloom is Legolas).
Agamemnon kills the king and tries to take Briseis back. She stabs him and Achilles finishes the guards. But Paris finds them and misunderstands the situation. He shoots Achilles in the heel, slowing the warrior down. Another four arrows strike him. Achilles manages to tell Briseis, “it’s alright. You gave me peace in a lifetime of war,” and sends her with her cousin Paris. He pulls the arrows out of his chest, but the one in his heel is left, so that is how he’s found. Odysseus burns Achilles and the movie fades out as he says “if they ever tell my story, tell them I walked with giants.”

This movie moves slow at times. And I swear it’s more about Achilles than either of the Trojan princes. Helen is not terribly developed. From a certain point of view, one can easily agree that the whole war is her fault. She was unhappy with her husband and a younger, more handsome man took interest in her and she ran off with him. Though Hector does later stop her from running away, knowing that it won’t stop the war that has already come. We witness more nuances of Achilles’ character. He’s more than just a hardened warrior; he cares for his younger cousin and is downright tender with Briseis (this is after seeing him willingly bed other women). Hector is noble; I prefer him to Achilles. Paris is an idiot, though he tries to make up for it at the end. Priam is a bit of an idiot as well, listening to other advisors over his experienced sons. Agamemnon is an idiot as well, the definition of warmonger.

Overall, I’m underwhelmed by the movie. The duel between Hector and Achilles was alright; but they’ve shown all those moves previously in the movie. I didn’t connect with the characters. No, the thought I had running through my head after I heard Sean Bean at the beginning was “does he live?” I put Pompeii on again afterwards. I watched it for the same reason that I did Troy and yet I became more invested in it.

What are your favorite historical periods?

Next Time: Kingdom of Heaven

One Part Brave, Three Parts Fool

Eragon

(Not to be confused with “Aragorn” from Lord of the Rings) Based on the first book of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle of which I have not actually read the final book. Flew through Eragon before it was even mentioned as a movie, and the second, Eldest. By the time the fourth, Inheritance came out, I wasn’t able to immediately get it and it had been so long. Now…I’ve forgotten most of the actual plot. I do remember being impressed by the world building; but after getting involved with other fantasy series and doing my own research and work; it borrows heavily from other classics. Which all writers do. Heck, most of my work currently resides as a sort of fanfiction until I develop where I actually want things to go.

The movie differs from the book at times, but is filled with familiar faces. Eragon is played by Ed Speleers, who has gone on to appear in Downton Abbey and Outlander. And he looks remarkably like Lucas Till (new MacGyver) at times. Brom is the ever-talented Jeremy Irons (voice of Scar, Henry IV in Hollow Crown, Aramis in Man in the Iron Mask, and we’ll see him in Kingdom of Heaven). Man in the Iron Mask alum John Malkovich (Athos in that film, he’s also Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in Crossbones [I watched the first season or so once, another series that was a bit too violent for me]) is the evil king Galbatorix. Robert Carlyle (Rumple/Mr. Gold from Once Upon a Time, also in the Stargate TV series, and in the Bond film The World is Not Enough) plays the evil magician Durza. Other people that you may recognize: Dijmon Hounsou as one of the Varden, as well as Gary Lewis (he appeared a couple times in Merlin and Outlander), Steve Spiers (a bit part in Dead Man’s Chest and Phantom Menace, as well as Porthos in The Musketeer) lives in Eragon’s village, and Joss Stone (Anne of Cleaves from Tudors) is a soothsayer.

We are informed in the opening narration (done by Jeremy Irons) that this fantasy land was once ruled by dragon riders and enjoyed peace. Until one turned and took power for himself: Galbatorix. He has crushed all rebellion. Well, until a woman (elf? I think?) steals a stone, is chased, then magics the stone away. A young lad, Eragon discovers the stone and hides it away. Except it’s not a stone; it’s a dragon egg. When it hatches, he touches the baby dragon (which is rather adorable) and is burned. Others throughout the land sense this moment, including the elf (Arya), an old man (Brom) and the king.
Eragon has to bid farewell to his cousin/brother (I forget the precise backstory). Then his village is set upon by evil creatures (who look a lot like Orcs). He’s not home when they find his uncle; his dragon (who has miraculously grown in a matter of days) Saphira keeps him away for his protection. Like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (which this film plot borrows elements), he returns home to find his uncle dead. Brom finds him instead (and like Obi-Wan, tells the lad that it is good he was not home, for he also would be dead) and carts him off. They must make it to the resistance, to the Varden, to be safe. Druza is still hunting Eragon.

eragon bromBrom is a wise mentor. He demonstrates that Eragon is not as skilled as he thinks he is and his sole purpose at the moment is ensuring that Eragon and Saphira make it to the Varden alive, in order for there to be any hope for the land. Eragon starts discovering his powers and also discovers that Brom was once a dragon rider. But his dragon was killed years ago. A rider can live past their dragon; but if the rider is killed, the dragon dies. So Eragon shouldn’t do stupid things. Well, he’s a teenage boy; he does stupid things.

He gets a vision of Arya in danger (courtesy of Durza) and decides to rescue her. Walking straight into a trap. Good thing a mysterious young man shows up and is on his side (he reminds me of Will Scarlett in Prince of Thieves). Brom is also killed, protecting Eragon. The new trio manages to make it to the Varden with Arya (who has also been poisoned by Durza). Then they start preparing for battle. Because yeah, personalized armor appears overnight. Durza is on his way with an army (which reminds me of Saruman at the Orthnac in Two Towers).

The duel between Eragon and Saphira and Durza and his dark magic shadow monster is rather good. Eragon defeats Durza, but we wonder for a minute if the good guys will actually survive. They do, yay. Except now Galbatorix is pissed; and has a dragon of his own.

I liked the film when it first came out, since it had dragons! And sword fights! And magic! The effects are rather well done. Elements of the book have sunk in to influence my own fantasy series; like magic has consequences and there is a language. But those are common to other fantasy series. Now…it’s like a knock-off of Lord of the Rings. After watching it this time round, I had to put on scenes from How to Train Your Dragon to see better dragons. The performances by the veteran actors are well done. Druza is reminiscent of Rumple in retrospect. Jeremy Irons is his usual badass self; John Malkovich plays a villain well. The film overall just seems like it’s trying too hard. And hmm, in retrospect, Arya is a bit of a peculiar choice in name. Nothing like the Arya in Game of Thrones. This one, we are told is badass. Arya Stark is no doubt a badass. And any sort of romance between this Arya and Eragon is stupid. They barely know each other! Rescuing someone or thinking they are pretty does not make a solid foundation.

As I commented above, the film plot (since I do not remember the variations of the book plot) has strong similarities to Star Wars, which follows the hero’s journey laid out by Joseph Campbell and explained in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  It examines the common elements that make up popular hero stories, that date back to mythology.  Star Wars follows it, Harry Potter follows it.  I have an article sitting on my computer comparing it to How to Train Your Dragon, waiting for me to find somewhere to publish it.  And it’s fine for a story to follow that path; my objection is that this story follows it a little too closely.

In the first leg, the hero is called to another world and initially resists the call (here, to dragons and being a dragon rider), then meets a mentor (Brom).  There is a road of trials (get more into in the books), involvement of a woman (Arya), atonement with the father (not per say in this case, but delved into in the books in an interesting way from what I recall), and finally the return and mastering two worlds; which would occur in the sequel books.  There’s supernatural help and a magical flight – Saphira.  It just seems like the movie is going down a checklist of “must haves in a fantasy story.”  Dragons, magic, crazy old guy, and they don’t try to mask it.

Let me know your thoughts.  If you have any opinion on Campbell’s Hero Journey.

Next Time: We jump into historically-set movies, starting with Troy

Inconceivable!

Princess Bride

Based on the book, which I believe I actually read before I saw the movie; a friend lent it to me in high school to demonstrate how to write dueling scenes. Since I had already fallen in love with Lord of the Rings by that point, I just take it as a fun medieval/fantasy story. I have friends who dearly love the movie. Billy Crystal appears in the film as Miracle Max. Fred Savage, older brother to Ben Savage (Boy Meets World) is the grandson. Andre the Giant plays the giant Fezzik. Robin Wright who played Buttercup, kicks butt in the 2017 film Wonder Woman as General Antiope. This is probably Cary Elwes’s most famous role as Westley, though he’s gone on to play Lord Arthur Holmwood in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (I’ve seen parts of it), starred as Robin Hood in Men in Tights, played against type as the villainous Edgar in Ella Enchanted and I guess is now part of Stranger Things (no, I am not going to watch the show; I’ve fallen into too many fandoms as it is).

This is a case of a story within a story; the premise is that a grandfather reads this story to his grandson when his grandson is sick. The tale opens with a beautiful young girl named Buttercup, who torments the farm boy Westley, ordering him about. He always responds with “as you wish.” One day, Buttercup comes to realize that he is secretly telling her he loves her. She then realizes that she loves him; they are true loves. (Fans picked up on this notion in Once Upon a Time, when Hook tells Emma “as you wish,” when she orders him to wait after they share a searing kiss.) Westley leaves to seek his fortune so he could marry Buttercup, but word comes that his ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves survivors. Five years pass and Buttercup is now raised to a princess and engaged to marry Prince Humperdinck. But she does not truly love the prince. She is abducted during one of her daily rides the day of her engagement announcement by Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik. They have orders to kill her and blame it on a neighboring kingdom, thereby starting a war.

First, they set sail. Inigo notes that they are being followed. “Inconceivable!” Vizzini declares (Inigo later points out: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”) Buttercup attempts to escape by jumping overboard, but the water is filled with shrieking eels. They next come to the Cliffs of Insanity; only Fezzik is strong enough to climb, they should lose their tail. Nope, a man in black makes his way up the cliffs as well. Vizzini cuts the rope, but still he persists. Inigo is left behind to deal with him. It is a rather fantastic duel; both are gentlemen about it, Inigo even helping his opponent finish the climb and giving him a chance to catch his breath. (Behind the scenes notes state that the actors performed the duel themselves, tutored by legendary sword masters). We learn that Inigo is hunting for a six-fingered man who killed his father. The man in black wins after a dizzying circle of his sword, knocks Inigio out and continues. He faces Fezzik next and manages to choke him asleep, after being rammed into a rock a few times. battle of witsFinally, the man faces Vizzini in a battle of wits. He pours iocaine powder into a goblet and Vizzini is to guess which one. Vizzini is a smug man, believing he is smarter than any famous philosopher. Then he relies on a simple trick to switch goblets, thinking he’s won. The man in black was more cunning; he put powder into both goblets, but he’s spent the past several years building up an immunity to it. He then pulls the princess along, even though Humperdinck is tracking them.

Buttercup admits to her new captor that she does not love the prince; her first love was killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, whom the man admits he is. Then admits he remembered the lad, but calls Buttercup out for being unfaithful, moving on to Humperdinck. “I died that day!” she declares. Humperdink is close; she pushes the man in black down a hill, telling him “you can die for all I care.” “As you wish,” the man stutters down the hill. She realizes it is her beloved Westley and follows him down the hill. Westley’s mask is now off, revealing it is the same man. They take refuge in the Fire Swamp to evade Humperdink, facing bursts of fire, lightning quick sand, and R.O.U.S (Rodents of Unusual Size, which are creepy and remind me in hindsight of creatures from Merlin). Westley is injured in a fight against a rodent. When they emerge from the Fire Swamp, Humperdinck is waiting for them. Westley is all ready to return to the swamp to protect Buttercup. But she sacrifices her happiness so Westley won’t be killed. Humperdinck promises his fiancée that he will not harm Westley and will return him to his ship. He takes his bride-to-be back and rides off. Westley makes eye contact with Count Rugen; they both know the prince is lying. Interestingly enough, the Count has six fingers on one hand.

Rugen takes control of Westley and plans to torture him on his machine, which sucks the life out of people. Buttercup in the meantime has decided she cannot marry the prince; she loves Westley and will be reunited with him. Humperdinck then promises that he will send word to recall Westley, but if that does not come to fruition, Buttercup will still marry him. In truth, he was the one who had hired the trio to abduct and kill Buttercup; now he plans to murder her on their wedding night; still planning to blame another kingdom and start a war.

Fezzik is reunited with Inigo before the wedding and they decide the break the man in black out, discovering that he is the princess’s true love. Except Buttercup has figured out that Humperdinck never followed through with his promises. She believes that Westley will still come for her and calls Humperdinck a coward. Humperdinck is enraged and cranks Rugen’s machine up to fifty, killing Westley. Everyone can hear his scream. Fezzik and Ingio recover Westley and buy a miracle; they need his brains to sneak into the castle so Inigo can have his revenge. It works only because Westley is “mostly” dead, compared to completely dead. Miracle Max creates the pill to get back at Humperdinck for firing him.

Our heroes storm the castle with some illusions, breaking up Buttercup and Humperdinck’s wedding (the priest has a hilarious manner of speaking), though Humperdinck gets the priest to declare them “man and wife.” Rugen faces off against Inigo, who simply advances on the man despite his wounds declaring “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die.” Buttercup, despaired that she is married drop your swordto Humperdinck and Westley is dead, per Humperdinck’s word, decides she will kill herself before Humperdinck reaches their marriage bed. But Westley is waiting for her. He is still not back to full strength but gives the prince an epic speech; they will fight to the pain and Westley will leave his ears so the prince can hear every word against him and his promised hideousness. He stands and orders the prince “Drop your sword.” Humperdinck complies and Buttercup ties him up. Inigo finds them and Fezzik is waiting with horses. Westley and Buttercup share the most epic kiss that has ever been recorded.

The boy decides that he doesn’t mind the kissing and maybe his grandfather will read him the story again tomorrow.

There are times this movie reminds me of Mel Gibson’s work, or a bit of a spoof on traditional fantasy movies. Maybe it’s the inclusion of typically comedic actors. Vizzini is a laugh, there’s a little bit between Miracle Max and his wife whom he calls a witch. Maybe it’s the fact that it simply includes a lot of typical fantasy elements, presented straight forward, without trying to add anything. Buttercup is admittedly not a simple damsel in distress. She does try to help Westley fight off the giant rat, after standing there most of the time. They speak of true love often and I can see it once Westley and Buttercup are separated, but not so much while they’re growing up. Westley is an excellent, dashing hero. The costumes are over all fine; but those huge crowns are ridiculous. There is admittedly some epic dialogue. At the end of the evening, a fun movie to put on, not something that needs to be processed deeply.

I’d love to hear from anyone who truly loves this movie as to their reasons, since I didn’t really connect with it.  Maybe I found it too late to completely fall in love?

Next Time: Stardust

It’s Called a Lance

A Knight’s Tale

A 2001 film set in medieval Europe featuring jousting…and rock music. It’s a fun movie that’s good to throw on when bored with TV. It stars Heath Ledger (later to reinvent the role of Joker in Dark Knight; he also features in Brokeback Mountain, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot [haven’t seen those], Brothers Grimm [saw it once, don’t remember liking it], and Ned Kelly [eh, all star cast, the plot confused me] as peasant squire William Thatcher. This is the first role I saw Rufus Sewell in, playing the antagonist Count Adhemar (he’s an antagonist in Legend of Zorro, good guy Marke in Tristan and Isolde, decent guy in Amazing Grace, bit of a jerk in The Holiday, and lately was Lord Melbourne in the show Victoria). Paul Bettany (voice of Jarvis in the first Marvel movies, then became Vision in Age of Ultron. He was Lord Melbourne in the movie Young Victoria, bit ironic. Also featured in as the albino in The Da Vinci Code, and surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin, best friend of Russell Crowe’s Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: Far Side of the World) is Geoffrey Chaucer, yes, that writer. Alan Tudyk (now known for his voice acting abilities in Frozen and Star Wars, but would later play pilot Wash in Firefly) is fellow peasant Wat alongside Roland, played by Mark Addy (Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones and Friar Tuck in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood). And if Sir Ector in the flashback looks familiar, he’s played by Nick Brimble, who was Little John in Prince of Thieves.

The film opens with the death of Sir Ector, master of Wat, Roland, and William. He’s due to joust again in a few minutes, or else they forfeit and the young lads haven’t eaten in three days. William gets the idea to wear Ector’s armor and finish the match, with Queen’s We Will Rock You occurring in the stands. Then, when he wins, this could be their chance to change their stars. He takes the name Sir Ulrich von Lichenstein from Gelderland (and apparently, a real knight and real place; though not as used in the movie). They come across as naked Chaucer trudging the road. Being peasants, no, they have not read any of his works (takes place before The Canterbury Tales), but they do have use of a writer to forge papers of nobility. He also becomes Sir Ulrich’s herald, to announce him at tournaments.

William discovers a beautiful woman, Lady Jocelyn and decides to woo her. He’s…somewhat successful. He starts following her, on horseback, into a church. And doesn’t even get her name. Count Adhemar also discovers Jocelyn and helpfully explains the rules of jousting for the audience while Taking Care of Business plays in the background. William faces Sir Thomas Coleville (another historical character, but not from this time) and mercifully draws on the last pass so they both retain honor.

Will continues to compete and pines after Jocelyn. She sends him a token to wear at the next tourney. William faces Adhemar, who proves why he has never been unhorsed. They break lances on each other on their first pass. The second pass, Will scores and avoids Adhemar’s lance. But on the third pass, Adhemar knocks William’s helm off, causing a flashback to when Will was a child and seeing knights with his father. Adhemar returns Jocleyn’s favor to her and tells “Ulrich” “see me when you’re worthy.” William loses the jousting portion, but wins the sword. He now had enough to pay Kate the blacksmith, who fixed his armor. She wants to join his crew and even offers to make new armor for him. He dismisses her first, until he finds out he needs to attend the ball in order to see Jocelyn. Chaucer, does not do the best job of teaching Will to dance, so Roland makes Will politely ask Kate (since he’s going through the trouble of making a new tunic for his friend). Chaucer and Wat are not boon companions, but they’re funny. And we’re treated to Golden Years, and modern dancing. Knight’s Tale does not try to be wholly accurate (most certainly in their female costumes. Which is disappointing, because some of the gowns from that period can be gorgeous).
knights tale armor

Some of the heralds’ introductions are hilarious; Adhemar’s messes up at one point and declares his master “a shining example of chivalry and champagne” and “defender of his enormous manhood.” Chaucer certainly has a way with words and whips the crowds into a frenzy for Sir Ulrich. When Adhemar is about to face Coleville, he withdraws when he finds out that the other knight is actually Prince Edward in disguise. Chaucer in turns reports this to William, but he still jousts. The royal endangers himself and has obviously disguised himself so he can truly compete. Coleville appreciates the gesture. William wins the tournament, but his victory his hollow since he did not defeat Adhemar.

William goes on to win the next slew of tournaments, aided by Prince Edward sending Adhemar back to the front and the Battle of Poitiers. In the meantime, Will has Chaucer help him write a rather romantic letter to Jocelyn, aided by all his friends. The couple meets for the Paris tournament and William unfortunately cannot produce poetry on demand. Jocelyn insists that if “Ulrich” truly loves her, he will lose the tournament, rather than win it in her name. She’s got a point. But, Will has to take a pounding first (this is also after his friends have made a substantial bet with a group of Frenchmen). Still loves her. Mercifully, she sends word that he is to win the tournament, which he does. Chaucer sees Jocelyn enter William’s tent after the tournament and remarks “as Guinevere comes to Lancelot. Bed him well, m’lady. Bed him well.” (By this age, I knew what he meant). She discovers what exactly Will went through to prove his love, and has noted that his friends slip call him “William” instead of “Ulrich.” His name matters not, only that she can call him hers, and the good that comes with the bad will be of her doing as well.

William and his friends return to England, bring about another flashback of when they left. They enter London for the World Championships to The Boys Are Back in Town (and now I cannot hear that song and not think of that scene). Adhemar will compete; Prince Edward has recalled him for his company’s behavior in France. Will takes the opportunity to visit Cheapside, where he grew up and finds his father still alive, though blind. Unfortunately, Adhemar manages to spy on him and uses the information to prove the lie William has been leading. The next day, Jocelyn and Chaucer bring word that guards will arrest Will if he competes. His friends all urge him to run. He refuses. He is a knight. (Only those of noble birth can become knights; but Will points out in the beginning that many became noble by taking the title at the point of a sword).

Adhemar visits Will in jail, declaring “you have been weighed; you have been measured; and you have been found wanting.” Will is put in the stocks the next day; his friends stand alongside him. The crowd easily turns on their champion; earlier chanting his name, now throwing food. Prince Edward emerges from the crowd and declares that his own research has proven that William is descended from an ancient royal line; and as prince, his word is above contestation. He frees Will and knights him. William will face Adhemar.

Knowing he stands a chance of losing, Adhemar cheats and tips his lance. On the first pass, he embeds it in William’s shoulder. On the second pass, William drops his lance. Adhemar murmurs to his opponent, “in what world can you ever have beaten me? Such a place does not exist.” William can’t breathe and has his friends remove his armor. Neither can he hold a lance, they must strap it to his arm. To buy time, Chaucer has missed his introduction. “Here he is! One of your own! Born a stone’s throw from this very stadium and here before you now. The son, of John Thatcher…Sir William Thatcher!” Will’s father is in the stands; he heard that. He sits near Prince Edward. Revitalized, William unseats Adhemar. We pause, as the group tells Adhemar “you have been weighed; you have been measured; and you absolutely have been found wanting. Welcome to the new world.” The crowd goes nuts as the action picks back up. Edward kisses his wife. Jocelyn races down to see William, who dismounts and removes his gloves and such so they can share an epic kiss. The film closes as Chaucer decides he needs to write this tale down and we go to black on Shook Me All Night Long.

As I stated, it’s a fun movie. I like the music they feature for the most part. I understand some of the costuming choices; I believe one feature states that they were going for a rock ‘n’ roll look with the knights, since they held that sort of status in medieval times; a more modern fit pant, lots of leather. It’s the women’s costumes that drive me nuts. The exotic hair styles that you know could not have been done at that time. Sheer fabric on display, an Audrey Hepburn hat. Now, after being blown away by other films, the romance falls a bit flat. Will sees that Jocelyn is pretty and that’s why he loves her. Not because he sees her do anything particularly good or special. Jocelyn likes Will because he’s not like other nobles who have courted her.

Up Next: Princess Bride

The Story We Have Been a Part of, Will Live Long in the Minds of Men

Merlin – Season 5

We’ve come to the end of the series. I feel they rushed this series; maybe they were surprised how quick they would have to wrap things up. My one friend came back and asked me where the season was that they end up in modern times, since she had seen pictures of it everywhere (I can find them on Pintrest, maybe they’re on Tumblr; I’m not on Tumblr, I don’t know). Sadly, no, that’s not how this season ends. I feel that they should come back and do that season, or a movie at the very least.

Arthur’s Bane, begins the season in two parts. Three years have passed since Guinevere’s coronation. Arthur meets with his knights at the Round Table. Unfortunately, Gwaine and Percival are missing after an expedition. Morgana is suspected, even though they haven’t heard from her in the three years. Morgana is indeed behind the disappearances; she’s capturing men to work searching for the key to the knowledge of Arthur’s Bane, his downfall. Joined by Liam Cunningham whose character isn’t named until the second episode. (Since I’ve been wandering down the Game of Thrones path, when I saw his name in the opening credits I was surprised. I haven’t seen this season as often as the previous ones, so a lot of this was unfamiliar to me.) Arthur and his knights, and Merlin, go looking for their brethren. Merlin receives a vision that Arthur is in danger and even Gwen worries about Arthur going on the mission himself; he is Camelot’s king, he needs to be cautious. But Arthur is the type of king who will show his people he is not afraid of any task.

Sadly, Gwen’s new maid who is adorable with Merlin is also a traitor, for her father who is harboring Morgana. Her father (played by Liam Cunningham) ultimately rescues his daughter, but also dies in the aftermath. Morgana doesn’t seem particularly bothered, more concerned with the overarching search for Arthur’s destruction. Arthur is injured on their quest and he and Merlin are captured by Saxons, and a familiar looking young man. Mordred is back and now a young man (don’t think too hard on what ages they look). He shows Arthur and Merlin kindness even though Merlin does not trust him. Arthur saved his life as a child and he will repay that debt. Arthur and Merlin manage to escape and sneak into the castle where they find Percival.

Gwaine has been missing for a few days. An alien-looking being (really BBC? Let’s bring aliens into the mix) finds him and heals him after guards beat him. (And they’re all shirtless for no apparent reason. Again, does BBC really need to do this to attract viewers?) Percival starts gathering men and taking out the guards. Morgana comes across Arthur while Merlin is chasing after Aithusa. Mordred is with her and prevents her from killing Arthur. He recognizes that Morgana has gone a bit crazy; she has chosen hate. He has not. He carries Arthur to his knights. Merlin finds Gwaine and the creature. He is granted one question. Who is Arthur’s Bane? Himself.

Everyone is back in Camelot; Arthur knights Mordred. Merlin honestly likes Mordred, but doesn’t trust him. He asks why Mordred saved Arthur. “Because he’s right, the love that binds us is more important than the power we wield.” Merlin knows that for good or ill, the die is cast. Albion’s greatest trial has begun.

The Death Song of Uther Pendragon brings to light Arthur’s doubts whether he is being a good ruler. He does a lot of things his father wouldn’t approve of. He’s then gifted a chance to see his father again when he saves an old sorceress for a horrible death and no trial. And Uther is disappointed with his son. He knighted commoners, he married a commoner and not for an alliance for the kingdom. He feels that his son has failed to strengthen and protect the kingdom; he’s destroying Uther’s legacy. Meanwhile, we, along with Merlin, counsel Arthur that he is better than his father. His people love and respect him and his is a more wise and just ruler. But Uther’s spirit is released and haunts the castle. Percival is attacked. Gwen is almost killed. Merlin and Arthur set out to put Uther’s spirit back. Uther attacks Merlin and discovers that he has magic. Uther tries to warn Arthur, but Arthur sounds the horn dismissing the spirit before he is able.

Mithian’s kingdom is attacked, bringing her back to Camelot in Another’s Sorrow. It’s a ploy between Odin and Morgana. Morgana disguises herself as Mithian’s maidservant so Mithian will persuade Arthur to rescue her father. Merlin suspects the maid and discovers it is Morgana, but she knocks him out before he can warn Arthur. Arthur proceeds with the plan and walks into the trap. Merlin comes to, with magical aid from Gaius, in time to take Gawine and rescue Arthur. Arthur faces Odin and Merlin prevents his friend from killing the other king. There is a better way. Arthur asks for a truce; else, their blood feud will simply continue on. Odin accepts. And we start a trend this season of seeing Merlin injured more often. I think it’s good, because it shows that he is vulnerable and we like vulnerability in our heroes.

The Disir, the mouthpiece of the Triple Goddess, pass judgment on Arthur and find him lacking. He has persecuted sorcerers as a carryover from Uther. His fate is set; while Camelot flowers, already the seeds of its destruction are sown. Arthur argues he makes his own path, but he still wants to protect his people, so he appears before the Disir. He is not respectful the first appearance though and they attack. Mordred takes a spear meant for Arthur. Arthur now has a choice; to save Mordred, he must allow magic to be freely practiced in Camelot again. If not, Mordred dies. We can see Merlin struggle to advise his friend. Merlin desires for magic to return, for his sake and his people. But even Kilgarah warns him that Arthur’s fate is bound with Mordred. So Merlin tells Arthur there is no place for magic in Camelot, thereby sentencing Mordred to die. Yet when they return to Camelot, Mordred lives. This gets terribly confusing for Merlin; every step he takes toward not bring the future to pass actually helps it along.

Morgana kidnaps Gwen in The Dark Tower and tortures her in a way. She locks her former maidservant in a dark room with mandrake root, listening to screams, and seeing visions of people she loves. Elyan and Arthur mount a rescue attempt, though they are waylaid in a magical forest. Merlin trusts his magic and leads them out, but Elyan darts ahead to rescue his sister. An enchanted sword runs him through. At the very end of the episode, we see Gwen sneak out to visit Morgana. She now believes that only Morgana has her best interest at heart; after all, they were close friends for many years, they know each other best.

Gwen begins to work behind the scenes to help Morgana and bring down Camelot and kill her husband. Accidents begin to befall Arthur in A Lesson in Vengeance. (Yes, the stable hand is played by John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones. And due to when this season was filmed, he had already begun playing Sam. So we are correct to gasp, “Oh my gosh, it’s Sam!”) The stable hand Tyr Seward takes the fall and Gwen stabs him to prevent him from talking. Morgana gives Gwen a magical poison to slowly and painfully kill Arthur. She has no hesitation in giving it to Arthur; she plays her part as grieving wife well. Gwen next arranges for Merlin to take the fall; he’s close to Arthur and has access to cause him harm. Gaius helps Merlin out of the cell while Leon pledges the knights to follow Gwen who will succeed Arthur should he die. Merlin ages himself (we can see he is having a lot of fun in his Dragoon character). Only Merlin’s magic can save Arthur, but he doubts he has the strength for both the aging and the healing. Gaius informs his ward that the only one who doubts Merlin’s abilities is Merlin. Merlin cries when he thinks Arthur has died, but Arthur survives. Merlin sneaks back into his cell so he can be released the next day. Arthur never suspected Merlin. Well that’s good, but why didn’t the knights stand up for him? Gwen gets the credit when she finds a new suspect and pins the blame correctly on Morgana.

Arthur meets with potential allies in The Hollow Queen while Gwen arranges a distraction for Merlin. A “Druid” boy sneaks into Camelot and asks Merlin for help. He leads Merlin into a trap by Morgana (she and Gwen are just trying to get Arthur’s biggest defense away while Gwen arranges for Arthur’s assassination). She poisons Merlin and throws him into a ravine. The boy returns for Merlin; the young man had shown him kindness and helps Merlin heal. They make it back to Camelot just as the assassin sets up. The boy is killed helping Merlin. Gwen had fed Arthur the tale that Merlin was sneaking off to see a girl when Arthur began to worry about Merlin. Now Gaius and Merlin know that Gwen is working against them.

They come up with a solution in With All My Heart. Merlin helps Arthur spy on Gwen when she meets with Morgana. They know it’s Morgana’s magic this time betraying Arthur. Which means it will take even more powerful magic to undo the spell. Merlin gets the solution off of an old sorceress and must lead Arthur to a magical lake and summon the White Goddess. Gwen must enter the lake of her own will. Arthur and Merlin sneak Gwen out of the castle, keeping her unconscious. Mordred follows them, which was a good thing because both Merlin and Arthur fall off a cliff and Arthur’s arm is pinned. Merlin has to transform into an old woman so as to not arouse suspicion merlin dolma(though Mordred does note that Merlin is missing at one point). The magic works and Dolma (Merlin in disguise) asks that Arthur remembers that magic can save, as well as hurt. “She” tells him off when they almost forget Merlin and tells Arthur “one day, he will recognize the true worth of those around him.” Mordred finally realizes that Merlin has magic, but promises to keep his secret. They share the dream of magic returning to Camelot.

Alator returns in The Kindness of Strangers; Morgana has hunted him down and tortures him to reveal Emrys’s identity. He refuses, but has recruited others to his cause. An old woman warns Merlin that the great battle is approaching. Mordred and the other knights give chase when they discover the old woman, since Gaius does not trust her. She is not in league with Morgana, but Morgana finds out about her, so she too is hunting for the woman. Merlin goes to help and is injured. The woman sacrifices herself to protect Merlin and he is not discovered. He hears the prophecy of Camlan and receives word that Morgana has declared war.

A familiar face for us pops up in The Drawing of the Dark. Alexandra Dowling (Roslin Frey in Game of Thrones and Queen Anne of Austria in Musketeers) is Kara, an old friend [and love interest] of Mordred’s. She’s injured and Mordred tends to her in the woods. Merlin finds out, but Mordred swears him to secrecy. Arthur and Merlin discover Kara themselves, even after Merlin tries to lure Arthur away. Kara attacks Arthur and is arrested. She proudly defies the king; “I will not rest until you are dead and your kingdom is no more.” Mordred pleads for her life, but she shows no repentance. Arthur cannot risk her being free. Merlin even pleads on Mordred’s behalf, but Arthur believes Mordred will see that Arthur had no choice and eventually forgive him. Merlin suspects that Mordred will try to free Kara, Mordred throws in Merlin’s face, “wouldn’t you do the same for a woman you love?” We know that Merlin tried, but Arthur killed Freya when she attacked Camelot. And Merlin forgave Arthur and serves him faithfully to this day. Merlin does not tell Mordred this (there is a fanfiction story Love Lost by Revhead where Merlin does tell Mordred and changes the story a little).

Mordred breaks Kara out, she kills a guard along the way, but they’re captured. Arthur offers her one last chance, but she will not change her ways. Mordred is in a cell when she is led to her execution. His magic breaks him out of his cell and he goes directly to Morgana. He has information for her, which will lead to Arthur’s death. He knows the identity of Emrys: Merlin.

The Diamond of the Day completes the season in two parts. Morgana sends a mook into Camelot to sneak into Merlin’s chambers, planting some sort of slug. It attacks Merlin’s face and somehow steals his magic. While that happens, Morgana and Mordred attack on outpost. Gwaine rescues a young woman and they make it back to Camelot to give word. Arthur decides to ride out and meet Morgana and her army on the field, to keep the fighting away from the people and other villages. The best place is Camlan, where the path narrows. Merlin sadly cannot accompany Arthur on this great battle; he must secretly journey to the Crystal Cave in an effort to restore his magic. But Gwaine’s new friend is a spy for Morgana, she passes along the information about Arthur and Mordred surmises where Merlin is heading. Morgana is waiting for the warlock and causes a cave in.

Merlin is injured and when he wakes, he sees his father. Balinor urges his son to not let go, don’t give in. Merlin is magic itself; he cannot lose what he is. Rest, he advises, believe in the crystals. When Merlin wakes again, he is healed and sees a secret path that Mordred plans to cut Arthur off with. Merlin warns Arthur in a dream, then bursts out of the cave.

Arthur misses having Merlin with him; the man who has stood beside him in every other instance is now gone for this vital confrontation. Gwen has accompanied him, not to fight, though she will help behind the scenes, but so they can spend what time they have together. She knows there is a good chance that Arthur may not return from this battle. Arthur receives Merlin’s message (Gwen has already begun to suspect there is more to Merlin that appears) and sets the camp to business. Percival and Gwaine will meet the band coming around behind. Arthur rallies his troops; fight for a united kingdom, fight against tyranny. The battle has begun.

Aithusa spews fire on Arthur’s troop, but a sorcerer (an aged Merlin, his true Emrys form) calls him off, then directs lightning on the Saxons, saving Arthur. He knocks Morgana down. Mordred hunts down Arthur on the field and stabs him with a blade forged on Aithusa’s breath. Arthur kills Mordred. Merlin finds Arthur on the field, bypassing Mordred, and carries him off.

When Arthur wakes, Merlin is back to his normal form. Merlin apologizes to his friend; he thought he was in time to defy the prophecy. Arthur doesn’t know what Merlin is talking about. Merlin reveals he was the sorcerer.

Arthur…doesn’t take it well. He responds to Gaius, when the old man finds them, but shies away from Merlin. They need to get word back to Guinevere in Camelot. Leon is giving her updates; but they have not found Arthur. Gaius tells Arthur that Merlin is his friend; he needs him far more than he needs Gaius. The wound is fatal, due to the blade. The only place Arthur could heal is the Isle of Avalon. Gaius can take the royal seal to Gwen.

Back in Camelot, they realize that truth of Gwaine’s traitorous female friend. She is executed, after passing along misinformation to Morgana. Percival and Gwaine set out to take down Morgana. Sadly, she bests them, knocking out Percival, then torturing Gwaine. Percival frees himself in time to watch his friend die. And so starts the “how many stabs does it take to kill Morgana?” Gwen confronts Gaius about the truth of Merlin. She seems pleased and knows that Merlin will care for Arthur.

Merlin continues to care for Arthur, confusing the man. Arthur slowly comes around to the fact that his manservant has had magic all along, but it still takes time for him to get over the fact that Merlin lied about it the whole time he knew Arthur. Merlin insists, it has always been to help Arthur; he is proud of what he has done and he wouldn’t change a thing. Arthur finally apologizes for the way he has treated Merlin. Morgana finds them just as the reach the shore of the lake. Merlin faces her and stabs her with Excalibur. That does her in. He has brought peace at last to Albion. But Arthur is fading fast. “It’s too late,” he tells the young warlock and asks his friend to hold him in his final moments, and says what he has never said before: “Thank you.” We cry alongside Merlin.

merlin and arthur in the end
Pardon my blubbering

Merlin calls Kilgarah one last time to carry them to the Isle. But it is too late, the dragon tells his young friend. Fear not, he has not failed. All that he has dreamt has come to pass. “I can’t lose him! He’s my friend!” Merlin cries. Some lives are foretold, Kilgarah counsels. Arthur is the Once and Future King. When Albion’s need is greatest, Arthur will rise again. Merlin throws Excalibur into the lake, caught by a hand. Again, we cry alongside Merlin as he lays Arthur to rest in a boat and sends it to Avalon. Gwen is crowned queen; Leon, Gaius, and Percival are alongside her in Camelot. The parting shot of the show is a truck passing the tower on the Isle of Avalon and an old man, Emrys, walks along the side of the road.

Gosh, the last two episodes hurt. Part of me expected, hoped, that it would turn out different than legend, that Arthur and Merlin would work together and see the fruits of their labors. There is a chance that Gwen was carrying Arthur’s child at the end, maybe the writers threw in her accompanying Arthur to the camp in order for that to be a possibility. I have no doubt she made a just and wise ruler, but it’s not the same as if Arthur would have been around. Yes, it’s a deviation from legend, but I prefer a happy ending where heroes get some peace and quiet and rewards. You make us love these characters and then you separate them. We have no idea if Merlin even returned to Camelot, or just stayed away. (Check out fanfics, we’ve got lots of ideas. And fixes!)

Heck, I was even beginning to hope that Mordred would turn out alright. Again, doesn’t follow legend, though I like how they wrote around the incest nature of Mordred. And Merlin’s reveal has so little time to sink in. (Again, check out fanfics!) I would have preferred at least another season to the show. Again, I think they were surprised at when they had to wrap and had to bring about so much to end it, it all ended up rushed. Did not like Gwen’s storyline for several episodes. You’ve already done the “Gwen is a threat to Camelot.” They keep her a good character since none of it is her actual fault, she’s always influenced by Morgana. Still haven’t gotten over her turn and sudden descent into madness. “Oh, I’m a witch, so I must turn evil.” I don’t buy it. Never bought that mentality. (That is why my female characters who have magical powers are good. Well, they fight bad ones, but they’re still good after wielding phenomenal power).

I still like the show and I love the portrayal of characters, most specifically the relationship between Arthur and Merlin. Banter is my favorite. Yes, they insult each other, but they genuinely care for each other and they see that, even though they don’t say it (until the end and that makes us cry). I just wish it had ended different. Please, BBC, do a movie!

Next Time: Continuing a bit with fantasy type movies, Knight’s Tale (Well, it fits with the medieval setting).

Long Live the King!

Merlin – Season 4

The intro to season four upgrades Merlin to “young man” instead of a boy. We pick up in the two-parter The Darkest Hour about a year after the events of season three. Morgana is walking with Morgause in a cart and is discovered by knights. They report back to Arthur that she is on her way to the Isle of the Blessed. Arthur has taken over the running of the kingdom; Uther is frail and aged; he has taken Morgana’s betrayal hard. Agravaine, apparently Ygraine’s brother has shown up to help Arthur as a promise to his deceased sister (why there has been no mention of him before, we’re never told). It is Samhain and Morgana sacrifices Morgause, ripping a tear in the veil between worlds, unleashing spirits of the dead to attack the living. Merlin feels this and collapses. Attacks begin in outlying villages so Arthur, Merlin, and the knights ride out, but they can do nothing against the spirits. Then Camelot is attacked. Not even Gaius knows how to defeat their new foe, but he suggests maybe a sacrifice on the Isle of the Blessed. Arthur, being the self-sacrificing hero who will take on any challenge to protect his people, volunteers. Merlin secretly plans to sacrifice himself in Arthur’s stead. Oh, and Agravaine is in league with Morgana, reporting that the throne will be open to the “rightful heir.” The knights of Camelot ride out, Merlin continues to protect Arthur, even jumping into a spirit and collapsing frozen to the ground.

Arthur sends Lancelot back with Merlin to Camelot, despite Merlin’s weak protestations. On their way, Merlin has Lancelot lay him next to a river. Those spirits heals Merlin so he can return to Arthur and fix the veil. There’s an adorable scene when Lancelot returns to the knights and tells Arthur “bad news…he’s still alive.” We see that Arthur has really come to rely on Merlin. They make it to the Isle of the Blessed and Merlin knocks Arthur out before he can make his sacrifice. But while Arthur is dealing with the old woman in charge of the veil, Lancelot has offered himself as a sacrifice. The world is returned to rights, but now Merlin, Arthur, and Gwen must mourn their friend.

Meanwhile, Morgana has begun to receive visions of a powerful old sorcerer, Emrys, who will be her downfall. Merlin overhears Agravaine asking Gaius about the sorcerer.

It is Arthur’s birthday in The Wicked Day (another title from Mary Stewart’s Arthurian Saga) and a circus arrives in Camelot for the occasion. Uther breaks out of his stupor to attend the festivities. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of the castle, the circus owner wishes to kill Arthur. They drug him and then try to attack him. Uther steps in the way, taking the blade meant for his son. Arthur is desperate to save his father and considers asking an old sorcerer “Dragoon” for help. (Really, it’s Merlin in a disguise. Arthur actually almost sees through it; he recognizes the eyes). Meanwhile, Agravaine has gone to Morgana and she places a charm on Uther that will reverse any healing magic. So when “Dragoon” goes to heal Uther, the effect is reversed and Uther dies. Arthur blames Dragoon and Merlin feels like it is his fault. But a new day has come and he and Arthur must face their new roles. Merlin waits outside the great hall for Arthur all night, so the young man wouldn’t be alone. Arthur is crowned King of Camelot.

Merlin and Arthur are drawn into a journey to discover a dragon’s egg (if the thief looks familiar, he is; he played Bonaire, the thief in Musketeers) in Aithusa. Merlin manages to save the egg and takes it to Kilgarah. He calls to it in the language of the Dragon Lords, giving it the name “Aithusa.” A white dragon is extremely rare. Kilgarah tells the young warlock that it bodes well for Albion, Arthur, and Merlin.

Arthur is tested as king in His Father’s Son. Agravaine talks Arthur into killing the King of Carlion. Word gets back to his wife, who marches on Camelot. Morgana joins her, referring herself as Gorlois’s daughter and wishes payback on Camelot as well. Arthur decides to fight single combat against the Queen’s champion in order to spare lives; he’s reconsidering his earlier decision, starting to make his own decisions about what kind of king he wants to be. (He even tries to break off his relationship with Gwen, considering to be inappropriate). Merlin helps a little in the battle; Morgana is helping her side as well, so it’s not really cheating. Arthur gets his large opponent to the ground, but does not kill him. He seeks peace with the queen and she agrees. She has a few choice words for Morgana, telling her she clings to bitterness.
arthur merlin hug

Morgana attempts to turn Merlin against Arthur in A Servant of Two Masters, using magic. Luckily, Merlin is very inept at killing Arthur (it’s a bit funny to see him try, and Leon doesn’t bat an eye when Merlin says he’s going to kill Arthur). Merlin manages to disguise himself as Dragoon, who Morgana takes to be Emrys, and destroy the mother beast that’s inhabiting him. There are a few endearing scenes; Arthur is genuinely worried about Merlin when he’s missing and sends knights out to find him. Even when he gets a more efficient servant, he misses Merlin and the banter they have. Gwen happens to see Arthur without clothes while she’s trying to knock Merlin out.

Morgana and Agravaine suspect that Gaius knows the true identity of Emrys, so they come up with a plan in The Secret Sharer to kidnap the old man and use a magical interrogator to wrangle the truth out of him. Agravaine makes accusations against Gaius, but Merlin won’t listen to them and goes after his mentor. He saves Gaius, but Gaius has unfortunately revealed to the interrogator (played by Gary Lewis, he is Colum Mackenize in Outlander and Hrothgar in Eragon) that Merlin is Emrys. But the interrogator is loyal to the old ways and won’t reveal his identity to Morgana. He helps Merlin escape. Arthur apologizes to Gaius; he knows the old man has always had his best interests at heart. Gaius tells the young king that there are others out there protecting him.

Arthur sends Merlin as a physician to a village in trouble in Lamia. Merlin quickly deduces that the ailment the victims are suffering is the result of magic. He and the knights begin to make their way back to Camelot, until they run into bandits who are tormenting a young woman. Proving themselves gallant, the knights rescue the girl. But she shies away from Merlin and Gwen. And then the knights start arguing with each other and turn on Merlin. (There are several fanfiction stories that detail the emotional toll that takes on Merlin; his friends, who have protected him against others, now scorn him). Merlin determines this Lamia girl is the cause of the problem and it’s due to magic. Indeed, Gaius informs Arthur when they go to investigate that the Lamia were created by the Priestesses of the Old Religion to control men, but they grew too powerful. The knights start falling prey to her; Gwen and Merlin to the rescue, well, Arthur helps a bit.

Lancelot is back from the dead in Lancelot du Lac. Morgana finds out that Arthur proposes to Gwen and decides to bring Lancelot back to throw a wrench in the works. Lancelot enters the jousting tournament held in honor of the proposal. Merlin and the knights are pleased that Lancelot is back, but Merlin quickly discovers all is not well. Lancelot doesn’t remember that Merlin has magic. (That’s because Morgana didn’t know, so couldn’t plant that information in Lancelot). Merlin starts to worry that Lancelot is after Arthur. No, Lancelot means to beguile Gwen, through an enchanted bracelet. Arthur discovers the couple kissing (with some help from Agravaine; it’s all a trap). Lancelot and Gwen are thrown in the dungeon; Lancelot, coached by Agravaine, drinks a potion to die. Agravaine counsels Arthur to put Gwen to the death for her betrayal. Arthur cannot see her dead, so exiles her. They were one day from their wedding; she had waited years, why could she not wait one more day, Arthur asks. Gwen cannot answer. She still loves Arthur but she couldn’t help herself around Lancelot. Merlin, who had figured out that Lancelot was a shade, takes his friend for funeral rights and rids him of the enchantment. Lancelot wakes for a moment to thank Merlin, dying peacefully again. Merlin knows Morgana is behind the events, but cannot prove it to Arthur.

An old mission comes back to haunt Arthur in A Herald of the New Age. The knights accidentally disturb a druid shrine; Elyan drinks from the well. He’s taken over by the spirit of a child who had been slaughtered and goes after the king. The other knights assume he’s acting out due to his sister being banished. Arthur in the meantime is out of sorts after visiting the shrine. Merlin and Gaius investigate the shrine and try to stop Elyan’s attack. Arthur eventually admits to Merlin that Uther had ordered Arthur to lead a raid on a druid camp. Arthur was not able to stop his men from killing innocent women and children, resulting in the restless sprits at the shrine. He was young and inexperienced and wanted to prove himself. Elyan, still possessed, confronts Arthur and Arthur apologizes, offering himself for the mistakes he made. The child spirit forgives Arthur and leaves Elyan. (A little jolt from the episode when I realized that they were using salt circles to repel spirits; a basis of Supernatural, lol).

We catch up with what Gwen is doing in The Hunter’s Heart. She has moved to a village where she has old friends; but it’s attacked by bandits. Their leader spares her and speaks to her. Unfortunately, he’s in league with Morgana. Morgana discovers that Gwen is at the camp and sets after her. She catches her and transforms her into a deer. Meanwhile, Arthur has made an alliance with the promise of marriage to the Princess Mithan of Nementh. Mithan is beautiful an kind and we really can’t dislike her. She gently chastises Arthur for causing Merlin more work. She genuinely likes to hunt, a favorite pastime of Arthur’s. Merlin tries little tricks to put Arthur and Mithan off each other, due to loyalty to Gwen. Then comes the hunt, and they cross paths with a transformed Gwen. Merlin realizes the disguise and goes after the deer after Mithan shoots her. He heals her, but Gwen refuses to return to Camelot; she understands the damage she did. Arthur has also found the ring that he had proposed to Gwen with, that Gwen was still wearing until her transformation. He is in no mood to continue the hunt. Arthur realizes that Merlin was right; he still loves Gwen, despite her betrayal, which confuses him. But he cannot marry Mithan. He draws up a new treaty, giving her the disputed lands. She graciously leaves.

Morgana’s plans come to fruition in the two-parter season finale The Sword in the Stone, bringing in more elements from classic legend. Agravaine signals the attacking army into Camelot. Arthur is injured, but Merlin drags him out of the castle, magically taking his will (though there’s not much left after seeing both Morgana and Agravaine at the head of the army). Gaius, Elyan, and Gwaine are left in Camelot to aid Arthur’s escape. Morgana tortures Elyan for information and makes Gwaine fight to win supper. Leon and Percival are in the woods with the townsfolk who could escape. Merlin plans to take Arthur to Ealdor. They come upon battle couple and smugglers Tristan and Isolde. Arthur acts as a simpleton until his will returns, but Tristan dislikes kings and they butt heads. Arthur also feels defeated; he must not be the king he should be if his family members keep betraying him. Merlin points out that it’s not his fault; they just desire Arthur’s power for themselves. Morgana sends Agravaine after Arthur (I can’t tell if Agravaine truly cares for Morgana or if he just doesn’t trust her and wants to stay on her good side).

Merlin and Arthur do make it to Ealdor, along with Tristan and Isolde. They reunite with Gwen, but have to run again when Agravaine catches up. Merlin offers again to hang back and protect the rear. Kilgarah comes in handy to destroy most of the force chasing them and in the caves, Merlin uses magic to defeat the rest. Agravaine is impressed by Merlin’s deception, claiming that they are more alike than they had realized. Another toss when he makes a move against Merlin and Agravaine is dead. Tristan is surprised that Arthur risks his life to go back for Merlin.

sword in the stone

They reunite with the other knights, but Merlin still has to convince Arthur to continue the fight. He spins a tale for his friend, claiming it’s from Gaius, about a sword that the first king of Camelot had buried in a stone. When Camelot’s need was most, only the true king of Camelot could retrieve it. Merlin convinces Arthur to try. Arthur struggles at first, but Merlin urges him to believe. And the sword comes clean out (well, it was Merlin who had put Excalibur in the stone in the first place). Arthur is back and leads his knights into Camelot. Tristan and Isolde agree to fight alongside him. Sadly, Isolde is killed in a face off against the leader of Morgana’s army. Merlin had earlier snuck into Camelot disguised as Emrys and puts a burning straw doll under Morgana’s bed. So when he and Arthur face her, she cannot cast any spells. She flees. She faces off with Gwen and almost finishes the other woman, but Merlin secretly rescues her at the last minute. Morgana is wounded and flees into the woods.

Arthur mends his relationship with Gwen and proposes again. She is crowned queen. And the little white dragon, Aithusa returns and heals Morgana in the woods.

I liked the twist that the sword in the stone was more about raising Arthur’s confidence. Merlin keeps leading Arthur to his destiny to become the greatest ruler Albion has ever known. Gwen’s brief affair with Lancelot did not bring down the kingdom and it was more brought on by magic. Merlin is proving to be Arthur’s most loyal companion and I love that Arthur is recognizing that. There’s times he will be kind and sincere to his friend, but they keep up their banter. I don’t think they would know what to do with themselves if they weren’t giving each other and hard time and calling each other names.

Next Time We wrap up with Season Five.