Brosnan’s last Bond film, sadly. Also features Halle Berry (Storm in the early 2000’s X-Men) as Jinx, Toby Stephens (Prince John in BBC’s Robin Hood…oh, and I found out…he’s Dame Maggie Smith’s son!) as Gustav Graves, Rosamund Pike (very odd to watch her in this role after getting accustomed to the serene Jane in Pride and Prejudice, but she is a marvelous actress and this was her feature film debut) as Miranda Frost. And if the one henchman, Kill looks familiar, he’s a Kiwi and did several bit parts in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit. Young Colonel Moon is played by Wil Yun Lee who occasionally showed up in the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 as Sang Min. Madonna performed the opening song (in good company with Sir Paul McCartney who did Only the Good Die Young), and made a cameo in the film as Verity, the fencing instructor.
We begin in North Korea, still a hotspot, though Bond oddly surfs in (because you don’t really think of Bond surfing) and takes over a meeting with two young Koreans; a general’s son, Colonel Moon and his bodyguard, Zao, over diamonds. But he’s found out and tries to escape. The C-4 he planted into the briefcase explodes, shooting diamonds into Zao. Bond then chases Colonel Moon over a minefield in a hovercraft (Mythbusters did prove that this was plausible). Moon goes over a waterfall and Bond escapes, only to be captured by General Moon then tortured for fourteen months during the opening credits (the scorpions are creepy).
The general returns, hoping one last time to turn Bond on his former employers, who left him to rot and denied his existence. General Moon also knows that there is a Western agent who flipped his son; he had hoped that Western education would have been a bridge for his country, but he betrayed his country. The general wants to know who; they most likely betrayed Bond as well. But Bond doesn’t know and won’t tell. He figures he will face a firing squad, but is instead part of a prisoner exchange with Zao. He’s taken to medical before he can ask any questions. M finally shows up and discusses the situation with him. If she had had her way, Bond would still be a captive; his freedom came at too high a price – Zao. The Americans fear that Bond was a leak in the prison, giving up secrets and they had to get him out. But Bond had not broken. He understood the danger every agent faces; they get caught, they’re on their own, there is no rescue. But M can’t be entirely sure; with the drugs in his system, Bond may not have known if he was giving up information. Bond insists someone else betrayed him. “You’re no use to anyone now,” M remarks as she leaves. Which simply encourages Bond to escape by lowering his heart rate, then springing into action. He jumps ship and walks into the Hong Kong Yacht Club.
The manager knows him, even with the beard, and sets him up with a suite, food, and clothes. Then sends a masseuse. Bond knows it’s a trap and reveals that the manager works for Chinese Intelligence, but won’t rat him out, if he continues to help him. Zao is a threat to them as well. He’s pointed to Cuba, specifically a gene therapy clinic. In Cuba, Bond meets a young woman as she emerges from the water (a throwback to the first Bond girl in Dr. No), Jinx. The two flirt then hop in bed with one another (because it’s Bond). Jinx is gone come morning, already heading into the clinic. Bond sneaks in and discovers Zao. They get in a fight and Jinx kills the head doctor and uses his computer to look up Zao. A fire breaks out and then the building blows up, courtesy of Jinx. Both Bond and Jinx chase Zao, but he gets away in a helicopter. Bond did get a necklace he was wearing and discovers diamonds in it. His contact informs him they are laser-etched in the signature of Gustav Graves, yet they have the chemical makeup of African conflict diamonds; just like the ones that Bond blew up at the beginning of the film [note, it is not that easy to simply tell where a diamond is from, and they do not travel in briefcases like in the beginning].
Bond knows he must return to Britain and meet this Gustav Graves (he parachutes into media meetings). Graves is due to unveil his latest project, the Icarus Space Program. Bond meets the man face-to-face at a fencing club and the two men try to one-up each other in sword fighting, under the guise of playing for a diamond, starting with foils and moving up to broadswords (it’s not great sword work, but still a bit flashy and makes you wonder who will bleed first). Bond wins, but Graves’ assistant, Miranda Frost has to break them apart. Graves invites Bond to his gala in Iceland. Bond receives a key as he leaves and uses it in a backdoor. He trades information with M, though he’s not officially reinstated. Q goes over his new gadgets, including virtual reality simulation glasses, a car that uses mirrors to appear invisible, a ring to break glass, and his twentieth watch (a nod to this being the twentieth Bond film). We see M briefly speak to Miranda Frost; apparently an MI6 agent whose three month assignment has been to get close to Graves. Frost determines he is clean and reports she is wise enough to not get involved with Bond.
An Ice Palace has been created for Graves’ event in Iceland. He continues to get his thrills by driving a high-speed ice car. We also note that Jinx has arrived for the gala and Bond tries to flirt with Frost (not knowing she is MI6) and gets nowhere. Zao also happily greets Graves. Graves introduces his Icarus Project as a seeming “second sun,” with use to grow crops year-round and bring light to darkness. Later, it seems that Icarus has been modified for Graves’ use, and Jinx has wandered off. Frost gives herself away as MI6 to Bond by kissing him as a distraction and telling him she told M she didn’t want him there. They bed each other to continue the charade as lovers, but Bond leaves to take care of the situation. Jinx in the meantime has snuck into Graves’ lab and is captured by his henchman. His henchman wants to use the lasers to kill Jinx, but Bond stumbles upon her and rescues her.
Bond then confronts Graves, who has lived to die another day – Graves used gene therapy to change his face from Colonel Moon. Miranda arrives, and betrays Bond…again. She was the agent who sided with Moon and got Bond captured. Bond uses his ring to break glass to escape, then drives away in Graves’ ice car. Graves uses Icarus as a laser to chase Bond, but Bond skis out of trouble (with noticeable CGI). Then Zao drives his own car after Bond in his gadget car. Bond crashes into the Ice Palace to rescue Jinx, who will soon drown in a melting Palace that Graves hit with his laser. Zao is also killed in a crash in the Palace.
Jinx and Bond head to South Korea; Jinx is an American NSA agent and they are formally teaming up to take down Graves. The two agents manage to get on Graves’ plane as the Americans attempt to blow up Icarus, which does not work out. Graves/Moon reveals himself to his father, expecting him to be proud, but General Moon is not (seems he has more honor than his son). He’s killed and a hole is blown into the airplane, causing massive suction. Frost (in a ridiculous skimpy outfit for no good reason) takes on Jinx with a sword. Jinx has set the plane to fly into Icarus. Bond takes on Graves; Graves electrocutes Bond, then takes the last parachute, but Bond opens it early, dragging the man into the engine. The plane is falling apart, Jinx manages to stab Frost, and the good guys have to use Graves’ fancy helicopter to escape (which luckily has the diamonds inside). They put those diamonds to “good” use when they snuggle up with each other in a remote cottage.
I’m not thrilled with Jinx as a Bond girl; I will admit, they at least give her some action and motivation, but barely and she gets captured and stuck twice, to be rescued by Bond. Frost, meanwhile, is far more intriguing. Jinx was too easy. It’s a bit of a trend with some of the Bond films I’ve just watched. Christmas Jones was practically useless in the last movie and Elektra had far more development. Natalya in GoldenEye was more compelling and Bond did not instantly fall into bed with Onatop. Wai Lin struck a happy medium and got a better fight scene, though she too fell easily into Bond’ arms.
Another of the swashbuckling movies produced in the nineties, like Three Musketeers and Prince of Thieves and like those two, it’s very well done. Stars Anthony Hopkins (a classic Welsh actor who is Odin in MCU Thor, famous as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs [and I refuse to watch that movie, I do not need the nightmares], was Van Helsing in 1992’s Bram’s Dracula, was in A Bridge Too Far with the other great actors of that time) as Don Diego de la Vega, Stuart Wilson (an older Robin Hood in Disney’s Princess of Thieves) as Don Rafael Montero, Tony Amendola (Marco/Geppetto in ABC’s Once Upon a Time series amongst other TV series) as Don Luiz, Antonio Banderas (this is probably his most famous role) as Alejandro Murrieta and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is actually Welsh, and married to Michael Douglas since 2000; this was her breakthrough role, and she went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2002’s Chicago) as Elena. This is not the first appearance of the character Zorro; he dates to 1919 and was originally supposed to be a one-time character, then the popularity of the 1920 movie had the author create dozens of further stories. However, this is probably one of the more well-known iterations.
The story begins in 1821 as Spain is leaving Mexico due to a rebellion led by General Santa Anna. The last governor, Don Rafael Montero is ordered to leave, but has one last piece of business to take care of. He gives his friend Don Luiz orders to distribute the Spanish land amongst themselves and pay taxes to Santa Anna, thereby maintaining their wealth. Montero is planning to execute three innocent men amidst a protest. Two boys are waiting for the legendary Zorro to appear and he does not disappoint. The boys even save Zorro from a trap and in return, he gifts them with a medallion. The crowd cheers for their hero and protects him from the guards. He confronts Montero and marks his neck with a “Z”, three slashes for three men. Montero would murder a hundred innocent men in order to kill Zorro. But Zorro rides away.
There is a lair beneath his estate (the original Bat cave; in fact, Zorro is considered an influence to Batman); Zorro remarks to his faithful black steed that they are both getting too old for their activities. Zorro without the mask is Diego de la Vega and he visits his infant daughter in her nursery and tells her stories about his escapades. His wife, Esperenza joins the pair. They are interrupted by Montero and his guards. Montero has an inkling at this point that de la Vega is Zorro and pressing on his arm reveals a bloody scratch de la Vega received during the fight that day. He attempts to arrest de la Vega as a traitor to both his country and his class, and oddly apologizes to Esperenza. Turns out, Montero loves Esperenza and is upset that she married de la Vega; but now, he probably is thinking with de la Vega out of the way, he can claim Esperenza. But Esperenza tries to protect her husband during his duel with Montero and a guard accidentally shoots her. Montero dispatches the guard, and de la Vega goes for his crying daughter; a fire has started during the scuffle. Montero knocks de la Vega out, puts him in chains, and claims his daughter. Montero leaves with young Elena for Spain and de la Vega is taken away to prison to rot; Montero’s parting words to de la Vega: you must “live with the knowledge you have lost everything you hold dear,” and “your child should have been mine.” (This of course, takes away the notion of Esperenza’s own choice; she seems very happy with de la Vega and aware of his secret, most likely meaning it was a love match, so no, Elena should have never been Montero’s child.) de la Vega swears to Montero, “you will never be rid of me!”
Twenty years later: the Murrieta brothers have been caught…well, actually, they were in on their capture so they could steal the guard’s money and redistribute it to the poor (a la Robin Hood). But there is a new Captain in town, Captain Love from Texas; he ends up shooting Joaquin and capturing Jack. Alejandro escapes, but watches his brother shoot himself instead of being captured. Alejandro collects his brother’s medallion, then tries to barter it away for a drink. In the meantime, Montero has returned to California. His first stop is the prison, in order to be sure that Zorro is dead. Several prisoners claim they are Zorro (like the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene), but Montero doesn’t believe any of them. He walks right by an old man with an eye patch, pauses for a moment, but dismisses him. He deduces Zorro is dead.
Wrong. That old man is de la Vega and he manages to free himself and get smuggled out of the prison by impersonating a dead body; meaning he then digs himself out of the grave. He will exact his revenge on Montero. He attends Montero’s official arrival the following day, where Montero plays to the crowd, insulting the other Dons so he can claim he works for the people. Obviously, de la Vega knows better and starts to make his way to the former governor, until Montero’s “daughter” arrives, Elena. This halts de la Vega. He must rethink his plan. On his way to his hideout, he comes across Alejandro and his old medallion as Alejandro prepares to barter it away. He easily bests Alejandro in a fight, but offers to train the young man.
Alejandro is eager to start fighting, though his answer of “the pointy end goes in the other man, [sounding like Jon Snow or Arya Stark]” shows de la Vega that he must start with the basics. The master has a new apprentice. de la Vega has Alejandro bathe and trim his hair. After disarming the old fox once, Alejandro figures he is skilled enough to capture a black Andalusian, like Zorro’s Tornado. Alejandro, in a mask, encounters Elena and she is quite taken by the dangerous man. When his plan goes a bit awry, Alejandro hides in the church and ends up hearing Elena’s confession, that she is starting to have thoughts about the masked man and her heart is too wild for her father’s liking. Alejandro manages to escape before Captain Love appears, but he leaves the “Z” mark to let them know Zorro has returned.
de la Vega, expertly using a whip to extinguish candles (Hopkins could do that trick and was added into the movie), is not pleased with Alejandro; Zorro serves the people, not himself. Alejandro is tired of the lectures and demands de la Vega duel him. The older man holds up a spoon. Alejandro must have the polish of a proper gentleman, and needs to spy on Montero. The two men attend a gala held at the estate, de la Vega masquerading as Alejandro’ s servant, who goes by the title Don de Castilio. Alejandro is properly presented to Elena, but his gentleman charm does not impress her, though he is impressing Montero. However, when Alejandro has to stall Montero, he dances quite passionately with Elena (it is a wonderful and lively dance). Alejandro gains an invitation with the rest of the Dons and Montero reveals his plan; he means for the Dons to claim California. They will buy it from Santa Anna with gold from a mine on his own land that he is unaware of. Santa Anna will take the gold because a war with the United States is expensive. Montero shows off the mine the next day and Alejandro discovers that poor Mexicans who have gone missing have been taken to the mine.
Elena has a conversation with de la Vega the next day in the stables, only knowing him as Alejandro’s servant. But de la Vega remarks that she looks like her mother. Elena has been told that her mother was very proper. And de la Vega’s voice is familiar. Then, in the market, her former nursemaid makes a gift to her, recognizing her as the daughter of Esperenza de la Vega. Elena tries to tell the woman she is mistaken and that she was born in Spain. But she’s already encountered native Californian flowers she remembers the scent. Montero’s tale is starting to unravel.
de la Vega gifts Alejandro with a proper Zorro mask and instructs him to sneak into Montero’s office; they need the location of the mine. de la Vega sets a flaming “Z” on the hillside as a distraction, but Alejandro still encounters Captain Love and Montero and even duels them both. he escapes through the stables and faces off with Elena, who is skilled in sword fighting as well (I love that she’s an action woman). He does delicately cut her clothes off her as a way to stop her (her hair covers her top). Alejandro still has hilarious issues with his new horse, but does demonstrate that he is a good rider. de la Vega returns that evening to confront Montero and demands that Elena be brought out. Montero’s tale fully unravels; the name “de la Vega” is a clue from the woman in the marketplace and the truth comes out. She persuades de la Vega to put down his sword to save himself from being shot. At this point, Elena must be wondering what did Montero do that he was able to take her from de la Vega and what truly happened to her mother. Then she later frees him from the cellar he’s been thrown into and they race off to help Zorro.
Zorro sneaks into the mine and discovers the people are locked in. Captain Love’s suggestion is to blow up the mine once all the gold is out and kill the people as well so there are no witnesses. But when Zorro shows up, Love cuts the fuse so he has time to deal with the nuisance. de la Vega confronts Montero again as Elena watches. Montero seems willing to kill her to stop de la Vega, but he wouldn’t actually hurt the woman he views as a daughter, though it gives him the chance to shoot de la Vega. Zorro dispatches Love, even after being stabbed and unmasked, then Montero is caught behind the wagon as it falls. Elena goes to rescue the trapped people and the fuse has restarted. Zorro helps her with the last cells and they save the day! Alejandro holds de la Vega as he bids his daughter farewell; she has the same spirit as her mother. He even blesses Alejandro and Elena, then passes away. Elena mourns de la Vega; not Montero.
There must always be a Zorro; it is a destiny and a curse, for there is always another battle. But both Zorros have loved Elena. And now Alejandro tells the story to his son.
In 2005, there was a direct sequel to this film, The Legend of Zorro, bringing back both Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to reprise their roles. Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Tristan and Isolde, Victoria) joins as Armand, a former friend of Elena de la Vega’s when she grew up in Spain. This film is not nearly as good as Mask of Zorro. The premise is that California is voting to become part of the United States in 1850, but there is a secret organization attempting to block it. Zorro is doing his best, but since he is gone often, his marriage is strained and he’s missing out on seeing his son grow up. His secret is found out by mysterious men, who blackmail Elena into working undercover for them. She divorces Alejandro and he must make a choice between being Zorro and saving his family.
Of course, several of the fight scenes are still good and Elena retains some of her action-girl status. But there are several glaring errors. California at that time was Catholic; divorce was not allowed and Elena’s status would have surely suffered. Mentions of the Confederacy are inaccurate since it didn’t form until 1861. The inclusion of nitroglycerin is just barely factual; it was invented in 1847 as an explosive, but to me, still seems a bit farfetched. The overall feeling I get from the film is that they were trying too hard. The villains are flat. Of course, the son learns who his father is, and the marriage is put to rights. I argue how could Elena say to Alejandro “we were never meant to be together?” You married him knowing full well who he was and what he did. That was what attracted you to him. There was a more logical way to deal with the matter.
So, definitely watch Mask of Zorro, it is a classic. Hopkins is excellent and I actually would love to see more of him in that role. Antonio is charming and this is why Puss in Boots in Shrek is a takeoff on Zorro, since Antonio voiced the cat (despite the tale being French). As I’ve stated before, I love a good sword fight.
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.
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.
The 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.
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. Finally, 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 to 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?
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).
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.
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 (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 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).
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.
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.
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.
My apologies that I forgot to post this last week.
We come back to Camelot a year after the ending of season two with the two-parter Tears of Uther Pendragon; Morgana has been missing a year. Uther refuses to give up on finding her. She wanders into a camp that Arthur and Merlin are investigating. And for a moment everything seems well. She’s happy to be home in Camelot, telling Uther she’s seen the evil he’s fighting and promises to be a better ward. She puts Merlin’s mind at ease over his worry that she’ll remember him poisoning her. Morgana forgives him; he was just trying to protect his friends. Then, the smirking starts. She rides out to meet Morgause, calling her “my sister.” Morgause has a spell that requires the tears of Uther, which Morgana has collected. They’re put into a cauldron along with a mandrake root, it emits a magical cry. Morgana is to tie the dripping root under Uther’s bed every night. It will twist his unconscious fear and make him lose his mind. Back in Camelot, the root takes effect; Uther starts seeing those who died at his hand, ghosts of the past haunting him.
Merlin stumbles upon the root, hiding under Uther’s bed and witnesses Morgana change it. He follows her and discovers her meeting Morgause. He’s subsequently captured, tied up, and left to die. Those creepy scorpions are back and sting Merlin. He cannot break the chains, even with magic. He calls Kilgarah and the dragon saves him. The dragon counsels the young warlock; the boys did what he thought was right, which takes courage. But his seeing goodness in people could be his undoing. Morgana is the darkness to Merlin’s light, the hatred to his love. Back in Camelot, Cenred’s army marches on the citadel (I equate it to Helm’s Deep). Morgause and Morgana are aligned with Cenred, Morgana their traitor on the inside. Merlin and Gwen show their support for Arthur, who has to take control while his father is incapacitated. Merlin tells his friend “it is your fate t be the greatest king Camelot has ever known…victory today will be remembered for every age until the end of time.” Gaius follows Morgana when she sneaks away and discovers that the young woman has raised an undead army. Merlin rushes down to stop her. Morgana makes the same mistake as Morgause and underestimates Merlin, not knowing he has magic. He triumphs and the skeletons collapse. Cenred leaves when that force fails.
Goblin’s Gold is a lighter story, after the dramatic start to the season. Merlin accidentally releases a goblin into the castle. When he tries to capture the devil, it flies into Gaius and overtakes him. He then plays tricks on the castle, at one point hilariously giving Arthur the ears and bray of a donkey. The goblin, as Gaius, frames Merlin for magic and he’s arrested. The young man escapes and takes refuge at Gwen’s home. They come up with the plan to temporarily kill Gaius to force the goblin out. Things get hairy when they have to scramble for the antidote, but everything is put to right. Arthur believed Merlin about the goblin and even laid a trap for Gaius; he knew that Gaius would never condone Merlin executed. It shows that he views his servant truly as a friend.
Gwaine is introduced in the episode named after him. He ends up helping Merlin and Arthur during a bar fight; he’s injured in the process, so they take him with back to Camelot for Gaius to heal. Merlin instantly befriends the young man. A melee is to take place in Camelot and two of the thugs from the tavern intend to kill Arthur for standing up to them, using magic blades that appear blunt but really aren’t, and crystals to disguise themselves as knights. As knights, they harass Merlin. He stumbles upon the truth and intends to get proof for Arthur. Gwaine helps and takes the blame. But Uther is firm in his knight’s code; a peasant cannot accuse a knight. Gwaine is banished from Camelot. Arthur tries to argue for his new friend, but Gwaine distrusts nobles (even though his father was one) and willingly leaves. During the melee, Merlin has no choice but to secretly use magic to protect Arthur. It ends up Arthur against the two thugs, though another knight steps into help. The thugs are killed and Gwaine is revealed. Uther holds to his decision to banish the man, even though that’s twice he’s saved his son.
The Crystal Cave recalls common elements of Arthurian legend. (The Crystal Cave is the first book in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga series). While Arthur and Merlin are out in the woods, they’re attacked and Arthur is injured. Merlin tries to use magic to heal when an old man appears; Taliesin. He heals Arthur then shows Merlin to the Crystal Cave, where magic began. Merlin is a powerful sorcerer and can use the crystals to see all of time. Merlin sees a future where Morgana stabs Uther. Back in Camelot, Gaius cautions that all may not be as it seems. But things start happening that Merlin saw in his vision. Arthur gives Morgana a dagger for her birthday, matching the one that Merlin saw, at Merlin’s inadvertent advice ironically. When Morgana sneaks off to see Morgause, Merlin follows and causes her to fall down a flight of stairs. She’s slowly dying. When Merlin can no longer stand watching everyone else’s grief, he goes out to call Kilgarah. The great dragon at first refuses to help save Morgana, but Merlin uses his power as Dragonlord to force the dragon. Merlin has also overheard Uther reveal to Gaius that Morgana is actually his daughter, begging the older man to use magic to save her. Gorlois was away fighting and Viviane had gotten lonely, he explains. No one can know, for Arthur’s sake. We see Morgana’s eyes move minutely. Later, after Morgana is healed, she tells Morgause. The older woman realizes that this gives Morgana a legitimate claim to the throne. Now they’ll redouble their efforts to kill Uther. Merlin’s vision proceeds, he’s stopped nothing. He races after Morgana who decides no time like the present to kill the king. She uses magic and accidently starts a fire and blows a window, waking Uther, but smoothly covers, cowering like a damsel in distress. Life is more complicated now; Arthur is all that stands between Morgana and the throne.
The Sidhe return in The Changeling, the hid a faerie in a baby princess and twenty years later, she’s old enough to wed Arthur in an effort to permanently bind the two kingdoms. This will put a Sidhe at the heart of Camelot (and that can’t be good). Her nurse, Grunhilda, is played by Professor Sprout from Harry Potter. Turns out, Grunhilda is a pixie, servant to the Sidhe. Arthur struggles with his love for Gwen, which Morgana has begun to notice. Uther insists that Arthur for the sake of the kingdom, his own feelings be damned. Arthur goes through with the proposal. Merlin slips Elena a potion to eject the faerie, killing it, Grunhilda, and the leader of the Sidhe. An instant effect takes on Elena; she’s more polished and prim, but still her personality (which is kind of awesome). She and Arthur stand in front of Camelot, prepared to take their vows, but come clean to each other that they don’t have feelings for the other. The wedding is called off and her father tells Uther that Arthur has the makings of a great king; times are changing. Merlin tells Arthur he knows what it’s like to have a destiny you cannot escape, for everything to be planned out and have no say.
Gwen is reunited with her brother, Elyan in The Castle of Fyrien. She is kidnapped by Cenred as a way to get Arthur. Cenred threatens Elyan if Gwen does not bring Arthur to him. She doesn’t want to tell Arthur, but Merlin convinces her that the best way to have help is to tell Arthur. Merlin, Gwen, and unfortunately Morgana ride out with Arthur to rescue Elyan. They’re caught, since Morgana is a traitor and Cenred plans to torture Arthur. The young people escape, grabbing Morgana in the process. Elyan is reported to have been away for four years and felt like he couldn’t come home, even when his father died.
Arthur takes on a quest in The Eye of the Phoenix to prove that he is worthy of the throne. He is to retrieve the trident from the Fisher King in the Perilous Realms. Legends state that the Fisher King was a powerful sorcerer and when he was wounded and it became infected, so did his land. But he’s supposedly still alive. Arthur is to undertake this quest alone and unaided. Merlin worries for Arthur, but the prince orders him to stay home. Then Merlin spots the bracelet Morgana gifts Arthur and its strange stone. Gaius uncovers that it is a phoenix’s eye and it will consume Arthur’s life force. Merlin races after Arthur, but stops for help; Gwaine. Arthur, steadily weakening, makes it to the bridge in the Perilous Lands, guarded by a dwarf (we recognize Warwick Davis, famed as Wicket from Return of the Jedi, Professor Flitwick and Griphook from Harry Potter and Nikabrik from Prince Caspian). He informs Arthur “you must be Courage,” he will need Strength and Magic to complete his quest. When Arthur dismisses magic, he warns the lad not to. Arthur almost drowns, due to the bracelet and Merlin and Gwaine come to the bridge, meeting the dwarf. Magic and Strength have arrived. Back in Camelot, Gwen reveals to Gaius that she suspects Morgana to have magic. Wyvern, an offshoot of dragons, almost eat Arthur in the Dark Tower, but Merlin’s there to save him. He’s separated from Arthur and Gwaine and speaks to the Fisher King. The king has been waiting for the right time. This was truly Merlin’s quest. The real prize is water from the lake of Avalon. When need is greatest, it will show Merlin what to do. In exchange, Merlin gives the king the cursed bracelet so he may be released to death.
An old friend of Gaius’s return in Love in the Time of Dragons. Alice was his fiancée years ago, right before the Purge. Gaius helped her escape, but stayed behind to not draw suspicion. Now she’s returned to Camelot with magical remedies, and a creature in a box: a manticore. Merlin hears them speaking one evening and doesn’t trust Alice. Gaius won’t hear it. Alice helps Gaius with his potions, including one for Uther. She drops poison in it one day and administers it to Uther. At that point, Gaius believes Arthur and they rid the world of the manticore. Uther blames Alice (Arthur figured out she was the one to give Uther is remedy) and sentences her to death. Gaius cannot plead with the king, but still manages to help his old love escape.
Morgana tries to split up Gwen and Arthur in Queen of Hearts when she has a vision of Gwen as queen. She gets the couple to spend alone time in the woods (it is a rather romantic picnic), then arranges for Uther to ride by them, catching the couple kissing. Uther orders Arthur to end the relationship, Arthur refuses. Morgana then plants an enchantment in Arthur’s room, so Gwen will be arrested as a witch. Merlin plans to invent a sorcerer to get Gwen freed; he’ll disguise himself as an old man, Dragoon the Great. That part works. The changing back doesn’t. He’s arrested and sentenced to be burned at the stake; though he gets a chance to tell Uther and Arthur off. Gaius works out a potion to change him back and Merlin escapes long enough to down it. This is the start of the running joke that if Arthur cannot find Merlin due to magical needs, people claim the young man is in the tavern. Gwen is free and the young couple’s feelings haven’t changed, but they cannot show it.
Another sorcerer comes to Camelot for a tournament in The Sorcerer’s Shadow. Ghillie (Harry Melling again [Dudley]) is tired of being bullied and uses magic to help in the tournament. Morgana has also pitted Uther and Arthur against each other (probably hoping that Uther will be killed in the tournament). When the two face each other, Arthur has to let his father win to save face. Then Uther has to face Ghillie in the finals. Merlin tries to get Ghillie to promise not to use magic, but Ghillie is enjoying the fame he’s gotten. He even shows the other man his powers; he understands how lonely it is to be more powerful than any man you know and live like a shadow. To be special and pretend to be a fool. Merlin has to make the choice; let Ghillie kill Uther, or protect Uther and harm another sorcerer. Kilgarah cautions that if Uther is killed by magic, it will harden Arthur’s mind. Thus, Merlin works against Ghillie. Uther spares the boy in the end (obviously not knowing about the magic). Uther reveals he knew what Arthur had done; he’s followed his son’s progress all along, but he’s grateful for the actions. Arthur is truly ready to be king.
Another two-parter ends the season, The Coming of Arthur. It opens on a scene of slaughtered knights, figures moving through them. They come to Sir Leon and heal him with a magical cup. Sir Leon returns to Camelot and reports that Cenred was responsible for the attack and it was the Druids who healed him. Gauis and Uther realize that the Druids have the Cup of Life, as Gauis informs Merlin, it was not destroyed on the Isle of the Blessed, it is eternal. Uther wants the cup and sends Arthur after it, for there is another legend attached to the cup; a warlord used it to create an immortal army. Camelot is in danger. Arthur doesn’t tell Merlin where they’re going but takes him anyway. Morgana overhears the plans and reports to Morgause, who instructs Cenred to be ready. But a slave trader captures Merlin and Arthur first. There, they’re reunited with Gwaine, whom Arthur has to face in a challenge. The boys try to throw the fight without appearing to do so, but Merlin causes a distraction that gets them out. The trio continue on the search and find the Druid camp. The Druids hand over the cup to Arthur, but really to Emrys. An attack from Cenred’s men injures Arthur and lets the cup fall into enemy hands. Morgause creates an immortal army, then kills Cenred and marches on Camelot. The trio does eventually make it back to Camelot to discover dead littering the streets from the attack, they discover Elyan and make their way into the castle. Arthur and Merlin go after Uther, the rest are to wait for them in the woods. Uther is being led into the great hall, facing Morgause. She takes his crown and Morgana steps out. She claims the throne, as daughter to Uther. Arthur is shocked by the news and he and Merlin withdraw.
The second part picks up a week after that ending; Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Gwaine, and Elyan are hiding in the woods. Morgana is trying to persuade the knights of Camelot to her side, but they resist. She lines them up in front of a firing squad and instead shoots the crowd. Gwen plays along as a loyal servant, but plans to help Sir Leon escape; Leon will know where Arthur is hiding and he is the only hope Camelot has. Morgana and Morgause eavesdrop and figure they can use Gwen as a way to find Arthur, a simple tracking potion in a drink does the trick. Merlin uses the water from Avalon that the Fisher King gave him, revealing Freya. She tells him that only one weapon can slay the dead, a sword burnished by dragon fire, which lies in the lake. Kilgarah still serves Merlin and helps the young sorcerer retrieve the blade, but has him swear that when he is finished with the sword, he put it where no man can wield it. If the blood is emptied from the Cup of Life, the immortal army will fall.
Arthur and his companions are forced to retreat once Leon and Gwen finds them. They’re aided by Lancelot and a new man, Percival (Merlin had sent word to Lancelot), taking refuge in an abandoned castle from the time of the ancient kings. Inside, Arthur discovers a round table. He instructs his companions to sit and speaks of the old tradition of equality for all. Tomorrow, he will rescue his father, who is with him. Lancelot is the first to stand. These men believe in the world that Arthur will create. All join him; well, Merlin tries to stay seated as a joke, but he doesn’t have a choice. Arthur then does something he know his father would disapprove of, he knights Elyan, Lancelot, Gwaine, and Percival. Lancelot comments to Merlin that evening that the servant is the bravest of them and Arthur should really be knighting him, but doesn’t know. The men make their way back to Camelot, Lancelot planning to help Merlin destroy the Cup. Gaius enters the fray against Morgause after she flings Merlin, giving Merlin the chance to knock over the Cup. The immortal army explodes. Morgana enters to find an injured Morgause and screeches. Her magic is out of control, the walls start crumbling and they disappear.
A new time is dawning. Arthur may need to take charge; Uther is very distressed by the events with Morgana and her betrayal. Gaius tells Merlin, since no one else will, “Well done.” Merlin follows his promise and sticks the sword in a stone.
I liked the inclusion of more traditional elements of Arthurian legend, such as the Crystal Cave, but Merlin does run into the problem that often arises from prophecies; as Yoda has taught us, the future is always in motion. This is one possibly future and Merlin gets consumed by it. In trying to prevent that future from happening, he almost causes it. But he also doesn’t get the best instructions. Downfall of many fantasy wizards: I’m going to warn you about this but be very cryptic. Like the dragon. The Fisher King story was a nice inclusion as well and more and more Arthur is being shown that magic is not inherently evil, but circumstances always come about that he can’t trust it. Woo at seeing the knights of the Round Table, finally! Arthur is coming into his own now. Merlin still staunchly supports him, even behind the scenes. They’ve come a long way from wanting to kill each other.
Now, my Shide and Fae are not like the ones in this show, but it’s good to see differing views, so I can craft my own. Pick and choose which bits I like. As much as Morgause is the enemy, there is something I admire in the way she deals with Cenred, an attitude I hope to emulate in my characters: commanding, she does not outright threaten Cenred until the end. She pulls him along and I swear Cenred wants to sleep with her and she may even let him, knowing that ultimately she has the upper hand.
I finally gave in. I have now seen all of Game of Thrones; I managed in about a week and a half, though considering I started on Memorial Day and had the day off and there are only ten episodes at most per season…this is also coming from the young lady who managed to catch up on nine seasons of Supernatural in about a month. When I get hooked on something, I get hooked.
My best friend lent me the DVDs of Seasons One and Two (about a year ago) and I kept meaning to watch them. Circumstances came along that I thought I’d give them a try. I had previously watched the first episode and thus was a bit wary. The rampant nudity, sex, and gore are not to my taste. I figured at the very least I could use it as inspiration as to what I didn’t want to happen in my own series. But I was going to stick it out. And in that respect it has been helpful, crafting my own characters in how they would respond to situations and what sort of elements I may actually want. By the end of season one, I was popping in the first disc for season two. As I was wrapping that season up, I was debating how I was going to watch the rest of the show. And luckily, it was available on demand. While some of the plot points and storylines are not my favorite and as a writer, I would have done things differently (no, haven’t read the books…yet)…okay, let me rephrase; I think there was a less graphic way to tell the story. And while I do like to torture my characters…not that much.
I’m still surprised I liked the show. About midway through season one, I was thinking, “how do my friends like this? There’s so much violence and how can the women stand seeing all those nude scenes?” Then, as with other series I’ve come to love, I want to know what happens. Maybe not for everyone, but I quickly came to care for certain characters. And yes, I concur with many fans that the last two seasons were not the best. But that often happens with series in my experience; the middle seasons tend to be the best honestly; they’ve built the world and situation and the characters have a chance to grow. Then things get complicated when it’s time to wrap it up.
Before I proceed further, just in case you have not had a chance to see the last season yet, be cautious of spoilers. And now, what you probably all are interested in and what every fan debates: what do I think of so-and-so or a specific episode or what happened, etc, etc, etc.
My favorite episode of Season One is the very first; “Winter is Coming.” Watching the episode again after the series finale makes me want to cry at points; seeing everyone happy. Watching Jon say goodbye to family members he’ll never see again. Him hugging Arya. I chuckled when Jon got to the Wall and just handily beats any of the other recruits. He’s barely trying. Ned tries through season one to do the honorable thing, but he doesn’t know how to play the game. Heck, I hate the game; and this is why I hate politics. When Ned dies in the penultimate episode, I was too shocked to cry the first time; even though I knew it was coming (also, it fits with the joke that he dies in everything). Poor Sansa, having to witness it and plead for her father. Arya is luckily spared the actual sight, but I can tell her journey is only just beginning.
By Season Two I was more closely following the story of Jon Snow. The backstabbing of King’s Landing continued to annoy me; more for a want to beat them all with a stick and make them behave like proper people. I was a bit horrified at the effects of Wildfire. I cheered for Tyrion to lead the men. And then Cersei was the cruel person she always is. Season Three is when I really started liking the show. I found Jon’s interactions with the wildlings interesting and was entranced by his relationship with Ygritte, especially “Kissed by Fire” and afterwards. I did remark that Jon Snow was a stupid boy when he left her. “I didn’t have a choice,” well, you could have chosen to take her with you. Glad he didn’t die though. And Bran and Rickon were so close to Jon!! Gah! Wouldn’t have helped Jon any, but I just want their family back together. Jamie underwent some good character growth, I think Brienne is good for him. She’s not my favorite character, just due to being stuffy most of the time. I was rendered shocked and speechless the first time I saw the Red Wedding. I didn’t cry. Now, I don’t watch because I know I’ll cry. Horrible. Simply horrible. And Arya was so close! I had hoped that she would reunite with her family then, though it was good that she didn’t. Hurray for the Hound for getting her out of there, though she had to see her brother’s mutilation. I agree with her idea of stabbing them, maybe not so gory.
Season Four I enjoy for the Jon storyline. My favorite episode of the whole show is “The Watchers on the Wall.” I enjoy a good fight sequence (one of the reasons I will repeatedly watch Lord of the Rings. And parts of the second How to Train Your Dragon movie). Jon kicks butt!! Woo! And then I was heartbroken when Ygritte died. I hoped for a minute…and Olly ruined it. That’s probably when I started to not like the boy. Tywin is still horrible. Jamie continues to show a good character arc; I like his interactions with Tyrion. They’re true brothers and just shows Tyrion that his whole family doesn’t hate him and Jamie is trying to get out from under the thumb of Cersei. Honestly, Arya should have gone with Brienne. I understand why she didn’t, but I was hoping. And again, she was so close to meeting up with Jon! And so close to Sansa and didn’t know it.
Season Five continued to be good for the most part. I still want Arya anywhere but where the Faceless Man is. I’ve never trusted Melisandre and the first time I cried for the show was when she burned poor Shireen. The religious order that takes over King’s Landing can go crawl back into whatever hole it sprang out of. I did feel genuinely sad when Myrcella died; she was innocent, sweetly in love with her prince and had nothing to do with her mother’s plots. As a loyal follower of Jon Snow, I agree that saving the Free Folk was the right thing to do with the White Walkers pressing down on them. He made a good Lord Commander and this is why heroes always need a Sam. And I believed Olly the first time through, when he said Benjen Stark had returned. Then I gasped alongside Jon when Thorne shoved a dagger into him. And I cried (even though I knew Jon was in later seasons; on the one hand, a drawback to watching the show after everyone else, you don’t get to be fully surprised. On the other hand, not quite as stressful). And immediately started Season Six.
Still don’t trust Melisandre, but at least she brought Jon back. I cheered for the few men who stood alongside Jon and aw, those hugs afterwards. Favorite scene from season six is Sansa’s and Jon’s reunion. Finally, two Starks are back together! Now, go get the other ones. The Battle of the Bastards was epic (I’ve watched some of the behind-the-scenes bits and yes, I agree very cool, it will personally never top Lord of the Rings for me). Gotta say though, that the production team does an excellent job; they’re pulling out battles that would be the centerpiece of a two-three hour movie for an hour-long show. It was a bit terrifying when Jon was almost buried alive. Yeah, the ending, Ramsay, you had that coming. You killed Jon’s baby brother mere feet from him, yes, he will pound you to a pulp and we will sit back and cheer. Sansa was poetic in her justice. I cheered when Jon became King of the North. Lyanna Mormont is an awesome young woman. Theon has redeemed himself by rescuing Sansa, hurrah. The flashbacks to a young Ned Stark are endearing. I want to hug Arya and drag her back to Winterfell. I silently cheered when she hid Needle when she was ridding herself of her old identity, silently pleading, “Jon gave it to you.” Cersei has finally lost it, blowing up a holy building. That was the real turning point in the storyline that almost turned me from the show, aside from I wanted to find out what happened to Jon and his siblings. Cersei can go rot. But hey, if those Sparrows or whoever hadn’t shown up, probably wouldn’t have happened.
My dislike for Daenerys hiked with her initial treatment of Jon in Season Seven. Lady, there are more important things going on in the world than someone calling you “Your Grace.” I object to Jon’s decision to bend the knee, but I can’t hate him too much because once again, he’s trying to save lives. The battle beyond the wall was intense; they keep a tight grasp on my heart, putting Jon in danger constantly. Sad to see a dragon go and horrified to see it with blue eyes. Finding out that Jon is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen was a bit of a shock (though, I had read a few things ahead, so I had a feeling). The Targaryen family tree confuses me, trying to remember whom is whom and related to whom. Though, cheers to Gilly for actually being the one to discover the loophole, that Rhaegar had annulled his previous marriage. Sam, you should give your wife some credit.
We have come to the point where, if you haven’t seen the final season, feel free to skip down to “The Maesters…”
I noted that when Jon and Daenerys ride into Winterfell in the Season Eight opening, the music playing is “The King’s Arrival,” which was used all the way back in the first episode when King Robert arrived in Winterfell. Hurrah, Baleish is dead! Hurrah, Arya and Jon are reunited and I want to cry. Wish Bran acted like himself. Sansa admittedly makes a good ruler and I kind of like how she dislikes Danerys, mainly on behalf of her brother. And I actually cheer that Jon attempts to steer clear of her once he finds out their relation. The battle was epic and Arya was awesome! And that duel earlier against Brienne was also cool! Gosh, cried during the funerals, but I adore the scene afterwards when everyone is celebrating. Love that kind of thing and Tormund is hilarious and adorable. Thought we were going to lose him last season beyond the wall.
And here it comes; I dislike the last two episodes. Now, would I ever sign a petition or even seriously suggest that the writers re-do them? No. I side with the cast that the crew put in a lot of work and we should not ask more. Should it have been written better from the beginning? Yes. But too late now. However, that is why fanfiction exists! Cersei should have run when she had the chance. Cersei actually should have done a lot of things different for a while. I think the death of Joffrey started her downslide. The Hound and Mountain battle was gruesome. Tyrion crying for his siblings was heartbreaking. I kept wanting Arya to find Jon. And poor Jon, his men turning into raging monsters. Never been fond of Grey Worm and his actions in the city clinched that. Jon killing Daenerys was noble and I feel bad that he was the one who had to do it. Grey Worm left, goody. I hate that Jon was banished. He’s the King of the North and sacrificed so much and he’s thanked by being sent to the tundra. I cried more when Jon left Ghost to go South then other characters’ deaths, and was so happy they were ultimately reunited. Arya shouldn’t have left. Yay, she gets adventure, but I feel her family still needs her. Sansa will rule fairly, but she’ll be made kinder if she has her siblings around. The ending political debate was a bit funny between characters that we’ve come to admire.
The Maesters as a whole turn out to be a bunch of gross old men who stick their heads in the sand. Maester Amon at the Night’s Watch was cool and I felt bad when he died Maester Luwin from Winterfell was kind of cool too. I dislike heavy religious overtones and the whole bit with the militant Religion of the Seven (or whatever) honestly pissed me off. When someone becomes so self righteous…
I feel bad for the Night’s Watch. They have a noble purpose but have been degraded so much. Slynt was horrible, deserved to die, most especially for his dereliction of duty during the battle at Castle Black. After he puffed himself up so high and mighty. I have mixed feelings about Jeor Mormont. Overall, a good person, but I do side with Jon Snow that his acceptance of Craster does not sit right with me. Did he deserve the mutiny? No. Are those who mutinied against him wrong and evil? Yes. Jon’s friends are good lads. Samwell Tarly just proves that when you into danger, take a Sam with you. And further proof that book knowledge is just as important as brawling. Jon’s a good enough man that he recognizes that. And Sam’s adorable with Gilly and the baby. A wee bit dense at times, but he’s a man. I wanted Olly to work out, but I could see he wasn’t able to see the whole picture when Jon brought the Wildlings south. And it was a jab in my heart when he dealt the killing blow in the mutiny. Disliked Thorne from the start. Now, he was a well rounded character. A mean man, but he understood duty. He stood aside and let the lads take Slynt when the other stood against the rightfully elected Lord Commander Snow. He had grudging respect for Jon once the younger man proved himself. He took good command during the attack on Castle Black. He honestly felt he was right to mutiny; my argument compared to his is that, if you felt he did what he thought was right, why did you kill him?
I respect Mance Rayder. I understand why he didn’t kneel, but I don’t agree with it; I side with Jon. Again, Jon was an honorable man to save Mance the agony of being burned alive. Tormund is hilarious; I love him and love the relationship he developed with Jon. He glomped Jon and interrupted his reunion with Edd. And his comment to Edd “I’ve always had blue eyes!” made me chuckle in the middle of a tense moment. And I adore the scene after the Battle of Winterfell during the feast between Tormund and Jon, toasting and cheering. Even before Jon returned to Castle Black, Tormund cared about the little crow and tried to keep him alive. Ygritte was awesome! Well rounded character, badass, but her intimate scenes with Jon Snow made me all squishy inside. I ship her with Jon Snow more than anyone else. (And I think it’s adorable that the two actors married each other!)
King’s Landing crew: Renly should not have made a big for kingship, he was not suited for it. I couldn’t decide for several seasons if I trusted Lord Varys, but I ultimately believed him when he said he fought for the realm, for the little people. Grand Maester Pycelle was creepy. And you could tell he was in the pockets of the Lannisters. Qyburn was also creepy. Quite honestly, I fast forwarded through some of his scenes because I could tell I did not want to watch. Littlefinger was a manipulative bastard; I kept hoping he would die. He did finally get his just deserts.
The Lannisters: There are times I almost respect Tywin. He was a reasonable master to Arya when she was at Casterly Rock. He treated all of his children horribly, though. But was determined to bring Joffrey into line. Tyrion is the kindest of the bunch, has some snappy one-liners (he’s my friend’s favorite character). He was genuinely kind to Sansa, even before they were married and was a friend to Jon. He did make mistakes, but he was honest about them. I respected Cersei more at the beginning of the show; I could see she was politically astute. There is something about the way her face looks and way she speaks at time that she reminds me of Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean. But then power made her crazy. I wanted to hate Jamie; he pushed a boy out of a window in the first episode! Then he had character development once he teamed up with Brienne of Tarth (and lost the look of Prince Charming from Shrek). And I would feel sorry for him. Then he’d do something that reminded me he could be a horrible person. Bronn was good when he was with Tyrion, but I always knew he was mainly in it for the money. Pod was kind of adorable; a decent character who got back up every time someone shot him down (mainly Brienne, but she came around in the end). Once Brienne loosened up, I got to like her better. The narrow worldview of “duty and honor” can be a bit off-putting. And Tormund’s crush was hilarious. I’m glad she hooked up with Jamie. And the duel between her and Arya was awesome!
The Tyrells: Mace is a simpleton. Loras was kind and honestly would have made a decent husband to Sansa. I liked Margaery, at least until the whole fiasco with the Religion of the Seven. She came back for a glorious moment. She and Olenna were kind to Sansa and were a good way for her to get out of King’s Landing; pity it didn’t work out. Olenna was sassy and savvy. And their sigil looks a dead ringer for the Tudor rose (which I find a wee bit ironic since the actress who plays Margaery portrayed Anne Bolyen in The Tudors).
The Greyjoys: The father was cruel. I got to like Yara as time went on. I initially didn’t trust Theon, he was kind of mean from the get go and could kind of tell he was out for himself. Then he betrayed the Starks and I wanted him dead. Then he was tortured (again, I honestly fast forwarded through a lot of that because “nope, don’t need to sit through that bit”) and yeah, at the very beginning, he kind of deserved it. Then it went too far. And I pitied him by the time Sansa returned to Winterfell and was genuinely sad when he died. That is a pairing that could have worked out.
Targaryen supporters: I have the unpopular view that I am not fond of Daenerys. She wasn’t as outright insane as her brother, but certainly by the end. She started out as a reasonably moral character. She found some happiness with Khal Drogo (I liked it when he supported her bid for the throne and they would call each other moon and stars. I was sad to see him die, particularly so early in the series). But when she started to use violence or threaten it to get her way, that’s when I saw her true character come out. And I strongly dislike her insistence that Jon Snow kneel to her and be demoted from King of the North. I do like Ser Jorah Mormont (it took me a little bit to realize the connection between him and the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch). He’s got a good head on his shoulder and really, Daenerys shouldn’t have been so black-and-white about his original spying on her; it was before he got to know her and fall in love. If he had been around more at crucial points, she might not have made some of the mistakes that she had.
My favorite house is Stark. They’re noble and good; but human, they make mistakes. Not the most fond of Catelyn, mainly for her treatment of Jon. I don’t think she should have left Winterfell. She jumped into action without thinking of what to do down the road. Aye, it was nice for her to join up with Robb, but her youngest two needed her more. Poor Rickon, there’s not much of a chance to get an opinion on him. He was loyal to Bran and ultimately died a horrible death, within a hand’s reach of hope. Bran was cute when he was younger; I don’t like him as the “Three-Eyed Raven.” Too emotionless. I pity Sansa when she’s held prisoner in King’s Landing and her marriage to Ramsay Bolton is a toss up to whether it was worse than marriage to Joffrey would have been. She learned to play the game and so I can’t trust her fully. Arya is badass, which is cool, but she went through so much. Here is where I would say, you can make someone badass without doing all that (though I may not be entirely innocent in what I’ve put characters through in my stories). So I can’t trust her fully either, not a trained assassin. And I think she should have stuck around at the end. I respect Eddard, though as stated previously, he didn’t play the game well. He was trying to be honorable in a dishonest place. For all that King’s Landing will spout their admiration of honor, it’s full of cutthroats. He raised his children well; they remember his teachings long after he’s gone. I genuinely like Robb. Again, he made mistakes. But I put more of the blame of the Red Wedding on the Lannisters and Freys. Aye, he gave his word, but he fell in love. He made the decisions he thought were right.
It’s probably not a surprise that my favorite character is Jon Snow. He lives by Ned Stark’s example, always trying to do the honorable thing. He spends time amongst the Free Folk and realizes they’re no different and ultimately befriends them. He is born for leadership, but is smart enough to not want command or the crown, but he’ll do his duty and he’ll do it well. I did not like his relationship with Daenerys. On the one hand, glad he’s happy, on the other hand, I don’t trust her. She barely listened to him and he has to trail along picking up the pieces.
Let’s play a game: Hey, It’s That Guy! Game of Thrones is filled with actors that I have seen elsewhere.
Karl Tanner (the Night’s Watchman that betrays Joer Mormont) is played by Burn Gorman who played Owen Harper in Torchwood; he wasn’t a terribly kind character in that show either.
Orell, the warg of Tormund’s Wildlings is played by Mackenzie Crook, Mr. Ragetti from Pirates of the Caribbean.
The High Sparrow is also familiar from Pirates of the Caribbean, Governor Swann, played by Jonathan Pryce. Pryce also plays the villain in Tomorrow Never Dies.
Osha, the Wildling woman who protected Rickon and Bran, is played by Natalie Tena, Nymphadora Tonks from Harry Potter
Other Harry Potter cast mates include David Bradley who plays Walder Frey here, was Argus Filch in Harry Potter. Knew we shouldn’t have trusted him.
Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark, briefly appears as Mrs. Granger in the first part of Deathly Hallows.
Archmaester Ebrose is played by Jim Broadbent, who in addition to being Professr Slughorn in Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, was Professor Diggory Kirke in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. He’s also appeared in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Moulin Rouge.
Of course, we recognize Jason Momoa now from Aquaman and Justice League, who played Khal Drogo
Edmure Tully, the bit dim brother of Catelyn Stark nee Tully is played by Tobias Menzies, who plays a double role of Frank Randall and Black Jack Randall in Outlander, and it looks like Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on The Crown.
Jojen Reed is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who we’ve seen as young Tristan in Tristan and Isolde, Romulus Augustus in Last Legion, and he too was part of Doctor Who.
Incidentally, he’s in the same episode as Harry Lloyd, who plays Viserys Targaryen. Lloyd was also Will Scarlett in BBC’s Robin Hood series.
Let’s not forget “Holy crow, it’s Mycroft!” Yep, Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss (both a creator and actor of the show) pops up every once in a while as a member of the Iron Bank. Mark Gatiss is also in the recent Disney film Christopher Robin and acts very Mycroft-like (as in, no fun).
Davos Seaworth, probably the most sane man in the bunch, is played by Liam Cunningham. As many others in the cast, he’s been in BBC productions including Merlin and Doctor Who. He was Agravaine in First Knight and was in 1995’s version of A Little Princess.
King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder, is played by Ciarán Hinds. He does play Albus’s brother Aberforth Dumbledore in Deathly Hallows, but I know him more from Phantom of the Opera and Amazing Grace.
Margarey Tyrell, who marries both Joffrey (extremely briefly) and Tommen is played by Natalie Dormer and played another famous queen, Anne Boleyn in The Tudors (also had gratuitous sex, though not as much violence). She did appear briefly in Captain America: First Avenger.
Her father, Mace Tyrell, is played by Roger Ashton-Griffiths, who was Friar Tuck in Princess of Thieves amongst other roles.
Stannis Baratheon’s wife, Selyse is played by Tara Fitzgerald, who portrayed Marie de Medici (Louis’s mother) in BBC’s Musketeers; not a warm-hearted woman there either.
Also jumping over from Musketeers is Alexandra Downing, who briefly plays Edmure Tully’s Frey wife, but shined as Anne of Austria in the swashbuckling series.
Famous name Clive Russell is Blackfish Tully, Catelyn’s uncle.
Another famous name is Julian Glover, who plays Grand Maester Pycelle.
King Robert Baratheon is played by Mark Addy; he was Roland in A Knight’s Tale and Friar Tuck in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood.
Also from Robin Hood is Max von Sydow who was Walter Loxley there and plays the Three-Eyed Raven here. He has credits going back to the fifties.
Sassy Olenna Tyrell is played by Diana Rigg, who has a credits’ list going back to the sixties, but most recently has appeared in Victoria and a small part in Doctor Who (her character in that was very creepy; I prefer her as Olenna).
Charles Dance, who played head of the Lannister House, Tywin, appeared in BBC’s Merlin as the Witchfinder. Not a likeable character and bound and determined to ruin people’s lives.
Donald Sumpter, Maester Luwin of Winterfell had a small role of the Fisher King in Merlin as well.
Joe Dempsie, who plays Gendry, was also in Merlin, as Merlin’s best hometown friend, and he was also in Doctor Who.
Tom Hopper, the second version of Dickon Tarly, is Sir Percival from Merlin.
Ygritte was played by Rose Leslie, who appeared as Gwen Dawson, a servant in the first season of Downton Abbey.
Jorah Mormont is played by Iain Glen, who also appeared in Downton Abbey, but a season after Rose, as Sir Richard Carlisle, a potential suitor for Mary. He also was in Doctor Who as Octavian, fighting against the angels, and appeared in The Last Legion and Kingdom of Heaven.
His father, Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night Watch, is played by James Cosmo. He’s very kindly as Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. He’s been in other historical action films like Troy, The Last Legion, and Braveheart. (He was in Highlander, but I cut out on that movie twenty minutes in) and appeared in Castle, Merlin, and a version of Ivanhoe.
Ser Alliser Thorne (pain in the ass Night Watch Commander) is portrayed by Owen Teale, who has several credits to his name. He’s recently been in the biopic Tolkien (I highly recommend), appeared in Last Legion, King Arthur, and Torchwood.
Sansa Stark is played by Sophie Turner who is now the younger Jean Grey/Phoenix in the newer X-Men films (she does not appear in the same segment as Peter Dinklage; they missed each other by a movie).
Tyrion Lannaster is famously played by Peter Dinklage who has appeared in the Avengers and X-Men franchises, and plays the no less sarcastic dwarf Trumpkin in Prince Caspian.
Noble Robb Stark is played by Richard Madden, who recently appeared in Rocketman (another movie I recommend), though sadly Richard Madden’s character turned out to be not nice, so I put on Disney’s live action Cinderella (he’s Prince Kit, which now makes me chuckle), so I could see him be a good guy.
The only other credit I know Kit Harington, the brooding Jon Snow, from is voicing Eret, son of Eret in the latter two How to Train Your Dragon movies. I am interested in checking out some of his other credits.
And if you lot don’t know Sean Bean, as honorable Ned Stark…He’s Boromir from Lord of the Rings, Zeus in Percy Jackson, Odysseus in Troy, stars as Sharpe in that collection of films, the antagonist in the first National Treasure, the villain in GoldenEye opposite Pierce Brosnan (one of my favorite Bond films, and I think the first one my parents got me to watch) and the villain in Patriot Games opposite Harrison Ford (my favorite Jack Ryan movie; I should read that book sometime).
I would love to hear your thoughts on the show. Considering I am re-watching it and want the series on DVD, I believe it is safe to say I enjoyed it. What’s your favorite season? Episode? House? Character?
My plan is to finish up Merlin, then take another (hopefully) brief hiatus to work on some other writing, though if I manage to balance well, mayhap I will post some movie reviews at the same time.
First, let me apologize for the delay. I actually had this almost ready to post, barring my round up at the end a month ago; but life got complicated for a bit and then I found Game of Thrones (check out my other post today). But, I’m going to get back into this; enjoy!
Merlin: Season 2
The second season begins with Merlin dealing with The Curse of Cornelius Sigan, an evil sorcerer brought back to life when his tomb is opened. People being their greedy selves release the soul of Sigan into a living host, a bootlicker named Cedric (played by Mackenzie Crook, Ragetti from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) who manages to cause trouble for Merlin so he becomes Arthur’s servant in order to get a hold of keys to the tomb. Merlin bemoans “everything I do is for him [Arthur] and he just thinks I’m an idiot.” Arthur even throws him in prison. He breaks out so he can ask the dragon for help, but the dragon extracts a promise that Merlin will set him free in exchange for information. When Merlin faces Sigan, the sorcerer goes all Darth Vader, “join me and together we can rule.” Merlin, like Luke Skywalker, refuses. It is better to serve a good man. He’s almost consumed by the soul of Sigan but off camera gets it back into its crystal. Uther, being dense as usual, figures that they must renew their efforts to eradicate sorcerers. How ’bout, Gaius said don’t open the tomb and you wanted riches, so did so anyway?
In The Once and Future Queen, Arthur wants to be judged as his own man, not as the prince. So he concocts an idea for the upcoming jousting tournament. He won’t compete as himself; he’ll have an unknown man do all the public appearances and compete in the joust in the helmet so his opponent won’t pull up at the last moment in order to not harm the prince. (Bit like part of Knight’s Tale). Arthur secretly stays at Gwen’s home for the tournament, but still acts like a rude prince at times. Gwen stands up to him and he listens. Yet trouble still lies in wait; an assassin has been sent to kill Arthur. The assassin spots Merlin and follows the boy, finally discovering Arthur. The assassin takes the place of Arthur’s final opponent and uses a tipped lance to injure the prince. Arthur (with the secret magical help of Merlin) defeats the assassin; he still wants to prove to himself that he is a good and worthy knight. There’s a funny rant by Merlin in the episode of all his duties. He still has to clean the leech tank at the end, though.
Morgana’s magic becomes apparent in The Nightmare Begins. While she dreams, her eyes flash gold, starting a fire. Uther suspects outside magic, but Gaius knows the truth. Merlin deduces it as well and wants to help Morgana. Some of his actions are seen by Arthur, who interprets them as affection for the king’s ward. (We the fans have on occasion paired Merlin and Morgana together). Merlin thinks that the Druids may be able to help. When he asks the dragon for help, the dragon warns Merlin that the “witch” cannot be trusts and it would be better if she never knew the extent of her powers. Merlin won’t abandon her, so the dragon won’t help. Merlin manages to track down the answers and sneaks Morgana out to their camp. Which Uther sees as someone abducting his ward and sends Arthur and his knights to kill all the Druids. At the camp, Morgana meets up with young Mordred again and is so pleased to have some answers, she doesn’t want to go back to Camelot. She tries to flee but an earlier injury hampers her. Merlin secretly manages a distraction; Morgana is recovered and Mordred flees (but not before Merlin witnesses the boy’s power and Mordred calls him Emrys).
Lancelot and Guinevere are reunited in the next episode. Gwen accompanies Morgana on a day trip to visit Morgana’s father’s grave. On the way, they are ambushed by bandits. Morgana manages to get away, but Gwen is still prisoner. Uther won’t send Arthur after a servant and in public, Arthur agrees. In private, he prepares for a rescue. Gwen is held for ransom (believing her to be Lady Morgana) by Hengist (played by James Cosmo, who has appeared in Last Legion, Game of Thrones [Lord Commander Mormont], and is Father Christmas in Chronicles of Narnia). He likes his entertainment in the form of cage fights (cause those were a thing in fantasy medieval times). Who should appear and win his bout but Lancelot? He recognizes Gwen and knows that Uther will not pay the ransom, so he must get her out. He is aided by Arthur and Merlin (once they pass the wildren [“giant…baby rats”] by spreading gaia berries on their face). Arthur and Gwen are sent through the tunnel first, Merlin stays back with Lancelot so he can use magic more openly. Once they are free, Merlin notices that Gwen and Lancelot have shared some tender moments, and he knows that Arthur has feelings for Gwen. Lancelot and Arthur even speak about their shared feelings for the young woman. Lancelot, being the chivalrous knight that he is, won’t come between Arthur and Gwen, so he leaves again.
An “old friend” of Uther’s visits in the two-parter Beauty and the Beast, Lady Catrina, the last of a noble house. However, the Lady Catrina is actually a troll (who most likely killed Catrina and took her place). The troll uses a potion to look beautiful, but still prefers to eat rotten food and sleep in filth. Uther is utterly enchanted by the Lady Catrina – figuratively and literally; she enchants him to marry her so she will gain riches and power. Merlin figures out the truth of her and goes to Arthur. While Arthur is put off by the sickening romantic gestures of his father, he won’t hear Merlin call the woman names. Until she reveals herself as a troll when Merlin switches her potions. But Uther is blind. The only way to break the enchantment is for Uther to cry tears of true remorse, per the dragon (after he has a laugh). Arthur is not sure it will work; Catrina has dismissed Merlin for a crime (that Arthur knows he didn’t commit) and had Uther disinherit Arthur. Gaius knows that Uther truly loves his son, so concocts a potion that will make Arthur appear dead. Merlin just has to get him the antidote in time. (There’s a bit of a stutter there, when Merlin gets knocked out and vial smashed, but it turns out alright in the end). The plan is ultimately successful and Arthur stabs the troll.
In his continuing pursuit to rid Camelot of magic, Uther calls in The Witchfinder. Merlin was almost seen playing with magic. Aridian [Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones] arrives in Camelot and quickly finds three women who have also witnessed magic (which reminded me of the Salem witch trials) and accuses Merlin of being a sorcerer. Arthur scoffs and Merlin insists he has nothing to hide. Aridian “searches” Gaius’s chambers (more like destroys) and discovers a magical bracelet. He arrests Gaius and “questions” (read: interrogate) the elderly man. Aridian reveals that he suspects Merlin and Morgana and will have them exectued, unless Gaius confesses. Gaius confesses. But Aridian won’t hold up his end of the bargain with the comeback that he doesn’t bargain with sorcerers. Merlin (with some help from Arthur this time) sees Gaius. The bracelet wasn’t either of theirs. They realize Aridian is a fake. Now they just have to collect proof. With some help from Gwen, they uncover that the three women all had bought eye drops which caused hallucinations. Merlin magically leaves evidence in Aridian’s chambers, so he’s implicated upon a search. Then he helpfully falls out a window. Gaius is thus released and Uther attempts to apologize. Gaius calls his old friend out that he suffered at Uther’s hands, not Aridian’s. He was not the first falsely accused. Gaius shares a joke with Merlin after that the boy should promise to never save his life again.
Arthur finally discovers the true circumstances of his birth in The Sins of the Father. Morgause rides into Camelot as a knight and challenges Arthur. She almost has him beat in the fight, but extracts a promise for him to meet her later and submit to her challenge there. She also stops to speak to Morgana and gifts the young woman with a bracelet to help ward off bad dreams. Gaius sees the bracelet and realizes who Morgause is; Morgana’s half sister. The bracelet bears the crest of the House of Gorlois; Gaius admits to Uther that he was the one who smuggled the girl out of the castle after her birth to be raised by the High Priestess. (How does Morgana not recognize the crest on the bracelet?) They fear what Arthur will discover from Morgause and Uther forbids Arthur from leaving. Arthur of course sneaks out. His challenge before Morgause is to willingly place his head on an execution block. She swings the axe up, but sets it aside. As a reward, Arthur may have one wish. His heart’s desire is to see his mother. Arthur wonders, as Morgause casts magic, maybe his father’s view has been wrong. Merlin gets his hopes up a little; he and Arthur even bonded over never knowing one of their parents (Merlin never knew his father). Igraine appears to her son and admits that Uther used magic to aid in his conception and the Old Religion demanded a life in exchange. Arthur rides back to Camelot to confront his father. They fight and Arthur calls his father out. Merlin breaks in and stops the fight; claiming that Morgause lied. He has to protect Arthur and that means saving Uther. Arthur would never forgive himself for killing his father. Afterwards, Arthur thanks Merlin for showing him that magic is evil and dangerous. Uther is grateful for Merlin’s loyalty and views the young man as a “trusted ally in the fight against magic”. Gaius is proud.
Merlin meets a young Druid woman named Freya in The Lady of the Lake, locked in a cage, supposedly cursed. He frees her, even after Gaius warns him not to. Merlin falls for the kind girl, telling her she doesn’t have to be scared of magic. Unfortunately, a beast begins attacking people in Camelot, one that can fly and leave human footprints. Gaius discovers it is a Bastet. Meanwhile, Merlin decides to get Freya out of Camelot; he’ll go with her to protect her. But Gaius makes him see the truth on Freya’s condition. Arthur corners her in beast form and mortally wounds her. Merlin cannot save her, but takes her to a lake to die in peace. He sets her pyre alight, tears streaming (we cry too). Arthur sense Merlin’s sadness and tries to cheer him up with some jokes.
A visiting king tries to stir up trouble in Sweet Dreams, having his jester enchant Arthur to fall in love with Lady Vivian (played by Georgia Moffett, the daughter of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, married to Tenth Doctor David Tennant and played the Doctor’s daughter in the titled episode opposite Tennant…ain’t BBC great?) Vivian is rude at first, but is also enchanted to fall in love with Arthur so war will be declared between Uther and King Olaf (played by Mark Lewis Jones, who among other roles, was Uther in The Mists of Avalon…which makes it very funny to think that he’ll challenge Uther). Arthur’s enchantment also causes problems with Gwen, because he tells Merlin he wants to demonstrate his love to a woman, whom Merlin assumes is Gwen, causing Merlin to leaves flowers and a note for Gwen. Merlin eventually needs Gwen’s help, after Arthur breaks her heart a bit not showing for a date; true love’s kiss will break the love potion (just like in every fairy tale). It works! Arthur keeps the peace between the kingdoms. Vivian’s spell is not broken, but hopefully the right man will come along for her. Gwen tells Arthur that she cannot be his queen.
Morgana slides further towards the villain side in The Witch’s Quickening when Mordred sneaks in to Camelot to persuade Morgana to steal a crystal. Merlin hears the commotion and has Arthur knock on Morgana’s door. She refuses to let Arthur search her room, which makes Arthur tell Merlin off. Merlin knows that Morgana is the one who steals the crystal, rumored to show all time: past, present, and future. The dragon warns him that a union of evil is foretold between Mordred and Morgana. Merlin follows Morgana to Mordred’s camp where they plot against Uther. Gaius helps send Arthur in the right direction, reporting to Uther on Alva, a charismatic fanatic magician. Morgana warns the camp and Merlin leads the knights to the camp, where they’re ambushed. Merlin trips Mordred, but the boy shoves spears through two knights. He won’t forget what Merlin did, but still escapes. Only Alva is left standing. Arthur has Merlin guard the crystal; Merlin fears the power, but it compels him to pick it up. He sees a vision of Camelot in flames. Alva stands trail and doesn’t give away Morgana. Morgana confronts Uther and disowns him for hunting down sorcerers, then sneaks down and eases Alva’s escape. Both Merlin and Uther suspect her involvement. Uther issues a warning that his persecution of magic will continue. Merlin fears the future he saw and Gaius tries to comfort him; the future is not yet written, he’s only seen one possibility. But the dragon calls to Merlin to fulfill his promise.
The ante is upped in The Fires of Idirsholas. Like the Nazgul, the knights of Medhir are raised from the dead to bring doom to Camelot. Morgause uses Morgana as the host for her spell to put everyone to sleep in Camelot. Merlin and Arthur are away, investigating the knights. They’re the only two of their guard to escape and make haste back for Camelot. The dragon insists on another promise of freedom before he offers help. Merlin swears on his mother’s life; he’ll follow through. The dragon tells Merlin he must kill Morgana to save everyone else. He puts hemlock in his waterskin and gives it to Morgana. She realizes what he’s done and Morgause bursts in to save her half sister (Morgana still doesn’t know). Merlin bargains the antidote for Morgause to stop the spell. She agrees to save Morgana and magics her way out. There are a few funny bits when the three teenagers are trying to save Uther, and Merlin at first does not give away that Morgana has magic. Arthur is very brave when he fights the knights by himself. Gaius reassures Merlin that he did the right thing. And now, Merlin must keep his promise. He frees the dragon.
Which leads to the dragon attacking and burning Camelot (like the vision) in The Last Dragonlord. Arthur and his knights are no match for the dragon. They must find the last dragonlord, who Gaius reveals is Balinor (remember the visiting priest from The Musketeers?). Gaius comes clean to Merlin before he leaves with Arthur that Balinor is the boy’s father. At first meeting, Balinor is not who Merlin thought he would be. He needs the man’s help healing Arthur from a dragon scratch (the young knight received it saving Gwen). Balinor does not want to help Camelot; Uther betrayed him. He had Balinor call in the last dragon, under the guise of peace, instead to chain him up and hunt Balinor down. But Merlin reminds him of Gaius, so he’ll come. In the woods, Merlin reveals he is Balinor’s son. But they only have a few hours to enjoy their family; soldiers attack and Balinor is killed protecting Merlin. Merlin can’t even tell Arthur why he mourns the man; the son of a dragonlord would be suspicious to Uther. Arthur will make a last stand against the dragon. Merlin insists on coming. Most of the knights are killed and Arthur is knocked out. But Merlin is able to draw on the powers of a dragonlord (since his father is dead) to make Kilgarah stop. He shows mercy when Kilgarah pleads with the warlock to not end a noble race. Kilgarah feels that they will meet again. Arthur wakes after the dragon flies off and Merlin informs him that the prince dealt a mortal blow. Gwen hugs Arthur when they return and Gaius hugs Merlin, calling him “my boy.”
I liked the evolving relationship between Arthur and Merlin; they’re definitely friends, even if a bit lopsided. Arthur is comfortable enough to joke with Merlin, even if he doesn’t treat him with the best respect. This is the reason I love the show; the banter between Merlin and Arthur. Our characters are tested this season; you pity Morgana for her fear of magic. She’s raised by Uther to view magic as evil and then finds out she has it and cannot control it. I wish Merlin hadn’t had to poison Morgana; it would have been nice for him to have a confidant his own age within Camelot. And poor Merlin, to find his father and lose him within a few days’ time. Never completely trusted the dragon. He thinks that killing hundreds of innocent people is the proper recompense for one man locking him up?
As always, let me know your thoughts or questions. (I’ll add any further thoughts that come about)