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)
In a land of myth, and a time of magic…The destiny of a great kingdom lies on the shoulders of a young boy. His name…Merlin.
Ran on BBC for five seasons from 2008 to 2012 featuring younger characters; young adults, before they became famous. For those who watch British television, it has some familiar faces and names (a whole bunch have appeared in Doctor Who). Colin Morgan (he was the teenage boy in the episode Midnight, and did go on to have a small part in The Huntsman: Winter’s War) leads the cast as Merlin with Bradley James by his side as Arthur. Angel Coulby (again, a small role in Doctor Who, The Girl in the Fireplace) is Gwen and Katie McGrath (a variety of roles; leading lady in A Princess for Christmas opposite Sam Heughan [before he became Jamie Fraser in Outlander] and Roger Moore, a small part in Tudors, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, she was Zara in Jurassic World and has had reoccurring roles in Dracula and Supergirl) is Morgana. Veterans Anthony Head (has appeared in Doctor Who, Buffy, Galavant, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) is Uther Pendragon, Richard Wilson (who has also been in Doctor Who) is Merlin’s mentor Gaius, and John Hurt (The War Doctor, Ollivander in Harry Potter among over 200 credits and recently passed in 2017) voices the Great Dragon. It’s not specifically set in England; all of the place names being fantasy related. The show centers in Camelot, though the features a castle that actually exists in France.
We open with The Dragon’s Call, the dragon narrating that no young man, no matter how great, can know his destiny (this is before the opening was used before each episode). Merlin walks into Camelot just as Uther decrees a sorcerer executed. He has banned magic from his kingdom and they have enjoyed twenty years of peace. An old woman curses Uther and disappears. Merlin heads for Gaius’s chambers and demonstrates his innate magical ability when he saves Gaius from falling. Yeah, that’s going to be an issue; the boy was born with magic and cannot help it. And now lives in a city where he will be executed if found out. Morgana opposes Uther’s harsh law on magic (she’s not aware of her legendary abilities at this point), and shows herself to be a strong female to openly stand up to her guardian. Merlin meets Arthur as the prince is tormenting a servant; Merlin refuses to show proper decorum, referring to Arthur as a prat. He ends up in the stocks, twice, meeting Gwen as well, who is Morgana’s servant. The old woman from before has transformed herself into a famous singer in order to get into the palace (played by Eve Myles who is Gwen Cooper from Torchwood and Doctor Who and was Mrs. Jenkins in the Victoria series).
Throughout the episode, Merlin hears a voice calling him. He eventually ventures below the castle and encounters a dragon. The Great Dragon informs the young warlock that his and Arthur’s destines are entwined. Arthur is the Once and Future King, destined to unite Albion and bring magic back. Merlin’s role is to protect the young man; a duty that Merlin is not keen on at the beginning. Nevertheless, when the witch puts everyone to sleep and tries to kill Arthur, Merlin uses his powers to save the prince. Uther “rewards” him for his loyalty by making him Arthur’s servant; neither boy is terribly happy about the appointment.
Valiant brings a tournament for knights to compete. Arthur is expected to win since he’s the prince. The knight Valiant however has a magical trick up his sleeve to ensure his victory; a shield with three snakes that can come to life and do his bidding. Merlin eventually discovers the shield and tries to convince Arthur to drop out of the tournament. The servant manages to get the prince to believe his accusations, but they have no proof and Arthur is embarrassed in front of the king. He dismisses Merlin, but Merlin will see his duty through. Morgana also has dreams of Arthur dying and even tries to persuade him to save himself; Arthur cannot back down from the fight. Merlin discovers a way to bring the snakes to life on his own and quietly does so in front of the whole court. Morgana throws a sword to Arthur, who dispatches the snakes and Valiant. There’s almost a tender moment between the two after, but they bicker with each other. Merlin is once again Arthur’s servant and their lives carry on.
A plague breaks out in The Mark of Nimueh, caused by the sorceress Nimueh (played by Michelle Ryan who was in the Doctor Who episode Planet of the Dead). Merlin struggles to learn when it is appropriate to use his powers. (He is often in the position of: “Merlin, don’t do this thing.” And Merlin does the thing). He heals Gwen’s father when he falls ill, but that simply causes more problems. Gwen is accused of being a sorceress and Merlin tries to cover for her. Arthur talks him out of any consequences by saying the boy is in love with Gwen (they are adorably awkward around each other at times) [reminder, no Arthur does not know that Merlin has magic, he’s simply saving a friend]. Gaius and Merlin figure out it’s an Avank monster and gather Morgana and Arthur to destroy the beast. Gwen is saved, but Gaius and Uther both know the sorceress responsible.
The Poisoned Chalice is one of my favorite episodes, since it shows the tight friendship that Arthur and Merlin have already built. Nimueh sneaks into Camelot as part of King Bayard’s court, there to sign a treaty with Uther. Nimueh poisons a cup that is given to Arthur, then disguises herself as a servant and speaks to Merlin, spurring him to take the cup to save Arthur. When the poison takes effect after a moment, it drops him to the ground. Gaius figures out what the poison is and the antidote, but it’s a dangerous mission. Arthur barely hesitates, agreeing to retrieve the ingredients. Uther forbids his son from the mission. Arthur, encouraged by Morgana, disobeys his father and rides out. He battles a few beasts and encounters Nimueh, who leaves him to die by giant spiders (why did it have to be spiders?) While a fever rages through Merlin, he mutters magic, which Gaius has to cover in front of Gwen. He conjures a blue sphere to light Arthur’s way, and even urges the young man to save himself. Arthur grabs one vital flower and escapes. Uther puts him in the dungeon for his disobedience; he’ll just have to get a new servant when he’s let out (Uther has a habit of being cruel). Gwen manages to sneak in and get the flower and Gaius has to secretly use magic to make the antidote. Again, it takes a moment for the draught to take effect, but Merlin recovers. Huzzah!
We meet Lancelot in the self-titled episode (remember, played by a fresh faced Santiago Cabrera; later to be Aramis). He saves Merlin from a griffin attack and is injured in the process. Upon waking in Camelot, he expresses his lifelong desire to be a knight. One problem: the First Code. Knights must be from noble families; Lancelot is not. Merlin magics his way around that, including his friend in the lineage of a noble house. He encounters the librarian, Geoffrey of Monmouth (as in the writer of The History of the Kings of Britain, one of the earliest developed narratives of King Arthur). Lancelot proves himself in a test against Arthur and is knighted. But it’s all ripped away when Geoffrey discovers the lie. Arthur has no choice but to imprison Lancelot. Meanwhile, the griffin has come to the castle. It is a magical beast and can only be vanquished with magic. Merlin has a plan and is aided by Lancelot (who, upon being let out of prison by Arthur, insists on staying and goes to Gwen for weapons and aid. Gwen in turn fetches Merlin). Lancelot charges at the beast while Arthur lies knocked out. Merlin mutters his incantation and the lance glows, defeating the griffin. Uther refuses to reinstate Lancelot’s knighthood after his heroic deeds. While Arthur fights his father, Lancelot quietly reveals to Merlin that he knows of the boy’s magic; he heard the incantation. But he won’t reveal the secret. He does agree to leave Camelot.
Morgana becomes very ill, “all but dead” in A Remedy to Cure All Ills. A man comes to Camelot spouting that he has a remedy to cure all ills and will see to Morgana. In fact, the man is a sorcerer and caused the illness (with a creepy bug). He cures Morgana, which was something Gaius was unable to do, calling into question Gaius’s outdated methods and age. Uther offers the position of court physician to the man, retiring Gaius. Gaius intends to leave Camelot, though Merlin begs for him to stay; the man has been more than a father to him and Gaius admits he looks on Merlin like a son. The sorcerer causes Uther to fall ill next. Gaius confronts the young man, realizing he recognizes him; he was a boy during the Purges and his parents were burned by Uther for using magic. We also find out that Gaius knows the great dragon beneath Camelot. The dragon counsels Gaius that Arthur cannot unite Albion until Uther is dead. Merlin manages to rescue his mentor and reverse the sorcerer’s illness. Gaius is reinstated and Uther is none the wiser to the magical ailments that went on under his nose.
The Sidhe (an Irish term for faeries, a carryover from when they were considered gods) make an appearance in The Gates of Avalon. Merlin and Arthur are out hunting and come across bandits attacking and father and daughter. Arthur rescues them (with secret magical assistance from Merlin) and escorts them to Camelot. They’re invited to stay and Arthur clearly is infatuated with the daughter Sophia (played by Holliday Grainger. Among other roles, she is Anastasia in the updated Disney Cinderella movie). Arthur has Merlin cover for him so he can spend time with the young lady, landing Merlin in the stocks twice (this is the season Merlin spends in the stocks).
Meanwhile, Morgana has been having dreams of Sophia drowning Arthur; she saw Sophia before the young woman stepped foot into the castle. Indeed, Sophia is trying to drown Arthur; Merlin follows her father to the woods one evening and overhears their plan to sacrifice Arthur so Sophia can regain her immortal life as a Sidhe. Morgana goes to Gaius, who believes her and sends Merlin after them. He destroys the Sidhe and rescues Arthur. And still ends up punished.
The Beginning of the End (very ominous) introduces the Druids. A young Druid boy (who looks like a young Merlin) and his father are chased by guards; the boy is injured and the father is captured. The boy calls to Merlin – mentally, for aid, calling him ‘Emrys’. Merlin helps him and hides him with Morgana. Morgana quickly becomes attached to the boy, holding him as they hear his father executed. Uther demands the boy be found; any who harbor him will face execution as well. The boy’s wound becomes infected and Merlin is hesitant to bring in Gaius. Merlin seeks counsel from the dragon, and the dragon reveals that the boy will be Arthur’s downfall. Morgana, Gwen, and Merlin try to sneak the boy out, but Morgana and the boy are caught. Uther is furious at Morgana. Arthur is more sympathetic than his father and agrees to help get the boy to the Druids. Morgana will dine with Uther so she cannot be suspected. Arthur will get the boy out of the dungeon, but he needs Merlin’s help. Merlin almost doesn’t follow through, heeding the dragon’s caution of future danger. But he comes through and Arthur manages to get the boy to the Druids. Only then do we find out the boy’s name: Mordred. Uh oh.
Another element from the legend comes into play in Excalibur. Nimueh raises a knight from the dead on the same evening Arthur is officially crowned as prince of Camelot and Uther’s heir, now that he is of age. The knight breaks into the festivities and throws down a gauntlet. Sir Owain picks it up and will face single combat. Arthur would rather face the knight than have his knights be sacrificed. Gaius suspects and with the help of Geoffrey confirms the black knight is Sir Tristan du Bois, Uther’s brother-in-law, killed by Uther’s hand when Tristan challenged him after his sister Igraine’s death. Owain is killed by the black knight in combat and the gauntlet is thrown again. Uther stops Arthur from picking it up, instead, Sir Pelenor will face the challenge. He fares better the next day, but still falls. Merlin has noticed both times that wounds that should kill the black knight don’t. He’s once again dealing with a magical entity. Arthur this time throws down his gauntlet; he will face the black knight. Everyone tries to talk Arthur out of it; he will be killed. Nimueh visits Uther and we discover they used to be friends. Uther had asked for her help to give his wife a son. But she was not to know that it was Igraine’s life that would be lost to gain Arthur’s. This is why Uther despises magic. Uther finally goes to Gaius for help; a sleeping draught.
In the meantime, Merlin has been working on another plan. A sword burnished by dragon fire can kill a wraith. Merlin gets such a blade, promising to the dragon that only Arthur will wield it. It gains an inscription that reads on one side: Take me up, and on the other: Cast me aside. There’s a hiccup when Arthur is sleeping and Uther takes his place, including the sword. It’s does its job, but the dragon is furious. He orders Merlin to take the sword where it can never be found; the young man throws it into a lake (this is the sword from the opening sequence). Arthur confronts his father about his actions and Uther finally admits to his son that he is not a disappointment.
Merlin returns home during The Moment of Truth. His mother, Hunith comes to Camelot begging help; raiders are attacking their village. But they lie in another kingdom and Uther cannot send knights, it would look like an act of war. Merlin will return with his mother, intent on staying so he can look after her. Gwen and Morgana accompany him and they’re joined later by Arthur. Arthur encourages the men of the village to fight and stand up to Canan and his goons. One young man is outspoken against him, Will, Merlin’s old friend. His father had been killed serving a king and so he doesn’t trust nobles. Will incidentally knows that Merlin has magic and debates with him on using it, so he can spare the village. But Merlin must keep it a secret from Arthur. Gwen and Morgana join the men in the fight (wearing impractical mail). Merlin finally has to use magic, which Arthur witnesses. But Will was standing next to Merlin so it could have been either of them. Will takes a bolt for Arthur and as he dies, he takes credit for the magic; what can Arthur do? Kill him? Hunith talks her son into returning to Camelot; she sees that he and Arthur are friends; two sides of the same coin. The day will come when the truth will be known.
Arthur slays a unicorn hunting one day in The Labyrinth of Gedref, causing a curse to befall Camelot. Overnight their crops die, then the water turns to sand. An old man appears and tells Arthur he must face several tests to lift the curse. One evening, Arthur and Merlin, while looking for the old man, come across a peasant stealing food. Arthur lets the man go. Water returns. But when they venture to the woods, the peasant taunts him and Arthur fights him. The remaining grain rots and Uther decrees that the food must be saved for the army. But Arthur cares more for his people than for himself and refuses to give the order. Merlin persuades the old man to give Arthur a final test. Then follows Arthur through a labyrinth. At the end, Merlin sits across from Arthur at a table, two goblets, one filled with poison. Merlin tries to talk Arthur into letting him drink the poison; he is only a servant. But Arthur tricks him and drinks all the contents. ‘Twas ultimately not poison and Arthur wakes. The crops re-grow overnight and Camelot is saved. Arthur buries the unicorn horn and proving that he has a pure heart, the unicorn lives again.
Gwen’s father is caught consorting with a sorcerer in To Kill the King and sentenced to execution. Morgana takes pity on him for Gwen’s sake and tries to help him escape. He is killed. Morgana is furious for Uther for the way he handled the situation. If it involves magic, he loses all rational sense. He locks her in the dungeon overnight for her backtalk. Arthur pleads with him off camera in the morning to release his ward. So she decides that Uther must die and allies herself with the sorcerer. Under the pretense of visiting her father’s grave, Morgana gets Uther into the open. Merlin follows and takes care of the other men. But at the grave, Uther reveals he looks upon Morgana as a daughter and appreciates that she makes him question his actions, like her father did. From now on, he tells her, I want to listen more and quarrel less. Morgana no long wishes Uther dead and when the sorcerer attacks, she stabs in him the back as he tackles Uther.
The first season ends with Le Morte d’Arthur (like Malory’s tale). Arthur, Merlin, and his knights are in the forest, hunting the Questing Beast. They lose Sir Bedivere to the beast (like in the tale). Morgana has another dream of Arthur dying and in distress begs him not to go back out. He does and in a cave is scratched by the beast. Gaius states that a bite from the Questing Beast is fatal, there is no cure. Uther tries to carry his son to his room, but falls to his knees in the courtyard. Gaius tries to make the lad more comfortable, but Merlin searches for another answer. The Questing Beast is tied to the Old Religion and carries the power of life and death. Merlin goes to the dragon for help. He’s instructed to go to the Isle of the Blessed and strike a deal, a life for a life. Merlin willingly gives his life for Arthur. But he meets Nimueh on the Isle. She gives him water from the Cup of Life. With it, Arthur is healed. And Merlin strangely doesn’t die.
Instead, his mother arrives back in Camelot, gravely ill. Merlin is furious at the dragon for misleading him. The dragon insists that Merlin must do everything in his power to free the dragon, to free magic. Merlin tells the dragon he will not be back. Now, Merlin can’t find Gaius. He races after his mentor, who has chosen to give his life for the boy. Merlin strikes out at Nimueh, bringing lightning upon her. The balance of the Old Religion has been appeased. Gaius lives, Arthur lives, we see some tender moments between Uther and his son, along with a moment between Gwen and Arthur. Merlin tries to say goodbye to Arthur without really saying goodbye and being the men they are, they can’t really tell each other how they feel; that they’re friends and they’d miss each other. It’s another of my favorite episodes.
The theme of destiny runs throughout the series. The Great Dragon harps on it anytime Merlin asks for help. Gaius refers to it. Others speak to Arthur about his destiny as king. It’s a lot for two young men to take on, particularly when they don’t know the full extent. We as the audience know they’re ‘destined’ to become legends. For now, though, they’re teenagers. Merlin has to hide a part of himself from the person he’s supposed to protect. They all make mistakes. It’s fun to see these characters more human. Not as legends, but as young people, relatable.
Morgana’s costumes in particular have a modern flair. This is a fantastical take on the legend, rather than a historical take (Last Legion, King Arthur. Those have their places. This is fun). What made these characters into who they are? How did Arthur and Merlin have such a strong bond? It’s adorable to watch Arthur become protective of Merlin so soon. While he was raised by a sometimes-tyrant like Uther (he truly loves his son, he just has a funny way of showing it), Arthur is a different man than his father. He puts everyone else before him; well, he still gives Merlin a list of chores to do.
We will continue this discussion in Season Two next time.
Based on the book by Marion Zimmer Bradley; I read the book when I was doing research for my Morgan le Fae capstone project (in order to complete my Creative Writing major; and at 876 pages, I am pretty sure it is the longest book I’ve read). It has greatly influenced elements of the fantasy series I am planning: how the Faerie kingdom works, heck it’s influenced character names. I also made a deal with my brother; he said he wouldn’t read it since it was about women, I found that sexist. In return, I would read Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy and a Clive Cussler book. And after having Morgan le Fae vilified by almost every other version of the tale; mainly since she is a female with magic (Merlin has magic, but since he’s a man, he’s good…that bothered me a lot in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian Saga), I cheered that this presented the characters in a better light (well, more so in the film than in the book; the book is heavily pro Morgaine and the Old Ways).
The film was actually made for TV in two episodes. It stars Anjelica Huston (she was the stepmother in Ever After) as Vivianne, Julianna Margulies as Morgaine, Joan Allen as Morgause, Samantha Mathis (she’s older Amy March in Little Women) as Gwenwyfar, Caroline Goodall (the mom in Princess Diaries) as Igraine, Edward Atterton (he plays jerkass Atheron in an episode of Firefly) as Arthur (he’s nicer in this role), Freddie Highmore (he’s the lead in The Good Doctor amongst other roles) as young Arthur, and Hans Matheson (Lord Coward in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes, and Thomas Cranmer in The Tudors) as Mordred. Loreena McKennitt’s Mystic’s Dream features in the movie several times (I was already familiar with the artist when I watched the movie).
The film is really told as a flashback by Morgaine. She tells us that most stories about Arthur are lies and the true story is not known. The story takes place in a time of violent upheaval in Britain; the Saxons are invading. They need one great leader to unite them all. A major point of contention is the Old Ways worshipping the Mother Goddess and the new religion of Christianity. The Old Religion embraces Christianity, able to coexist. Christianity…not so much. Morgaine’s father was a Christian man, Goloris, Duke of Cornwall. Her mother was Igraine, who still secretly followed the Old Ways. Igraine’s sister Morgause lived with them and she was more open about following the Goddess. Their eldest sister is Vivianne, the Lady of the Lake. She and Merlin come to Cornwall to speak to Igraine. The current king, Ambrosis is old and due to name a successor, but they’re looking further ahead to the future. They’ve seen one who will unite Britain, but he needs to be born to two who follow the Old Ways. Igraine is to bear the king, but not by Goloris; instead to one who bears a dragon tattoo. Morgause offers, but Vivianne shuts her down. Igraine refuses. But she and Goloris attend the king, where she meets Uther Pendragon, and man who bears a dragon tattoo. He sees her afterwards and they speak of a recognition they both feel; they were lovers in a former life. Igraine still tries to resist, but it doesn’t help that Uther is named Ambrosis’s successor. Goloris notices Uther’s interest in his wife and he is turned against the High King.
But Igraine later has a vision of Goloris attacking Uther and acts to warn Uther. The two men face on the battlefield. The magic weakens Igraine. The next day, Merlin comes to Cornwall with Goloris, who goes up to see his wife. Morgaine also has the gift of Sight and realizes that the man is not her father. Goloris’s men bring his body back to Cornwall and it is apparent that the man with Igraine is Uther. He takes Igraine and Morgaine to Camelot and makes Igraine his High Queen. They do seem to love each other and it’s cute when Uther sits alongside Morgaine as they wait for Igraine to give birth. Morgaine gains a little brother, Arthur, whom she loves dearly. Their time of happiness comes to an end when Vivianne and Merlin show up; both children must be fostered. Morgaine and Arthur both cry when they’re separated; Arthur goes with Merlin and Vivianne takes Morgaine to Avalon.
Avalon lies near Glastonbury, where the Christians have erected a monastery. To get to Avalon, one must pass through a lake covered in mist. A powerful priestess can part the mist. The Old Religion teaches balance between good and evil; the Mother Goddess rules over Nature and all Nature is sacred. Morgaine acquires power over the elements and joins the sisterhood. Igraine sees this and whispers to Uther “she’s been taken.” A visitor comes to Avalon once Morgaine is an adult; she hopes it is Arthur but instead it is her cousin, Lancelot, son of Vivianne (his father is never mentioned in the film and mentioned once in the book). Lancelot wishes to have his mother’s blessing to fight alongside the other knights against the Saxons; she wishes that he would stay in Avalon. She sends Lancelot and Morgaine to the Stone Circle. Morgaine is attracted to her cousin, but then they hear the bells of Glastonbury and Lancelot catches sight of a pretty young nun and asks Morgaine to part the mists. The young Christian is Gwenwyfar; Lancelot asks her to stay in Avalon a while, but Morgaine returns the mists. Lancelot leaves.
Morgaine is prepared for the Beltaine rights, the Great Marriage. She will play the Virgin Huntress and bed the Great Hunter. They are both masked. Afterwards, Morgaine hopes that the man was Lancelot…well, about a minute after that we see the man in question washing up. Not Lancelot. The man expresses his desire to see the woman again to Merlin, Merlin names the man Arthur. (Uh oh). Arthur must set out for Uther, who is the midst of battling Saxons. Arthur arrives in time to block a blow to the king, but he still dies. A vision of Vivianne instructs Arthur to take up the sword, Excalibur, a sword from Avalon; though he must swear to obey the Old Ways. He rallies the troops and wins the fight. Morgaine returns to Camelot for her brother’s coronation. He swears to deal fairly with both Druid and Christian; he will rule a kingdom united. Her aunt Morgause has wed King Lot of Orkney (in the Scottish Isles). Lot even mentions that if one man could save Britain, it’s Arthur. Igraine plans to retire to Glastonbury and ask for forgiveness for her actions against Goloris. The priest assures Morgaine that her mother has friends among the Christian community and they will take care of her. Arthur is thrilled to see his older sister again. He tells her that he intends to marry Gwenwyfar, but there is another woman that occupies his thoughts: he knows not her face or her name; they were both masked. Morgaine realizes with horror what happened. She confronts Vivianne, who holds that everything has been done in the name of saving Avalon. Vivianne hopes that Morgaine will follow her as Lady of the Lake. Morgaine rejects the offer; she will still follow the Goddess, but not Vivianne; she will never set foot in Avalon again. She will keep the child she now carries, but she will not let Vivianne train.
In the meantime, Arthur has put Gwenwyfar in the care of Lancelot. They are ambushed and once they escape, they speak of the brief moment they had between Avalon and Glastonbury. They cannot fight their attraction to each other and passionately kiss (more uh oh).
Morgaine takes refuge with Morgause in Orkney. Lot urges his wife to let the child die so their son will be Arthur’s successor (a nephew would take precedent over a cousin). Morgause, for some unknown reason, uses dark magic to curse Gwenwyfar; she will bear no sons for Arthur. The woman intends to follow her husband’s instructions, leaving the babe in front of an open window in the middle of winter. But in a fever after giving birth, Morgaine reveals to Morgause that the boy’s father is Arthur. Morgause has a cunning plan; be the influence on the boy and then when he ascends the throne, it will be her will done in the kingdom. Morgause dislikes Vivianne and doesn’t trust her (doesn’t make Morgause a good person, but it’s one redeeming quality she has, that she does not blindly follow what Vivianne decrees.) The Morgaine telling the story as flashbacks comments that it was this point that altered the fate of Britain forever; a new dreadful power was born. Several years later, Morgause suggests that Morgaine returns to Camelot to see her brother. Morgause will keep Mordred with her in Orkney (not the best idea).
So Morgaine returns. Arthur is once again pleased to see his sister again (I find it adorable, their sibling affection…we should all know by now that it’s one of my favorite relationships shown). Gwen attempts to befriend Morgaine, though she admits the other woman frightens her since she follows the Old Ways. She summons the courage to ask her sister-in-law for herbs and spells to help her conceive; it is her greatest wish and desire to give her husband a son. Morgaine visits Lancelot; she still harbors affection for the young man (though I notice that the adults of the film barely age, not till the very end). She also knows of the affection that Lancelot shares with Gwen. Lancelot declares he loves Arthur more. Unknown to the pair, Arthur is watching from above. Another of Arthur’s knights, Accolon catches Morgaine’s attentions. He too follows the Old Ways. At the next Beltane, Morgaine gives a charm to Gwen to help her conceive. Following the information he has gained, Arthur asks Lancelot to bed his wife with him (he’s also a bit drunk when he asks this, but states that he wouldn’t be able to ask if he wasn’t drunk). A child conceived in the king’s bed will be the king’s child; he feels he is at fault for their childless state (nope, Morgause’s fault). All three agree. Accolon follows Morgaine and they spend the evening together.
Afterwards, Lancelot is upset with Morgaine for the charm. “How can I go back to the way things were?” Morgaine counsels he is not to blame for loving Gwen. But to help the situation, Morgaine arranges for Lancelot to marry Elaine, a young lady who is attracted to Lancelot. At the wedding, Gwen confronts Morgaine that her charm failed, there is still no child. She feels guilty for even turning to magic and the circumstances of that night. So she plots. She notices that Morgaine seems happy with Accolon. Accolon’s father, King Uriens of North Wales attends at the wedding and is an important ally of Arthur. Arthur wishes to reward his old friend, who wishes to marry. Gwen suggests Morgaine as a match (this is when I begin to dislike Gwen). Arthur has his sister’s best interests in mind and they ask Morgaine, but Gwen deliberately keeps mum on who exactly Morgaine is agreeing to marry. Arthur is shocked at Morgaine’s acceptance, but announces the betrothal. Morgaine is surprised to find herself engaged to the father, not the son. But she carries on and moves to North Wales. She finds that she is actually happy there.
On Avalon, Vivianne knows that Gwenwyfar tricked Morgaine. She confronts Merlin, but there was nothing the old man could do. Sadly, the time has come for Merlin to die. (In the book, another young man takes up the mantle of Merlin of Britain). Merlin comforts Vivianne that they haven’t failed; they’ve always done what they thought was right for Avalon. But he urges her to find some small measure of happiness. Mordred is their best hope now.
Speaking of Mordred, he has come to manhood. Vivianne appears, asking him to be Avalon’s champion. Arthur cannot be relied on any longer, he is beginning to forget the Old Ways. And he does not have an heir. Vivianne tells the young man that he is the king’s son. Mordred says it cannot be; his mother is the king’s sister. To Vivianne, that doesn’t matter; his blood is strong in magic. When Mordred speaks to Morgause, she cautions that Mordred cannot take the throne now; Arthur’s flame has never burned brighter, his knights will tear apart anyone who challenges him. Instead, he needs to discredit the king. And the best way to do that is through his queen. Mordred weeps; he’d rather love his father like everyone else does. He’d rather love his mother, Morgaine. He is already weary of God and the Goddess and Fate (he’s sympathetic, for a moment). But he drinks to Arthur’s death.
Mordred goes to Camelot, asking to be one of Arthur’s knights. He wins his place when he bests another in a duel. Arthur embraces him happily as his nephew. They’re a bit surprised to learn Morgaine had a child; she does not speak of it as there was sadness in his making (that’s one way to put it). After a while, Mordred confronts Arthur about his due. He asks Arthur to name his successor and reveals the truth of that Beltane ceremony years ago. Gwen begs Arthur to dispute it, but he cannot. Lancelot later finds Gwen crying and she reveals the truth as well. Mordred has planned this and has knights waiting to arrest them when they’re found kissing. The couple escapes. Arthur refuses to pass judgment on the matter; he loves both Lancelot and Gwenwyfar. He leaves the matter to Mordred.
Morgaine intends to return to Avalon after Uriens’ death, but she is attacked and injured. She tries to sail to Avalon, but cannot part the mists. Instead, she comes upon Glastonbury, where a nun spots her. It’s her mother, Igraine. When Lancelot and Gwen ride from Camelot, he takes her to Glastonbury, where she sees Morgaine. She apologizes for separating the siblings, it is her greatest sin, coming between their love. Morgaine is brought up to speed and rides back for Camelot, to save her brother and her son. The Saxon’s final assault on Britain has begun. Morgaine meets up with Vivianne on the road to Camelot. Vivianne confronts her sister Morgause when they arrive. This is not what the Goddess intended. Indeed not, it’s Morgause’s will. Morgause tries to stab Vivianne, but instead she’s the one who falls to the blade. Mordred cuts down Vivianne in retaliation.
Morgaine goes to her brother and rallies him to take up Excalibur again and stand against Mordred. At the battle, Lancelot returns to Arthur, bringing more men, but the Saxons still outnumber them, now with Mordred at the lead. The two face off on the battlefield (why do they take off their armor? Idiots) while Morgaine rides from Morgause’s and Vivianne’s pyres to stop them. Mordred mortally wounds Arthur, and Arthur strikes Mordred down in return. Both have tears in their eyes. Mordred’s last word is “mother” as Morgaine holds him. Arthur asks “take me home, sister. Take me to Avalon.” They set sail. But the mists still won’t part for Morgaine. Perhaps it has been lost due to their disobedience. Arthur offers Excalibur, Avalon’s sword, as a sacrifice. Morgaine throws it into the lake. The mists separate for a moment. “We’re home, Arthur.” But Arthur dies. The mists cover again. The bell of Glastonbury tolls. Avalon has faded from the world of men; only Glastonbury marks the spot now. The Saxons overran Britain and the Goddess was forgotten. Though many years later, Morgaine wonders if perhaps it survived, as the Virgin Mary.
As I summed up in my paper on the characterization of Morgan le Fae, Mists of Avalon delves into greater detail on elements of traditional Arthurian legend. It explains why Excalibur is magical, it includes how the sword ended up in the lake and its connection to the Lady of the Lake. I don’t think it gives great reasoning on why Mordred became evil, aside from influence from Morgause. Honestly, Morgaine should have kept Mordred with her. That could have prevented some problems. He stated he loved his parents and literally a minute later is plotting their downfall. This story gives a reasonable explanation for how a child came from a union between brother and sister, without being completely *squick.* The whole “for the greater good” excuse is annoying. It’s annoying in Harry Potter and just about everywhere else it is used. Vivianne is portrayed as a grey character. She honestly believes what she is doing is right, but the methods are not great. And she didn’t know that Mordred was being raised by Morgause? How did she think that was going to turn out?
I typically have liked Gwen in other tales, naming my main character after her, but not in this retelling. She’s petty and whiny. The Gwen from Mercedes Lackey’s book is an excellent role model; but I have my character pretty well figured, though she, as much as my story, has evolved over the years. Heck, my plot has evolved since I wrote my capstone paper. After reading Mists of Avalon, my focus shifted to Morgan. And I’m still doing research!
Re-watching this film, after the mental evolution of my story, has changed my feeling on some other characters. Lancelot is mainly fluff, there because the legends say he is. Again, a reasonable explanation is given for the love triangle and I believe that Arthur is progressive, and a good man, to allow it to carry on. It does cause problems with his knights. I mean, overall, characters typically have good intentions in the beginning. But everything becomes complicated and scheming gets in the way. I like this portrayal of Arthur. He is truly a good man. The three women: Vivianne, Igraine, and Morgause (the book states they echo the Mother Goddess and I just realized that their inspiration for my characters make mine echo the Goddess as well…not sure how I did that, but nevertheless, cool) have good and bad sides, like good characters should.
Some of the costuming is better at times; what the ladies where in Avalon is…well, I understand they were going for a fantasy look, but I’m not sure it was the best portrayal. Some of Gwen’s gowns are pretty, as are Morgause’s. Some of Morgaine’s gowns are not as successful. The fur on Mordred at the end was ridiculous.
This ultimately is one of my favorite portrayal’s of the Arthurian legend (the other, you may be able to guess, is BBC’s Merlin series). It’s a complete story and aspects are answered. The movie does not delve too deeply into the religious differences (unlike the book). (I’m looking at you, First Night and King Arthur).
So, next time, we’re on to the first season of Merlin.
And if anyone has questions or is interested in my paper on Morgan le Fae, let me know!
This film focuses solely on the love triangle. Sean Connery leads the cast as King Arthur (I mean, it’s Sean Connery; I can’t say much against him). Richard Gere (Pretty Woman) is Lancelot and Liam Cunningham turns up again as Sir Agravaine. To me, Richard Gere is not an action hero; fine lead for a romantic role, but not at home with a sword. Follows in the footsteps of Prince of Thieves (where Connery cameos as King Richard), a 90’s action adaptation of a literary legend. I don’t think it succeeded as well.
Prince Malagant is the enemy in this film, compared to Mordred or Morgan le Fae (he does appear in the legend, but not usually as the big bad). Lots of plot holes: how is he a prince? Why did he break with the knights? How was he one of them in the first place? What are these wars Arthur and his knights were fighting? Arthur is significantly older in this film than in other adaptations. Scrolling text at the beginning of the film gives us a bit of back story, then we see Lancelot fighting in a town square, offering helpful advice to novice swordsmen. That village is later attacked. The villagers go to Leonesse, to the Lady Guinevere for help. After some discussion with advisors, she decides to accept Arthur’s marriage proposal, to save her kingdom from Malagant. She also truly loves Arthur; she had met him before. On her way to Camelot, her procession is attacked, her carriage hijacked. Luckily, Lancelot is nearby to help rescue the damsel in distress. Guinevere puts up a bit of a fight, but still evident that she needs a man to rescue her. After the rescue, Lancelot kisses Guinevere (why? If you were a gentleman, you’d leave her alone!) Thinking he is utterly desirable, he teases the young lady that she will ask him to kiss her again before her wedding.
Guinevere finishes her journey to Arthur; he in turn truly loves her. Lancelot too ends up in Camelot, in time to test a mechanical “gauntlet” (again, why? Why is this here? I don’t think it’s period accurate). Honestly, it’s a way to further demonstrate that Lancelot is this amazing, fearless fighter. He wins a kiss from Guinevere and cheekily demands she ask him. She refuses, so he plays the chivalrous man and declines kissing her in front of the king and a crowd of people. Arthur is intrigued by Lancelot’s “display of courage, skill, nerve, grace, and stupidity.” He offers the man a place in his kingdom. Arthur shows him the Round Table; everyone is equal, even the king. “In serving each other, we become free,” is their motto. Lancelot declines, but before he can leave the kingdom, Guinevere is abducted, again. He races off to rescue her from Malagant and brings her safely home (well, there’s a stop in the rain in the forest where they discuss love, again).
After being tempted by Lancelot, Guinevere happily reunites with Arthur. Arthur in turn wishes to reward Lancelot and decides to give him the empty spot at the Round Table and knight him. Guinevere begs Lancelot to leave Camelot; he does not. She and Arthur are married soon after. As the knights are swearing fealty to their queen, word arrives that Malagant has attacked Leonesse. Innumerable troops ride out. They battle Malagant’s forces and defeat them. Leonesse is burned, but survivors had hid themselves in the church (tying in with a flashback of Lancelot’s to his parents’ death, he sits and cries after). Lancelot now realizes that to be a good man, he must leave Guinevere; he cannot jeopardize her marriage to Arthur. He bids her farewell and Guinevere gives in and asks him to kiss her. Aragvaine and Arthur walk in.
Back in Camelot, Guinevere admits to Arthur that she loves Lancelot; but she loves Arthur as well, just in different ways. Arthur still feels like Lancelot betrayed him. There will be a public trial, so nothing is hidden. Lancelot admits to the king that the queen is innocent, and he will die for her if that is what Arthur wishes. Before Arthur can pass judgment, Malagant and his forces overtake Camelot. Malagant demands Arthur kneels before him. Arthur approaches Malagant…then commands his people to fight! He’s shot several times and rushed away. Knights and townspeople fight against Malagant’s troops. Lancelot goes after Malagant, getting stabbed once, then picking up Arthur’s sword and running the dark prince through. But it is too late to save Arthur. Arthur passes his sword to Lancelot, his first knight (how is he the first knight? Aren’t there other, more worthy candidates?) and asks the man to take care of Guinevere. They lay him to rest on a pyre set to sea (keeps in tradition with the legend, but how is that Christian? They mention God numerous times throughout the film and there are crosses everywhere).
Further question: how does everyone else feel about Arthur’s last proclamation? The knights didn’t trust Lancelot at first, then he proved himself, then he’s kissing the queen, now he’s been given Arthur’s blessing.
Costumes are…not the best. Not entirely period accurate, even for the jump forward in time. There’s a lot of blue in Camelot; like, everything. And the helmets are stupid, no wonder they all took them off. Honestly, I prefer Prince of Thieves to this film. The romance doesn’t capture me; I think because I side more with Arthur. Battles are…eh. I mean, they were better in Prince of Thieves. This does not capture the soul of the Arthurian legend.