Brought to you by OBS Staff Member Karolina
Written by: Jake Michie
Directed by: Alex Pillai
Special guest: Lindsay Duncan as Queen Annis
Picture: BBC MERLIN
We start the episode with a knight of Camelot running from what looks like a bunch of bandits. he runs into the forest, and turns – and the knight is revealed to be Merlin, dressed in chainmail and the Pendragon red cape. He stumbles, and a hatchett is thrown between his legs. He looks around hurriedly, and finds himself cornered. He looks up to the surrounding forest, desperately, but turns to find the bandits standing there. He arms himself with the hatchett that had been thrown at him. As the head bandit gloats, one of the others is shot, and it’s King Arthur and his band of merry Knights (and Agravaine) to the rescue. They capture the head bandit – and Agravaine points out that he may be a little more special than first thought. A crest is revealed, and Arthur tells an enquiring Merlin that the crest is that of King Caerleon. Agravaine informs Arthur that this isn’t the first time Caerleon had crossed the borders into Camelot since the death of Uther. He encourages Arthur to make Caerleon sign a treaty to give back lands that had been stolen from Camelot’s rule -something that both Agravaine and Arthur are fully aware Caerleon will not do. Agravaine presses upon Arthur the need to be seen as a strong king – even though the citizen of Camelot would already lay their lives down for Arthur. He tells Arthur that they can not risk Odin or Bayard to think Arthur weak – and to write up the treaty, and kill Caerleon if need be. Merlin, who had been eavesdropping the entire time, tries to speak to Arthur, but Arthur commands that he not talk right then, so, Merlin doesn’t.
The next morning, Merlin finds Arthur sitting by the dead fire. He hands Arthur a cup, starts to rebuild the fire, and asks if Arthur had been up all night. Arthur tells him that he had been thinking. He states that Uther had been a good king – but Arthur did not have his wisdom. Arthur reveals to Merlin that he is going to write up a treaty, a treaty that Caerleon is sure not to sign, and if that is so, then he will kill him. Merlin tries to reason with Arthur, reminding him that he had always been fair in battle, and that this was unlike him. Arthur parrots Agravaine, and then informs Merlin that he has no idea on what it’s like to have to make decisions that would shape history, so he should stick to what he does know. The knights stand around as Agravaine presents the treaty to Caerleon – who , as predicted, scoffs at it. Arthur appears and tells him that he must sign or bear the consequences. He implores Caerleon to honour the treaty left by Uther and Caerleon’s father, but Caerleon harshly reminds him that they are not their fathers. Arthur tells him that Caerleon leaves him no choice. Caerleon bites back that it is his choice to die, not, Arthur’s, and presents himself to be killed, as Merlin looks on and shakes his head in a disappointed manner.
The knights and Merlin and Arthur return to Camelot, and Agravaine congratulates Arthur on his decision. Arthur, in turn, thanks his uncle for his council, and goes to meet Gwen, and they hug happily, as Agravaine looks on. Merlin, as he is tidying Arthur’s room, tries to get Arthur to talk about his killing King Caerleon. Arthur tells Merlin that his conscience is clean, but his room, however …. Merlin again reminds Arthur that Merlin is there to talk, if that’s what Arthur needs – but Arthur tells him that this is something that he must face alone.
But when Caerleon’s body is returned to his own kingdom, his queen, Annis) brands his death not one of battle but ‘”the work of cowards” and vows vengeance on Arthur and Camelot.
Arthur is alone, but not without Agravaine’s council, it seems, as Agravaine interrupts Arthur pouring over some papers. He addresses Arthur’s relationship with Gwen, highlighting her positives – but then shooting her down by reminding Arthur that she is, in fact, a servant, and that the people find it “inappropriate’ that he is with her. Arthur tries to assert himself, asking if a King should not do what is right in his books, and Agravaine states that no, he has to do what is right for the kingdom. He lets Arthur dwell on this.
Arthur takes out his frustration on Merlin as he assists the King with his training (Merlin takes the brunt of the punching bag). Leon interrupts the quasi- abusive tete a tete to inform them that there’s a larger concern on the horizon – the army of Queen Annis is advancing on Camelot.
There is a meeting held, and Arthur states that Queen Annis’ troops will reach Camelot by sundown the following day, and he decides to cut them off before they can breach the walls of the kingdom. He announces to his knights that they will ride out to face the aggressors at dawn. Agravaine starts a chant of Long Live the King – one that Merlin resolutely does not join in to this time.
That night, Morgana sneaks into Caerleon’s castle, but she’s captured. She is then dragged before Queen Annis, Morgana tells the widowed royal that she sympathises with her plight and offer her assistance in destroying Camelot – and that she comes in the name of her father -not Uther, but Gorlois. (one question – what wounds has Arthur inflicted on the land Morgana? You have done more damage than he has).
Meanwhile, Merlin tries to engage Arthur in idle talk – something Arthur will have none of. Merlin asks where a disguised Arthur is going – to which Arthur answers “That’s my business – and Merlin, don’t be here when I come back.” Merlin sadly watches his grouchy friend leave. Arthur has sneaked out of the castle and arrives at Gwen’s home. But he acts cold towards her and tells her that now he is King, while he is not ashamed to be seen with her it is “not appropriate” for them to be seen together. That he is own man, and makes his own decisions – and that he has decided that they can’t be together. Gwen is shocked , but as Arthur leaves she tells him, “You have a good heart – be true to it. Only then will you be the king you want to be.”
In the morning, Arthur and the knights ride out on to the plains, Gwen and Gaius watch them ride off – and have a discussion on how the fate of Camelot rests on Arthur’s shoulders alone – or not – as the case may be. As night falls and Annis’ army has approached, Arthur declares to Agravaine that, “The battle commences at first light”
Once it’s dark, Merlin is chatting and having fun with the knights, as Arthur looks on. Merlin meets his gaze, and they watch each other as the rest of the knights cotton on to Arthur’s presence. They ask Merlin if Arthur is alright and Merlin reveals that the responsibility of placing his friends and allies in danger is beginning to weigh on the King.
Elyan leads the knights into pay Arthur a visit and once again swear their allegiance. But once they’re gone, Arthur tells Merlin, that he has never questioned his mens’ loyalty, but isn’t sure he deserves it. Merlin attempst to council his king once more, but to no avail. Arthur now realises that he made the wrong decision in killing Caerleon.
Arthur sneaks away from camp that night (followed by an unstealthy Merlin) He infiltrates the camp of Caerleon’s army and tells the guard to take him to Annis.
Arthur is brought before Annis. He tells the devastated queen that he is ashamed of his “cowardly” and “unjust” actions, then asks her a favour – to call off the battle between their armies in exchange for a single combat, thus avoiding further bloodshed.
If Arthur’s man wins, then Annis must withdraw her army, but if her man is successful, then she may seize control of half of Camelot. Merlin has also been captured by Annis’ men, but the queen is merciful and spares his life. “Announce your champion by noon tomorrow,” she tells Arthur.
As they are returning to camp, Arthur again rebukes any offer of help from Merlin. He returns to camp and informs his knights of the deal he has struck. The knights, one by one, volunteer to be his champion, but Arthur knows that there can only be one choice, and names himself as chanpion
Annis is aware of Arthur’s prowess in the battlefield and is concerned about the coming battle, but Morgana appears and assures her that she has the power to stop Arthur. With the help of Agravaine, of course.
While Arthur sleeps, Agravaine steals his sword and takes it to Morgana, who enchants it with dark magic. Morgana , under the watchful eye of Agravaine, proclaims Arthur as good as dead.
As he prepares for battle, Arthur is hit by more remorse. He romoves his ring, hands it to Merlin and tells him to pass on his apologies to Gwen if he does not survive. Merlin and Arthur farewell, Arthur calling Merlin an “Old Friend” and Agravaine comes to deliver the news – Arthur must face Darian, who is double Arthur’s size
The fight begins, and though Darian towers over Arthur, the King is able to hold his foe at a standstill. But Morgana schemes to “turn the tide” and enchants Arthur’s sword – and tells Annis that she has enchanted Arthur’s sword to hold ‘the weight of a thousand ages”.
Unable to lift his sword, Arthur cannot defend himself as Darian moves in for the killing blow. But with the help of Merlin’s magic, Arthur is eventually able to wound his foe. Darian collapses to the ground, but Arthur has learnt his lesson and shows compassion, sparing his enemy’s life, to the cheers of the Arthurian army – and Merlin and Elyan slip in a little hug between each other too. Merlin looks on proudly.
Queen Annis meets Arthur and tells him that she will follow the terms of their agreement, but wants to know why he did not kill Darian. Arthur than speaks my favourit line of the whole episode”It is not victory I seek, It is peace.” Annis replies, “There is something about you, Arthur Pendragon, something that gives me hope for us all.” I also loved this, especially with Arthur’s claim that there is something about Merlin, circa S1.
Morgana returns to Annis, but the queen tells her that she has made a mistake – she misjudged Arthur and was foolish to ally herself with Morgana, She states that she let Morgana overpower her with hate, and that she had made the wrong decision (implying, as Arthur had). Morgana tells Annis that she is weak (actually, sweetie , YOU’RE the weak one) and vows to destroy Camelot alone, but as she leaves, Annis tells her- “I fear you’re more like Uther than you realise,” she says.
Arthur and his knights return to Camelot, covered in victory. Gwen knocks on the door to the King’s chambers and Arthur presents her with some flowers he picked from the road. He apologises for his earlier foolish actions. He admits that he should have been true to himself, and they kiss, passionately.
This episode highlights the worries that hit me, as a fan, with the death of Uther. Bradley James plays Arthur magnificently, and there are so many moments where I can see him as a true and just King of Camelot – and yet – he is far too trustworthy at other times. The progression of this episode was good – Arthur seemingly learnt his lesson, that he cannot make a consequential ruling on the advice of one person, when others, and his own judgement scream at him that it is the wrong choice. However, I am disappointed in the trust he bestows on Agravaine. There is nothing, other than the title of “Uncle”, that has been shown that has made him deserve Arthur’s trust – and that alone, in my eyes – shows Arthur’s glaring weakness.
I’m not too pleased with Gwen’s reaction at the end of this episode, either. That flowers from the side of the road and a kiss, no matter how passionate, makes up for what Arthur said to her. Especially since , once again, it’s Agravaine’s meddling. Arthur valiantly stood up for his feelings towards Gwen in front of UTHER, and boldly kissed her in the middle of the courtyard last season, and now, at Agravaine’s say-so, he’s being cruel to her? I’m at a loss, especially after the last four episodes of Merlin, as to why Arthur seems to be doubting himself so much. Yes, the game’s changed, with him as King Arthur, but it hasn’t changed that much.
There were some great parts – such as the seriousness of the first five minutes, Merlin’s attempt to talk to Arthur seriously, Arthur calling Merlin an old friend and the loyalty that Arthur did have from the knights (and Arthur’s acknowledgment of that). The episode had some strong, solid story telling, and Lindsay Duncan was magnificent as Queen Annis.
What did you think of “His Father’s son”? How are you liking Arthur as King so far?
Join us here , or in the forum!