Episode :The death song of Uther Pendragon.
Written by Howard Overman
Directed by Justin Molotnovik
Review written by OBS staff member Karolina Avalon
Picture: Merlin BBC
This episode starts with Merlin sneezing, and asking Arthur if he is still angry with him. It turns out that the king and his trusty manservant are on a hunting trip, and whenever Arthur is about to catch his prey, Merlin would sneeze and scare away the game ( or sneeze and fall into a stream).
The men ride along , when suddenly they hear a woman’s scream ( which Merlin tries to pass off as a bird, and mournfully says ‘ never just a bird’ when Arthur runs to investigate what the woman is screaming about).
Merlin and Arthur happen Arun a village, getting ready to burn a witch. Arthur demands that the woman be let down, asking if she had been given a fair trial and revealing himself to be the King of Camelot. The main villager states that Uther would not have shown the woman mercy, and Arthur reminds him that he is not his father. When the villager moves to disobey Arthur, Arthur goes as far as putting Excalibur to the villagers’ throat.
Night falls, and Merlin tends to the old witch, while Arthur gets supplies. Merlin tells Arthur that the woman will not make it through the night. Arthur tells him that Merlin is to make her as comfortable as possible as she passes. The woman suddenly comes to, and grabs Arthurs’ arm. She thanks him, and tells him that she does not fear death, but that he has shown kindness and compassion ; qualities of a true King. She presents him with a gift, a horn. A horn that has the power to summon the spirits of the dead. And with that , the woman dies.
Back at Camelot, Gaius lets Arthur and Merlin in on the power of the horn, stating that it had been hidden away after Uther’s attack on the Isle of the Blessed. He tells them that he had seen the horn in action, that before the Great Purge he had taken part in magic ceremonies. Gaius tells Arthur and Merlin that on Beltane the high priestesses would summon their ancestors using the horn; that it holds powerful magic and must be kept safe. With a look to Merlin, Gaius hands the horn back to Arthur, who looks at it contemplatively.
It’s the anniversary of Arthur’s coronation, and while the knights celebrate around him, Arthur sits , brooding. Mordred watches as Guinevere tries to cheer her husband up. Elyan explains to Mordred that while the coronation is technically a joyful occasion , it’s also the anniversary of Uther’s death. Arthur leaves the celebration, with a quick squeeze of Guinevere’s shoulder and goes to Uther’s tomb where he stands for a while. Arthur is then in his chambers, the horn in front of him. There’s a knock on the door , and Arthur throws a bowl of apples on the floor, using the bowl to hide the horn as Merlin enters. Merlin tries to see what Arthur’s hiding , but is told to ready the horses. Arthur refuses to reveal where they are going, but threatens ( and hits) Merlin with a spoon, telling him not to tell anyone of their journey, not even Guinevere.
Merlin , having a bad feeling, tries to get Arthur to turn around, but is told a flat no. They reach the Great stones of Nematon ( which, hey, that’s stone henge!) where Arthur reveals he is going to use the horn. Merlin warns Arthur about the magic he is about to use, but Arthur states that his father had been taken from him before his time, and there was so much that he wanted to say to Uther; wouldn’t Merlin do the same, given the chance? Merlin reluctantly nods, and Arthur blows the horn. Not much happens, until a bright light is shown, and a worried Merlin watches as Arthur moves towards it and is engulfed.
Arthur is met by his father in the light. Arthur brokenly tells his father that he sometimes feels so alone that he wishes Uther was by his side. Uther responds with if that we’re the case, Arthur would not like what Uther would have to say, as a lot of the decisions made by Arthur had gone against what Uther had taught him. Arthur says he has done what he has thought best; Uther says he has gone against Camelot’s traditions. Arthur has allowed commoners to become knights, he has married a serving girl instead of for political gain, and the citizens of Camelot do not fear him. Despite Arthur’s arguments of the knights being the best Camelot has seen, the fact that he wants respect, not fear from his subject and that he loves Guinevere more than he can express; Uther’s final judgement is a harsh one – Arthur has failed. Arthur tries to tell Uther that all he has wanted is for Uther to be proud; but how can Uher be proud of a son who has ignored all he taught him and destroyed his legacy? Arthur, crying now, points out that he has brought peace to the kingdom, but Uther argues that the cost is too great. He tells Arthur to go; if he stays longer, he will be trapped in the realm of the dead. Arthur yells that this can’t be the time he sees Uther, and Uther tells him to think of what he had said, that it is not to late for Arthur to change.
A stunned Arthur starts to leave, and he hears Uther say ” I will always love you, Arthur” and Arthur turns to watch Uther fade. Merlin’s waiting at the stones, and hopefully calls out to Arthur, but Arthur doesn’t respond. Later, they are sitting by a fire, Arthur staring into the fire, and Merlin watching Arthur. Merlin quietly asks if Arthur wants to talk about what happened at the stones, and Arthur starts, as if he forgot that Merlin was there, and tells Merlin that apparently Uther is not happy with the way Arthur is running “his kingdom” . Merlin, with quiet , controlled anger, corrects Arthur, saying “YOUR kingdom”. Arthur shrugs as if this is irrelevant , and tells Merlin of Uther’s frustrations around Guinevere and the knights , and actually questions whether he has weakened Camelot with the decisions he’s made. Merlin reminds him that he has always acted on what he has felt is right, and that he is respected. Merlin tries to lighten the mood by calling Arthur an arrogant ass, but, this time, it doesn’t work and they go to sleep.
Back in Camelot, at the round table, Leon is droning on with a military report and several knights seem to be napping, when the counsel chamber doors burst open, by themselves. Leon looks to Arthur, who gestures for him to continue, when the chandelier above their heads falls directly on the table.
Arthur, non plussed , is giving Merlin instructions, but Merlin is clearly shaken up by what happened in the counsel chambers . Arthur ridicules Merlin, and leaves him standing in the hallway, as a gust of wind shoots past him. Arthur, irritated, calls for Merlin to follow him.
Cut to the knights; Gwaine and Percival banter about how long it takes for Percival to get ready and in armour. The knights leave Percival alone, when a gust of wind makes itself known. It moves some things around, and Percival calls out to see if anyone is there ; he is answered by an axe in the back.
While being tended to by Gaius and Merlin, Percival logics the axe away, saying that it must have ” fallen”. Gaius states that it is a remarkably deep wound for an accident, and Percival reveals that strangely he had had the feeling that someone had been watching him. Percival leaves, with a poultice and instructions not to attend training the next day. In the hallway, Percival once again has the feeling of being watched.
Merlin, nervous, tells Gaius of the trip to the stones of Nematon. Gaius answers Merlin with more information about the training that the priestesses took part in before opening the veil of the dead; how they were instructed to never look back as the veil was closing as that would release the spirit into the living world.
In Arthur’s chambers, Merlin confronts Arthur. After much hesitation, Arthur admits that he may have had a glance as the veil was closing. Merlin tells Arthur that the “glance” had unleashed Uther’s spirit, and now he was fixing what had made him unhappy with Arthur’s reign. Merlin points out that the round table stands for everything Arthur is trying to achieve, the fact that Percival was hurt ( Percival being the very obvious commoner knight) . Despite Merlin’s very convincing argument, Arthur ignores the warning and demands Merlin leave him. After being told a second time, Merlin does.
Guinevere walks through the castle alone, when she hears a noise behind her. She thinks nothing of it, and moves on. She hears it again, and calls out. Suddenly a shutter on the window starts banging, and then more and more. Guinevere runs, a phantom chasing and cornering her, and finally knocking her out. A curtain catches fire and surrounds the unconscious queen. Thank everything for Merlin, who notices the fire, and runs to Guinevere’s rescue.
As Merlin and Arthur watch Gaius tend to the Queen, Merlin again argues that this is Uther’s doing. Arthur tries to deny it, saying that Uther knows how much Arthur loves Guinevere, that he would not try to end her life. Gaius confirms that will Guinevere is okay, if Merlin had no found her when he had, she would have died. Arthur makes a last ditch attempt at saying that Uther would not be so cruel, but then asks Gaius what he knows of ghosts.
Gaius states that they must cast Uther back into the veil of the dead, that he can create a potion so that the ghost is visible to both Arthur and Merlin; however, only the horn and the person who summoned the ghost have the power to vanquish it. Arthur stares contemplatively at the horn, and is startled by Merlin. Then both of them are startled by a mouse, and then by Gaius. Residence of Camelot sure are jumpy this episode. Gaius gives Arthur and Merlin the potion, but admits that he is unsure of how safe it is. Arthur watches Merlin drink, stating that he wants to be sure it’s safe before he drinks his. Merlin defiantly drinks his, and then Arthur follows. To Arthur’s horror, the concoction is foul tasting, something that Merlin cattily states that he ” forgot ” to mention.
Arthur and Merlin start their ghost hunt, briefly intercepted by Leon, who enquires what they are doing. Merlin, put on the spot by Arthur, states” poetry”. A confused Leon leaves them to their ” poetry”. As they search of the ghost, Arthur talks about how all hes ever wanted to do is make Uther proud, but merlin negates that. he reminds his king that arthu has always worked with the people of Camelot in mind, and that he is a far more respected, stronger and wiser King than his father ever was because of his insistence in doing things right.
On they trek, but Merlin and Arthur are soon separated by Uther, Merlin ending up in the storage room, and Arthur in the throne room. Uther appears on the throne, and once again speaks of his disappointment in Arthur, and how his legacy is being ruined. Arthur tells Uther that he trusts Guinevere more than anyone, and Uther tried to kill her. Uther argues that a serving girl would know nothing of running a kingdom ( and Arthur argues that she is wise and strong) and that Arthur’s trust of people is what makes him weak. He tells his son that Arthur, and Arthur alone must rule Camelot ; Arthur yells that he would rather not rule than rule alone. When Uther again asks Arthur if he has learnt nothing from what he was taught; Arthur states that he watched his father rule- and learnt that if you rule alone you rule in fear and hatred. That Uther’s hatred was a product of fear , not strength. That he had loved and respected Uther, but that he had to rule the kingdom on his own terms. Uther is furious, and Arthur tells Uther that he will have to kill him if he does not like they way he has ruled. Uther states that Camelot comes first, even before his son, and knocks Arthur out.
Uther moves to end his son’s life, when a cold, dark voice tells him to move away. There stands a very angry Merlin. He tells Uther that he must return to the other realm; Uther scoffs that Merlin is a mere serving. Merlin, his fury barely contained, says that h is so much more than that. Uther attempts to throw a bench at Merlin – who stops it with his magic. Merlin’s face shows the seriousness of his actions, as Uther hisses that Merlin has magic. Merlin yells that he was born with it. Uther rages about how he made Merlin Arthur’s servant, and how he would not let his kind poison his kingdom, and Merlin points out that even under Uther’s rule, magic was at the heart of Camelot. He puts his faith in Arthur, stating that Arthur has been a far more worthy king than Uther ever was. Uther screams, and Merlin pushes the ghost away. Then follows.
As Merlin looks for the spirit, he hears noises, ,and Uther appears behind him. Merlin enters the weapons room, and is attacked by spears, pinning him to the wall. Uther stalks in, gleefully telling him that it is going to be a great pleasure killing Merlin. He holds a sword up to Merlin, and Arthur runs in. He shows Uther the horn in his hand. Uther begs his son not to send him back to the netherworld, saying all he did was for Camelot. Arthur’s words to his father? ” you’ve had your turn. Now, it’s mine.” He raises the horn to his lips. Uther, panicked, says ” Merlin has m…” And the horn sounds and Uther dissipates. Arthur and Merlin both stare at each other, shaken.
As Merlin dresses Arthur in his armour, Arthur talks of how he had always respected and admired his father, more than anyone – unless Uther disagreed with him- then he would do what he thought was right. Merlin sort of defends Uther, saying that VHS had acted in a way that he thought was right for the kingdom. Arthur argues that that didn’t mean that Uther was right. Arthur wants a kingdom that is fair and just, where everyone is respected regardless of rank. Merlin decides to challenge this, asking if that includes him. Arthur says of course, and Merlin contemplates if that means Arthur will stop hitting him. Arthur argues that what he does is just “horseplay” . Again, Merlin challenges this, by whacking Arthur across the head with a glove. The episode ends with Arthur putting the glove on and telling Merlin that he would show him how it’s “really done”.
What I loved about this episode was Arthur’s conviction in what he wanted for Camelot, and how it truly did show how different he was to his father. Arthur argued for a fair trial for a woman his father would have had no qualms in killing on the spot. He actually USED magic to bring his father back, even though he claims to hate it himself. Arthur only looked contemplative, not disgusted , when Gaius brought up his past forays in magic use. Arthur was very clear in doing things for Camelot, marrying for love and someone that he trusts , using that , once again, to benefit his kingdom, rather than weaken it. Arthur showed the characteristics of a great king in this episode. However, there was something that Uther said that I agree with ; Arthur’s weakness is that he trusts – too easily. We’ve seen that consistently with this series ; Morgana, Agravaine and Uther himself have all wronged Arthur (and Gwen did too – but that was magically initiated in this retelling, so I’m still not sure if that counts). However, he has still loved them, and still tried to justify them in a sense. Arthur’s heart, however, can also be a strength, with Guinevere, Merlin and Gaius plus the knights by his side. Arthur also, as Merlin points out, doubts himself a little too often still – which puts his integrity in danger.
Merlin : I adored his controlled anger – the ferocity he showed in arguing with Arthur and Uther – and the magic reveal to Uther was brilliant – the weight of that scene was amazing, and the panic Merlin showed when Uther was going to kill him, plus the devastation and relief when Arthur saved him was magnificent. And yay Arthur for putting Merlin above his father when he needed to. Interesting that Arthur didn’t react to “Merlin has m…”
Anthony Head, Bradley James and Colin Morgan proved that they were a force to be reckoned with in “Sins of the father”; and they continued to do so in “Death song of Uther Pendragon”. They were amazing together.
What did you think of this episode? What did you think of the almost reveal of magic? It’s so strange to think there’s only 10 episodes to go!