Written By: Howard Overman
Directed By: Alice Troughton
Brought to you by OBS Staff Member Karolina
Picture: BBC Merlin
Okay, I am assuming if you are reading this, you either want to know what happens in Merlin, or you have watched it. I am going to do this any way. There are MAJOR, MAJOR game changing SPOILERS in this episode. Consider this your warning. Game changing spoilers. Seriously.
Another warning – I am going to be lighter on the “Recap” section. and heavier on the “Review” section, because I had a LOT of feelings about this one. So, here we go.
Camelot is preparing for a feast, acrobats and other performers pour through the gates , as Merlin excitedly watches from a window. He calls to Arthur to join in his excitement, but the prince is having none of it. Merlin asks him what is wrong, that it is his birthday. Arthur gives the impression he doesn’t care, and they banter , as they are wont to do. As the celebrations are being prepared, a knife thrower and his helper searches for the prince’s “special gift”. Some daggers. Because that’s not ominous. Arthur goes to visit his father, and, in a moment of clarity,, Uther is reminded that it is his son’s birthday, and vows to join in the celebrations.
Uther and Arthur are happily conversing as the celebrations continue, when Arthur is called on by the knife thrower. An apple is placed into his mouth and he is put on a wheel where he is spun around. The knife thrower throws dangerously close to Arthur’s head, until the third dagger hit the apple (what looks like it is aided by Merlin’s magic). Arthur is let down, and the knife thrower reveals that a much more sinister plot is a foot – the apple (which Arthur is happily munching on) has a sedative on it and will leave Arthur powerless. A seemingly drunk Arthur makes his way back to his chambers , followed by an amused Merlin. He laments about his father and his demeanor near the end of the night , and deciding to go and check on him (after Merlin points out that Arthur is not wearing any trousers – apparently they have been around his ankles the whole time). Arthur goes to his father, and is followed (undetected by Arthur) by the knife thrower. Arthur settles down in a chair next to his father and closes his eyes – only to be attacked from behind. Arthur puts up a good fight, but the sedative is strong. Just as it looks like Arthur is going to be struck down, Uther is suddenly in the fight. A really magnificent, tight sword fight ensues between the would -be assassin and Uther, who is protecting his son. He fights valiantly – but, as he strikes down his opponent – Uther is also mortally wounded. A distraught, tearful Arthur holds his dying father and weakly calls for the guards, any one, to come and help them. Uther tells his son that he is proud of him, and that he has always loved him, and then his eyes close.
Gaius tells Arthur that the blade has touched Uther’s heart, and he only has a few days to live, there is nothing he can do for him. In the council chambers, Agravaine informs Arthur that the assassin was sent by Odin, as retribution for his son (a reminder of S2, Ep 2, The once and Future Queen). As their meeting ends, Merlin enters. Arthur anxiously asks after his father. When he hears there is no change, he becomes angry and asks why is Gaius not doing anything, to which Merlin calmly tells him that there is nothing to be done. Instead of more anger, Arthur lifts his hand in silent apology, and tries to reign in his emotions.
Agravaine, the toad that he is, rides to Morgana and tells her of this development and it’s impact on Arthur. They agree to wait for Uther’s pending death before striking. Gwen continues to care for Uther, under Arthur’s watchful eye. He thanks her, and she tells him that she is doing it for him. He confides in her that he believes that Uther cannot die, as there is so much he still needs to tell him – Gwen is at a bit of a loss to comfort the prince.
In Arthur’s chambers, Merlin watches the citizens of Camelot gather to hold a candle light vigil for their ailing king. Arthur joins Merlin and seems frustrated that the people seem ready to give up hope. Merlin tells them that they are preparing for the worst, and implies that he should too. He again stresses that there is nothing that can be done for Uther, that he is dying, as much as he doesn’t want to tell Arthur that. Arthur counters that magic can save his father.
In their chambers, Merlin and Gaius discuss Arthur’s idea. Gaius argues against it, trying to dissuade Merlin from helping Arthur by discussing Merlin being discovered (and reminding Merlin that last time he tried the ageing spell, he was nearly burned at the stake) , to Uther’s wrath when he is cured. Merlin argues that this could be his chance to make Arthur see the truth about magic. Merlin returns to Arthur, telling him that Gaius knows of an old man who lives in the forest who can help them – and that Merlin can take Arthur to him. Arthur, hesitating, asks Merlin if he would use magic to save Uther if he were in Arthur’s position. Merlin answers the affirmative, and this seems to settle it for Arthur, because then Merlin is being told to ready the horses for first light. First though, Arthur has to tell dear old uncle Agravaine about his plan. Agravaine strongly opposes the idea, but Arthur asks for trust – even though he knows magic has hurt both himself and his uncle in the past.
Merlin and Arthur get to a hut in the woods, and Merlin comically tries to avoid Arthur so he can turn into OldMerlin – and then puts on an amazing performance as the eccentric old man from season 3. In between completely vexing Arthur, OldMerlin does manage to make Arthur promise to let sorcerers live in peace if OldMerlin heals Uther. OldMerlin agrees and tells Arthur that he will meet Arthur at Camelot when night falls. OldMerlin runs out of the hut to revert back to regular Merlin, who apparently was peeing the whole time Arthur was talking to the sorcerer. On their return to Camelot, Merlin rushes to Gaius to let him know, and again to convey his wish to change Arthur’s view on magic, and finally reveal to him exactly who he is.
Agravaine once again snitches to Morgana about Arthur’s plans to heal Uther with magic. Luckily for Team Evil, Morgana has an amulet and a spell up her sleeve that can stop that. She enchants the amulet so that whatever healing spell is done on Uther it will have the reverse affect and increase it – effectively killing him. Agravaine is given the task to put the amulet around Uther’s neck. Back in Camelot, Merlin frantically looks for the right spell – finally supplied by Gaius (and William of Cambria- which is modern day Wales).
Gwen tends to Uther, and is told by Agravaine (who is back) to start a fire, distracting her enough to place the amulet around Uther’s neck. An irate Arthur searches for Merlin – and is distracted by Gaius as Merlin run out of Camelot to change into OldMerlin and meet Arthur. Here begins OldMerlin testing Arthur, and even scoring a piggy back ride from him when he is too slow , before they make it back to Uther’s chambers (Colin Morgan must have had a blast in this scene). Once there, Arthur dismisses the guards, and OldMerlin and Arthur stand over Uther. Arthur starts doubting his decision to revert to magic, but OldMerlin once again pleads his case that all he wants is peace, and that not all magic, or all sorcerers are the same, and that he just wants to be seen by Arthur for who he is. Arthur steps back and lets him use magic. It works at first. Uther wakes, and Arthur and Uther smile at each other, until Uther begins to splutter, and soon enough – he is dead. Both Arthur and OldMerlin become distraught, OldMerlin insisting that something went wrong and that had not been the desired effect. Arthur , furious, pukks out his sword – only to be thrown back by Merlin’s magic. Merlin runs – and stands frozen outside the chambers as guard begin to gather, and then quickly takes the potion that will revert him back to regular Merlin. He runs back into Uther’s chambers, only to see Arthur crying beside his father, with Gwen by his side, and Gaius pronouncing him dead.
Gaius and Merlin return to their chambers, and Gaius reveals the amulet and Morgana’s part in Uther’s death to a distraught Merlin. Agravaine once again tells Morgana of the goings on. Morgana reveals that she felt Uther’s pain as he died – and that there would be no celebration until she had taken the throne from Arthur. Agravaine reassures his lady that Arthur is distraught, and he will turn to him for guidance, and that Agravaine has no intention of letting Arthur suceed.
Back in Camelot, Merlin tries to apologise to Arthur , only to be told that Arthur is the one solely to blame. That Uther had tried to warn Arthur against magic.Merlin attempts to defend the sorcerer, saying it could have been an accident – and not the sorcerer’s intention. In his anguish, Arthur says the line “All I know is that I’ve lost both my parents to magic. Magic is pure evil and I’ll never lose sight of that again.” All Merlin can do is nod.
As Arthur goes to mourn the dead king – Gaius tries to console Merlin, saying that Uther’s death lies on Morgana’s shoulders. Merlin argues that Arthur hates magic more than ever, and that is his doing – and that Arthur will never see him for who he really is. Gaius hold hope that that is not so – and that as king, Arthur will need Merlin more than ever. Gaius tries to persuade Merlin to join him for food, but Merlin states he wants to wait for Arthur.
Arthur mourns the whole night, and with a kiss to his father’s forehead, leaves to begin a new day. As he opens the door, he find Merlin sitting on the floor, waiting for Arthur all night – not wanting him to feel alone. Arthur labels Merlin a loyal friend, and they go to have breakfast.
Arthur’s coronation is next- Arthur pledges his allegiance to Camelot – and stands, crowned King of Camelot. The crowd begin the chant of “Long live the king!” Merlin watches on, speechless, until the final call, where his voice rises above all others.
The King is dead; Long Live the King indeed! So many emotions for this episode. So many amazing, amazing emotions. I’m actually not sure how I feel about this episode. I’m going to admit something. I hurt through it. A lot. More than is probably necessary for a fantasy show. But all the credit for that goes to Bradley James, Colin Morgan, and the magnificent Anthony Head. I really am slightly numb with the story line, so I am going to place my focus here on these three actors and the characters that they play. Please, let me know what you thought of the episode itself, and I’ll see if I’m a little more with it to put my thoughts together, too!
Let’s start with Uther. Uther wanting to be there for Arthur’s birthday – Uther protecting his son when Arthur was drugged, and being stabbed and his final words to Arthur being “I’ve always loved you” (and Arthur’s subsequent reaction to that) wrecked me. I don’t cry in tv shows or movies, as a rule – but I did here. I have had my ups and downs with Uther as a character – but I have always, always adored Anthony Head in every role I have seen him in. Uther was absolutely no exception. He has always played him beautifully; whether it is the small minded King hell bent on ridding his kingdom of magic – or the loving father who wants to protect his two children but not quite sure on how to do it. For a character that traditionally is not really fleshed out in the legend – BBC and Mr Head have done an amazing job with Uther Pendragon. Dare I say, he will be missed.
Bradley James – he is always, always wonderful as Arthur. In this episode I cried when he cried, I couldn’t help it. Arthur, to me, actually LOOKED older in this episode. I loved his joy at his father joining him at his birthday, and his devastation when he is clutching Uther in his arms and desperately calling out for someone to help him. I ADORED the way he spoke to Merlin in this episode – even when he went to go see “dragoon” and was confused by Merlin’s strange behaviour and excuses. The fact that he asked Merlin’s opinion about using magic to save Uther thrilled me. His acknowledging Merlin as a loyal friend made me choke up, again. And the broken way he said Merlin’s name when he found Merlin on the stairs was amazing. And the hope in his eyes when OldMerlin tells him he will help him. But, Oh. My. Gosh. I understand that it is completely in character for Arthur to be completely trusting of people and think of them in terms of good people and have the good of Camelot in mind – but oh my gosh. Running to tell Agravaine that he wants to use magic to save his father? Really not the smartest thing that Arthur has done. Even if he WASN’T going to run and tell Morgana – surely Arthur couldn’t have thought saying “Hi Uncle. So, you know that thing that killed your sister and my mother? Well, I’m going to use it to save my Father. What do ya reckon?” could have ended in any other way than badly. His scenes with Uther- especially when he was dying and when he was saying goodbye were heart wrenching.
Now – Colin Morgan/Merlin/Dragoon the great/ Emrys. I’ve heard whispers from several sources that they believe Colin Morgan is not up to his usual standard of acting this season , or that he has been “off”. I hope this episode stops that talk because he was AMAZING. Incredibly comical as whatever we are calling OldMerlin (I am still amazed by the makeup department too) and as Merlin – I don’t think I could have asked for more in this episode. I adored the fact that he was the one telling Arthur how it was, that his father was going to die and there was nothing that they could do (and there was no angry outburst from Arthur). He was completely honest with Arthur about whether he would use magic to save his father (again, no angry outburst from Arthur.) Let’s talk about the last few scenes, shall we? Merlin sitting outside , on the steps waiting for Arthur so he wouldn’t feel alone was amazing. And Arthur’s coronation – I squeaked when Arthur was going through his pledge to Camelot, and when he stood with the crown on his head as King, I had a huge grin on my face. Words can’t describe what I felt when the crowd began to chant “Long Live the King”, followed by the knights, and Gwen and then finally, finally , rising his voice above them all – Merlin; with such conviction and dedication for Arthur. That’s what Merlin is about for me. Yes – the magic is a huge part of this series – but more importantly and significant to me is the loyalty and bond that Merlin and Arthur share.
As always, there’s more than just words with the interaction between Arthur and Merlin (and Bradley and Colin) – they seem to have full length conversations just by looking at each other sometimes- something I could never adequately convey in these reviews.
I know there are fans who believe that this is a press of the reset button (like a lot of people thought S2 Sins of the Father was a reset button episode too) but I’m not sure about that. It was Arthur’s decision to try magic to save his father- just like it was Uther’s to use magic to help conceive Arthur. This is a test for Arthur, to see if he is his own man – or if he will carry Uther’s (somewhat justifiable, in some cases) prejudice. Speaking of which – I’m not going to dwell on this but – wow, Morgana – way to play into the whole “magic is pure evil” stance that Uther took. You are EXACTLY the reason your kind is hated. Well done, Crazy lady.
I’ve focused on Anthony Head/Bradley James/Colin Morgan and their respective characters in my review because I found their performances captivating , but everyone else , Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson, Katie McGrath, Nathaniel Parker were all amazing in their roles.
Two deaths in 3 episodes. I can’t imagine how the rest of this season will go?
What do you think? Is Arthur ready to be King? Do you think Merlin is every going to reveal his secret? Does it matter if he does or not? What do you think of Merlin’s choice? Do you think the story is progressing with this development, or do you think it’s taken a step back?
Join us here or in the forum to discuss