Merlin s5, ep 1 : Arthur’s Bane, part 1
written by : Julian Jones
directed by : Justin Molotnikov
Review by OBS staff member Karolina Avalon
Picture : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00mjlxv
Season 5 Merlin starts with Merlin running through The Castle of Camelot , in a blind panic; it seems the Queen is missing. He runs back to Arthur, to tell him of this dilemma, only to be snarked at by the catty King ( shouldn’t you be aware of where your queen is, Arthur? MERLIN didn’t marry her.) but, all’s fine- Gwen, or rather, Queen Guinevere , is just running a tad late, along with her never seen before hand maiden. Arthur poo – poos the tardiness of his love, and they make their way to the throne room. The throne room, that, much to my fannish heart’s delight, houses the round table. There is an auspicious empty seat, as Arthur gravely tells his present knights that the quiet three years Camelot has enjoyed ( REALLY?? THREE YEARS???) is over, due the strange and mysterious disappearance of Sir Gwaine. As Arthur recounts the futile search headed by Sir Elyan for Gwaine, the viewer sees said knight trekking through a snow covered land scape. He decodes disturbed by a howling wolf. He and his men make a run for it, but whatever was chasing them seems to have bested them, as we see a collapsed Gwaine, and the howling wolf, and a cloaked figure. Oh, hi Morgana!
Morgana rides back to her snow covered lair with her wolves and an unconscious lair to meet with a gentle men, who tells Morgana that that was the last of the Camelot patrol. Morgana questions when Arthur will send more, and whines that they are” running out of time”. The man speaks of a prophecy of “Arthur’s bane” , and that once that is known , Arthur end is nigh. Morgana follows up with the very valid point of until that bane is known, the prophecy is useless. The man speaks of the key to all knowledge, that could tell them what the bane is, and that the key to all knowledge is beneath their feet. Apparently it’s not that simple, because Morgana has looked for three months, and still hasn’t found what she’s looking for ( I’m sure Bono knows how you feel, Morgana). The man ( still nameless) chastises Morgana and tells her to be patient ; to which Morgana states that she and patience are ” old friends” ( I’d say, mortal enemies, but, you know, pot-ay-to, pot-ah-to). Gwaine is dragged in, and he half heartedly goads the lady Morgana, and she fired back with the fact that he’s not looking so ” pretty ” now ( dude, it’s Gwaine. I can’t imagine a time he wouldn’t be pretty. ) Morgana also says that Arthur should know not to send his knights so far north ( he should have also realised trusting you was a stupid move too, but, there you go.) Gwaine tells Morgana to kill him, but Morgana wants him to do something for her first. The camera pans down to a series of Morgana’s minions ( and Percival, who Arthur conveniently forgot to mention was missing) mining under Morgana’s lair. Back in Camelot, Arthur and a few of his knights ( including Elyan, Leon , Gwen and Gaius, with long hair) discuss how to attack Ismir ; where Morgana is rumoured to be, and where Gwaine was probably heading. The group try to plan a route that would be undetected by Morgana; and it’s Guinevere who suggests going through queen Annis’ lands – something that Leon states could be done with the permission of the queen ( last seen in season 4 ep 5 ; his father’s son). The decision is made, and Merlin opens the door, and walks straight into Guinevere’s handmaiden , knocking the fruit she was carrying . They both clumsily apologise to each other, as Merlin helps her gather the fruit, and Guinevere gives a little ” aw that used to be me” smile and queenly flounces off. Merlin and the hand maiden flirt a little, until Arthur bellows for Merlin and he runs off. Arthur, the knights and Merlin ride off to find Gwaine and Percival ( who is kindly mentioned by Merlin). Merlin questions their fate, and Arthur says that he has to find out what that fate is, as they are knights of the round table and it is a bond they share. He follows this sweet sentiment up with telling Merlin that if it were him, Arthur wouldn’t bother ( obviously Arthur’s conveniently forgotten the events of ” servant of two masters”).
A shirtless Gwaine and Percival toil away in Morgana’s caves, talking about this ” key” Morgana is searching for, and how it has become her obsession. Meanwhile , Arthur and his posse have made it to Annis’ lands. Arthur sends Elyan across the ridge of a valley, to ride ahead and report back. They soon meet up, and what Elyan has found is a whole bunch of unconscious villagers. As Arthur and his men warily peruse the village, Merlin wanders off a little, into what looks like a cave, but turns out to be a dwelling . He hears someone calling ” Emrys” and follows the sound-leading him to an unconscious man with a Druid tattoo on his wrist. As Merlin touches the man, he awakens. Merlin questions what happened, and the man states that it happened at all is what is important ; that he had foreseen this since before Merlin had been born. He states that he has waited for this moment with sorrow in his heart, because as Camelot blossoms, the seeds of her destruction are being sown- and they will come in the form of ” Arthur’s Bane”. The man warns Merlin to fear it, and to act quickly, or he will not be able to stop the never -ending circle of Arthur’s fate. And, with that, another one bites the dust.
Merlin looks into the water near the dead mans’ head, and sees the fate of Arthur – fire, dead knights, and a man, walking towards Arthur. Arthur looks horrified, and makes a face as if he has just been stabbed by a sword; then falls to his knees. Merlin’s premonition is interrupted by the real Arthur asking Merlin if the man that he is sitting by is alive. A very stricken and emotional Merlin stares at Arthur, who , in a concerned voice, asks Merlin what’s wrong. Merlin, tears in his eyes, shakes his head. Arthur misunderstands Merlin distress and tells him he’s seen a dead body before, and that they need to give all the villagers a proper burial. Merlin, still shaken by the vision and unable to speak, follows Arthur.
That night, the knights and Arthur sleep ; but Merlin is still very shaken by his vision. So, he does his dragon lord thing, and summons killgarrah to him. Killgarrah tells Merlin that the Druid he had met was a powerful seer, and that it was not a chance meeting – but suggests it was a gift. Merlin, still upset, says that it feels like a burden. Killgarrah is certain that Merlin should use the information to Merlin’s advantage, but, as always, is cryptic in how to.
Arthur reaches Queen Annis’ castle, and is warmly greeted by the Queen. She invites Arthur to dine with her, as they have much to discuss. In Camelot, another Queen is far to worried to eat. Guinevere tells her servant that she should be used to not knowing if her husband will return. She remembers that she used to be Gwen, and offers her handmaiden food. They speak of love, and the nameless handmaiden states there is someone she cares for, but cannot reveal who. She comforts her lady, stating that the King is the strongest warrior, and will probably return. Guinevere holds her hand in gratitude .
Back at the feast, Annis tells Arthur that Saxons had started disappearing in Ismir, and that Morgana seemed to be using the disappeared men, not killing them – so, with that thought, surmises that Arthur’s men might still live. She then tells Arthur that his ” fool” ( Merlin) should perform for them. Arthur, with a shit eating grin, tells Merlin to do as the queen bids, as she is allowing them safe passage through her lands. Merlin, proving he is no one’s fool, magics himself into a – well, a magician, expertly juggling eggs and making them disappear, much to Arthur’s confusion.
Back in Arthur’s chambers – Merlin is moody, as Arthur questions him in his sudden prowess at juggling. Merlin snarks that he has talents that always go unnoticed by the King, and Arthur demands Merlin tell him what’s wrong. Merlin states that he doesn’t think they should go to Ismir, but Arthur ignores this, spurred on by the suggestion Annis made that his men are alive.
Back in Camelot, nameless hand maiden sneaks out of the castle, as Guinevere watches, amused. She makes her way to the forest, and into a cave, where nameless man who Morgana was with is chanting. He stops, and puts a knife to no longer nameless hand maiden’s neck ( it’s Sefa). She tells him of Arthur’s plan to attack Morgana through Annis’ land. She asks what else she can do, and the man tells her that she has ” served (your) purpose” and he leaves, only to check if she has been ill treated. Sefa tells the man ( who turns out to be her father) that ” they” have been good to her ; but he states that the only thing Pendragons are good for is death, then leaves Sefa with the gravity of her betrayal.
Arthur leaves Annis’ castle, and back in Camelot, Guinevere readies herself to speak to the counsel. She notices that Sefa is acting strange, and surmises that her little escape from Camelot the night before was a tryst with the nameless love; a misunderstanding Sefa gratefully runs with.
Sefa’s father informs Morgana of Arthur’s sneak attack, and she tells him to prepare for battle, as they will ride that night. As the unsuspecting Arthur and his men make camp, laughing and joking; an emo Merlin throws pebbles into a pond. Arthur notices his man servants’ absence and walks over to him, uncharacteristically saying his name in a hushed tone. Merlin angrily asks Arthur how the knights can be so jovial, when they are about to go into battle. Arthur tells him that a warrior tries to make the most of every moment, and Merlin finishes the thought with the idea that it could be his last. Arthur takes a seat next to Merlin and asks again what is wrong. Merlin skirts the real issue, speaking of Morgana’s power. Arthur states that he is only worried for his men, who are more than brothers to him. That he cannot abandon them, as they would not abandon him. Merlin looks meaningfully at Arthur, saying he understands ; he wishes he didn’t – but he does. Arthur nods and smiles. They sit silently for a while, until Arthur tells Merlin to go and have some food.
In the morning, Arthur and his knights find themselves under siege. Merlin tells them that they are surrounded. At the sight of Morgana on horseback, Arthur yells for his men to run, grabbing Merlin. Sefa’s dad fells Leon in battle, and Arthur proves what a great warrior he is, fighting his way to his knight’s side, but is unfortunately clonked on the head by Sefa’s dad. Merlin, not paying attention to the battle taking place around him, grabs Arthur and runs. Even though Arthur is still partially conscious, he uses magic to spook some of Morgana’s soldiers horses, and drags Arthur to safety. As Arthur comes to, he gives an eye roll (ha! Nice one, Bradley James!) and asks Merlin what happened. Merlin tells him of the battle, and of getting Arthur to safety. They snark at each other a little over Merlin’s worth.
Percival and Gwaine are still shirtless ( not that I’m complaining, but aren’t they cold?) and sleeping, until Gwaine hears something. Percival is unconcerned, but Gwaine warily watches the space where he saw something. Arthur and Merlin trek towards Ismir by themselves, while Merlin yells at Arthur about the danger of them fighting Morgana alone. Arthur reminds Merlin of the duty to his men, and offers to send Merlin home. Merlin states that his concern is for Arthur, to which Arthur tells him to shut up if he isn’t going to Camelot. Merlin tells Arthur that he will kill Arthur, if Morgana doesn’t. Arthur, completely nonplussed, tells Merlin that threatening a king is treason, to which Merlin growls back ” what about threatening an ASS?”
Leon and Elyan have found their way back to Camelot, and tell Guinevere and Gaius of Morgana’s ambush, and the disappearance of Arthur and Merlin, and Guinevere rightly guesses that Camelot has been betrayed.
Merlin and Arthur try to rest, back to back, and Merlin tries to warn Arthur of the old Druid’s prophecy. Arthur scoffs, stating that he wouldn’t believe a sorcerer, but Merlin doggedly pushes his concern for Arthur, stating that everything that they had worked for could be unraveled. Arthur states that the only way that could happen is if they turned their backs on their morals, and that he would protect his men, or die trying. Merlin states that he would protect Arthur , or die at his side. Arthur smiles and playfully punches Merlin’s arm, and turns back to sleep. Back in the caves, Gwaine hears something again, and tells Percival to ” cover for (me)” , follows a sound, and is beaten unconscious for his troubles.
Merlin and Arthur sleep, huddled together, until Arthur is woken by a noise. He covers Merlin’s mouth with his hand, as Morgana stands close by. She pouts that she can’t find the boys, and then rides away. Arthur and Merlin trek their way through the forest, Arthur wishing they had a horse, Merlin wishing for food. They spy some suspiciously already dead rabbits, and too late realise they have walked directly into a trap, and hang uselessly from a net.
Back in Camelot, Guinevere does her queenly duty, and confronts Sefa with her treason, and sentences her to death. Back in the caves, still unconscious, and still shirtless Gwaine is visited by some org of spirit, that looks like a luminescent cousin of ET . Arthur and Merlin have failed to free themselves from the trap, sleeping in the net, only to be rudely woken by Morgana’s lackies, who identify Arthur by Excalibur. Arthur requests Merlin’s release, but Merlin stubbornly stays by his king’s side. Merlin’s demise is stopped short, by the young man in Merlin’s vision of Arthur’s demise. He sends the lackies off, telling them that Morgana should decide Merlin and Arthur’s fate. He walks to Arthur, and helps him up, saying that he was once saved by Arthur. Merlin breathes out a name, to jog Arthur’s memory; ” Mordred” . Mordred smirks in Merlin’s direction , and says ” hello, Arthur.”
Apologies for the lateness of this review, but I figured I’d post Arthur’s Bane Part 1, and Arthur’s Bane Part two at the same time. What did you think of this as an opening episode for Season 5? I still love Arthur and Merlin together, and it was nice to see them not only banter, but also have meaningful chats; Merlin actually expressing anger towards Arthur, and Arthur taking the time to talk to Merlin, rather than just telling him to shut up. I also enjoyed more interaction from the Knights. What do you think of Angel Coulby’s performance? My insistence of referring to her as Guinevere now, instead of Gwen, is very deliberate. I saw little of Gwen in this episode. That does not mean that I do not like her interpretation, but I do not feel like calling her “Gwen” any more. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for doing these reviews – really love them!
Thought the moment when Merlin seeing the vision of Arthur’s demise fades into the real Arthur was a spectacularly moving moment, made all the more poignant by Merlin’s stunned and heartbroken reaction.
And it’s worth revisiting that scene with Mordred on the battlefield. If you look closely, you can see a rather significant emblem on Mordred’s right upper arm……