Title: Sins of the Father
Director: Metin Hüseyin
Writer: Howard Overman
Picture credit: BBC UK
Sins of the Father begins with a scene that reminded me strongly of Nimueh’s introduction in season 1 – a sorceress watches Arthur in a crystal and introduces what is the thread running through this episode and, I think, for Arthur in general from now on – the battle for his soul. At this point, though we will not know what form this battle will take.
In Camelot, Uther knights a selection of men, giving a stirring speech about honour which is interspersed with the arrival of a mysterious knight killing his way into the castle. At the ceremony, Uther declares Arthur the best of what a knight of Camelot should be and is the introduction of a somewhat heavy handed theme, but important nonetheless of Arthur being honourable, sometimes it seems to his detriment. The speech also serves to create the impression that Uther himself sees the value of those qualities and seeks to display them himself, but as the episode progresses, that was slowly stripped away for me.
The mysterious knight arrives at the chamber where the ceremony is taking place and throws down his gauntlet in challenge in front of Arthur. Arthur accepts and only then do we see that the knight is not a “he” at all, but the woman introduced to us in the beginning of the episode, Morgause. In the background, a trouble and confused Morgana looks on.
Uther, in an effort to protect Arthur orders a search of the knight’s code to get his son out of the challenge. As Morgause has killed 5 men, he is worried for Arthur, but Arthur points out that he cannot shy away from upholding the code, but expect his knights to do the same.
As Gwen readies Morgana’s chambers for bed, Morgana is watching Morgause practice in the courtyard below. She admits to Gwen that she feels as if she knows Morgause, thought she does not know from where.
In Arthur’s chambers, after this meeting with his father, Merlin works on Arthur’s armour as he paces the room. He has brought up the subject of Arthur pulling out of the challenge, but Arthur points out that if he withdraws he will be seen as coward and if he wins he would have slain a woman – neither holds any appeal for Arthur and his sense of honour. Merlin tries to warn him to be cautious, and in Arthur’s reaction to that, I saw some fear. Any enemy who kills 5 of his men is still an enemy to be reckoned with and for me this scene showed that Arthur does recognize that, even though his honour and the societal upbringing say differently. Arthur is a character that is shaped by his upbringing with Uther and yet is letting himself be shaped by for example, Merlin and Gwen, both of whom influence him away from Uther. Arthur orders Merlin to persuade Morgause to withdraw her challenge.
Which Merlin does at sword point in Morgause’s chambers. He tries valiantly to appeal to her as a woman who should be afraid of Arthur treating her as just another opponent, but Morgause does not react in the way he expects. She refuses and suggests instead that Arthur withdraw. Merlin quickly insists he won’t and Morgause replies that she wishes no special treatment as a woman and leaves Merlin with the sobering thought that Arthur’s life will rest in her hands and not the other way around. Which as it turns out, was true.
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This is a wonderfully ambiguous episode, right up until the very end. Arthur is the prize between Morgause and Uther here, and in this round it seems that Uther has won. But neither realizes that Merlin is in their battle as well, fighting his own fight for Arthur’s sake. Watching this, right up until the very end, I found myself never completely on Uther’s or Morgause’s side, which is a terrific piece of storytelling to pull off. We also see just how much Arthur and Merlin trust each other and how deeply their similarities run.
The show strengthens the similarities with Arthur and Merlin so much in this episode, which is a welcome change of pace this season. We begin to see again how they could connect on more than just a “destiny” level and I am hoping very much that moments like these are revisited later on. The show continues to draw compairsons with their “fathers ie Gaius for Merlin and Uther with this episode, where most recently we’ve seen how Gaius would have died to ensure Merlin’s safety in The Witchfinder episode, and here we have Uther fighting his son.