Merlin: You Won't See Me Again
After many weeks of absence, I return for the final two episodes of Merlin. Episode one begins with a sorcerer approaching Tom (Gwen’s father) and asking for some melted lead. The sorcerer turns the lead into gold using a magical rock (the Philosopher’s Stone?). Oooh, call Nicholas Flamel! Anyway, Tom is freaked out by it and Arthur arrives with guards to arrest Tom for treason. The sorcerer (Tauren) escapes, and Merlin feels a disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Wait, that’s something else. So Uther and his lack of mercy convicts Tom and sentences him to death. Morgana plays the role of de facto defense counsel and objects to the whole process, but it convinces Uther to give Tom a trial before executing him. Well, I hope Uther isn’t on the jury.
In preparing for Tom’s trial, Morgana searches his forge and finds the magical stone. She is intrigued and tells Merlin about Uther’s planned kangaroo court. Still outraged, Morgana slips Tom the key to his cell, but his escape does not last long; he is caught and is executed on the spot. Gwen is, how you say, upset or something. There’s a lot of over-the-top screams, that’s all I know.
Morgana, the new voice of reason and outrage, raises her objections to Uther, who responds by throwing her in the dungeon for the night. While Morgana sulks, Gwen is threatened by Tauren to get the stone back, otherwise he’ll kill her in two days. The next morning Gwen tells newly-released Morgana about her attack by Tauren. Morgana takes the stone and goes to meet Tauren in Gwen’s place.
In the woods, Tauren freaks her out. Thankfully, Merlin follows her and overhears her tell Tauren that she is also an enemy of the king and wants him dead. Struggling with what to do, Merlin seeks counsel from the Great Dragon, who would be pleased as punch to let Uther and the ban on magic die. Merlin still doesn’t like this answer, even though the dragon makes some good points about tyranny and all.
Merlin broods over his difficult decision and yet Morgana appears to offer a reconciliation with Uther. They agree to meet at her father’s grave the next morning, where Uther breaks down remembering Morgana’s father and his loyalty. Merlin decides he must save Uther and heads to the grave with the magical staff. Morgana is touched by Uther’s words and changes her mind when Tauren appears. Uther and Tauren struggle until Morgana creeps up and stabs Tauren dead. Merlin and his staff, while effective against some redshirts, are irrelevant.
Arthur, Merlin, and their hunting party discover some weird creature that was the product of a cobra, turtle, jaguar, and Megalon fourgy. They run but Merlin learns from Camelot’s favorite quizmaster Gaius that the creature is a Questing Beast. We (and Merlin) also learn that the creature last appeared before Uther’s wife (and Arthur’s mother) died, and Uther orders the creature be killed the next morning. During that fight, though, Arthur is bitten by the creature, Merlin uses magic to kill the beast, and he drags Arthur back to Gaius for treatment. Merlin again uses magic to save Arthur–racing against time before Uther arrives and over Gaius’s objections. But as we’ve heard all season, it is Merlin’s destiny to save and protect Arthur.
Uther is not as optimistic and has a breakdown in the middle of court as Arthur’s body is dragged away. Are we going to have another Denethor-Faramir not-dead-yet thing? Ponder that reference while Merlin goes to the Great Dragon for counsel. Because Arthur is only mostly dead, there’s still hope that Merlin can get him some of that Old-Time Religion on the Isle of the Blessed. Gaius thinks it is a waste because the old religion people will simply trade Arthur’s life for another life. And since Gaius objects, Merlin is certain to go on this quest.
At the Isle, Merlin receives from Nimueh the cup of life (a/k/a the Holy Grail), which will save Arthur if he drinks water from the cup. He agrees to exchange his life for Arthur’s and leaves with the holy water. Upon his return, he gives Arthur the water and Gaius makes up a story about what the substance really is, i.e., that it’s not magical. In a creepier moment of the episode, trance-like Morgana tells Merlin, “Neither shall live while the other survives,” or something–I wasn’t paying much attention. Anyway, Arthur wakes up and appears fully recovered enough to have awkward flirty banter with Gwen.
That night we see a figure sulking about the castle. In the morning, Merlin discovers it was his mother and she is collapsed on the floor, dying. Angered by some perceived deception by the deceptive Nimueh, Merlin yells at the Great Dragon. The Dragon doesn’t take too kindly to this and tries to attack Merlin, after Merlin doesn’t want to hear another speech about his destiny. Merlin tells the Dragon to rot and stomps out.
To save his mother’s life, Merlin wants to go back to the Isle to give his life to Nimueh. Before he can go, Gaius sneaks out and leaves a note saying he’s old and will sacrifice himself for Merlin. Naturally, Merlin follows (after telling Arthur he’ll be a good king and to not be a prat–wise words, indeed). In the final confrontation on the Isle, Merlin and Nimueh battle after Gaius apparently dies. Merlin conjures lightening and strikes Nimueh dead. Since she’s fulfilled the wergeld in this medieval equation, Gaius comes back to life and the Dragon throws a hissy fit.
Our season ends with another prophetic dream from Morgana, which means there’s a season two of this show. With luck, NBC won’t pick it up even as a summer program. And as I’ve said all along, if a LOTR-loving, medieval history studying, Renaissance Faire going person like me can’t get into this show, Camelot is truly dead, and with a 0.9 and 1.1 rating (that’s 0.9 and 1.1 percent of all households watched the show) on a major network, that’s pretty accurate.
For another take on this episode, check out The Grand Finale by Stephanie Jaar.
Listen to The J Factor with J.B. and Jaimie here or on iTunes.
Season 1, Episodes 12 & 13: To Kill the King & Le Morte d’Arthur (aired August 23, 2009)
For more on Merlin, click here.
Sundays at 8/7c on NBC
Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal and Nick Briggs