Thursday, 25 October 2012

Merlin 5.03: The Death Song of Uther Pendragon

See my round-ups of previous episodes in Merlin series 5: Arthur's Bane Part 1 and Arthur's Bane Part 2

We start out fairly innocuously with Arthur and Merlin out in the forest, hunting. Why Arthur decides to take only Merlin with him on a hunting trip is beyond me (and beyond Arthur, too) but I digress. They hear screams and stumble upon a village sacrifice with a human as the aforementioned unfortunate. The woman is about to be burned at the stake for sorcery but Arthur forces the village leader at swordpoint to release the woman and take her into the woods. She's on her deathbed but gives Arthur a gift to thank him for his "kindness and compassion." It's a horn, but not any ordinary horn: "It has the power to summon spirits of the dead" and Arthur has a very clear idea about what he's going to do with it.

Back in Camelot, it's the anniversary of Arthur's coronation - and also of Uther's death. As a result, Arthur is deeply unhappy and he doesn't even want to talk to Gwen about it. The next morning, he orders Merlin to ready their horses and not let anyone know that they're going on a trip.  They arrive at the Great Stones of Nematon - which looks very like Stonehenge - in order to call upon Uther's spirit as Gaius had said of the legend.

It works. Arthur steps into the light and finds himself face to face with his father. Uther isn't nearly as pleased to see his son as Arthur is to be reunited with his father. Arthur has deep regrets that his father died before his time and wanted to use the horn in order to make peace and settle issues that had been left unsaid before his unexpected death. Uther is furious about the way that Arthur has decided to run Camelot, "[ignoring] our tradition, [letting] common men become Knights." He can't believe that Arthur has married a serving girl and tells his son that "it is your duty to strengthen the Kingdom. You have failed" and "destroyed my legacy." Arthur is shocked and speechless. He cries (so unbelievably sweet!) and reluctantly leaves when Uther tells him it is time to go. He turns back for one last look before he steps back to the real world, with a much heavier heart than he had anticipated.

Surprisingly, Arthur confesses all to Merlin. Honestly, I thought that this would be something that he would want to keep quiet about; after all, Uther told him that he was a failure. Normally, this is along the lines of what Arthur tells Merlin, and so it's understandable that he's rather sensitive about it. I love this:
Arthur: "It seems that my father doesn't approve of the way I've been running his kingdom"
Merlin: "You mean, YOUR kingdom?"
Merlin might not always agree with the way that Arthur does things, but he supports him through and through and does more for Arthur than he could ever conceive. I love him for it.

They return to Camelot and it seems that aftereffects from the powerful magic that Arthur used have been unleashed onto the real world. It seems innocent at first - doors blowing open; wind whistling; a chandelier falling down - but when Gwen is injured, Arthur finally starts taking Merlin's warnings seriously. A talk with Gaius reveals that if you look back when leaving the veil, the spirit is released back into the real world and thus Uther is taking the opportunity to wreak havoc.

With the help of a potion that Gaius mixes up, both Arthur and Merlin will now be able to see Uther. They start skulking around the castle to find Uther, bumping into a very surprised looking Sir Leon on the way, and Merlin manages find himself locked in a store cupboard with Uther knocking around. It is revealed that Merlin has magic and Uther is beyond dumbfounded and disgusted; after all, he was the one who made Merlin Arthur's servant. Arthur bursts in with the horn to his lips, knowing that he has to get rid of his father once and for all. Uther manages to get out 'Merlin has ...' but it is too late and he dissipates into thin air. I have no idea what Arthur's reaction will be when (if) he ever discovers that his loyal servant is the most powerful sorcerer that ever lived, but I do hope that he will find out soon.

They did a good job with Uther. I love Anthony Stewart-Head; he was fabulous in Buffy and I love him as Uther because of it. His character in this episode is obviously meant to be a ghost/dead-person given the opportunity to return to the real world. I guess because it's his soul rather than his physical body, it wouldn't have 'rotted' in the sense that a zombie would, but they did manage to make him look truly, brilliantly, disgusting. You would run a mile if you came across someone looking like that in the street. Love it.

So not a hugely important episode. Arthur has got some sense of closure from his father's death and although his words weren't positive ones, he shouldn't be disheartened by the fact that he wants to do things differently. For once, we didn't see Morgana which I was very happy about, but she's back next week, trying once again to kill her half-brother and just generally be a pain as usual. Despite Morgana's presence, it looks to be an exciting episode!

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