Sunday, 7 October 2012

Merlin 5.01: Arthur's Bane Part 1

It's conducive to my good health if they're shirtless ALL the time
Merlin is one of my favourite shows and so I was beyond ecstatic when I heard that it would be back on TV. As if that wasn't enough, the abundance of hot, naked, sweaty men in this episode makes me want to weep with joy. I found this random image on the left with the help of my good friend Google; it doesn't appear on the show but I couldn't help myself from sharing.


It seems that some time has passed since the end of Season 4 and Arthur and Guinevere are well settled into married life. Unfortunately, after a length of relative peace, that's about to change. Sir Gwaine was sent out with three score of men six weeks ago and there’s been no word since. There's rumours floating around that the Ismere estate is back in use and Morgana is the one to blame.

Morgana's set up shop in the abandoned Ismere castle and has managed to capture Arthur's men as well as many others from the surrounding area. Her henchman, Ruadan, tells her to be patient while they search for The Diamair that will be the answer to all their problems. She's understandably pissed and we then see the extent of her desperation to find this 'key' as hundreds of men are working - half-naked - underground, much like I imagine the seven dwarves did in their mines. Only these men are seriously fit.

Arthur's loyalty to his Knights of the Round Table (there's a Round Table now!) is admirable. He's intent on getting his men back and sets out with Merlin, Sirs Leon, Elyan and others to bring them home. It's Gwen who suggests that they attack Ismere from the West through Queen Annis' lands to give them the element of surprise and I'm rather quite surprised to see how easily she's acclimated herself to life as Queen. She's left behind as her husband goes off into the unknown but has her new lady's maid, Sefa for company. Sefa is adorable. She reminds me a little of Charlotte from Revenge and I'd like to see her and Merlin get a thing going!

On their journey, they come across an abandoned village with its inhabitants left for dead. Hearing an ominous call of 'Emrys', Merlin finds an old man in a hut, lying dead by a pool of water. He has a strange symbol carved into his wrist and as Merlin examines more closely, the man wakes! He warns Merlin of Arthur's Bane and tells him of the imminent danger lying ahead, ending with the words "even you cannot halt the never ending circle of [Arthur's] fate" before he dies. Merlin is left reeling, but that isn't the end of it. Images start stirring in the pool and Merlin watches as Arthur stands alone in the aftermath of a terrible battle before being confronted by a young man with dark, curly hair who then strikes him down ... I’m reminded awfully of Mordred ...

In the meantime, Gwen and Sefa have a sweet heart-to-heart and we can see that Gwen is becoming fond of this girl. She watches as Sefa leaves for the night and then walks out of the castle grounds ... this can't be good. Of course not. Sefa enters an abandoned castle and passes information about Arthur's surprise attack to Ruadan. Even worse than simply being a spy, Sefa is Ruadan’s daughter! Gwen isn't going to be happy ...

Merlin tries to warn Arthur of what he saw but of course can't say anything about where his bad feeling is coming from. Again, Arthur reiterates his duty to rescue his men and Merlin has a midnight walk to call on the dragon for his advice. The dragon recognises the old man from Merlin's description as a vates - druid seer - a race whose talent for prophecy is unrivalled even by a High Priestess and whose words used to be considered a gift. If Merlin was worried before, his worry has now been multiplied to triplicate.

We have some amusing light relief as Arthur and his men stop at Queen Annis' castle for the night to rest before pressing ahead. Queen Annis expresses a desire to see Arthur's 'fool' perform and Arthur being the man he is, encourages Merlin to repay the Queen for her hospitality and their safe passage. With the help of a little magic, Merlin does a little juggling and 'magic acts' with eggs and Arthur is left slack-jawed and once again unsure of where he stands with his servant.

Ruadan powers on to Ismere to inform Morgana of the latest development and she announces that they'll ride immediately. Arthur and co are ambushed just as they are about to set off for the morning and Merlin manages to drag his King to safety when he is knocked over the head. The rest of the men manage to escape back to Camelot with the prospect of having to inform the Queen that her King is missing and likely dead. She knows that they have a traitor in their midst and it doesn't take long to latch onto Sefa who doesn't know what's about to hit her. Sefa is sentenced to death for treason and we see that even Elyan is a little surprised at just how easily his sister condemns someone to death. In Gwen's defence, I'd to the same in her position.

Arthur carries on his quest towards Ismere despite Merlin's very obvious, very vocal reluctance and they manage to get caught in a trap when Merlin thinks with his stomach on spotting a pair of dead rabbits just lying in the road. Arthur manages to lose his sword and they fall asleep squashed together until they're cut loose the next morning by a band of men who know exactly what their bounty is worth. Arthur bargains to let Merlin go but Merlin valiantly steps in and announces that he won't let Arthur die while he's still alive. A man steps in to stop this fallacy and we're faced with the curly-haired man from Merlin's vision ... Mordred. Off they go to deliver their prize to Morgana.

In a separate side-story, Gwaine keeps seeing some kind of flashing light in the underground caves while he's working. With Percival to cover him if their captors discover he's missing, he follows the light deeper into the caves until he is clobbered over the head by Morgana's men and left for dead. We return while he is still unconscious to see a creature straight out of Doctor Who bending over him, chanting some mysterious language and looking very much like it’s trying to cure Gwaine …

This season opener perhaps wasn’t quite as explosive as I was expecting, but there was enough in this two-parter to have me on the edge of my seat and pining for next week’s episode like crazy. Gwen looks beautiful and she’s the only Guinevere I’ve ever come across in King Arthur re-tellings (book, film, television) that I actually like. I’m of the opinion that Morgana has to die soon. They’ve dragged out Morgana-as-the-bad-guy for much too long and we need something different.

It’s great to see Merlin and Arthur back again. I’m a huge Arthur fan (Bradley James in unbelievably hot) and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more Arthur-Guinevere moments. Sirs Gwaine and Percival are my favourites of Arthur’s Round Table and seeing both of them shirtless for much of the episode was … heavenly. More, please!

I’m very dubious about the reappearance of Mordred. He was the first person I thought of when we saw him in Merlin’s vision, despite the knowledge that the last time we saw him, he looked as shown below on the left; now he’s the yummy goodness on the right. There’s no way that that many years has passed; that’s the problem when shows don’t really have definitive timeframes. I need some answers!
A little Cumberbatch-y, no?

He's one scary kid


The mystical blue Diamair/Euchdag was a shock and a half; I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned Doctor Who. Monsters on Merlin usually take on the form of mythical beasts like dragons, goblins, trolls etc and so this was a little too sci-fi for me. Even something like a unicorn wouldn’t have fazed me, but the Euchdag is just a bit too alien-y. We hear that she’s a powerful weapon, carrying the gift of all knowledge and so it’s no wonder that she’s put herself into hiding while Morgana is intent on driving her out. I’m not even sure that Morgana even knows that she’s searching for a living creature like this. I’m hoping that she’s going to be on Merlin’s side but I have no idea whether or not all will be revealed to Arthur. Whichever way, Morgana isn’t going to be pleased that the Euchdag has slipped her grasp for so long …

Sefa can’t die already. I have the feeling that she’s going to be a key character now that we’ve seen that she’s pro-magic so hopefully Gwen will soften up when Arthur returns safe and sound. I already mentioned that I wanted her and Merlin to hook up and even more so now that I know that her father is a sorcerer. I don’t think that she possesses any magical abilities, but it would be lovely for Merlin to be able to confide in someone else in the palace besides Gauis, much as I love him. Excited for part two!

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