It’s time for an intense game of Egyptian Ratscrew, so let’s end Season 1. Hi-yo Silver, away!
The Moment of Truth
The… mob shows up to the outskirts of Edoras, so Merlin’s mom comes to petition Saruman-infested King Theoden.
You know what? I’ll stop.
Uther respects his neighbouring city’s sovereignty, which is bad for some reason. Morgana and Gwen defect with Merlin to protect the outlying village. And yet again, I’m trying to forget that Morgana later becomes a villain for no reason. Also, Arthur joins the defecting team. Squad’s all here!
Honestly, I would probably prefer a show in which the four of them went on a 4-season-long quest solving mysteries and fixing problems all over the four nations before coming back for season 5 so that Arthur can be king. But alas.
The main mob guy has a huge scar, reiterating my point from earlier that there are no good guys on this show (or even neutral guys) with disfigurements.
This episode has some intriguing conflicts:
Merlin: Can He or Can’t He Use Magic to Save Everyone?
Arthur: What Does Divine Right Even Mean in a Different Kingdom and also is He Even a Good Leader?
Women: Should They Be Allowed to Fight?
I think this episode really needed to be a two to three-episode arc, to fully wring all of the intrigue out of all of those questions. One episode with Arthur training farmers, with a subplot focusing on Morgana and Gwen slowly convincing Arthur to let women fight, and the other focusing on Arthur’s insecurities and Merlin’s indecision about whether to risk outing himself as a sorcerer.
Despite how rushed it was, I liked it.
The Labyrinth of Gedref
Arthur is a dummy trophy hunter and kills a unicorn, leaving everyone cursed. Then he solves it by drinking poison. In the meantime, people eat rats and cockroaches, but no one ever tries to eat grass or flowers or, like, leather boots during starvation sequences. Leave the rats and cockroaches alone, guys, you have options.
And it ends with the unicorn coming back to life, which, great, but also the rat and the cockroaches and the leather boots could have come back to life too. Seriously, what is animal rights in this show?
Only unicorns are worthy of humane treatment, I guess. I see you, Merlin.
To Kill the King
Uther est un tyran, et le père du Gwen est emprisonné et assassiné. Morgana watches and sinister music plays, then she yells at Uther about being a tyrant (she literally uses the word “tyrant”) as he chains her up for “speaking treason.”
Arthur awkwardly tries to appease Gwen. It’s kind of nice. Gwen and Morgana have a nice moment too. Also, Uther sucks? This of course isn’t new information, but, seriously.
Merlin overhears Morgana doing her very first villain scheming and he sulks about it. There is an interesting dilemna about “should I let a horrible tyrant die even though that technically makes me a murderer or should I save him so that I’m not a murderer but he gets to keep being a tyrant,” but Merlin picks the boring option. Sigh. They always find a work-around so they don’t have to get their hands dirty, these heroes.
In this case, the work-around is that Gwen thinks that killing Uther would be just as bad as everything Uther has done, which is not really true by the standards of any of the actually decent moral philosophers Chidi is always citing on The Good Place, but, OK.
Morgana and Uther mend the fence over her father’s grave, and for no reason, no reason at all, I’m reminded of this:
It doesn’t relate at all; I think Uther says something like “truth and justice” and now this dance is stuck in my head.
Morgana stabs her villainous plot-partner to save Uther, and she is conflicted about it.
Le Morte D’Arthur
The questing beast. Why. I am not a fan. Random animals wreaking havoc is so dull.
Morgana is also not a fan, as she can see all the future events caused by the questing beast in her nightmares. She tries multiple times to warn people, and no one listens to her. This, more than the Uther-is-a-tyrant thing makes me understand why she goes full villain. “You people don’t appreciate me!” she should have yelled, storming out of the castle.
Cuties. I’m gonna keep you.
Gaius tries to sacrifice himself for Merlin, who in turn is trying to sacrifice himself for his mother, because he had already tried to sacrifice himself for Arthur but the old religion got it twisted (on purpose).
But Nimueh is spiteful and cruel for no reason at all (except, I suppose, because she’s a sexy lady), so Merlin murders her and Gaius gets to live. So, in the end, it was Nimueh who was sacrificed for Arthur (in a round-about way), against her will, and, OK. Keep in mind that Merlin refused to let Uther, Literal Tyrant, die, but apparently Nimueh letting Gaius sacrifice himself, which is what Gaius wanted to do, is bad enough for Merlin to actually, literally murder her with lightning.
It’s satisfying enough without context I guess, except that Nimueh being so spiteful is never truly examined or nuanced, the old religion’s law that “only death can pay for life” seems totally fair to me, and this conclusion makes no sense since Merlin is supposedly anti-murder as of the episode right before this one.
The other thing is, I do remember that, again, Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur has Merlin attempt to date-rape Nimueh, so she puts him in a tree for eternity, and that’s why she’s a villain. Because. She stopped a man from raping her. So.
Obviously they’ve changed the entire story and everyone’s characterizations for this iteration of the King Arthur legend, but “sexy spiteful Nimueh” is a weird and boring direction to go in, and I do have to point that out. Owlmachine hates femme fatales. They never make sense and honestly, they often seem like they’re kind of sort of supposed to function as revenge porn for male writers and male audiences, which is super gross.
Nimueh isn’t done as dirty as Elle Driver or the Sand Snakes are, largely, I think, because this is a family show so she got no leering ultra violence done to her, and she never had to say the phrase “bad pussy.” However, in that her motivation is not nuanced and never fully explained, she is, in fact, just as bad as them. And soon enough, Morgana too, will be just as bad. The end.
To be clear, I do love this show. It is just flawed, like everything else in the universe.
Season 2, here we go!