It’s somewhat bittersweet that we kick off this new season of Merlin, because we know it will be the series’ last. But as they say, the show must go on, as will these re-caps. For this season, I will forgo the usual blow-by-blow account, not because I didn’t enjoy doing them, but because they’re rather time consuming, and I just don’t have that kind of time anymore. So let’s get right down to the season premiere of Merlin, the once and future series about medieval times’ greatest bromance.
As previously reported, this season picks up three years after the end of series four. It’s been a time of peace and prosperity for Camelot, and one that’s seen a few changes, for instance, did you notice that circular piece of furniture that Arthur’s holding meetings around now? The order of the day is Ismere, a fortress in the northern plains. Sirs Gwaine and Percival were scouting the area when they went missing with 60 of Camelot’s finest, so can somebody say rescue mission?
You don’t exactly have to be a Druid seer to know that it’s Morgana who’s up to no good in Ismere. Now controlling the Saxons, she’s got a small slave labor force digging underneath the castle in search of a priceless artifact. It seemed to me that Morgana was an after-thought in series four even though she was the Big Bad at the center of it all, sometimes being squeezed into an episode just to remind us that Arthur’s uncle Agravaine is her man in Camelot. But if last season, Morgana was playing things cool and taking advantage when a situation came up, this season, she’s all proactive. So what is she looking for under Ismere? Arthur’s Bane.
According to Morgana’s new henchman, Ruadan, they will learn what Arthur’s Bane is through the Diamair, the key to all knowledge. They just need a few more guys to help dig it up.
Arthur’s rescue of his men takes a detour through a decimated village where Merlin detects a disturbance in the Force. He finds the Druid seer Lochru dying in a nearby cave, a moment that Lochru has long dreaded. He tells Merlin of Arthur’s Bane, who nobody cared about till he put on the mask– Sorry. Again, wrong Bane! What Lochru does show Merlin is a vision of the future: the Battle of Camlann, and the ultimate showdown between Arthur and Mordred. (Obviously, we don’t want to spoil how it turns out.) We don’t get to see much of the re-cast Mordred this week, but I will say that actor Alexander Vlahos makes a believable grown-up Asa Butterfield.
The Great Dragon later confirms Lochru’s gifts and advises Merlin to be weary, not that the kid needs the advice, or, for that matter, not that he needs any new concerns to get himself distracted. As Arthur and the others push on for Ismere, it seems that Camelot’s got mole issues again. Queen Guinevere’s new maid Sefa, as it turns out, is the daughter of Ruadan, who tells her father that Arthur and the Camelot knights are taking the sneaky, less direct route to Ismere from the west. The news allows Morgana and the Saxons to get the drop on Arthur, who’s injured in the ensuing battle, but saved by Merlin. They get separated from the others, but push on for Ismere on their own.
Sirs Elyan and Leon manage to return to Camelot knowing their plan has been compromised. Gwen clues in immediately that it’s Sefa who spilled the beans, and brings her before the court to find out what she told to whom. Meanwhile, Gwaine notices a funky light in a cave under Ismere as he’s breaking rocks and follows it, and after getting knocked out in a fight with the Saxons, he encounters what looks like a mix of the aliens from Signs and that thing Geordi Laforge turned into in the “Identity Crisis” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As they continue to Ismere themselves, Merlin and Arthur get caught in an Endor Wookie trap and are later freed by some mercenaries who decide to kill them on sight. And just when it looks like our heroes have met their end a young man appears and says that it should be left to the Lady Morgana to decide their fate. “Hello Arthur,” says the grown-up Mordred. Uh oh…
Next time, we’ll learn what Arthur’s Bane really is. Hint: he’s not Camelot’s reckoning.
- The winter shots look awesome. Full marks to the cinematographer as the series really stepped up its game shooting those scenes.
- Nice shout to the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia with Morgana’s wolf-drawn sleigh. Actually, the whole episode was very good for both Morgana, and her portrayer Katie McGrath, and I love how the writers picked up on that weird torture flirting thing that Morgana did with Gwaine in The Sword and the Stone, Part 2.
- This was also a very strong episode for Gwen, who seems to have really taken to the role of Queen by adding key strategic insight and shrewd judgement. Angel Coulby was very commanding in the scene where Gwen sentences Sefa to death, even Elyan had a look on his face that said, “Damn, that’s cold.”
- Speaking of Sefa, did anyone hope that there might be a less sinister outcome for her? Especially since she was making cute with Merlin in some of those early scenes.
- Lindsay Duncan reappears as Queen Annis in the first of what’s supposed to be many familiar faces returning this season on Merlin.
- Did anyone else wonder if Colin Morgan‘s juggling ability was natural talent of CG-enhanced?It look pretty real if it was the latter.
- Although the humor was still there, one definitely sensed a maturation of Arthur and Merlin’s friendship. Merlin as well seems more bound by doubt than ever before after the encounter with Lochru, and tries to talk Arthur out of going on by sharing (some of) what Lochru told him. But a knight of Camelot never leaves a man behind, and the secret wizard who works undercover as the King’s servant doesn’t leave his sovereign behind.
- One more thing: although it looks awesome, I kind of wish they’d stop doing the Zack Snyder 300 stuff during Arthur’s fight scenes. We get it, Arthur can kick a lot of ass. Maybe we can see some fights in normal film speed once in a while.
See you next week.