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Profiles in Nerdage: Helen Mirren

In a fifty year career that spans stage, film and television, Dame Helen Mirren (DBE) has played many famous people from the likes of Ayn Rand to Queen Elizabeth II.  She has won what is referred to as the triple crown of acting (an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, a Tony for The Audience where she also played Elizabeth and 4 Emmys).

As modern Hollywood began to deal with the inherent sexism and misogynistic culture, an interview from 1975 with Michael Parkinson resurfaced where he labelled her “the sex queen of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)” while she showed her intelligence and class.  She stood her ground well even though it was her first TV interview ever.

In her long and varied career it would be unusual if she hadn’t played in a part related to nerd culture.  Luckily for us, she has been part of many sci-fi, fantasy, and comic related properties.  Here is a rundown of the best movies and shows that gave her nerd street cred.

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‘Merlin’ Recap – The End of the End

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After five long years, we come to the end of our journey with Merlin. Picking up where we left off last week on the fields of Camlann, the hour was a roller coaster ride, not because of the action, but because of the emotion. Secrets are revealed, destinies are realized, and not everyone makes it out of the hour alive.

Merlin makes it to the battlefield, and manages to end the fight decisively with some impressive feats of magic. The Saxons start to retreat, but not before Arthur comes face-to-face again with Mordred. After a brief fight it seems that Mordred fulfills the prophecy and deals Arthur a fatal blow, but Arthur returns the favour and runs Mordred through with the king’s own enchanted sword. By the time Merlin arrives on the scene, Mordred is dead, but Arthur has been seriously wounded, and because it’s a mystical wound as well, Merlin will need some extra help in order to save his king.

Taking his cues from Gaius, Merlin departs with Arthur for the Isle of Avalon, home of the ancient magic that will heal the king. But wait! We get ahead of ourselves. Merlin reveals to Arthur that he’s got magic, and it does not go over well. Although Arthur’s been a bit more level-headed on the subject of magic than his father, he still feels hurt and revolted at the revelation that his friend, servant and confidant is, and has been, a dirty sorcerer. Arthur refuses Merlin’s help, but Merlin gives it anyway. It doesn’t help when Gaius arrives and let’s Arthur know that, “hey, I knew Merlin was a wizard the whole time and it’s totally N.B.D.” But soon it’s time for Merlin and Arthur to make their run to Avalon, and in Weepy Tissue Moment #1, Gaius says goodbye to his ward saying that he’ll have his favourite meal waiting for him when he gets back, while knowing full well that this was probably the last time he’d ever see Merlin.

Meanwhile, Morgana’s getting her revenge on. Mordred’s dead, but Arthur’s still out there wounded. She sends her Saxons out to find him, remaining as ruthless and defiant as ever.

As Merlin and Arthur make their way through the still dangerous backwoods, Arthur sees more of Merlin’s magical works. An understanding begins to occur in the king, not just all that Merlin’s hid from him, but everything that Merlin has done for him, in secret, without ever even trying to claim credit. Arthur and Merlin recall the first time they met and the fight with the mace, and Arthur asks why Merlin never told him he was a sorcerer. Merlin says that he never wanted to put Arthur in an awkward position given the laws of Camelot, but Arthur admits that he has no idea what he would have done. But despite the refreshing honesty, and honest bromance, Arthur is getting worse.

Back at Camelot, Gaius returns with news: Arthur is injured, but Merlin is taking him to help. He also gives Guinevere the ring of the dragon, a bequeathment from Arthur and with it the power to rule Camelot. And oh, by the way, Gwaine’s girlfriend Eira is Morgana’s spy. A scheme is set up where Eira sends Morgana the wrong information about Arthur’s whereabouts, and when she gets to that wrong location, Gwaine and Percival will be there to finish her off for good. As for Eira, off with her head!

As for the grand plan, it was somewhat not very successful. While Gwaine and Percival get the drop on Morgana, she still has magic, and thus the upper hand. Morgana tortures Gwaine with one of those truth snakes (Why does it have to be truth snakes?), and gets Arthur’s real location. Percival comes to and after freeing himself he finds Gwaine near death. With his last breath, Gwaine says he fails, and dies. (That was Weepy Tissue Moment #2.) Morgana does indeed catch-up with her half-brother and her mortal enemy Emrys, catching them off guard. Morgana revels in Arthur’s predicament, and taunts Merlin that as a high priestess, she can’t be killed, but oh yes she can. Merlin runs her through with Excalibur saying that he’s to blame for what she became, but it was time for the circle of violence to end. Morgana falls to ground dead.

Having lost their horses, Merlin tries to take Arthur the rest of the way to Avalon on foot, but Arthur is not doing well at all. The king is near death, Merlin is behind himself and here comes Weepy Tissue Moment #3. Arthur tells Merlin that he has something he wants to tell him, but Merlin doesn’t want to say goodbye. “No, Merlin, says Arthur, “everything you’ve done. I know now. For me, for Camelot. For the kingdom you helped me build… […] I want to say… something I’ve never said to you before… thank you.”

In agony, Merlin calls out to the Great Dragon for help, and although he takes Merlin and Arthur the rest of the way par avion, it really is too late. Merlin thinks he’s failed, but the Great Dragon disagrees and gives Merlin some last bit of wisdom. “Though no man, no matter how great, can know his destiny, some lives have been foretold, Merlin… Arthur is not just a king, he is the Once and Future King. Take heart, for when Albion’s need is greatest, Arthur will rise again. It has been a privilege to have known you, young warlock. The story we have been a part of will live long in the minds of men.”

Merlin puts Arthur on a boat and points it towards the island of Avalon. Merlin breaks down in tears as the boat leaves the shore, but he stands and watches his friend sail away into the mist. Meanwhile, back in Camelot, it is announced that the king is dead, and the court rousingly declares, “Long live the Queen!”

Flash-forward to the present day, and a legitimately old Merlin strolls by the water’s edge where he sent Arthur on his way hundreds of years before, still waiting for the time of Arthur’s return.

The End.

EPISODE NOTES

-Mordred went down like punk bitch, didn’t he?

-That was pretty sweet when the Saxon bursts into the medical tent and Gwen takes him out. It was a nice reminder that Queen Gwen is the fighting daughter of a blacksmith.

-I realize there’s a TV budget constraint, and there was a lot to get to in the hour, but it did seem like the Battle of Camlann was over really fast for such an important benchmark.

-I liked that Merlin took the mulligan for making Morgana what she became. It was kind of alluded to in the past that if Merlin had taken Morgana under his wing when they realized she had magic, they might have mitigated some of those evil doings.

-RIP: Arthur, Morgana, Mordred, Gwaine, and the Great Dragon

-I remember when they announced Merlin’s cancellation there was a possibility mentioned of a spin-off, but now having seen the finale, I’m curious to see what a spin-off would look like. Would it be the adventures of Queen Gwen in a post-Arthur Camelot, or would it be Arthur and Merlin in the modern world solving crimes and other stuff? I really hope that it was the later rather than the former.

Thanks to the cast and crew of Merlin for five great years of TV. It was a helluva ride.

‘Merlin’ Recap – The Beginning of the End

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It seems like forever since we recapped Merlin, which makes it all the more sadder since we’ve nearly reached the end of our adventures with him and the rest of the Camelot gang. Friday night kicked off the first of the two-part series finale, “Diamond of the Day, Part 1” and set up Arthur’s final (?) battle against Morgana and Mordred for the future of Albion. But who will win? Whose secrets will be revealed? And how did Merlin get so good at medieval craps? The answers are below.

We begin where we left off: Mordred has spilled the beans to Morgana that Emrys is, in fact, Merlin. Morgana has a plan to rob Merlin of his power, and since this is Morgana we’re talking about, it involves a horrible slug-like thing that hugs your face and seemingly sucks out your magic through your mouth. Gross. But that was the last thing on Merlin’s mind when he got sprung by the creature, which was sneakily left under his bed while he was reliving his fraternity days with Arthur and the knights at the Rising Sun pub.

Step one of Morgana’s plan is to rid Merlin of his powers. Step two is to draw out her brother and his army and engage them in battle with the her Saxon forces. As fate would have it, the scene for their inevitable face-off is Camlann. Merlin is stuck, he knows what’s coming, but he’s powerless to do anything about it. What can a powerless wizard do to change the inevitable?

For Merlin, the answer is in the Crystal Caves, the mythological birthplace of magic. Journeying there with the help of Gwaine, Merlin misses Arthur’s departure to Camlann. Arthur too is disappointed that Merlin won’t be there, in fact it seems to hit him harder than Mordred’s betrayal. But Merlin’s gotta do what he’s gotta do, and so does Eira, a nice young lady who Gwaine’s been seeing. Too bad she’s actually one of Morgana’s spies who spills the beans, not only of Arthur’s plans, but of Gwaine’s side trip to the Crystal Caves with Merlin. Morgana knows that there are some doings transpiring.

At the Crystal Caves, Merlin and Gwaine part ways, but someone else is there to meet up with Merlin: Morgana. Morgana taunts Merlin, and Merlin does a pretty good job standing up for himself without magic, but Morgana ends up getting the upper hand and traps Merlin in a cave-in. Without magic, and trapped, Merlin loses hope, but the spirit of his father Balinor appears to him. Offering him words of encouragement, Balinor helps Merlin get his magic back, and just in time too.

On the fields of Camlann, Morgana and Mordred aim to out-flank Camelot’s forces through a difficult to find passage, but Merlin can see it. From the Crystal Caves, Merlin telepathically alerts Arthur, who sounds the alarm: Morgana and the Saxons are attacking tonight! Merlin follows the crystals deeper into the cave and finds the source of magic, and the source of an even greater power. More powerful than ever, he emerges from the caves ready to rejoin the fight for the future of the united kingdoms.

To be continued…

EPISODE NOTES

*Didn’t it seem wicked easy to both lose your magic and get it back?

*Mordred gets a sword forged in fire’s breath? Well, that takes some of the specialness out of Excalibur. I mean if anybody can have sword forged in fire’s breath, right?

*So it’s Old Merlin who comes out of the cave? Is that a disguise, or a magic trick, or did Merlin just age like 60 years in two minutes?

*Oh yeah, Arrested Development’s back this weekend, so maybe there’s hope that Merlin will be back in the future.

NEXT WEEK: “I’m a sorcerer. I have magic…”

‘Merlin’ Recap – The Pause Button

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So this is not a Merlin recap. Sorry if you clicked on this expecting a recap of the latest episode.

While traversing the information super-highways this week, I happened upon the Sy-Fy website. Now this important because I watch Merlin on the Canadian channel Space owing to the fact I live in Canada, and Merlin has aired continuously since bowing in January. But what I didn’t know is that Sy-Fy is holding on to the finally five Merlin episodes until May, so while I’ve been merrily continuing on spoiler-filled recaps for the past three weeks, I was blissfully unaware that our American friends had not yet seen the episodes.

So for the benefit of all fans, I’ve decided to wait until Sy-Fy airs “Diamond of the Day” Parts 1 and 2 before recapping them. Now the episodes themselves have been in the internet ether since season 5 of Merlin debit last fall on the BBC, so if you want to find out how Merlin ends badly enough, it’s not going to be that hard for you, these are the times we live and I get it. But since I think the purpose of a recap is meant for the enjoyment of all who’ve seen a given episode, and since there are still many who insist on sitting in front of their TV to catch that new episode on the day and time it premieres, it seems to me better to wait till all fans have been able to see the show to recap.

So see in May Merlin fans for the series epic conclusion. Will Merlin’s secret be revealed to all? Will Morgana and Mordred have their revenge? Will destiny be met or defeated? See you in a few weeks for the answers.

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Sorry Merlin fans but after tonight it’s just two more episodes till the end. But hey, wasn’t tonight’s antipenultimate episode amazing? It was the moment we’ve all been waiting for: fate is met, secrets are revealed, and the chess board is set for the ultimate battle of ultimate destiny. But where did it all go wrong? Let’s dive into the recap.

As you’ll remember from last week, Camelot is in the midst of a full-scale war with the Saxons led by Morgana, so when a Camelot patrol comes upon a bunch of slain knights, the assumption is Saxon attack (which is fun to say, but not so much fun to live through). Mordred thinks he sees someone in the nearby woods and gives chase, but it’s not who he expected. Indeed it is a young woman named Kara, and its painfully clear that she and Mordred share an affection. Naturally, Mordred covers for her with Arthur and the others, saying that he merely saw a deer. Merlin, however, is suspicious.

Mordred later tries to sneak remedies and supplies to Kara, but is caught by Merlin on his way out of the castle. Merlin points out that there’ll be big trouble for the knight who helps someone who helped attack Camelot citizens, but Mordred pleads with Merlin, she’s a Druid, one of them, he was duty-bound to help her. Merlin, despite himself, promises to keep Mordred’s secret, but while patrolling in the woods with Arthur later, the king and Merlin come across a trail of boot prints that lead them to Kara. Kara attacks immediately, but is captured in the process.

Because of her seemingly bottomless appetite for murder, Kara is sentenced to death. Mordred blames Merlin, thinking he betrayed him and promising retribution. In the meantime though Mordred sees Arthur to beg for clemency and to take credit for helping Kara out in the first place. Although Arthur’s sympathetic, his judgment stands: Kara will be executed.

Visiting Kara, Mordred is beside himself. he thought he and Arthur were friends, brother knights through and through, but Kara says it just proves that Arthur and Uther are cut from the same cloth. Mordred comes up with a plan. He goes to Arthur and apologizes for his earlier outburst, and Arthur appreciates that. All is forgiven. But Merlin knows that Mordred’s not going to let it drop, and that Mordred is going to spring Kara from the Camelot brig. Gaius points out the irony in Merlin’s decision to stop him, but Merlin says that if Mordred leaves the castle, he’ll run straight into the arms of Morgana, and by then it will be really too late.

And Mordred does indeed escape with Kara from the citadel, with the knights in hot pursuit. When cornered Mordred decides to fight, and Kara urges him to kill the knights with magic, but Mordred hesitates, and they’re both taken into custody. Merlin feels that he’s brought about the very thing he was trying to prevent, but Gaius says that “some paths woven so deeply into the fabric of the world, that nothing can be done to change them.”

Merlin tries to convince Arthur to let both Mordred and Kara go, a desperate plea to avoid the future Merlin knows is coming. Arthur is resolute, but after thinking about Merlin’s words – How will two more deaths help secure a peace in the overall scheme of things? – Arthur gives Kara a chance to repent. But Kara repents not, she says she’s not guilty of any crimes, and that it is a not a crime to fight for your freedom.

So she’s hanged. Mordred, in that moment, loses his $#!% and escapes using magic.

Arthur and Merlin talk later. Arthur feels bad for letting Mordred get so close, but Merlin says it’s because he’s got a good heart and believed in Mordred. Arthur asks Merlin if he’s made a mistake, and Merlin says he hopes not.

But yep, Mordred heads straight to Morgana…

Mordred: I bring you the news you have longed for.

Morgana: Arthur’s death?

Mordred: The key to it. I was wrong to ever question your wisdom, my lady, and I wish to make amends.

Morgana: Tell me!

Mordred: There is someone you have been searching for, someone who has always eluded you.

Morgana: Emrys.

Mordred: I know where he is.

Morgana: Where?

Mordred: Camelot. And I have his true name. It is Merlin.

Boom. There it is.

EPISODE NOTES

-Oh man, that was so worth it. After five years, for Merlin’s secret to be out to the worst possible people waylays all my petty complaining about how Merlin’s secret was on lockdown for so long. I don’t think I was wrong, of course, but it was just a great moment when Mordred let drop that it Merlin was Emrys I let it slide for a minute.

-There was also compelling drama in the Arthur and Mordred dynamic. Their relationship was ruined not by an issue that was cut and dry. Yes, Kara did kill people, and Mordred was in the wrong trying to spring her, but Arthur also offered an olive branch, and it was batted out of his hand. It’s compelling that it was more a moral play than Arthur was 100 per cent right, and Mordred was 100 per cent wrong.

-Good on Gaius for calling double-standard on Merlin. I mean come on, how many people has Merlin sprung for the Camelot jail?

-With Merlin’s whole swan analogy, is it just me or did he come out of the closet in tonight’s episode? Or am I reading too much into that?

NEXT WEEK: The End, Part 1

‘Merlin’ Recap – Payback’s a Bitch

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Last week, Arthur and Merlin were able to free Guinevere from Morgana’s control despite the witch’s best efforts to stop them, and you know what that means – VENGEANCE PARTY!

Indeed, Morgana goes on a tear this week looking for a way to get at her mortal enemy Emrys, AKA: Merlin, AKA: The Meddlesome Serving Boy. Of course, Morgana doesn’t know the three are related, far from it, but she knows someone who knows: Alator of the Catha. Morgana captures Alator in the opening scene and promises that she’ll make him suffer till he coughs up Emrys’ alias. Alator, however, promises to reveal nothing.

In Camelot, refugees have been arriving in the city from a neighboring kingdom, one of the few places in Albion magic is practiced openly. Merlin poses the question: why would Morgana be drawn to attack such a place? He discovers the answers in the woods nearby, a brooch and some papers that Gaius identifies as belonging to Alator. Merlin wants to help, but Gaius is concerned because Alator knows Merlin is Emrys, and more to the point, Alator got that information from Gaius himself, closing the circle of guilt.

Merlin gets a chance to help Alator later when he’s approached by Finna, one of Alator’s trainees in the way of the Catha. Finna asks Merlin to meet her later that night so that she can give Merlin some wisdom that Alator wants Emrys to know. Despite Gaius’ concerns, Merlin goes to meet her in the ruins of an ancient temple. What Merlin doesn’t know is that Gaius went to Arthur behind his back, and as Finna and Merlin start conversing, their meeting is broken up by some Camelot knights led by Mordred. Merlin helps Finna escape, promising her that he’ll meet up with he again.

Back at the castle, Merlin is incensed that Gaius would betray him, and Arthur’s confused how a squad of his best men could let one, lone sorcerer get away. Meanwhile, back at Snake Mountain, Morgana tries to get Alator to talk by actually putting a snake in his head.

Despite Gaius’ concerns that Finna is an agent of Morgana, Merlin sets out to find her. Finna herself has let Alator know via carrier raven that she’s been able to meet up with Emrys, but Morgana intercepts the note, and realizes that Finna’s got the answer she wants, and that she’ll probably be way easier to break than Alator, who she finishes off by snapping his neck. Morgana orders the Saxons to mount up and hunt down Finna.

Racing against time, Merlin finds Finna’s trail, but he also finds the Knights of the Round Table. Leon insists Merlin stick with them, but when night falls, Merlin’s able to lose the knights as they sleep nearby. Merlin finally catches up to Finna, but they’re jumped by a trio of Saxons and Merlin’s injured in the ensuing fight. Finna’s helps Merlin get away, but now Morgana and the Saxons are definitely hot on their trail.

Arriving at an old, abandoned watch tower, Finna takes Merlin inside to the top with the intention of making one last stand. She gives Merlin a box Alator meant for him to have, and tells Merlin not to trust Mordred (as if Merlin needed reminding). She then asks Merlin for his sword and let’s him exit to the safety of the roof,  just as Morgana herself arrives. Finna tells Morgan that she’ll reveal nothing, and stabs herself through the chest with Merlin’s blade. Pissed, Morgana orders the old woman’s body burned and she departs with the Saxons.

Dying on the roof, Merlin let’s out a desperate call for assistance from the Great Dragon, who not only carries Merlin to safety, but restores him to health too. Merlin notices that the Dragon doesn’t seem like his chipper self, and it turns out that the Great Dragon is dying. Merlin is visibly upset and asks if there’s anything he can do, but the Dragon says it’s just his time, and he’ll be there to help Merlin once more before the end.

Back in Camelot, Merlin and Gauis examine the box left by Alator and Finna. Inside is a prophecy that reads:

“Let loose the hounds of war. Let the dread fire of the last priestess reign down from angry skies. For brother will slaughter brother. For friend will murder friend. As the great horn sounds, a cold dawn at Camlann. The prophets do not lie. There Arthur will meet his end, upon that mighty plain.”

Bummer. And to add insult to injury, a dead knight is brought in with skin covering the entirety of his face, enchanted as to suffocate him. Gaius recognizes this as a sign, Morgana has officially declared war on Camelot.

EPISODE NOTES

– I loved seeing Gary Lewis back as Alator. He was such a bad ass when he appeared in last year’s “The Secret Sharer” and despite the fact that he spent much of this episode as Morgana’s prisoner, he still came across like a bad ass. He’s like the Jack Bauer of medieval Britain, he can torture, and he can be tortured without breaking. He should have his own spin-off where he heads up CCTU, the Camelot Counter Terrorism Unit. Okay, I need to wrap this up so I can start working on a script.

Sorcha Cusack was also good as Finna. They tried to make us in the audience think she really was a mole for Morgana, but who could deny that sweet old lady face. Well, Gaius could, but unlike Merlin he never saw her sweet old lady face and understood her veracity.

-Gaius, meanwhile, was kind of dick this week. One would think that by this point he might put a little more faith in Merlin’s instincts, they’ve only proved to be right about  9 times out of 10.

-Anyone else struck by the news that the Great Dragon is dying? I guess this really is the last season if the show’s losing such an important character. The CG was a little more impressive than normal to give the Dragon a kind of sickly hue, instead of his once golden sheen. Of course by the time the scene ended I thought they came up with the idea for the effed up wing because the effects for the Dragon while flying weren’t the greatest, but I digress. I take it the next/last time we’ll see the Dragon is the series finale.

-And by the way, Morgana, you’re beautiful when you’re angry.

NEXT WEEK: Can anyone say, “Prophecy fulfilled?”

‘Merlin’ Recap – Say It Like An Elvis Song

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This week’s Merlin brings to a head the last month’s storyline involving a puppet Gwen and her attempts to bring down Camelot and Arthur according to the will of everyone’s favorite bastard princess and witch, Morgana. The episode’s title, “With All My Heart,” refers to what Gwen said to Arthur when she accepted his wedding proposal, but it’s also a reference to an Elvis Presley song, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” recorded by The King as a single in 1956. It was his second number one hit on the Billboard pop charts. I’m not sure if the writers had that in mind with the line, but it’s where my mind went anyway.

But let’s get down to this very important episode, which opens once again with Guinevere meeting Morgana in the woods outside the castle to discuss their latest takedown options. This time though, Merlin and Arthur are hiding nearby listening to every word. Arthur wants to strike now, but Merlin advises patience. They need to find a way to free Gwen from Morgana’s control.

Gauis says there is a magic that can help Gwen, and although Arthur is hesitant, the combined convincing power of Gaius and Merlin brings the king around to the idea. But first, a field trip for Merlin. Gwen is suffering the Tiene Daga, a magical method of brainwashing that binds the brainwashee to the High Priestess by instilling horrific fear (see: The Dark Tower). Merlin must see the Dochraid in order to find a possible cure for Gwen, and she’s not going to be very accommodating.

Merlin goes in disguise as Dragoon the Great, but that doesn’t fool the Dochraid, she knows who she’s dealing with: Emrys, and he ain’t no friend to the Old Religion or Morgana. Screw it! Merlin goes gangsta on the Dochraid, and busts a cap… Or rather wounds her on the arm with Excalibur. The Dochraid gives up the info: Merlin and Co. will have to travel to the Cauldron of Arianrhod where Merlin will have to summon the Triple Goddess herself as only her healing touch can hope to save Gwen. But the rub is that Gwen will have to enter the waters of the Cauldron willingly, she cannot be tricked or enchanted, or else risk losing her soul forever. As Merlin turns to leave, the Dochraid tries to kill him with an enchanted knife, but Merlin deflects it easily and instead uses it to strike down the Dochraid.

With info in hand, Arthur, Merlin and Gaius plot to get Gwen to the Cauldron (and to disguise Merlin in order to perform the ritual, since Arthur is already aware of the Dragoon ruse). Using a belladonna-spiked drink to put Gwen’s lights out, Arthur and Merlin head out, surreptitiously followed by Mordred, who, at just the right moment, reveals himself in time to save both our heroes from falling off a perilous cliff. But that’s not the only danger. The Dochraid survived and has tipped off Morgana that her old friend Emrys is looking to de-puppetize the queen.

Morgana ambushes the gang as they’re nearing the Cauldron, and she has dragon back-up. Merlin tells Arthur to take Gwen ahead and he uses his Dragon Lord powers to call off Aithusa’s attack, but then Morgana strikes, knocking out Mordred and leaving Merlin with just enough juice to get away. That was fine by Morgana, who, with some lingering degree of affection for Mordred, tries to get out of the knight the identity of Emrys. But nope, Mordred will not tell her anything, or betray Arthur, so he knocks Morgana out with magic instead.

Finally at the Cauldron, Arthur and Gwen are confronted by the sorcerer who will help them: Dolma. If she looks familiar, it’s because she’s Merlin in drag (with some temporary magical sex reassignment, not that we got into the technicalities of the spell). Arthur tries to get Gwen into the lake, but she’s not having any of it. Merlin/Dolma reminds Arthur that he has to convince her to enter the lake of her own free will, so Arthur offers some romantic words to his queen: “Do you remember when I asked you to marry me? Do you remember what you said? You said with all my heart. That’s what you said Guinevere. No subterfuge, no trickery.” Gwen is moved, and enters the lake with Arthur. Merlin lays on the spells, and all is right with the world again.

Arthur prepares to depart and thanks the Dolma for her efforts. The Dolma asks Artur to remember that it was magic that healed his wife, and that the practice itself isn’t bad, it’s how people decide to use it. And by the way, do you want your serving boy back? I’ve got “him” all “tied up” back at my “lair.” Our heroes make their way back to Camelotand everything’s grand, at least until till next week’s crisis, and Mordred tells Merlin that he wasn’t fooled by the whole Dolma ruse. Not one bit. Arthur however, totally bought it.

EPISODE NOTES

-Who else is loving bad ass Merlin? Taking on the Dochraid was just the latest in a long line of ballsy moves the wizard’s done since offing Uncle Agravaine in “The Sword and the Stone, Part II.” Of course, somewhat muting Merlin’s development as a magical Punisher was this week’s experimentation with cross-dressing, but you kind of have to respect a man who will literally do whatever it takes to save the day.

-But seriously, is there no such thing as Polyjuice potion or fake mustaches in the Merlin universe? The two options were going old, or going fem?

-Mordred once again got involved in the action this week, which was nice considering he’s done a lot of standing on the sidelines lately (and to prove it, Alexander Vlahos has been made to do that standing on the sidelines to show that Mordred’s still around). However, I found Mordred’s still rather staunch defense of Arthur and Camelot interesting given our proximity to the series finale. Maybe Mordred should be questioning his commitment given that Arthur was using magic to solve his own personal problems while Merlin was perfectly happy to leave him to Morgana and whatever fate she concocted?

-It’s somewhat disappointing that the episode didn’t lead to someone who’s not Mordred discovering Merlin’s secret identity, and I don’t mean Dolma. From the looks of next week’s episode though it looks like somebody might be getting close, perhaps too close. Still, I will call the evil Gwen storyline a mostly success. It added some nice shades of grey to Gwen’s story arc and the resolution was actually very emotionally moving. Bravo!

NEXT WEEK: Morgana goes from 0 to 1,000 in her quest to get rid of Emrys once and for all.

‘Merlin’ Recap – Good Deeds Get Punished

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On this week’s episode of Merlin there were devious plots galore: assassinations, revenge, poisoning, and at least one good deed that goes off the tracks. Things get pretty hairy for our young warlock and his king as Queen Guinevere becomes more dangerous than ever, and Morgana smells blood in the water.

At the top of the episode, we meet Daegal, a young Druid boy who seeks out Merlin to heal his sickly sister. Daegal lives with his family in the Valley of the Fallen Kings, which is a bit like saying you live in South Central in the 90s. Regardless, Merlin’s a good Samaritan, and promises to help the boy making the trip. Gaius is concerned because it’s a bad neighborhood, but Merlin says “Relax,” one day and he’ll be back home in the safety of Camelot.

Camelot itself, meanwhile, is playing host to Sarrum, ruler of the kingdom of Amata. Sarrum is an interesting character know for being brutal to his enemies and assassinating his friends. He’s also slightly less known for holding Morgana captive for two of the three intervening years between Merlin season 4 and 5. An alliance with such a man might prove deadly, but Arthur points out that sometimes you have to be diplomatic with people you disagree with in order to achieve the greater good.

But the greater good is a foreign idea to some. Morgana sees the situation as the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: Gwen will get Sarrum to take out Arthur, the knights will in-turn eliminate Sarrum out of retribution, and Gwen takes the throne. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this is usually where Merlin steps in, but he’s on a mission to help Daegal. Kind of a coincidence, isn’t it? After trying and failing to warn Daegal telepathically about some approaching bandits, and being lead to seemingly a dead end in the valley, Merlin comes to the conclusion that Daegal isn’t what he says it is. The Druid tattoo on Daegal is a fake too, but as Merlin’s left holding the bag, Morgana appears with the real plot and intention: she knocks out Merlin, feeds him poison and warns Daegal that she’s still got some poison left if he steps wrong.

Meanwhile, back at Camelot, Arthur engages in some sparring with one of Sarrum’s men, who manages to get the upper hand on the king. It’s all in good fun, until Gwen approaches Sarrum on the sly and drops a few hints about hating her husband and wanting him dead. Sarrum picks up on the hint and starts to put a plan in motion.

Back in the Valley of the Fallen Kings, a guilt-ridden Daegal returns to the dying Merlin and following Merlin’s instructions manages to make a antedote to the poison. Daegal tells Merlin that he met Gwen and Morgana only once, but that Morgana was putting a plan in motion to kill Arthur. (Incidentally, killing Merlin was a bonus as he’s constantly interfering in Morgana’s evil schemes.) Daegal promises to help Merlin get back to Camelot and thwart Morgana’s plans.

The next morning, Arthur makes ready to sign the new accord with Sarrum, and Sarrum makes ready his assassination attempt on Arthur. The signing will take place in the round table room, and Sarrum’s assassin is positioned in a hallway overlooking the room on the level above. Merlin and Daegal arrive back at the castle, and searching the castle, Merlin notices an unlocked door that’s supposed to be locked. Discovering the assassin, Merlin manages to thwart his first shot, which ends up missing Arthur and killing Sarrum. Before he can get off a second shot, Merlin magically spears the assassin, but in the fight Daegal is killed with a well-placed knife.

When the dust settles, Arthur tells Merlin to make sure that the mysterious boy who saved his life gets a proper burial. At Daegal’s graveside, Merlin and Gaius agree that something has to be done about Gwen.

Next Week: Arthur and Gaius do something about Gwen!

EPISODE NOTES

-Although Merlin’s sojourn into the woods could be considered the B-story of the week, but Colin Morgan made it the A. He’s really quite convincing showing Merlin’s growth and wisdom, and this week was one of the few instances where Merlin has to carry out action solo without Arthur or any of the knights as back-up.

-John Shrapnel was also good as Sarrum, an oily sort of villain who gets his proper comeuppance in the end. Obviously the guy who’s made us sympathetic to Morgana had to be appropriately bad ass, a little slimy and completely morally bankrupt. Let’s just say that Gwen wasn’t the only one whose stomach was slightly turned by the clinical way Sarrum described imprisoning Morgana and Aithusa, and the quality of their captivity.

-For some reason, I love that old Merlin cover about being at the tavern. Arthur’s assumption for Merlin being MIA was that his servant was down at the pub washing away his sorrows with glass after glass of meade. If Merlin isn’t, by reputation, the biggest functioning alcoholic of the Middle Ages, then it’s got to be Friar Tuck.

-Admittedly I was a bit disappointed with last week’s adventure and the rather clumsy method of Gwen and Morgana’s attempted disposal of Arthur, but the Machiavelli dimensions of this week’s plot were much more satisfying. I’m still ready for this storyline to end though, and it appears next week I get my wish, but it was nice to see the writers actually able to take the proverbial bull by the horns with this one.

-Gwen Trivia Alert! Her favorite flower is the Gillyflower. This is what it looks like:

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-We’ve now had two episodes out of the last three where Mordred is seen, but not heard. Way to be the bringer of doom, Mordred. Gotta love the way you just stand there and say nothing. Bravo. Good on Alexander Vlahos for being a sport about it.

‘Merlin’ Recap – Ode to a Dish Best Served Cold

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Yay, it’s Arthur and Gwen’s anniversary. Everybody celebrate! Except…

Oh yeah, the Queen is an empty-headed bobble-head doing Morgana’s bidding by going full-tilt Wile E. Coyote after the King. Exhibit A: a flaming bag of fire crackers meant to knock Arthur off his horse and hopefully injuring him enough to fall to the two bandits hired to take him out. Unfortunately for the plan’s sake, Arthur’s manages to shake off the horse toss and is able to defeat his attackers with a little, hidden magic help from Merlin. But before you can say, “ACME rocket and sling shot” the Camelot gang quickly realizes that there’s treachery afoot in the kingdom.

Instead the episode took on a crime procedural feel, Arthur and the knights commit to an investigation of the incident and discover that Arthur’s saddle was sabotaged, on top of the explosives and the mercenaries. This trifecta of treachery leads the knights to the king’s stablehand, Tyr Steward, who is arrested on the spot. When the home he shares with his mother is searched, the knights find the smoking thread, the same thread used to reattach Arthur’s severed saddle strap making it just firm enough to pass inspection but loose enough to throw him if the horse was startled by, say, a bag of fireworks.

Case closed, right? Yeah right. Tyr is brought before Arthur who demands to know if his stablehand had an accomplice in the plot. Not only does Tyr deny he had an accomplice, he denies any knowledge of a plot. Arthur sentences the kid to death, and orders him taken away, but Merlin isn’t sure that’s the right call. So in the dungeons, Merlin pops in to talked to Tyr and in the privacy of the cells the stablehand let’s slip that there is another. He saw someone fiddling with Arthur’s saddle who threatened the life of Tyr’s mother if he snitched, but he’s too scared to say who.

Merlin’s even more convinced of Tyr’s innocence and goes to Arthur. Arthur will hear what Tyr has to say immediately, but Gwen says leave it till morning when cooler heads will prevail all around. Merlin made sure to note that as it was most unusual. Indeed, by the time Arthur pays Tyr a visit in the morning, he’s dead in his cell. The Queen had a little “talk” with him during the night. And although this initial Kill Arthur plot didn’t go according to spec, Morgana is pleased with Gwen’s progress when they meet the next night outside the castle.

Still, there’s the small problem of the still living king. Morgana pays a visit to apothecary named Sindri and buys off him a fatal poison. Disguising herself as old Hilda, Morgana gets the poison to Gwen who “seasons” Arthur’s dinner with it that night. When the King falls victim to the poison, Gwen points the finger at Merlin, the only one that has access to both the food and Arthur. Despite earlier reservations, Gaius has to agree with Merlin, something ain’t quite right with Queen Gwen.

One thing’s for sure, only Merlin’s magic can save Arthur’s life. Gauis sneaks Merlin the aging potion and as Dragoon the Great, Merlin escapes the dungeon and makes his way to Arthur’s bedside while evading the patrolling knights, eventually healing the King under the nose of everyone. In the morning, Arthur is back to normal and frees Merlin from the cells. Before the court he reveals that Gwen was “able to track” the markings on the poison back to Sindri who admits that he sold the poison to Morgana. Gwen is cheered by the court, but Merlin knows for sure, the danger is far from over.

EPISODE NOTES:

-So we’re officially halfway done the last season of Merlin. Pour a forty of meade on the dirt road for everyone’s favorite youth-oriented, Arthurian legend origin re-telling British serial. In other news…

-Oh, Dragoon the Great. He says things Merlin only ever gets to think about… And incidentally, it was kind of nice to see Old Merlin again. The novelty was wearing by the end of last season, but now was a good time to whip it out again. (On the other hand, I guess I called it about Morgana and the Hilda disguise. One would thing the Camelot guards would have been shown an artist’s rendering of what “Hilda”/Morgana looks like so they can be on their guard, but maybe I’m putting too much credit in medieval crime fighting techniques.)

-This was an interesting episode even though it was light on action. Definitely darker given how Gwen implicates Merlin and how she quite nearly succeeds at both killing Arthur and framing Merlin for it. Strangely enough, the evening’s most perilous action sequence belonged to Merlin as he had to scale the tower wall from the outside in order to get access to Arthur’s chamber. The whole thing was positively Cliffhanger-esque.

-On the other hand, zombie mind-control Gwen isn’t that compelling. I’ll reserve finally judgement for when the whole arc resolves itself, which I hope is soon. This is getting as bad as the whole mole-inside-CTU meme on 24 with all these traitors and conspirators, even the coerced ones. The end kind of bothered me with Merlin once again staring across the room at someone he once thought friend and trying to comprehend their betrayal and what form it might take next. All that was missing was Merlin saying at the end, “How can the same $#!% happen to the same guy twice.” Except there’s no swearing in Camelot. Oh well.

Next Week: Merlin gets called away on urgent Druid business, while Gwen ponders a new evil scheme (and an unlikely team-up). Yippie Ki-Yay, mother-father!

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Before the beginning of the season, the creators of Merlin promised more trips to the dark side, and more continuing storylines. This week, that promised was paid off in bold, almost freaky new dimensions for the normally buttoned up fantasy series, and moreover, the episode involved the criminally underused Angel Coulby, AKA: Queen Guinevere. The Queen finds herself in big trouble when Morgana hatches a new scheme, and things just might go from bad to worse by episode’s end.

But let’s kick things off on a sour note. Gwen and Elyan pay respects to their dearly departed father who was executed by Uther for conspiring with sorcerers in season one. On the way back to Camelot, Morgana strikes by enchanting a nest of snakes that scare the horses, bite Sirs Leon and Percival and cause just enough of a distraction so that Morgana can make off with the Queen before anyone’s the wiser.

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