Merlin: The Sword in the Stone, Part 2

“You have magic.”

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this finale. Overall I thought it was a good episode and a strong end to the season. But there was a lot about it that just didn't sit right with me.

I'm annoyed that Merlin's secret is still a secret. After four seasons everyone in Camelot, bar Gaius, is still as clueless as ever (none more than Gwen). Even Smallville wasn't that bad. I can understand the reasons for not having Arthur find out. He's spent the last two episode brooding about all the people he trusted betraying him. The last thing he needs is to learn that Merlin has been also lying to him all this time. Arthur learning Merlin's secret is a big deal and there wouldn't have been enough room in this episode to deal with that properly.

But I would've liked it if someone else had at least found out. Someone who actually lived to see another episode, unlike evil Uncle Lynley. It was great to finally see Merlin stop playing Arthur's bumbling servant and getting to be the powerful bad ass wizard of legend. He took charge and used his magic to kick the crap out of Agravaine and his men. But at the same time it was shocking to see Merlin kill someone (several someones, in fact). It's not the first time he's had to kill but its clearly still something he's not comfortable with. Agravaine may have been one of the bad guys but Merlin was clearly unsettled by killing him.

I know that it annoyed many, but I thought the sword in the stone sequence was very well done. I didn't mind that Merlin used magic to help Arthur. He's the one who put the sword there in the first place, so it made sense that no one would be able to take it out without his say so. It might not have been 100% faithful to the myth, but Merlin has always played fast and loose with Arthurian legends. Crying foul now seems rather redundant.

In most interpretations of the legend, Arthur is a humble servant boy, unaware of his true origins. Pulling the legendary sword from the stones was to proved to the to the people that he was the one true king and the rightful heir of Uther Pendragon. That wasn't necessary here. Arthur is already king. He already has the love and respect of his people and they will gladly fight and die for him. Pulling out the sword was never about proving anything to them. Merlin engineered this entire situation to eliminate Arthur's self-doubt and restore his confidence in himself.

The climactic battle to retake Camelot was a bit of a letdown. It all seemed too quick and easy. Not to mention inconsistent. One minute Arthur was wearing extra armour, the next it was gone. I even have a sneaky suspicion that some shots were just recycled footage from 'The Tears of Uther Pendragon.' Maybe if the BBC had given them a little more time and money it could've been as spectacular as the siege from that episode. Mind you, it would've been over in seconds if Alice Troughton wasn't so in love with slow-mo action scenes. Stop trying to be Zack Snyder, Alice.

Isolde's death fell completely flat. If they honestly wanted us to feel sad maybe the writers should've treated her as a character, not a plot point disguised as eye candy. In the end, it seemed the the only reason Tristan and Isolde were even in this story was so that one of them could die in the other's arms. This was all in the aim of giving Arthur and Gwen some feeble motivation for getting back together. So as one boring couple was torn apart, another boring couple reconciled and got married. That said, I did love the symmetry of going from everyone in the great hall chanting “love live the queen” to Morgana in the forest, alone and dying.

Which brings us to the big cliff-hanger. It wasn't what I was expecting. Actually, it was exactly what I was expecting. Just not who I was expecting. I honestly thought it was going to be Mordred and I'm disappointed that it wasn't. An appearance by Mordred, even if his face wasn't shown, would've had more of an impact and, considering his bond with Morgana, would've made a lot more sense. Plus, it would've spared us some really dodgy dragon CGI.

Merthur Moments

Just look at the expression on Arthur's face when Merlin goes back to distract Agravaine. Gwen wishes he felt that way about her. And shrug off that whole “You’re the only friend I have and I couldn’t bare to lose you” line all you want, Arthur Pendragon, we all know that you meant every word.

Notes and Quotes

--Morgana is blown to the ground by an invisible force. Merlin suddenly appears and Gwen still doesn't put two and two together. Gwen, you're a nice girl and everything but this is exactly why I was rooting for Morgana during your little fight.

--Pulling swords out of rocks is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses. You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because you've pulled a blade out of a boulder.

--I don't doubt that Mordred will return next season. Whether or not he'll still be played by Asa Butterfield is debatable. I can see them recasting the role since Butterfield will likely be too busy filming Ender's Game to put in an appearance.

--Morgana continued to have her fun with Sir Gwaine. She's now got him fighting shirtless with a wooden sword. She's a kinky one.

--Some shots of the Great Dragon were reused from previous episodes.

--Richard Wilson has clearly had his workload reduced this season. Which is no surprise considering that he's 75. He spent almost all of this episode resting on his back.

--Merlin using magic to help Arthur pull the sword from the stone is nothing new. The same thing happened in the Sam Neil mini-series and Starz's Camelot.

--Its hard not to laugh when Merlin does his Dragonlord voice.

Merlin: “Why would I do that? Your head is already as big as your waist.”

Percivel: “You alright?”
Elyan: “I’ve been locked up with Gwaine for a week.”

Merlin: “You have to believe Arthur. You’re destined to be Albion's greatest King. Nothing, not even this stone can stand in your way. Have faith.”

Merlin: “Do I look like an idiot?”
Arthur: “Yes.”

Arthur: “I thought you said you had faith in me?”
Merlin: “Whatever gave you that idea?”

I'm not sure how to rate this one. I did enjoy it but it wasn't quite the grand finale I was hoping for. What do all you think?
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Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

2 comments:

Paul Kelly said...

I think any hope of seeing Merlin as a powerful wizard before the last episode of the last season is pretty much wishful thinking. If they can't do it in four seasons, I'm guessing they won't do it until they absolutely must.

I thought this was a strong finale. I just wish they'd cut out the Monty Python and the Holy Grail style episodes and stick with the more dramatic story lines. Suddenly it's a different show.

CrazyCris said...

I was a bit let down as well... I felt like the first half of the finale (previous episode) was building up to something a bit... more. I'm glad Merlin was finally able to shine through his magic and I loved the look on Agravain's face when he realized who Merlin really was, but I was kind of expecting something similar to happen to save them all, visible to Arthur which would leave their friendship a bit in a cliffhanger until next year.

So yeah, I think the most frustrating thing is the NO ONE has a clue about Merlin! (other than Gaius) Makes me miss Lancelot even more. I seriously thought Gwaine had caught on in the episode when they rescued Gaius, he saw Merlin doing magic after all! No further reference to that since then...

And I was looking forward to seeing more of Tristan and Isolde next season. darn!

Anyhow, now it's back to 9 months of waiting for another episode of Merlin... sniff!!!