Merlin: The Beginning of the End

“My name is Mordred.”

Finally! I've been waiting all season for this, a really great episode of Merlin. Thank you, Howard Overman.

As I'm sure I've said before, Howard Overman is my favourite Merlin writer. He is to this show what Ben Edlund is to Supernatural. 'The Beginning of the End' is easily one of his finest episodes and the best episode of the first season. One of the main reasons I love his episodes so much is because they tend to keep the magic and monsters to a minimum and focus more of the characters. It is somewhat ironic that Merlin is often at its very best when there is actually as little magic as possible.

This is the first episode to truly break format and gives us story that isn't as predictable as the menu in a fish and chip shop. There is no outside threat or mystical menace for our heroes to defeat, no evil wizards out for revenge or naff looking CGI monster terrorizing Camelot. Instead, Merlin is faced with a problem that can't be easily solved by performing a quick spell while no one is looking (or conscious).

Mordred's arrival places Merlin in a tricky situation. It's the classic Hitler scenario. Could he let an innocent boy die simply because some shifty dragon told him that boy would grow up to one day kill Arthur? He struggles with his conscience over it, but in the end makes the same decision all heroes do when faced with this situation: he lets the kid live. Even if he hadn't had Mordred's voice screaming in his head, I don't believe for a second that Merlin would've abandoned Arthur and let Mordred die. That's not who he, or the show, is. But if the writers continue to follow the legends, then it's a decision that Merlin will live to regret.

I was surprised that they would choose to introduce Mordred this early. He is something of an endgame character. Apologies in advance for the spoiler, but Mordred's role in the story is to bring about the fall of Camelot and kill (or mortally wound) Arthur at the battle of Camlen. Right now, though, he's in the Anakin Skywalker phase of his life: powerful, potentially evil but still essentially young and innocent. Thankfully, he's not as irritating as the young Lord Vader. This might have something to do with the fact that, even with minimal dialogue, Asa Butterfield can act the socks off Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen. It's no surprise that he's so in demand right now. That kid has got some seriously expressive eyes.

It's great to see Katie McGrath finally get something substantial to do. Morgana is one of the series' best characters but she's been seriously underused this season. She's spent too much time doing nothing but watch tournaments or attend feasts. McGrath is always at her best when Morgana goes up against Uther. She has shown in the past that she is willing to stand up to the king and even risked her own life to save Mordred. McGrath and Anthony Head play off well against each other. All in all, this was really a great episode for the entire cast, with only Angel Coulby feeling underused.

Familiar Faces

After appearing as Mordred, Asa Butterfield has gone on to star in Hugo and will played Ender in the film version of Ender's Game.

Merthur Moments

The adorable scene with the keys. Merlin just loves messing with Arthur.

Notes and Quotes

--Katie McGrath in her Red Riding Hood cloak. Wow!

--The evil monk chanting on the soundtrack is right out of a Philip Glass album.

--Mordred's guardian looked a lot like Aidan Turner.

--The name Emrys comes from early Welsh tellings of the Arthurian legends where he was known as Myrddin Emrys. Other names for Merlin include Myrddin Wyllt, Merlin Ambrosius and Merlinus Caledonensis.

--Mordred is one of the earliest figures associated with Arthurian legend. He is known as the traitor who fought Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur wounded. Mordred's lineage often varies but in most tellings of the story, he is Arthur's illegitimate son with his half-sister Morgause. In more modern versions this is changed to his other half-sister, Morgana. I think it is safe to assume that is not a direction this show is going.

Uther: “If I discover that you were somehow involved in freeing this boy, the consequences will be extremely severe.”
Morgana: “My lord, you know I respect you too much to ever betray you like that.”
Uther: “I made a promise to your father that I would protect you. But if you cross me again, I will break that promise without a second thought.”

Gwen: “You're risking so much for this boy. You don't know anything about him. You don't even know his name!”
Morgana: “There's a bond between us.”
Gwen: “Stronger than the bond you have with Uther?”
Morgana: “It's like nothing I've ever felt before. Perhaps I was always meant to help him.”

Merlin: “I need to know why you told me not to protect the boy.”
The Great Dragon: “You seek my counsel and yet you choose to ignore it.”

Morgana: “I can't believe you'd let an innocent child die.”
Arthur: “It's too late. He's been caught. I have no choice.”
Morgana: “And this is how you will rule when you are king? You're not like your father.”
Arthur: “I will not betray him.”
Morgana: “If I know you at all, you won't stand by and let this happen. Please. If you won't do this for the boy, do it for me.”

Four out of four evil monks chanting.
---
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

Paul Kelly said...

Yeah, if this episode hadn't been so good I dare say I'd have been done with Merlin. It was proof that the show could crack out a quality episode. And hardly any Overman smut either. Shame... but, whatever.