Merlin: Le Morte d'Arthur

"Please, Merlin, you must beware. This is only the beginning."

This was actually the first episode of Merlin I watched all the way through. I'd seen bits and pieces of other episodes, but never bothered to sit through an entire episode before. And then, one quiet Saturday afternoon, when there was nothing else on to watch, I decided 'what the hell' and gave Merlin a go while I waited to find out what the lottery numbers were that week. Sure, I'd missed the previous 12 episodes, but I guessed (correctly) that this would be a episodic show and that it wouldn't take me long to get the gist of things. So I settled down to watch my first episode of Merlin. And afterwards I decided that it would be my last episode of Merlin.

As season finales go, 'Le Morte d'Arthur' is a major letdown. The plot is basically a rehash of 'The Poisoned Chalice', only the roles reversed. This time it was Arthur who was sick, not Merlin. And instead of a poisoned cup we had the deadly Questing Beast, another rubbish CGI beastie of the week that our heroes had to slay. Where did the Questing Beast come from? I have no idea. Like the Griffin, it's a monster that seems to randomly appear out of nowhere just so our heroes have something to fight.

It was a little disappointing that Arthur spent most of the episode in bed, sweating for Albion. This entire series has been built upon the blossoming friendship between Arthur and Merlin. Their banter, and blatant homoerotic subtext, is one of the joys of the series. Feels wrong to have so little of it in this episode. It might be okay to sideline one of your leads in a regular episode, but not for the majority of the season finale.

It's a good thing the bite of the Questing Beast was not instantly fatal. Like many fictional poisons it is deadly but works very, very slowly. Phew, that's a relief. In order to save Arthur, Merlin sets off on a quest to the Isle of the Blessed (Beyond the White Mountains, through the Valley of the Fallen Kings, to the north of the Great Sea of Meredor, left at Tescos, straight past Starbucks and opposite the Post Office). Once there, he makes a deal with Nimueh to trade his life for Arthur's.

Which brings me to the most disappointing part of this episode: Nimueh's death. That was just rubbish. Maybe if they hadn't wasted so much of the episode's budget on the naff Questing Beast we could've been treated to a more spectacular showdown between her and Merlin. Instead the final confrontation was a bit of a damp fizzle. Nimueh had been set up as the big bad of this season. Yeah, she wasn't the best villain, but she still deserved better than such a weak exit.

Gaius' miraculous recovery was a complete cop out. Don't get me wrong, I love Gaius and can't imagine the show without him (who would explain everything?). But the first time I saw this episode I thought that Gaius should've died and stayed dead. Merlin just got out of this one far too easily for my liking. And according to Richard Wilson, the original intention was for Gaius to meet his maker. It is traditional in fantasy fiction for the wise old mentor/father figure to sacrifice themselves for their pupils. If that had happened then this episode might've carried more weight. Instead the reset button is given a good hard push. By killing Nimueh, Merlin was able to save Arthur, his mother and Gaius without any consequences.

Merthur Moments

Far too many to list. I did love Merlin's 'You're a prat' speech.

Notes and Quotes

--The revelation that the Dragon has been manipulating Merlin all this time to gain his freedom fell a little flat. It's been pretty obvious that the Dragon had an ulterior motive for helping Merlin. If anything this will give their relationship a shake up. These weekly visits have been getting boring.

--You can call it the Cup of Life all you want, but as far as I am concerned that was most definitely the Holy Grail.

--The episode's title comes from Sir Thomas Malory's famous book Le Morte d'Arthur, a compilation of various French and English Arthurian legends first published in 1485.

--Gwen seems to have shifted her affections from Merlin to Arthur. Hands up who didn't see that coming? Don't waste your time, Gwen. They've only got eyes for each other.

--The Questing Beast (who really lucked out when it came to cool monster names) is a creature from Arthurian legend. Also known as the Beast Glatisant or Barking Beast (told ya), it is described as having the head and neck of a serpent, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the feet of a deer.

--What is the point of having guards if they are just going to let in any mysterious hooded figure, who kinda looks like a leper, without so much as a “Halt! Who goes there?”.

--Like Arthur, Merlin's mother does not instantly die either. And somehow manages to walk all the way from Eldor to Camelot in one night. And while seriously ill, to boot. Impressive. Most impressive.

--The Isle of the Blessed is actually Raglan Castle in county Monmouthshire, Wales.

--The kingdom might be grieving for their fallen prince, but it a boom time for those who sell candles.

Merlin: “We haven't done all the things we're meant to do.”
Gaius: “That is the lament of all men.”
--Nah, too easy.

Gaius: “I don't believe in superstition.”
--You could've fooled me.

Gaius: “Merlin intends to offer his life for his mother's. I want you to take mine in his place.”
Nimueh: (evil laugh) “With all my powers of prediction, I could never have foretold this.”
--Really? They must be crap then because I saw it coming a mile off.

Two out of four episodes that nearly put me off Merlin for good.
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Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on finishing season one, Mark! This may never be the series for me since I'm just not a sword and sorcery person, but I really enjoyed reading your reviews just now as I was archiving them for the site. Very amusing.

Mark Greig said...

Thank you so much, Billie. Even though it's not your cup of tea, I strongly recommend you give Merlin a go. Once you get past the uneven first season it really starts to get good, wit the one or two exceptions. But that's to be expected with any show.