Merlin: The Moment of Truth

“If it comes to a choice between saving peoples' lives and revealing who I really am, there is no choice.”

A village under threat from marauding bandits. A plea for help. A ragtag band of heroes uniting to save them. Sound familiar? On the surface, 'The Moment of Truth' appears to be nothing more than a cheap rehash of Seven Samurai. Or The Magnificent Seven, for those with no appreciation for Japanese cinema. Or Battle Beyond The Stars for those who don't like westerns. Or A Bug's Life for anyone who doesn't like cheap sci-fi. Or.... okay, I've run out of remakes.

Moving on. This episode slavishly follows the plot of Akira Kurosawa's classic to the letter. Bandits attack poor villagers. Villagers seek help. Heroic warriors help villagers. Bandits are defeated. Much rejoicing, etc. The end. But let's forget about the quest of the week. It's not really that important. Because this wasn't really an entire episode about our heroes battling bandits led by Dr. Bashir. No, this was an episode all about Merlin and Arthur and their somewhat complicated relationship.

You see, Merlin and Arthur are more than just master and servant. But neither of them is willing to admit that. Not to themselves or anyone else. For Arthur, it's a matter of status. He's heir to the throne, the once and future king. He shouldn't be making friends with servants. That is not what is expected of him (and Arthur is all about what is expected of him). He's supposed to befriend high lords and marry princesses. Not hang around with servants. He's Prince Arthur, not Prince Hal. But no matter how much he bosses him around, Arthur can't hide the fact he likes Merlin. Even Merlin's mum can see that he cares about Merlin. She can tell that he is more than just a servant to Arthur.

Merlin stays quiet for very different reasons. For him it isn't a question of social status, but basic survival. Since he rather foolishly decided to take up residency in the heart of a society that is prejudiced towards his kind, Merlin has been forced to keep his true nature a secret. In the closet, if you will. Merlin wants to be honest with Arthur, to finally come out of the closet and tell him the truth about himself. But he's afraid. Afraid of how Arthur will react. Merlin knows that, even though he doesn't share his father's prejudice, Arthur sees it as his duty to uphold his father's laws whether he agrees with them or not. So Merlin stays silent.

But what would Arthur do if he really did discover Merlin's secret? Would he accept Merlin for who he is or reject him and summon the executioner? It is doubtful he'd have Merlin killed, but Arthur would see it as a massive betrayal. To discover that Merlin had been lying to him this whole time would be unforgivable in Arthur's eyes.

It's a shame we didn't get to find out. Thanks to Will using his dying breath to take the rap for Merlin's use of magic, the status quo is frustratingly maintained. And herein lies my problem with this episode. It's bad enough that the writers had to resort to pinching plots from famous movies, but all the Merlin/Arthur angst they make us endure ultimately goes nowhere. By the end of the episode we're right back where we started. I know this is only the first season and it's unlikely the writers would want to shake things up this early, but I still can't help finding it a little frustrating.

Familiar Faces

Alexander Siddig (Kanen) played Dr. Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Joe Dempsie (Will) has appeared on Doctor Who, Skins, The Fades and Game of Thrones. Jonathan Aris (Matthew) is Anderson on Sherlock.

Merthur Moments

Too many to choose from. This is pretty much a Merthur episode.

Notes and Quotes

--Katie MacGrath looked stunning in her warrior outfit. Then again, I think you could dress her in a cardboard box and she'd still look stunning.

--I actually understand Uther's reasoning. Ealdor is in another kingdom. If he sends in the troops, it could provoke a war. He can't take that risk, not for one village.

--If Arthur's going to be king, he needs to hire himself some better speech writers.

--Uther mentions that Ealdor is in King Cenred's kingdom. Nice bit of foreshadowing there.

Hunith: "You'd better be going."
Merlin: "I don't have to go."
Hunith: "Yes, you do."
Merlin: "If anything were to happen to you..."
Hunith: "I know where to find you. You have to go, Merlin. You belong at Arthur's side. I've seen how much he needs you, how much you need him. You're like two sides of the same coin."
--She so ships it.

Arthur: "You're a sorcerer?"
William: "Yeah. What are you going to do? Kill me?"
Arthur: "No. Of course not."
--He is not his father's son.

Hunith: “You can't let Arthur know about your gift.”
Merlin: “Why not? Maybe it's meant to be this way. And if he doesn't accept me for who I really am, then... he's not the friend I hoped he was.”

Hunith: "He must care for you a great deal."
Merlin: "Arthur would do the same for any village. That's just the way he is."
Hunith: "It's more than that. He's here for you."
Merlin: "I'm just his servant."
Hunith: "Give him more credit than that. He likes you."
Merlin: "That's because he doesn't know me. And if he did, I'd probably be dead by now."

Merlin: "It's been an honour serving you."
Arthur: "You'll be coming back?"
Merlin: "She's my mother. I have got to look after her before anyone else. You understand?"
Arthur: "I'd do exactly the same. Well, you've been terrible. Really. I mean it, the worst servant I've ever had."
Merlin: "Thank you, sire."

Two out of four wannabe Saint Crispin's Day Speeches.
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Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

2 comments:

Mark said...

One more suggested quote, by Arthur: "In this circle, everyone is equal."

(To be followed by: "And I'll build a table around this circle! And a castle around the table!")

sunbunny said...

They killed Anderson! And Gendry!

Loved the cute awkwardness of Merlin bringing Arthur around to meet his family and his…friend. I'm going to go with friend.

Katie McGrath was looking especially hot this episode and that's saying something.