TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 4, Episode 12 – The Sword in the Stone (Pt 1)
Posted by Sharlene Mousfar on December 17, 2011
The battle for Camelot is pretty much over as soon as it’s started but Morgana’s not content with having the castle, she wants Arthur dead. There’s some role reversal but the use of personality-altering enchantments has been overdone. In this instance, it’s still pretty humorous.
Meanwhile the introduction of new characters Tristan and Isolde will hopefully bring some life to the second half of the finale as overall, felt the story in this part isn’t as exciting as the finales past, even with the gorgeous cinematography.
The episode opens with a very humorous moment between Arthur and Merlin. The king is trying to get dressed for a feast but Merlin is dilly dallying on the last item he needs. We’re treated to another trouser-less Arthur moment when he catches Merlin “improving” his belt by adding an extra notch. Meaning Arthur has gained some kingly pounds since taking over! He makes Merlin swear to keep it a secret - and he’d know all about doing that. Bradley James’ should be in a comedy after this show is over because his comedic timing is amazing.
Meanwhile, Morgana’s plan to invade Camelot is going into effect while everyone is at a feast. Everyone but Agravaine who brings Helios’ troops into the castle, taking Arthur and his knights by surprise. We then see the knights go down one by one: first Leon having to retreat helping people escape and then Elyan being blasted by Morgana. We see nice slow-mo of the fighting and running but Arthur gets hit just as Merlin finds him and is dragged to safety.
The moment that a lot of us have been waiting for is pretty underwhelming as Arthur finds out about his uncle’s betrayal by witnessing him walk through the courtyard with Morgana. His disbelief turns to fury and he moves to go after them but Merlin holds him back, pulling him away to the antechamber. With only minutes at best before they’re discovered, Merlin states that Morgana is coming for Arthur, who won’t leave his people behind.
Gaius suggests the use of magic to make Arthur temporarily lose his will to fight so they can get him out. The spell works a little too well, making him a bit puppet-like: pliable and agreeable. The continued use of enchantment to change a character’s personality seems to be lazy writing and I wish we’d see them making a conscious decision (right or wrong) instead of being forced to without their knowledge. Percival takes Arthur and Gwaine pushes Merlin to follow. Gaius pulls the rug out from under Morgana’s celebration as Arthur is gone. She tells them to ready the horses because they’re going on a hunt.
Out in the woods, the group is surprised by Elyan and we see that Arthur is essentially a lost puppy. As they’re running, they keep losing people – Gwaine and Gaius get left behind in Camelot, Percival when Morgana blasts them from a distance and finally Elyan stays to fight so Merlin & Arthur can escape. He’s captured and brought back to be tortured for information with a snake creature – he eventually gives up that they’re headed to Ealdor. Gwaine is also tortured by having to entertain aka fight for food so Gaius doesn’t starve – his reward is a moldy piece of bread.
Agravaine seems to be losing favor with the witch and before he goes on his mission to capture Arthur, he essentially swears his undying devotion to her: “I am your one true all my lady. I am your one true friend. I would do anything for you.” Not sure if she’s trying to think of a way to further exploit him or not.
In the woods, they come upon an empty hut and take the clothes there for Arthur to change into. “I probably should learn to think before I speak, shouldn’t I?” Merlin is slightly amused and when Arthur comes out in midriff top and capris, it’s all he can do not to outright laugh. Here’s the role reversal: Merlin leads the way while Arthur does everything he’s told to do because he can no longer think for himself. Bradley really hams it up and you can’t help but laugh.
They’re found by Isolde and brought to Tristan, who tires to figure out who they are and what they’ve seen. With a little gold, they join the group of smugglers discovered while helping unpack. When Merlin tells them it’s illegal, Tristan says that the half-wit King of Camelot could never catch them – and the camera pans to Arthur hugging a tree. Fireside chat number one has Merlin taking advantage of Arthur’s state by having him do chores – didn’t really enjoy seeing that as I thought it was beneath him. In the morning, Arthur is back to normal. If you thought spell-addled Arthur was funny, Bradley playing Arthur trying to be simpleton Arthur is even more hysterical.
While all this is going on, Agravaine is hot on their trail and catches up with them twice – once with the smugglers and then in Ealdor. During the fight in the woods, Tristan and Arthur argue back and forth as his disguise has been found out and Isolde is hurt. Merlin takes their new “friends” as they move into Lott’s kingdom. Has he taken over Cenred’s land since that’s where Ealdor is supposed to be?
By the fire, Arthur admits that Merlin was right about Agravaine all along. Merlin is sympathetic and doesn’t say “I told you so” as Arthur is beating himself up over being a blind fool to his uncle and Morgana. Add Uther’s betrayal from Sins of the Father and Gwen’s – Merlin is the only person Arthur thinks he can trust. It’ll make the reveal all the more painful and explosive when the time comes and Merlin knows it. In an attempt to reassure Arthur’s doubts, Merlin adamantly lists all the things that he admires about him and the young king seems amazed that someone thinks so highly of him.
Merlin & Co arrive in Ealdor and its a wonderful reunion between mother and son – Hunith is back! In her hut, Arthur apologizes to Tristan for their bad luck and Tristan’s way of accepting is saying that as long as he has Isolde, he doesn’t need anything else. This causes Arthur to pine for Gwen. Merlin and Hunith walk outside and we find out that Gwen went to Ealdor after she left Merlin in the the forest last episode. She watches over a sleeping Arthur, taking care of his wounds. Her ministrations wake him and he says her name in disbelief while they both admit they miss each other. Slowly, Arthur embraces Gwen and it’s a very tender moment. I hope she’s not so easily let back into the fold but doubt the writers will address it.
Hunith and Merlin are waiting outside when they notice they’re surrounded. He tells everyone to escape round the back while he uses magic to distract Agravaine. However, he sees them escape and they run for their lives into the forest. It’s obvious that this is a two-parter, so maybe watching both back-to-back will make this part more enjoyable as all the action seems to be happening next week:
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