TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 3 – Episode 13: The Coming of Arthur (Pt 2)

What began with an epic premiere ended with an epic finale!  The conclusion of “The Coming of Arthur” was chock full of great fight scenes, big nods to Arthurian legend and only slight things that I wish there was more of. Overall, big props to Julian Jones, the crew and cast of Merlin for a fantastic season ender.

When we last left our merry band of outlaws (for at this point, that’s what they are), Morgana has just revealed herself as Uther’s daughter and Arthur’s half-sister and taken over the throne of Camelot with big sister Morgause by her side.

Sir Leon is being dragged through the halls by some immortal soldiers to the throne room, where Queen Morgana has been trying and failing to gain his allegiance. He states that he’d rather die than serve her and is taken away. In the courtyard, a firing squad aims at the Knights of Camelot and they are given one last chance to change their minds – they don’t. We see Morgana truly taking after her father’s derangement (on the opposite side of the magical divide however) because instead of killing the Knights – she has the guards shoot innocent civilians.

Meanwhile, Merlin is being chased through the forest by more Soldiers of the Living Dead but manages to escape into the secret cave hideout where we see a depressed Arthur staring into space after learning of the betrayals of both Morgana and the King. Merlin implores to Gaius that they must do something as the forest is besieged with the Queen’s lackeys.

In the dungeons of Camelot, a emotionally broken Uther is visited by his daughter, who cruelly taunts him in revenge for her suffering at his hands. When asked if she really hates him as much as it seems, she replies that he’s only begun to know just how much she loathes his existence. Now this? Is the evil witch we should’ve seen all series – the scene is played wonderfully by Katie McGrath and Anthony Head.

Switching over to the cave, Merlin is trying to rally Arthur out of his despondent state by teasing him about eating rat but it doesn’t take. He wisely appeals to Arthur’s sense of responsibility to his father and Camelot – which works as Arthur begins eating the food Merlin brought him. And back in Morgana’s chambers, the young Queen frets over the opposition she’s facing from the knights and the people themselves. Did she think it’d be super easy? Gwen continues faking her support of her former friend by giving her encouragement and manipulates Morgana into sending her to talk to Sir Leon.

The M&Ms (Morgana & Morgause) eavesdrop on Gwen betraying Morgana to Leon in helping him escape. What she doesn’t know is that she’s been given a potion that will track her movements, leading the evil witches straight to Arthur. Which is exactly what happens but before then, Merlin accidentally cracks open the water from the Lake of Avalon, given to him by the Fisher King in “Eye of the Phoenix”. In doing so, the puddle reveals Freya, who is now the Lady of the Lake and the emotion that Merlin has at seeing her again is touching.

She tells him that he must come and get Excalibur from her and goes to the Great Dragon to get him to the lake. He hears in his mind that he must not let anyone else wield it, promising to put it where no one else can use it. One of my favorite moments is seeing the legendary sword come out of the water with Freya’s hand holding it.

Gwen sneaks into Morgause’s chambers to get an imprint of the key to Leon’s cell and uses her skills to create a copy. She passes it to Leon by pretending to trip and drop her laundry. Once escaped, she gives in a dress to use as a disguise. Haha! When everyone is together at the cave again, the immortal guards are hot on their heels but are thwarted by the arrival of Lancelot and newcomer, Percival.

Escaping to the castle of the Old Kings, the best scene of the episode occurs when Arthur reveals the Round Table and gives a great speech which has everyone at the table standing up one-by-one stating why they’d give their lives for Arthur. The best was saved for last as Merlin stands and no words are needed between him and Arthur for the latter to know that he’d be with him until the end. Bradley James truly shines in this scene – the strength that Arthur is supposed to show comes out when he’s given the material to do so.

They end up taking the fight back to Camelot as Arthur, Gwaine & Elyan go to save Uther, while Lancelot & Merlin go to empty the blood from the Cup of Life. Eventually, Merlin gets to the cup but just as he’s about to knock it over, Morgause arrives, throwing him into a wall. An injured Lancelot is leaning on a pillar, unable to help his friend. However, surprise! Gaius shows a big burst of magical strength, blasting the elder witch back into a column. She briefly recovers before Merlin finishes her off with a sickening crack to her head.

Is she dead? Reminiscent of the Series 2 ending, it is Morgana who finds her fallen sibling and screams the castle down. No really, the shrieking was unbearable. They don’t find either woman in the rubble but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them (or at least one of them).

As I do almost every episode, things I liked were:

  • More CONTINUITY! What is this, a trend? 😉 We had nods to the “rat stew” from Series 1, and Merlin using the water from the Lake of Avalon from “Eye of the Phoenix” to save her. Her being Camelot.
  • Merlin! Plus a sword = smokin’ fighter 😉 That he was the one to wield Excalibur and not Arthur was a nice twist as the promo pictures showed the opposite. The way I see it, waiting for Arthur to get the sword elevates the moment. It would’ve cheapened the payoff later on if he’d used it now.
  • SWORD IN THE FRAKKING STONE! Enough said.
  • Arthur — now THAT is the man who becomes the High King, where has he been this entire series?!
  • The Round Table — EPIC TABLE OF EPICNESS!
  • All the Arthur & Merlin moments — in the last ep and this one, their relationship strikes all the right notes. (Though Arthur did repeat his “you’re wise” line from one of the earlier eps)
  • Sir Lancelot! I felt so badly for him having to witness Arthur/Gwen smooching but love that he supported Merlin and gave him the encouragement that the latter needed. Truly a noble knight.
  • Sir Gwaine – love how at the end of the fight, he stumbles out of the alcove – was he taking sips of some booze during it? Ha.
  • Sir Leon(a) in a dress. Can we have an ep of all the knights + Merlin having to go under cover and wear dresses? That’d be hysterical.
  • Freya – loved her small scene with Merlin and his reaction to seeing her again.
  • Gaius’ display of magic! WOO! Go him for helping protect Merlin!
  • Loved that Gwen was used as mostly something other than a romantic interest – especially using her blacksmith skills to create a key and using her own experiences with Uther’s wrath to trick Morgana, though it failed in the end.

 

Not so favorite:

  • Anti-climatic use of the water from the Lake of Avalon. He had to break the vial? That’s it?
  • Not enough Freya! Why didn’t they have her come out of the lake and give us a nice meaty emotional scene? Merlin needs some lovin’ too!
  • Even though I like how Gwen was utilized – she actually wasn’t truly needed in the ep at all — just had her in there to stick it to Lancelot and lead the M&M’s (the witches not the candy) to Arthur.
  • I would’ve liked to have seen an Arthur/Morgana confrontation — maybe we’ll get that next series.

And so ends another magical series! While the show was erratic this year from inconsistent characterization, some lackluster writing and slightly too much focus on the funny and/or romantic plots, there were some gems such as the previous mentioned premiere, “Gwaine”, “The Crystal Cave”, “Eye of the Phoenix” and “The Sorcerer’s Shadow” that really highlighted Colin Morgan, Bradley James and Anthony Head.

There was a huge missed opportunity in the way Morgana was written; Katie McGrath was under-utilized in my opinion. Additionally, while bringing Elyan to the show gave Gwen some more depth, the storyline was not fully explored and Angel Coulby was relegated to playing a love interest more than anything else.

I, for one, hope the series works out its kinks and we get a reveal to truly move Merlin and Arthur’s stories along next year, stronger writing for the ladies without being at the expense of Merlin or Arthur’s characters. Filming for Series 4 begins in March 2011 with a yet-to-be-determined 2011 airdate and keep an eye on Geek Syndicate for more Merlin-related coverage!

What did you think of the episode and Series 3 overall? Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Rating:
GS Reporter: Sharlene

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6 comments

  1. diane /

    I loved it. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series and indeed of all of the Merlin episodes over the last 3 years.

    I do agree that Season 3 was erratic, sometimes delivering with wonderful writing and characterization – “Eye of the Phoenix” really stood out for me – and sometimes worryingly bad plot lines “Love in the Time of Dragons” and “The Changling” (although Georgia King’s performance did that episode a world of good).

    Morgana’s characterization suffered a lot this year. The best lines and more solid character development for the villain side of it went to Morgause, imo. There was really no reason why Morgana hated so much and acted so very oddly. My own pet theory is that she is insane. The deleted scene from S03.01 which had Arthur telling Merlin that Uther’s father had gone mad would have really given both Morgana and Uther’s characterizations more explanation and meat. Perhaps next year they will explore it more.

    But still, I love the show and can’t wait until next year.

    • lightstarangel /

      I wonder if they were trying to show Morgana as “evil-in-training” and with Morgause now likely dead, that she’ll finally think for herself a bit and take up her sister’s mantle (driven by hatred and need for revenge). Let’s hope that next year she expands into 3D 😉

  2. SnazzyO /

    Excellent review again. I too missed the Arthur/Morgana confrontation. I wonder if Arthur having a sulk is an indication of what will happen when Merlin’s secret is revealed. He seemed very upset that he knew Morgana his whole life and didn’t see how she could do this.

    I really really liked broken Uther, I hope Arthur gets to be large and in charge for a while next season. He is most interesting when he is leading IMO. And yes, at last, the right notes to the Merlin/Arthur friendship.

    Since they are dropped down to 10 episodes next year, I hope they take time with the storytelling. No more pointless fart jokes please. The show did really well in the ratings. I’m hoping they feel they’ve cemented the time-slot and go ahead and up the ante on the drama next year.

    • lightstarangel /

      I think that’s what the producers meant by no reset button; Merlin hints that Arthur should take over the throne because Uther is mentally not all there anymore, so that should be quite a shift. I too thought Arthur’s reaction to Morgana might be an indication of his reaction to Merlin but it doesn’t seem like either Arthur nor Uther know that Morgana has magic, just that she was in league with a sorceress (Morgause). So it was more his reaction to the betrayal more than anything.

      With only 10 episodes next series, they have to cut out the pointless, non-development episodes as fun as they can (or can’t) be sometimes.

  3. Kate /

    I am a huge fan of Merlin and i really, hugely love it and can’t wait to see the fourth series. I really hope that Gwaine, Lancelot & Percival are characters that will be in it all the time and not just as part time characters. Love it so so so much. Merlin is an epic series and just great family entertainment.

    • lightstarangel /

      I’m looking forward to the 4th series too and hope that they at least bring the other knights for more than 1-2 eps. At least Gwaine was in 4 episodes this time around, which is a lot for a recurring guest!

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