TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 4, Episode 13 – The Sword in the Stone (Pt 2)

In the last chapter of The Sword and the Stone, Merlin, Arthur & Co are still running for their lives from Agravaine, acting on orders from Morgana. They escape his clutches but faced with yet another betrayal and barbs from strangers, he loses faith in himself. Merlin knows that a saddened king will not be able to take back his kingdom so he sets out to prove that Arthur was born to rule.

While there were a few things that had me questioning the writers, the visually stunning pivotal moment this episode is named for makes up for it: it’s beautifully done and acted as such by Colin Morgan and Bradley James. For every iteration of Arthurian legend that has come out recently, there are no other actors more suited to these roles than those two. I think everyone will find something to love. Happy Holidays Merlin fans!

When we last left our heroes, they were still on the run from Agravaine and that is how we open this half of the episode. Merlin runs ahead of the group to call on Kilgarrah and the Great Dragon swoops in at the last second to begin turning the troops to ash. But what Merlin doesn’t take into account is that the tunnels they’re escaping to are the same tunnels that their enemies are taking refuge in.

Realizing that they haven’t lost their pursuers, Merlin breaks away from a reluctant Arthur to create a distraction. However, he’s cornered by Agravaine who believes him to be nothing more than a servant. The smarmy git tries to wheedle Arthur’s location from him but it’s a futile attempt and he knows it. About to close in, Merlin uses just enough magic to blast everyone back with Agravaine being the only one conscious.

He’s also in shock and awed at the revelation of Merlin’s secret: “You have magic!” Ta da! Then he makes a fatal mistake in trying to get Merlin’s guard down and strike him with a blade. The warlock instinctually deals a killing blow to Arthur’s uncle with a crack to the head. You can see how Merlin is still uncomfortable doing what he must to protect his king but less so than in the past. This was one of the most disappointing outcomes – that this character, a member of Arthur’s extended family, was brought in to just be reduced to a by-the-book foil? We don’t find out anything interesting about his true motivations for betraying Arthur. If we’re expected to believe it’s because of his devotion to Morgana, then that might just be the lamest reason of all.

Regardless, Arthur hears sounds from the fight and insists on going back for his only friend; a move that surprises Tristan and gets him a harsh glare from Gwen. Once he finds Merlin, his immediate relief is clear and it’s a nice moment passes between the two. The group reunites to try to head back towards Camelot but Arthur’s heart is no longer in it. Emotionally defeated and then repeatedly beat over the head with negative comments from Tristan, he pours his feelings out to Merlin. The warlock tries to reassure him that Tristan doesn’t know what he’s talking about, gives his usual pep talk but it’s not working and Arthur walks off to brood.

As he leaves, Gwen tries to grab his attention by clasping his arm as she used to do but he snatches it back and stoically reminds her that his feelings about her betrayal have not changed; that Ealdor was a moment of weakness. Hurt, she wanders back to camp. No one knows about the enchantment that was put on her but it also did not create feelings that weren’t already there. All this leaves Merlin to call on Kilgarrah for help once more. The Great Dragon regrets that there is no advice he can give to help this situation but in doing so, he actually gives Merlin an idea and asks if Kilgarrah can find the citizens of Camelot who escaped.

In the morning, Merlin has Arthur follow him into the woods while he weaves a story about the Five Kingdoms and how Camelot’s first king put the sword into the stone and that only Camelot’s true king can remove it. At this point, they’ve arrived at the site where Merlin left Excalibur last series, surrounded by Percival, Leon and the citizens of Camelot. This scene gave me goosebumps and it is a shining moment for both Morgan and James as Arthur pulls the sword from the stone with a little help from Merlin.

Some might say that Arthur wouldn’t have been able to pull it out without magic and they’d be right. In whichever telling you’ve seen or heard, that sword and the stone that held it are infused with magic to only trigger when Arthur pulled it out. It just so happens that in this version of the story, Merlin is present instead of the stone itself being spelled. Regardless, Merlin is thrilled that he’s brought back Arthur’s faith in himself with the people bearing witness to the momentous occasion as is the young king.

Back in Camelot, Morgana makes Gwaine fight yet again for his dinner and we see later that he’s won with just a tiny wooden sword for a weapon. In the cells, Gaius lays wasting away, refusing the food and welcoming the end of his life. Helios reports that Agravaine and all his troops are dead – burned. Morgana slowly begins to panic as she says there’s only one man who can command a dragon.

When did Morgana find out that Emrys was a dragonlord? Did I miss something?

While preparing to take back the kingdom, Gwen and Isolde have a little heart-to-heart where the latter tells the other woman not to give up hope, that love conquers all. The formerly exiled servant ponders the advice. Meanwhile, Merlin transforms into Emrys to spook Morgana and to plant a voodoo doll underneath her bed. We’re left to wonder what it will actually do as he cackles. Morgana in a full state of panic, has guards go after Emrys while Helios sees the witch in a new and likely unflattering light. They don’t catch him though because Merlin’s stolen a guard’s uniform to sneak back out. Helios tries to calm her down and suggests she go to sleep, unknowingly with that voodoo that Merlin does so well (sorry!) taking effect. If it were me? There’s no way someone could get me to fall asleep!

Armed with Excalibur, Arthur leads the army to Camelot. The most interesting and long-awaited confrontation occurs when brother and sister meet face-to-face since her betrayal. And it doesn’t go as I expected it to; I thought Arthur would rage and yell but he quietly asks: “What happened to you Morgana? I thought we were friends.” The tremor and genuine ache in his voice and the answering softness and hurt in her eyes was perfect – Katie McGrath and Bradley James are incredible in this instance and I wish we’d have gotten the chance to see them play off each other more.

However the moment passes and Morgana is quickly back to her evil self about to blast her brother and his friends into the next kingdom. But something she doesn’t expect occurs; Merlin smirks as Morgana tries to use magic. It’s gone thanks to the gift Emrys left. Realizing that she’s powerless, she flees leaving Helios and his men to fight Arthur, Tristan and Isolde. Merlin and Gwen go after Morgana.

We see some nice slow-mo fighting with Morgana wielding a sword again and getting hit by the opposing side – mimicking the shot of Arthur doing the same in the first half of this two-parter. Hurt, she happens upon Gwen and forces her to fight. Her former handmaiden asks what she’s done to deserve such hatred and is answered with the fact that it’s not what she’s done, it’s what she’ll do in the future. Gwen’s sword is knocked from her hand but Merlin blasts Morgana away from around the corner causing a rock pile to fall on her. Once the dust clears, Morgana is gone.

In the throne room, Helios knocks Arthur upside the head so hard that he’s left defenseless – what is Excalibur good for anyway? Before he can deal the killing blow, Isolde sneaks up on him thrusting her sword into his back but this is not without consequences as he slashes her across her torso before dying. Moved by the sacrifice Isolde made in saving his life and how devastated Tristan is – Arthur locks eyes with Guinevere. You know in that instance that despite all his attempts to push her away, he’s forgiven her. The king proposes to his beloved once more and she accepts. This scene rang false for me; the pair seemed more genuine in hut in Ealdor and this just seemed to try to rush their reunion.

I would have honestly like to have seen some more development of this and possibly someone revealing that Gwen was enchanted but no. Also hoped that we’d possibly see a funeral for Isolde instead of what I knew was coming but alas, twas not to be! What did happen is that Guinevere is crowned Queen of Camelot to chants of “Long live the queen!” We’ll see how that works out for her.

As a wounded magic-less Morgana stumbles out into the woods, collapses and is all but dead but in a surprise twist, Aithusa breathes on her and restores her life. Why would Aithusa do such a thing? Was he under orders from Kilgarrah or did he act on his own? I wonder if this means that the arc of Morgana as healer might be coming.

One similar instance I’ve seen with dragon breath being used is in the film Excalibur where Merlin tricks her into producing a dragon breath fog and in doing so, she uses the last of her magic rapidly aging her where Mordred kills her. Now I doubt the producers will stray that far from the legend, but maybe it’ll be Katie’s turn in the makeup chair next series as Old Morgana!

And with that, Series 4 of Merlin has come to a close! It’s been a mostly fantastic season for the show – and with an ending like that, I truly have no idea what Series 5 could hold for the young warlock and his king other than the big reveal. But I guess we’ll see come next Fall.

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Sharlene

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13 comments

  1. The first part of this episode was the best, especially with Merlin using his cleverness, his manipulative aspect and his magical powers to make everything right in Camelot. Colin Morgan’s work is amazing. Loved him. The rest of the episode was a little bit boring. Finally, I hope the last scene sets up a big part of series 5 being about Merlin being Last Dragonlord.

  2. I thought this episode was brilliant, and aww how cute was the dragon at the end? I wish isolde hadnt died, would have liked to have seen those two characters in series 5, and is morgana going to be magic less forever now?? if it was that easy to do why didnt merlin do it ages agoo…

  3. idiotsite /

    I was so excited for this one episode but in the it felt kind of rushed to me. Nevertheless, a very enjoyable and breathtakingly acted episode it was. I wonder what happens to Tristan and where Guinevere’s role as Queen goes with having no Lancelot to cheat Arthur with and all. The cast of this show knows something, they’ve still got me hooked on it even though it’s a slightly ridiculous (but still somehow amazing) twist of the legends.

  4. Lee /

    It was a really good episode. The sword in the stone, the fights but I believe the greatest part was the scene where Agravaine understands who Merlin is. I wish other people would have revealed his identity, too. [They should have explained his motives further. The explanation that he hated Uther is not enough ]. I was looking forward to Gwen’s coronation but it did feel rushed to me. Why not show them getting married first and the coronation could have been in series 5? Still, I loved the episode and the cliffhanger at the end was a nice twist. This is one of my favorite series, can’t wait for next season.

  5. gryffin /

    All scenes with Colin Morgan smoulder. Let’s hope too see more storylines next season focus once again on him — not just Arthur’s protector, but him as the immortal Merlin or Emrys. the Arthur/Gwen story is hilariously pathetic and boring and the sad thing is that the writers probably think they are doing a brilliany job — yeah right!! Because we always have Disney for breakfast. Seriously, I hope the writers stay away from writing any moe love stories, esp. involving Arthur and Gwen. They really, really stink. Somebody please please give them this message. Other than that, Merlin is brilliant!

    • thatisall /

      I love the Arthur/Gwen story, you certainly do not speak for the entire fandom. She is queen now anyway, and that is end game, am totally looking forward to Pendragon babies now hah!

      • gryffin /

        Yeah, I’m so happy for you mate and your fandom mates. Now, back to the main point, let’s get on with Merlin as the main character.

  6. godannotook /

    I’m sort of confused by this finale – no question that it was wonderfully acted and many scenes had me enthralled – like the drawing of The Sword, with the sun rise a beautiful echo of the morning light in the New Dawn scene from “The Wicked Day”it was wonderful and it made me forget that I doubted that the knights & Camelot’s people would have trusted Kilgarrah (last time they saw him in theS02 finale he was killing hundreds of them)

    But I couldn’t understand how Morgana, wounded and without magic, was able to get out from under that pile of masonry and stagger through the whole castle then miles into the woods without anyone seeing her. As for Aithusa healing her when he was supposed to “bode well” for Merlin and Arthur and the land they would build together ….. it left me not so much cliff hanging as totally bewildered

  7. adrienne /

    I’m quite surprised that TPTB actually think wondering “what will happen with Morgana” is a cliffhanger. Again. It’s the third series finale that’s ended this way. As much as I love ‘Merlin’ the show, it’s hit the reset again with Merlin and Arthur. For them, nothing has changed. Now that the wedding is over, the contrived love story with no real obstacles since Uther’s death (nor real passion), maybe we can get back to Merlin and his magic and what he can actually do. The scene with Agravaine was fantastic. Finally, BAMF Merlin doing his thing.
    The acting was superb, photography and lighting direction excellent as always. As I’ve said before, I’m hoping in s5, the writing will live up to the surrounding talent.

    • godannotook /

      Yes exactly I agree with you whole heartedly about all that’s good in Merlin I have been swept up by the acting the wonderful cinematic epic quality of what we see…….. but the writing ?

      ……. The same basic finale plot – Camelot under siege by an overwhelming force – Camelot Lost. Merlin tells Arthur to buck up and get on with it – Camelot saved.

      The plot holes…Gaius is dying – oh he’s not now…. Arthur tells Gwen it’s all over it cannot be and that will never change then someone he doesn’t really know dies and that changes things ? he proposes again – and she agrees without any question or doubt on her part ?

      ….. Merlin and Arthur have been reset again, Merlin’s still just a servant Arthur still thinks he’s basically an idiot, Merlin’s Dread Secret Can Never Be Revealed – this is just too repetitive and I am so weary of it …. and the Morgana and Aithusia stuff is puzzling and confusing but that’s all.

      posted more in sorrow than in anger I still want to love “Merlin” and I still feel that the cast and production crew are superb.

  8. Rashad /

    she may have been referring to merlin when she said “there’s only one person who could command the dragon” if you recall Morgana in the last episode of season one has a dream of merlin yelling at the dragon then warns him he must be wary. Perhaps she’s known since then

    • mb /

      what about when Morgana recited all the times Merlin has foiled her and Morgause’s schemes when she has Merlin at her mercy in the servant of two masters episode this season. She blamed him for Morgause’s slow death, so how is it possible she hasn’t put two and two together yet? And what about when Aithusa knocked her out when she had Merlin trapped in the cave. The immediacy of that incident should loom large, He went over to Merlin and then attacked her. She should be on the verge of this realization and her dreams/vsions should help her pull it all together. She just needs the Merlin/Emrys connection to be made in some way.

  9. mb /

    I think that the reveal will happen this coming series – they mentioned Arthur being betrayed by those he loves several times, Arthur himself questioned why he has not been able to perceive what is really going on, how those he loves had betrayed him, even Agravaine talked about how Merlin had deceived Arthur all this time: I think Arthur needs to find out, turn against Merlin and banish him from the kingdom, and then desparately need his help at some point, facilitating his return. That would also give Merlin the opportunity to have some adventures on his own. I think Morgana has to figure it out first and reveal it to Arthur as an act of revenge, and I think the dragon has to, at some point, dress down Arthur and reveal to him what it has cost Merlin to stand by Arthur, including the loss of his father. “No man is worth your tears” is what he told Merlin at that time. Really? And to make him realize how many times Merlin has daved both Arthur and his kingdom. The charade of Arthur never hearing the spells etc has to end, or Arthur really is just a dollophead. Lancelot figured it out immediately. Is Arthur deaf or is he just dumb? Get on with it, it will expand the show, not end it.

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