TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 4, Episode 5 – His Father’s Son

One might call tonight’s episode one of the most humorless episodes of Merlin‘s run and one would be right. The brilliant Lindsay Duncan guest stars as Queen Annis who is hellbent on getting revenge against Arthur after a decision he makes creates huge ramifications for his reign and Camelot.

Thousands of lives on both sides hang in the balance and Arthur must learn to believe in himself and truly become the King of legend before it’s too late.

The episode opens with a knight of Camelot running from a band of angry warriors. But this is no ordinary knight or even a real one. It’s Merlin (looking quite dashing in chain mail) in disguise as bait to trap the intruders! After they’re captured, we find out that the leader is not any old bandit – he’s actually King Caerleon who’s trespassing on Camelot’s territory.

“I’m not ready. I need you.” Truer words were never spoken by Arthur. While he’s beginning to realize the responsibilities that come with being king, he’s going about it all wrong by listening to his smarmy uncle, ignoring Merlin’s advice and putting Uther on a pedestal. Doesn’t Arthur realize that all his relatives have tried to kill him? Agravaine senses Arthur’s insecurity and jumps at the chance to steer his nephew wrong.

Instead following his own instincts, he accepts Agravaine’s suggestion; one that Arthur knows Caerleon will not accept. The alternative to turning down the treaty? Death. Arthur’s nature is not to kill in cold blood; Agravaine knows it will mean war but pushes the young King to decide by morning. While brooding by the fire, Merlin tries to reiterate that Arthur always shows compassion on the battlefield but Arthur ignores him and takes his frustration out on Merlin, cruelly telling him to stick to what he’s good at. Little does Arthur know!

And the outcome we knew was coming happens; Caerleon laughs off the treaty and forces Arthur to keep his word and kill him. In a last-ditch effort, Arthur reminds the captured king that Uther and Caerleon’s father had a peace treaty. But Caerleon utters the second most truthful statement of the episode; Arthur is not Uther and that the choice he is making is not his own. We don’t see Caerleon killed but we know that Arthur has sealed his own fate.

Upon receiving the body of her husband, we’re introduced to Queen Annis and she is one enraged woman! She vows to destroy Arthur and Morgana, who’s snuck in to Caerleon Castle, pledges to help in the name of Gorlois, the man who raised her.

Next up on Agravaine’s hit list? Gwen. In particular, her relationship with Arthur. He knows that if he first breaks down Arthur’s self-trust, then causes rifts with the people who care about him, Arthur will surely fail. As if killing for no good reason wasn’t enough, Arthur is convinced to break it off with Gwen due to her improper status as a servant. There’s a fan service moment when Arthur refuses to share a bed with Merlin; he later uses a medieval punching bag (which Merlin holds) to defuse his anger. The news comes via Sir Leon that there’s an army marching towards the castle. The war is on.

There’s a sad moment where Arthur watches his knights and Merlin joking from his tent. You can sense he wants to join them but feels that he can’t; his guilt is eating him alive. Merlin notices and all the knights remind Arthur of their fealty. While everyone is asleep, he finally makes a decision worthy of being King – a deal to save thousands of lives by engaging in single combat between two champions. One thing he’s not good at though is sneaking out.

Merlin is caught forcing the young king to call him a simple-minded fool to spare his life. It works but Arthur’s fear at losing his friend plus the weight of how many lives are the line causes him to lash out at Merlin…again. Agravaine steals Arthur’s sword so Morgana can curse it. Essentially, she makes it super heavy so Arthur can’t lift it while fighting. Regardless, as the warlock prepares Arthur for battle, he can’t help but get choked up – which Arthur notices. In an effort to not let the moment get too emotional, he teases his “old friend”. This is the Arthur I love.

Morgana doesn’t know he’s got Merlin to help stop any magical shenanigans so her plan fails. Arthur spares Caerleon’s champion – as that is truly who he is. Keeping her word, Annis’ camp packs up. Morgana visits the Queen one last time to tell her how “weak” she is. This is laughable as Morgana is the one who’s truly lost. Annis hits the nail on the head when she compares Morgana to her father. She may have come in the name of Gorlois, but Morgana is more like Uther than she realizes. Fuming at this, she storms out like a petulant child.

Upon return to Camelot, Arthur realizes that he can respect tradition and his father’s memory but also forge his own way in shaping the kingdom’s future. Some last thoughts: trying to figure out Agravaine’s agenda is a bit frustrating as I’m not sure what he hopes to do with Morgana on the throne; maybe get rid of the Pendragons one-by-one as payback for his sister’s death? Additionally, how Gwen so easily forgives Arthur is surprising – you’d think she’d give him wide berth for at least one episode!

The lesson-of-the-day was a bit heavy-handed but overall, nice to see Arthur progress a bit on his path to truly being the King of Camelot.

Rating:
GS Reporter:
Sharlene

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6 comments

  1. godannotook /

    Thank you a wide ranging and thoughtful review. May I mention how much I loved that Queen Annis reprises Arthur’s line “there’s something about you…..” from the very first episode, remember when he stopped the guards from arresting Merlin after their fight in the marketplace ? But this time she returns it to Arthur, in spite of her grief and rage, she passed though her own darkness to forgiveness and saw for herself that he is The Once and Future King.

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      Thank you! And yes! I forgot to mention it but I loved that they brought it full circle but this time making it about Arthur.

  2. MikeAP001 /

    I agree with you on your critique and review especially about Gwen forgiving Arthur so quickly. It would have been better to have added a few lines of dialog reminding us and Arthur how much he’d depended upon Merlin’s advice in the past then have this episode end with Merlin and Arthur reconciling but waiting an episode or two before having Gwen and Arthur reconcile.

    • geeksyndicate /

      Yeah as much as I enjoyed the episode I have to agree Gwen did forgive him a little too quick. It would have been nice if Arthur had to work a little harder to get back into her good books. Still loving the fact they’ve made the leap in making Arthur King…still can’t believe they’ve done that.

  3. Anne /

    I can’t wait to watch it

  4. Hey. Mordred is returning but i dn think he will be Asa

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