TV Review – Merlin Series 2, Episode 8: The Sins of the Father

Pfennig has been a bit busy this week due to zombie velociraptor attacks or some such nonsense, which she will soon have sorted.  I’m the understudy reviewer, and I’m afraid I’m more rambly and less chronological.  Don’t worry, guys, she’ll be back soon.

Heads up: this review is pretty much one giant spoiler.

I’m told that the excellent castle thingie in the opening shot is Goodrich Castle near Herefordshire.  Neat stuff.  However, I was assailed by waves of déjà vu for these opening scenes.  This is just like Nimueh last season: different sorceress chick, a crystal instead of a puddle, but otherwise the same.  Everybody’s out to get Arthur.  Or his soul, in this case (?).

It would seem we’re mass-producing knights now, probably to make up for all the red-capes who get killed each episode.  Vidor and Carridon?  They’re just making these names up, now, having lost Pellinore, Owein, Bedivere (and all those other knights who actually, y’know, are in Arthurian legend) to various monsters last season.

Good grief, and they’re going to need those new recruits.  This ominous knight just waltzed in and took down what, eight of them?  Rather brutal, for Merlin.

Ah, the old gauntlet challenge.  Arthur’s all, “been there, done that, got the tunic.”

I would like to pause here and say that, as I am a girl with very long hair who has worn chainmail, doing so is such a colossally bad idea that I have trouble forgiving whoever’s idea it was to have Morgause fight with her hair down all the time.

I would also like to pause and say that, as I am obsessed with Arthurian legend in all of its forms, I know a bit about these things, and I have never before heard Morgause pronounced the way it is in this episode.  Then again, Merlin adores gleefully chucking all forms of the Arthurian legend out the window whenever it pleases.  Which does make for entertaining viewing, since I have no clue what’s going to happen even though I know the legends.

Right, back to the episode.

Geoffrey!  You’re back.  And Arthur’s cool with fighting a girl, surprisingly.   That line about the knight’s code is practically word for word from last season.  Yet more déjà vu, as the scene with Morgana watching Morgause practice is nearly identical to the scene from last season, watching Arthur practice before a duel.

Perhaps Morgana remembers her from a dream?  Then again, if we were following any sort of legend here *cough cough*, Morgana and Morgause would be half-sisters.

Oo, armor repair!  I do so love armor.  “If I kill her, what am I then?”  Point, there.  “I’m just saying, you need to be cautious because it sounds like she’s pretty handy with a sword.”  Also a point there.

Merlin STILL doesn’t knock.  You see what this gets you?  A sword in the face.  But wait!  Morgause kills five knights, challenges the king’s heir, generally has exceedingly sketchy motives, and they give her a room for the night??  With embroidered pillows!  This is all very surreal.

“Whatever happens, you are not to blame.”  Interesting pep talk, Merlin.  Also, lovely lighting.

Aw, Arthur’s such a gentleman!  *pats Arthur on his helmet*  I will say that I have some trouble buying this actress as a formidable warrior capable of beating five knights AND Arthur, who has been training every day of his life for this sort of thing, and who clearly has the height, weight, and reach advantage, not to mention the muscle.  Speed and agility do not make up for everything.

Arthur won’t beg for his life, brave boy.  Wait.  If that was all she wanted, why not just walk up to Camelot, politely knock on the door, and ask?  Did she have to kill all those guys just to ask him to accept her challenge?  Arthur looks suitably chastened and downcast.

I definitely wear all of my best jewellery (and eyeliner!) for sword fights too.

Arthur is literally headdesking.  The way he said “a girl” was hilarious.  “You didn’t look hindered…I’ll stop talking now.”

See, Morgana knows how to knock, at least, before walking straight into someone else’s room.  Strange little scene.  Morgause: “My disconcertingly intent stare is meant to convey that we are kin in some vague, as-yet-undefined way.  Also, I’m probably going to turn you evil.  Remember me fondly!”  Morgana: “…Right.  Um, nice jewelry?”  On a more serious note, if the bracelet is, as we find out, of the house of Gorlois, and Morgause got it from her mother, that would mean her mother was Gorlois’ wife, yes?  And Gorlois is Morgana’s father…OR IS HE.  Dun dun dun.  I’m not sure how the show is going to work out this complicated family tree business, they’ve changed it all up so much.  ACK, creepy, creepy Morgause, watching Morgana sleep.

While Arthur is sometimes a prat, he is also sometimes shockingly mature.  He even said congrats!  “You’re a skillful swordsman.  Woman!  Swordswoman.”  I approve of the horse admiration.  “If I don’t show up, it might be because I don’t know where I’m going.”  I love Arthur’s snark sandwiched in nobility and honor and jazz.  And look at his head snap up at mention of his mother.  Arthur has never once talked about his mom.

Morgana had me worried there for a moment, taking so long to wake up.  She wears all those giant rings to bed?  Sweet little scene with Gwen, though.  They’re doing better at utilizing the four young folks in an episode, though I think the writers still don’t quite realize what a fantastic ensemble cast they have and how to write them all interacting at the same time.

Oo, Arthur brought up the mommy topic with Dad.  Scary camera angle on Uther, then: “You’re grounded!”  Uther vacillates wildly between sending his son on suicide missions to kill stuff and then being super protective; it’s giving me whiplash.

“I gave her my word.”  “So I take it we’re going anyway.”  “You’re smarter than you look.”  Aw, boys.

Um.  That rope thing?  Merlin, I’m giving you a Gaius eyebrow.  There had to be 17 different ways to magic that rope to your room or out the window or whatever instead of up your pants.  Or you could’ve just, y’know, told Gaius what you were planning.

Merlin playing with the gloves is like a little kid playing Darth Vader.  Was Arthur’s room always that…high?  Tie the rope to a bedpost, silly!  Merlin is incredibly skinny, there’s no way he can hold Arthur, and then how is he supposed to get down after him?  Arthur’s fall in armor sounded remarkably like a trash can being knocked over. Also, enough with the manure humor this season, I beg you!

“It’s not me, it’s the horse!”  Love Merlin’s face at that.

Side note: and that’s the first time Merlin’s bed has EVER been made.

“Rabbiting on.”  Heh.  “We could be attacked by Odin’s men any second.”  Guys incomprehensibly hiding in the woods: “Sounds like a cue to me.”  Merlin’s such a little damsel in distress sometimes, when he’s not roasting knights in trees.  “Don’t worry about it, I’ll deal with this.  You lie there, make yourself comfortable.”

The scene with the boys talking about their parents is wonderfully sweet.  They both open up on topics they never speak about.  There are some lovely character moments in this episode.

This discussion of Morgause’s lineage doesn’t really do much for clarifying things.  So she and Morgana are indeed half-sisters, but which half?  Uther knew about “the child” but thought she had died.  So was Morgause illegitimate?  Why else would she need to be hidden?  Unless they knew already that she was magic.  But who did Gaius swear the “solemn oath” to, since it obviously wasn’t Uther?  I’M CONFUSED.

Hey there, CGI waterfall.  Well, after him, Merlin.  I sure hope that chopping block is just used for chickens, but somehow I doubt it.  I’m getting Sir Gawain and the Green Knight vibes.  “Now what?”  “Maybe we should ask the horse.”  Lol.

Dang, Arthur, you’re pretty keen on the honor thing, stepping up to the block.  Kid’s got nerves of steel.

What is this, the genii from the lamp?  After delicately dropping all those little Igraine hints, of course that’s what he’ll ask.  SET UP.

Hey, it’s Sir Leon!  *waves*  And Uther is pitching a fit.  Just what, precisely, are the true circumstances of Arthur’s birth?

“What if my father’s attitude towards magic is wrong?”  Arthur questioning things for himself!  And Merlin’s face is the picture of hesitant hope.

I loved that little head thing Arthur did as he closed his eyes.  So are we peeking into the afterlife, or raising the dead, or what exactly is Morgause doing here, in terms of magic?

I thought she died “before he opened his eyes.”  I guess I’m being picky.  Aw, this scene is so sweet and so heartbreaking.  Arthur felt guilty all this time just for being born. Bradley James is incredible in this, I have to say.

“Your father betrayed me”?  Wait, so basically she’s saying, “I didn’t want you born.”  But this isn’t the story as we heard it from Uther and Nimueh in season one; yes, Arthur was born of magic, but Uther did NOT know it would kill Igraine.

“Do not let this knowledge change you”?  How could it NOT?  Morgause is not “truly sorry.”  No, she did this on purpose.  This is about turning Arthur against Uther.

Otherwise, why would she show Arthur this?

I hadn’t realized before quite how many issues Arthur was holding in check until this episode.  For this scene, he’s under an incredibly tight rein, yet he’s practically vibrating with anger, and you can see he’s struggling with so many of the things he’s been carrying around all this time.

The scene between Arthur and Uther is absolutely amazing.  Bradley James and Anthony Head just blew it right out of the park, particularly Bradley.  “How many hundreds have you put to death to ease your guilt?”

“Have you lost your mind?”  “Pick it up.”  And then: “I no longer think of myself as your son.”  Uther has the fastest draw in the West.  The fight between the two Pendragons so terrible and so epic, I cannot handle it.  Arthur’s rage is truly formidable.  And then throwing Uther back, helpless and unarmed, on the throne!  The symbolism!

“You have caused so much suffering and pain!  I will put an end to that!”  Oh, Merlin.  You know that, better than anyone, and yet you’re saving your enemy’s life for the sake of your friend.  You can see Merlin consciously decide to lie, even as you can see how much he hates doing it.  I have a really hard time with this part.  Merlin has no right to withhold the truth from Arthur.  Lying because “it’s for their own good” never works.  There are other ways to talk Arthur down from killing Uther.  Yes, Morgause is manipulative, but much of what she said was true, and when that truth comes out, the damage it will do now will be twice as heinous.  Merlin is sowing seeds that could make Arthur into another Uther.  Merlin may have spoken with good intentions, but it was not right, and it was all the worse because Arthur believed him over everyone else.

Oh, Arthur.  Oh Arthur Arthur.  You’ve just broken my heart.  So beautiful, so terrible, that scene with him kneeling at his father’s feet and Uther kissing the top of his head.

Gah, and then that scene in Arthur’s chambers: “I see now that those who practice magic are evil and dangerous, and that is thanks to you.”  Merlin, smiling and crying at the same time: “Glad I could help.”  I’d just about gotten the pieces of my heart picked up off the floor, then Merlin came along and smashed them into smithereens again.  There dies that little bit of hope he had earlier.

Uther thanking Merlin?  I may pass out from the shock.  Merlin looks like he can’t even handle the irony, it’s so massive.  Oh and by the way, “I’ll have you hanged” if you say a word.  Gotta get his catchphrase in there somewhere.

This last light-hearted scene with Merlin and Gaius just didn’t fit after the intensity of before.  Everything here at the end, starting with Merlin’s lie, put us right straight back where we were and felt too much like a writer reset so they just wouldn’t have to deal with these issues again any time soon.

While I get that when Gaius says he’s proud of Merlin, he means he’s proud he didn’t let Uther die, at the same time what he’s saying is he’s proud Merlin hid the truth.  Gaius, while lovable, is all too willing to lie and to compromise and to decide what people can handle (*cough* Morgana *cough*).  Worse, he’s been disconcertingly willing to stand by and watch others die.  Yet this morally-grey character is portrayed as Merlin’s mentor and moral compass.  The parallels between the Uther-Gaius relationship and the Arthur-Merlin relationship are undeniable.  Uther even told Merlin, “You’ve proven yourself to be a trusted ally in the fight against magic,” almost word for word what he’s told Gaius in the past.  Unless he wants history to repeat itself, Merlin needs to take some of Gaius’ advice with a grain of salt.

Discontent with the last few minutes aside, I was completely blown away by this episode and absolutely loved it!  I have incredible new respect for Bradley James, as his acting in this episode was just magnificent, and Colin Morgan never ceases to be brilliant.  I adore all of these characters so very much.  Overall, a beautiful, beautiful piece of work!

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One comment

  1. Emma /

    Don’t wish to offend anyone but I found your review a better read then the previous couple of Merlin reviews…

    I am a bit bias to Bradley though, but your view and insights are appreciated 🙂

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