TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 3 – Episode 12: The Coming of Arthur (Pt 1)

I pretty much loved the first half of the series three finale! There were only slight things that made me go “What?” and not as many of those emotionally-charged scenes as I would’ve liked to see but I assume that the payoff will happen in the 2nd half airing next week. I can’t wait!

Sir Leon is pretty much dead. (WHAT?!)

We find out this information from Arthur reporting to Uther that all of Camelot’s knights have fallen in a fight with Cenred’s men. Back in the forest, the Druids (no Mordred this time) come to find survivors – the only man that can possibly be saved is Leon. In their cave, they give Leon water from the Cup of Life which heals all his wounds. You may recall this is the same Cup of Life that Nimueh wielded to help Merlin save Arthur in the series 1 finale. I wonder how it ended up in the Druids hands or if they are always the keepers of the cup until the High Priest(ess) calls for it.

Upon his miraculous return to the castle, Leon explains about the magical item to King Uther. Knowing that the Druids live on Cenred’s land and the destruction the Cup can wield in talking with Gaius, he instructs Arthur to find it and bring it back before it falls into the wrong hands. As usual, Morgana overhears and passes the information onto her sister, who has apparently been searching for the Cup for a very long time. One more thing – Arthur can tell no one what he’s doing and must go alone. Of course, alone means himself…and Merlin.

While packing, Merlin tries to “guess” what the mission is about. He already knows because of eavesdropping on Uther & Gaius but Arthur doesn’t know that! Teasing about going on holiday and psuedo-threats of death are exchanged and it’s nice to see their bantering back without items being thrown. They embark on a dangerous mission to capture the powerful magical artifact as it carries the gift of immortality.

However, before they are able to retrieve the Cup, our heroes get hit by tranquilizer darts and fall prey to Jarl (guest star Ralph Ineson), an unscrupulous slave trader. In the pit, they find Gwaine (recurring star Eoin Macken), who ended up there via issues at a pub. Surprised? Jarl comes in to have a prisoner fight his champion and chooses Merlin, who flips out as he’d be dead very quickly without magic. To protect him, Arthur boasts that he’s the better fighter and Jarl accepts the swap. But the champion? Turns out to be Gwaine. Oh boy.

Arthur and Gwaine pretend to fight but as soon as they come to hand-to-hand blows, are at a loss on how to get out of the situation. Merlin to the rescue as he uses his favorite fire spell to light the place up. I’ve always wondered why Merlin isn’t shown to have learned any new, more powerful magic. We’ve seen that he’s retained some of Gaius’ medical knowledge but the magic? Come on writers, give him something more than fire spells and dragon-talk to do!

They manage to escape the slave trader but with Jarl’s help, Cenred’s men find the trio, shoot Arthur in the leg with a poisoned arrow and the Cup of Life ends up in Morgause’s hands. She creates her immortal army, kills Cenred and the rest of Camelot’s forces. Elyan (guest star Adetomiwa Edun), hiding in Gwen’s house, tells Arthur, Gwaine & Merlin that Morgause has taken the Citadel.

The best scene comes when Merlin takes charge, sending Elyan & Gwaine to find Uther and himself manhandling Arthur to the physician’s quarters where Gaius, who’s hiding in a closet gives Arthur a potion to keep him for passing out. Telling everyone to go find a safe place to hide outside the castle, Arthur tells Merlin he should go too. The latter refuses saying he’s already seen the woods and stays with his friend.

In the throne room, Merlin and Arthur are hiding in an alcove overlooking the area. They watch as Uther is brought in front of Morgause and she reveals that Morgana will take the throne. You see the dawning horror and betrayal in both Uther and Arthur’s eyes when they realize who’s been plotting against them all along. Great scene that was well played by Tony Head and Bradley James. I liked that you could see how Arthur wanted to go and do something but was calmed down by Merlin and that Uther was so quietly devastated.

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

  • CONTINUITY! The Cup of Life (aka the Holy Grail) was the same one from Series 1! Nimueh & the Isle of the Blessed were mentioned! Color me shocked..and happy of course!
  • Leon lives! Way to make me gasp out loud and glad he didn’t stay dead.
  • The Merlin & Arthur Adventures are back! Their friendship and characterization (especially Arthur) has been all over the map this series and it was great to finally see the banter back (going on holiday! Haha) and both men on more equal footing. It’s not quite there yet but better.
  • Merlin taking charge & staying with Arthur: When Arthur is sick, telling both him & Gwaine off during their pissing match after the fight and pushing through them to walk ahead, “I’ve seen the woods”. As always, with Arthur till the end.
  • Arthur protecting & listening to Merlin:  Took his place to fight “the champion”, making sure he got out of the fire, letting Merlin manhandle him around to get treatment, trying to send him off to safety, laying low in the throne room. More please!
  • Morgana is Arthur’s half-sister & a traitor reveal. LOVED the way it happened, with Arthur being unable to do anything but watch in horror. There was no way Arthur would’ve believed it otherwise. And her betrayal hitting Uther. I wonder if he’ll be in denial and think that Morgause has her under a spell.
  • The title of these last two episodes make me crack up. You can’t tell me they haven’t made you snicker at least once!

And the things I didn’t like so much:

  • Arthur threatening the Druid boy. I don’t think Arthur would’ve actually hurt the boy, but it was very out of character.
  • Cenred being killed off. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was likely coming but he could’ve had more to do i.e. confrontation with Uther, more tension with Morgause. A bit of a waste.
  • Morgana? Please make up your mind about who you want dead or alive? A few weeks ago, you tried to have Gwen killed. This week, you want her to live. Talk about a flip flopper.

All good things must come to an end (for now) and part one has set up next week’s conclusion quite nicely. Let’s hope it follows through as to give us a fantastic ending to the third series!

GS Reporter: Sharlene

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  1. SnazzyO /

    Great review — I agree with all your points! I’ve been thinking back to Arthur’s interaction with the Druids/Mordred:
    – Saved Mordred
    – Routed out the camp (another moment where Arthur was not happy with it as it was morally ambiguous but the Druids didn’t see him struggle)
    – Routed out the rebel camp where Mordred was at so Mordred lost his home again (this time more justified)
    – Threatened the boy in an out of character-ish moment

    I’m wondering if they are building up the “Druids have reasons to not like Arthur” arc. Except for saving Mordred, Arthur has always appeared to be on the “wrong” side from their perspective.

    And YES! to Merlin taking charge. More of that please.

    • lightstarangel /

      Thanks! It seems like that’s what the writers/producers may be aiming at. It could also be that Mordred hears about this latest incident through the grapevine and only knows these things:

      1) Arthur attacks the Druids yet again (like you said they don’t see him struggle with it)
      2) Merlin lets him invade/attack each time
      3) Merlin has tried to kill him
      4) Morgana has always tried to protect him

      Both Merlin & Arthur are his enemy and Morgana is his ally, so it fits part of the legend. It’ll be interesting to see if they further this in Series 4 and (hopefully!) Series 5.

      I definitely want to see a more powerful, take charge Merlin next series. There’s been some character development but we don’t see any growth in his magical abilities. I mean, he wielded the power of life & death in Series 1 so what happened?!

  2. Marion /

    Great ep & Great review. Continuity does need to be accurate though. Merlin says he thought the Cup of Life was destroyed when he killed Nimueh but in fact it was clearly left on the altar/table at the Isle of the Blessed. (ep 13 s1). So why didn’t he or Gaius pocket it then for safekeeping? How did the Druids get their hands on it instead?

  3. Are there scrupulous slave traders?


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