Wednesday, 10 December 2008

TV Snark - Merlin: To Kill the King OR Everybody Hates Uther And Then They Suddenly Change Their Mind

The episode begins with Tom the Blacksmith (you may remember him as Gwen's dad or you may not as he doesn't do a lot on this show and he never will) visiting his daughter Gwen to give her a shiny new dress. Seems that Tom has come into some money and can afford to buy his daughter nice dresses that she can wear whilst scrubbing floors and fetching water for ungrateful nobles. Tom has some shady new job that pays well, I'm sure it won't go horribly wrong.

Oops, spoke too soon! Later that night a Shady Man turns up at Tom's smithy and uses a magic stone to turn lead into gold. He's a Shady Alchemist! No sooner has the molten gold begun to cool then Arthur and his men burst into the smithy to arrest Tom. Shady Man uses a cloud of smoke to escape, sadly he doesn't laugh manically as he disappears, he opts to run away instead. I wonder who told Arthur that Shady Man (or Tauran as he's called) was visiting the blacksmith? Maybe it was Gwen? She probably wants to inherit the smithy so she can make swords for her and Morgana so they can run around being action grrrrrls. Merlin's plot device sense is tingling as the use of powerful magic wakes him from his sleep. Of course, this doesn't matter as Gwen immediately appears and tells Merlin that her dad has been arrested. The writer's are being really lazy this week.

Uther refuses to release Tom as he insist that the law must be upheld and Tom must die. Arthur and Morgana manage to convince Uther to at least hold a trial first before killing Tom, which is more than any other sorcerors have got on this show so far.

Gaius Meldrew then dispenses fantasy knowledge of the week as he explains what alchemy is to Merlin. Thanks for the knowledge Gaius. Morgana decides to investigate the smithy and finds Shady Man's magic alchemy stone (the Philosopher's Stone?). Morgana then decides that Tom won't get a fair trial so she sneaks a prison key to Tom and suggests he use it to escape. It's at this point he pulls a very funny face in an excellent piece of overacting. I'm sorry but Tom (David Durham) is really poor in these scenes and he comes across as a mentally slow, gentle giant. Unfortunately, he's supposed to be the best blacksmith in the land and the father of the future queen of England. Here's his face after receiving the key, is he shocked? Has he seen a rat in the corner of his cell? Or does he have a cell mate beckoning him to his bunk? Who knows.

Morgana's plan gets Tom killed of course. At this point the audience should be sad but as we've hardly ever seen Tom over the course of the past twelve episodes, it's a little hard to drum up any feelings. Tom's death is just a catalyst for Morgana to go a bit stroppy and slightly-but-not-very-evil-at-all for an episode because Uther commanded that Tom be killed on sight.

Gwen sees Tom's corpse being carried across the courtyard so she gets to yell, "Nooooo!" and "Faaaaatherrrr!" Brilliant because it reminded me of Matt Berry yelling it in The IT Crowd (excuse the strange foreign dubbing but this was the best clip I could find of it on YouTube.)


Anyway, Morgana is angry. This is her angry face.

She talks to Uther which gets her thrown in the dungeon. That'll teach her to express her opinions! Uther resists cackling and rubbing his hands together, which is a shame.

Arthur shows that he's a slightly decent person and apologises to Gwen and offers his services should she need anything (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). He wasn't decent enough to stand up to his dad and stop him killing Tom though was he?

Shady Man visits Gwen in the night and demands she return his stone to the Darkling Woods in 48 hours. I'm pretty sure you can reach that place in World of Warcraft by jumping on a flying bat, should only take five minutes. Gaius Meldrew checks his Dungeon Master's Guide and finds that the stone in question is called The Mage Stone and is ancient and powerful and blah, blah.

Arthur releases Morgana early from her imprisonment which earns grudging thanks from her. Morgana finds out that Gwen is scared of returning home because she fears Shady Man. Morgana decides to visit Shady Man in Darkling Woods and return his Mage Stone during the night. Merlin's plot device sense is tingling again and he wakes up and follows Morgana into the woods.

Morgana meets Shady Man and his cohorts in the woods and offers to bring Uther to a suitable spot so they can assassinate him. Shady Man is a little disappointed as he was going to use his magic gold to bribe someone into killing Uther. Morgana's method costs nothing so they go for that instead. Merlin overhears all of this and struggles with the ethical dilemma of letting someone assassinate the asshole who'll kill him if he ever catches him using magic.

Merlin visits CGI John Hurt in his dragon lair. The dragon suggests that Merlin let Uther die and free the land from tyranny. Well duh Merlin, it's been obvious that the dragon wants Uther dead since episode one. Pay attention kid!

Morgana makes a fake apology to Uther so she can reminisce about her dead father. It turns out that Uther sent her father to his death in some war or other. This eventually leads to Morgana suggesting that she and Uther visit her father's grave so they can pay their respects. Uther isn't even slightly suspicious at Morgana's about face despite the fact she did the same thing a few weeks ago during the Mordred incident.

Merlin discusses the morality of allowing Uther to die with his mentor Gaius (who gives an intelligent argument about kings making hard choices and Arthur unreadiness for the role) and Gwen (who provides the moral argument that killing Uther would provide no comfort to her and make the perpetrator as ruthless and uncaring as Uther). Gwen's argument sways Merlin and he heads off to stop the assassination.

Uther and Morgana visit the grave in the middle of some empty field somewhere. The Shady Man and his goons wait in ambush but Merlin arrives to save the day. There's even a bit of continuity as Merlin takes with him the Magic Missile wand from the evil fairies episode. He uses the wand to zap all of the goons apart from Shady Man who uses his Mage Stone to deflect Merlin's spell and incapacitate him.

Fortunately for Uther he manages to admit regret at Tom's death and he talks up Morgana's father enough to make Morgana realise that she doesn't want Uther dead. She's so fickle. Shady Man tries to stab Uther but Morgana interferes and ends up stabbing Shady Man in the back which kills him. So ends the revolution.

And that's basically it. Morgana decides she doesn't want to see Uther dead and pushes those feelings of hatred deep down inside where they'll probably later manifest as dressing really sluttily and learning dark magic.

Next Week - Arthur dies! For reals! Well okay, probably not but it is the last episode.


Doc Hall said...

I notice that this week it was Arthur's turn to sit things out. While it's good to see that a lack of things to do isn't confined to either of the female leads, it does suggest that Merlin is a show with enough plot for 3 main characters being spread out amongst 4.

Aaron said...

Yes quite correct. The writers have yet to make effective use of every character in one episode. It should be an ensemble show but it cheats because it sidelines major characters if they don't fit the plot. Even Robin Hood made use of all of its characters in each episode.

Doc Hall said...

I sort of wonder if it might have benefited from having a larger cast. This might seem odd, given my previous statement, however if you're not going to use everybody it helps to have more people you're not going to use, as it would make it hides the fact you don't have enough plot to go around.

I'd probably have played up the role of the Knights more, but doing that would require the writers to have a better grasp of Arthurian legend. They bring out Owen, and yet somehow fail to make any use of the fact the guy has a lion! If that's not a built in gimmick, I don't know what is.

Darth of the Stoats said...

You didn't mention how useless Merlin's stealth following of Morgana was, though it is kind of in keeping with the rest of the show

Aaron said...

I thought it was pretty effective seeing as he didn't, y'know, get discovered or anything.