Review: Merlin S5 E2: Arthur's Bane Part 2
|REVIEWS - TV|
Maturity dawns, and the signs look good for the season ahead...
Arthur's Bane Part 2
The action picks up pretty much where we left off. Arthur and Merlin have been captured by a beardy Scottish chap and Mordred, and are traversing the frozen plains on the way to Ismere.
From here, the episode continues with the three-stranded storyline used to good effect in Part 1. Gwen is back at the palace listening to serving girl Sefa plead for her life, whilst Gaius sits around dispensing the odd bit of wisdom. Gwaine is still being tended by the alien. But wait! It is NOT an alien. Phew. It is in fact an ancient being, a euchdag, who happens to be exactly what Morgana is looking for – the key to knowledge. Apparently his/her (it’s impossible to tell) oversized cranium stores all sorts of useful information about past, present and things to come.
Sticking for the time being with team...Arlin? Merthur?, the duo quickly escape and carry on with their rescue mission to Ismere on their own terms, not before exchanging some meaningful looks with Mordred. He’s hard to figure out, that one. Most of us know the legend, but Merlin’s Mordred seems to be an entirely different kettle of fish. In all, it’s a good start by relative newcomer Alexander Vlahos. With a pursed lip and piercing eye, Vlahos hints at greater depths than he’s had the opportunity to display thus far, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s kind of pale and mysterious looking. Whatever Mordred’s endgame, I have no doubt that his character will divide the audience and keep them guessing to the very end.
A successful rescue is, of course, inevitable and provides us with yet another opportunity to see a shirtless Sir Percival swinging a hammer, heaving a rock, wielding his sword… Not that I’m complaining, but the writers really are going to have to give Tom Hopper a bit more to do than fulfil the ladies’ eye candy role. (Aside: For the gentlemen, let’s just say that I think certain historical liberties were taken with Gwen’s plunging neckline.) Also inevitable is Merlin coming face to face with the euchdag, who imparts a quick bit of suitably cryptic wisdom, then disappears. I have to admit that I found the resolution of this particular story strand a bit of an anti-climax. Is the euchdag gone from our screens for good? If so, that was an awful lot of effort to introduce yet another supernatural creature to give our hero a message that could quite easily have come from John Hurt or even wise old Gaius (it would certainly have given him a bit more to do).
Anyway, moving on, the most emotional wallop of the evening came from two sides. Ruadan’s response to his daughter’s imminent execution gave Liam Cunningham the opportunity to show both sides of the sorcerer, ruthless ally and loving father; and his storming of the castle was a nice juxtaposition to Arthur and Merlin’s own rescue attempt. I had a feeling after last week’s episode that Sefa wouldn’t meet her maker this week (and you did too. Go on, admit it), particularly given the writers’ attempts to demonstrate, albeit tenuously, a connection between her and Merlin.
Second, the confrontation between Arthur and Morgana, and the role that Mordred played in bringing the scene to a head, was a real step forward for Merlin. It was a stonking performance from Katie McGrath. I must say, I haven’t always been the biggest fan of her portrayal of Morgana in the past, but she really hit it out of the park in this episode, and the climax of the scene, when all hope seemed lost for Arthur, I really didn’t see coming. As well as keeping the King of Camelot’s heart beating, this story twist (that I refuse to spoil) also set up a very interesting premise for the episodes to come. All I will say is, shuffle along Gwaine, because there’s a new seat at the Round Table.
Another positive observation is that the bickering between Merlin and Arthur is kept to a minimum in this second hour. However, despite that, it seems fairly evident that future conflict between the two is going to stem from Merlin’s distrust of Mordred and his inability to explain why to Arthur.
In all, I have high hopes for this season. I am looking forward to a darker tone, new characters who extend beyond one-dimensional stereotypes, and a singular take on the mythology we all know and love. And yet the burning question remains – is this the series when Merlin reveals his secret to Arthur? Will TV’s favourite bromance finally take that next step? The anticipation is almost too much!
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