Series five of Merlin begins with the first episode of a two-parter, in keeping with a tradition begun two series ago. In ‘Arthur’s Bane (Part 1)’, the eponymous king leads his knights towards Ismir, a less-than-pleasant wintery kingdom, to find Gwaine and the sixty knights who were previously sent to investigate and never returned. Who has them? Morgana, of course.
Morgana is searching for a key to power — it’s vague — which lies below the castle she is inhabiting. Locating it involves mining, and the captured knights are quickly put to work. After many (many) scenes in which Gwaine and Percival mine (topless) or sleep (again, topless), Gwaine gets a mysterious visitor: a strange glowing inhuman figure…
In an attempt at approaching Ismir stealthily, Arthur and his men cut through lands belonging to Queen Annis. She hasn’t fared well with Morgana’s presence so close by. In an attacked village, Merlin even finds a dying sorcerer who shows him Arthur’s future demise at the hand of Mordred. Annis allows Arthur and his men to stay for a night before they continue their journey, but it’s not long after they leave that Morgana’s men attack and the knights are slain. Merlin escapes with an injured Arthur, while an oblivious Leon (ever the survivor) and Elyan head back to Camelot.
After a humorous episode involving two dead rabbits and a net trap, Arthur finds himself dangerously close to being killed by Morgana’s men, before being saved at the last minute by a mysterious dark haired boy. ‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ he says. ‘You saved my life a long time ago.’ It’s Merlin who recognises him. This is Mordred.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I am more than okay with Gwaine and Percival’s current situation. I’m not clear on what Morgana’s looking for, and god only knows what she’ll do with it, but I hope those guys will need to mine for a few episodes longer. Besides, they need more time down there for Gwaine to figure out what or who the being was that visited him. It’s perhaps the strangest creature Merlin has had so far, mostly because it looks like some sort of sci-fi alien. Hmm.
It’s been three years, and Arthur and Merlin’s relationship has gone past that passive-aggressive stage — at least for Arthur. There’s a maturity to them that makes the show feel like it’s really moved on, even while everything is fundamentally the same. Speaking of the same, Merlin keeps telling Arthur that he has skills. At a few points in this episode I was expecting him to just out and tell Arthur that he has magic, rather than pussyfoot around (as he must have been doing for the last three years). The time has definitely come for the reveal. Hopefully it’ll happen this year, because a whole series of Merlin trying to tell Arthur that he’s special without actually telling him will get old very, very soon.
I am slightly concerned by Merlin seeing a vision of Arthur’s death — not because it’s unexpected, but because it seems much too soon. The battle didn’t look like it was too far off, which means that it could conceivably be by the end of this series. Could Merlin be preparing to subvert the legend by having Arthur survive the battle and his foreseen death by Mordred’s hand? (Sidenote: I wonder how old Mordred was supposed to be. I’m assuming about 16 or so, but he looks much older.)
Back in Camelot, Gwen’s badass now. She’d befriended Sefa, a maid (who apparently has the hots for Merlin), but when things go wrong for Arthur and his men, Gwen’s quick to realise Sefa’s involvement. She confronts the maid and extracts a confession of treason — and then sentences Sefa to death. Even Elyan is surprised. It’s a big bold move for Gwen, one that shows just how far she’s come and how ready she is to step up and protect the people of Camelot. But Sefa’s argument was that she was helping her father, a sorcerer, a man who should be respected. Will Gwen think twice about the death sentence she handed out? More importantly, will she begin to see that there’s a place for sorcery in Camelot, even if it’s just to keep sorcerers on their side?
‘Arthur’s Bane (part 1) was a good solid start to Merlin‘s fifth season, and perhaps one of my favourite episodes of the show overall. I can’t wait to see what part 2 will bring for the knights of Camelot…
What did you think of ‘Arthur’s Bane (part 1)? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
My friend requested that I point out the following: wolves are lovely creatures and would normally run away from humans, much less pull a sled for them. Obviously my friend hasn’t factored Morgana into their behaviour…