Merlin Club, S01E01, “The Dragon’s Call” or “The one where Merlin meets everyone in Camelot in a single day”

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Welcome to the first installment of Merlin club. Much thanks to Jessica Jarman’s daughter for drawing what is an eerily accurate representation of all of us. Let me make it clear: this kid has never met me in person, and she managed to come up with a more truthful likeness of me than a camera does.

Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

So, here’s a quick run down of episode one: Merlin rolls into Camelot looking for Gaius, the court physician who also spent some time wizarding around. Merlin was born with naturally powerful magic that he can’t really control, so his mother sent him to Gaius in the hopes that the old man can teach him how to use his powers for good. Oh, and also, so he doesn’t get persecuted by the tyrannical king Uther Pendragon, who hates magic the way I hate any food not dusted with bright orange cheese powder. Uther hates magic so much, there are executions all the time, and Merlin just happens to show up when one is going on. When the man being put to death turns out to be the son of a powerful sorceress, Merlin must face down a powerful enemy to save Camelot, and in doing so, he saves the life of the prince, Arthur, who is like 100% testosterone fueled dickishness. Despite their protests, the king rewards Merlin by making him Arthur’s servant, and they all live miserably ever after until episode two. Also, Merlin meets an imprisoned dragon who is full of sass and can communicate with him via telepathy.

If I had written this episode, I would have changed: Okay, so, at the beginning, when the sorceress staggers out of the crowd and delivers her warning to Uther, it’s clearly Eve Myles in old woman drag. Later, when the sorceress seeks out a singer headed to Camelot for a command performance, the singer is clearly Eve Myles with spectacular hair. The old sorceress sucks the life out of the singer, taking on her likeness… which… was her own likeness to begin with? Except old? If I had been in charge, Eve Myles would have played the singer, and someone else, someone who looked much different, would have played the sorceress. Because it just seems too coincidental that they would look that much alike.

The thing I loved most about this episode: In the Merlinverse, magic is treated from the very beginning as an allegory for homosexuality. When Merlin tearfully asks Gaius, “You don’t know why I was born like this, do you?” and expresses that he would rather die than hide who he is, it’s a gut punch, and it’s handled beautifully.

The thing I hated about this episode: You have Eve Myles in the first episode. And you use her for a one-off character that gets killed. Great work, guys. It’s not like she wouldn’t have made a fucking amazing recurring character or anything. You had one job.

Some things I never noticed before: In one scene, Arthur warns Merlin, “I’ve been trained to kill since birth.” Later in the series, we learn that Arthur’s mother, Igraine, died in childbirth.

Favorite costume: This amazing dress, worn by Uther’s ward, Morgana.

morgana

Here is proof of some random head canon I’ve created: Nothing in this episode, but believe me. More to come (see also: my face in the banner up top).

What object would Bronwyn steal from this episode?: These lamps, found inside the singer’s tent.

lamps

What Merthur moment did Jess have the naughtiest thoughts about?: When Arthur tells Merlin, “I could undo you with a single blow.”

Check out Jessica Jarman’s take on the episode here.

Check out Bronwyn Green’s take on the episode here.

That’s it for this week. Join us on Monday as we watch S01E02, “Valiant,” at 8pm EST on the hashtag #MerlinClub.

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78 thoughts on “Merlin Club, S01E01, “The Dragon’s Call” or “The one where Merlin meets everyone in Camelot in a single day”

  1. I rather liked the format of this … recap? Is that the applicable word here? I can’t really think of anything else that could be covered, but then again I was never into the show. I suppose historical accuracy and differences/similarities between other versions? That’s just me, you don’t have to use those if you don’t want to.

    Anyhoozelbees, I do have a serious, non-rambling question (shocker!): What, or rather who, is Merthur? Another name for Merlin? Like how Gandalf has an entire language devoted to his names?

    By the way, have only had a quick look around the site, but I quite like it thus far.

    1. I think Merthur must be a combination of Merlin and Arthur. Possibly looking for things that point to a relationship between the two.

    2. Yeah, Merthur is the name of the Merlin/Arthur ship. LOL, Merlin is no where near as complicated as Lord of The Rings. It’s usually just “something happens, something something magic, someone gets thrown in the dungeon, they escape, everyone learns something.”

  2. Haha, that was really funny and awesome; i like this format a lot!
    Just a minor nitpick: Wasn’t the magic guy who was executed the SON of the old witch? And that was why she was after Arthur, “a son for a son”?
    But other than that, I’m really excited to see more, and maybe learn a few things I didn’t catch myself (e.g., the thing with “i was trained to kill from birth”, OMG D: )!

  3. *excited whisper* Meeeeeeeerlin Club! Ah, yes, the “I could undo you with a single blow” moment. It’s possible that scene may have ended differently in my head. Maybe. :)

  4. Merlin has long been on my list of shows to watch, so, like Buffy, I guess now is the time to start watching to keep up with your “recaps”! Just keep working your way through my “series to watch” list to help me get on it more, haha.

    And this new format looks fun! At first I wasn’t quite sure, but I like the actual result. And I’m glad it should be less work/stress for you to get together :)

  5. “The thing I loved most about this episode: In the Merlinverse, magic is treated from the very beginning as an allegory for homosexuality. When Merlin tearfully asks Gaius, “You don’t know why I was born like this, do you?” and expresses that he would rather die than hide who he is, it’s a gut punch, and it’s handled beautifully.”

    I’m not a fan of this sort of “homosexuality is a curse” stuff. That goes for feminism too – I far prefer aspirational sci-fi where we’re past this bullshit. The only time I’ve really liked how it was done was in the Batwoman comics, where it wasn’t just “I don’t want to live a lie” but “I took an oath to not lie and I won’t, DADT be damned” – taking a usually passive story and going on the offensive.

    1. The only reason I like it here is because this was a family show, and I feel like it was put there specifically so people who weren’t maybe as open to changing their thinking might have been able to draw those parallels.

      That and because as the show goes on, we see Merlin move from “Why am I like this,” to “Why is everybody else the way they are, when I’m clearly not the problem?”

      Although it’s always bothered me how there are episodes where he’s like, basically, “Oh, I better work against magic because it’ll make people sad if I don’t,” and it’s considered the “right” thing to do by the story arc.

  6. “Some things I never noticed before: In one scene, Arthur warns Merlin, “I’ve been trained to kill since birth.” Later in the series, we learn that Arthur’s mother, Igraine, died in childbirth.”

    Woah.

  7. I like that Camelot has people of color! My boyfriend took issue with a black dude being a knight (not this episode, later in season 1), and I was like…there are wizards and dragons and fairies, that’s fine, the black dude is where your suspension of disbelief runs out??

    1. You know what? This is the first show that got that point across to me, back when it came out. I was watching it, and I was like, “How is Guinevere black? That doesn’t make sense, because her name means white ghost,” and one of my friends goes, “There’s a dragon in the basement.” And I was like, “Oh… right.” It was so stupid of me, because I was like, “Historical accuracy! Mythological accuracy!” and once someone pointed out that I was totally okay with the show being basically a “what if they were in highschool?” AU fanfic, but not with Guinevere being black, that was the only way I realized what a fucking racist POS I was being about literally every movie with a pseudo-medieval or medieval setting.

      1. I also feel the same way about stuff like Morgana’s dress. Not authentically medieval, no, but whatever.

        What really gets me mad is when sci-fi/fantasy is *inconsistent* about the rules of the imaginary world, or when the characters react/interact in an inauthentic-seeming way. So far (like 3 episodes in, lol) Merlin seems OK on those counts.

      2. “There’s a dragon in the basement” will forever be my starting point for telling people that they’re missing the bigger picture.

        They will be confused as fuck.

      3. Actually, in the original Arthurian stories there were four black knights of the round table. I’m a little rushed so can’t link you right now.

        Also, it would not have been historically inaccurate to have black people in post-Roman Britain. There were quite a few ex Roman soldiers who settled here in retirement, many were from Africa and Outremer, as well as Gaul, Hispania and Greece (Illyana, I think?). So, yeah. Not actually an inaccuracy.

        1. But white people don’t believe PoC existed before the 16th century. At least, that’s what it seems like when we’re talking about “historical accuracy” in fantasy films.

          1. Yeah, they’re wrong :P .

            *Isn’t really sure what to say next, so to forestall an awkward moment, dances*

            Sorry, my mind had a funny … morning. That does indeed seem to be what people believe, and on the face of it it’s a rather sound conclusion. But it’s also wrong, and wrong for bad reasons. For the first: it’s historically inaccurate (as I said); for the second: it *feels* correct. Which is a bad reason for something being right. Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is. Sorry. I can’t think properly to articulate that better.

            Oh! Almost forgot: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/not-all-knights-round-table-were-white-180949361/

          2. Oh, just to be clear, I’m not defending that way of thinking. I found it bizarre once it was pointed out to me. But the fact that it had to be pointed out to me at all is disturbing.

      4. The thing I constantly point out to people who go apeshit about historical inaccuracies with King Arthur is…he did not exist! There is evidence of an Arthur in I think like the 600s perhaps, and castles like Camelot did not exist in England until the Norman invasion 1000 years later. The whole mythology as most know it was invented by Mallory in Mort D’Arthur. It was just a story, and not Mallory’s own original characters. So if someone wants to make something else up, so be it. As long as the story is interesting and the characters make sense in the situation.
        I’m looking forward to rewatching the entrance of the very pretty Lance..a lot. One of my favorite lines in this series.

        1. Sorry, two thoughts at once. Norman invasion was nearly 500 years later, not 1000. Was thinking the costumes were really from a time frame much later…but actually that would be wrong as well. They’d be maybe 700 years later. 1000 years would be Elizabethian. The cold in Ohio is getting to me.

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  12. I’m not sure exactly why but this blog is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

    1. Erm … this comment was in reply to Jenny’s following comment:

      ‘Oh, just to be clear, I’m not defending that way of thinking. I found it bizarre once it was pointed out to me. But the fact that it had to be pointed out to me at all is disturbing.’

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