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Merlin Club S01E13: “Le Morte d’Arthur” or “What do you mean magic will work exactly as everyone has been saying it will?!”

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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 rundown of episode thirteen: In a land of myth and a time of magic, Arthur and the knights run into this like, snake dog thing that turns out to be the Questing Beast, this creature whose poison has no cure and who shows up to fuck stuff up for everybody for no apparent reason. And of course, even though it’s definitely this Questing Snake Dog thing, and in spite of the fact that it’s been spotted before and Uther knows for certain that the beast exists, he insists that it’s something else and sends Arthur out to fight it. When this ends predictably, so Arthur is going to die, yadda yadda, and Merlin is all, “Hey, Dragon! How do I make this right,” and Dragon is all, “Go talk to the high priestess of the Old religion.” Gaius warns Merlin that if the price of saving Arthur’s life will be another life, and Merlin’s all, “Yeah, I don’t care, whatever the cost, man!” And he goes to the Isle of the Blessed where Nimueh gives him magic water, and he brings it back, gives it to Arthur, and yay, Arthur survives. Merlin thinks that means he’s going to die, but then his mom shows up all plagued out like, “Ding-dong, I brought smallpox!” Merlin is beyond pissed off that magic works exactly the way everyone has warned him it does, and he starts a farewell tour that burns bridges with the dragon and lingers so long with his loved ones that he doesn’t notice when Gaius slips off to the Isle of the Blessed himself to trade his life for Merlin’s mom’s life. Which is still a fucking stupid idea because if it didn’t work that way the first time, why would it be different the next time, you guys? Merlin goes after him, shows up, had this dramatic conflict with Nimueh, then he kills her with force lightning and the Gaius is all, “You amaze me!” despite the fact that Merlin hasn’t learned a damned thing and now there’s a pissed off dragon waking Morgana up back at the castle.

 

If I had written this episode, I would have changed: Since this episode talks a lot about the Old religion, I would have mentioned what the New religion was, if any. Terms like “magic” and “sorcery” and “the Old religion” are thrown around a lot in this show, but it’s very difficult at times to tell what any of these things mean, or if they operate independently of each other. For example, Gaius used sorcery, but he wasn’t destroyed in the great purge because he recanted his belief in the Old religion. But Merlin isn’t a druid, he doesn’t seem to be particularly religious at all, yet he has magic and would be killed if Uther found out. So… wait… what is Uther fighting here?

If sorcery was something that had to be learned through knowledge of the Old religion, it would make sense that Gaius could disavow his ties to that religion for compliance with the new regime. But if sorcery is something you’re born with, and you don’t need to be particularly invested in the Old religion, then what beef does Uther have with the Old religion, since it’s clearly not making sorcerers of people who weren’t sorcerers before? Unless Uther needs to wipe out the Old religion to make way for the New, current state-sanctioned religion in Camelot, which is…

I guess they don’t really have any religion at all, do they? I mean, apart from saying things like, “Thank God” or “Thank heavens,” they don’t really have a religion, do they? No holy people, no churches. Weddings are generally presented as coronations presided over by the Guess Who? guy. Funerals don’t seem to have any particular rites, either. No one wears a cross or prays or displays holy icons, except for the random one in the background in Gaius’s study. I assume they could be a kingdom of atheists (and if so, Camelot is looking like a fine place to live), but even if that were they case, why wouldn’t that have some importance in this whole Old vs. New battle they’ve got happening? Like, enough significance to mention, “Oh hey, we’ve got this going on now, so we don’t like the Old religion?”

And for the love of Camelot, WHERE THE HELL DOES THE MAGIC COME INTO THIS PART OF THE DEBATE?!

The thing I loved most about this episode: UTHER CRYING!

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OH MY GOSH LOOK HOW SAD HE IS!

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IT’S LIKE HIS HEART IS BREAKING. IF HE HAD A HEART. WHICH WE KNOW HE DOES NOT BECAUSE HE PUTS PEOPLE THROUGH THIS SORT OF SNOTTY, SOBBING PAIN ALL THE TIME!

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I HOPE YOUR TEARS BURN, UTHER! I HOPE THEY BURN!

(Expect a similarly reasoned response later in these recaps, when other bad stuff happens to Uther. Because fuuuuuuck that guy.)

The thing I hated most about this episode: While the scene with Gwen tenderly nursing an unconscious Arthur and telling him that he has to live so that Camelot will survive, etc. etc. was very dramatic and it foreshadowed their romance for the rest of the series… didn’t he just capture her father– resulting in his death– in the last episode? This is a little too big of a turn around.

Also… why in the actual fuck did Gaius write a long ass letter about what a great warlock Merlin is and then leave it on the fucking table where anybody could pick it up? 

Something I never noticed before: In the past, I’ve always thought Nimueh did something shifty, maybe she twisted Merlin’s words or something, to get him to think he’s trading his life for Arthurs. But she doesn’t. He tells her he wants to trade his life for Arthur’s, and she says:

Nimueh: “If only it were that simple.”

Merlin: “What do you mean?”

Nimueh: “Once you enter into this bargain, it cannot be undone.”

Merlin: “Whatever I have to do, I will do. His life is worth a hundred of mine.”

She says, “hey, it’s not going to be as simple as exchanging you for Arthur,” and he’s like, “Don’t care, lady, there’s nothing I won’t do for this guy.” So, Nimueh doesn’t trick him at all. He just walks into the dealership thinking he’s about to bargain himself into a great car, and then he ends up dumping a whole pile of money on the salesman’s desk and shouting, “please take this from me and bring me the worst vehicle you have! I don’t care if it’s a lawn mower, I just want to ride something out of here!”

Favorite Costume: Arthur’s “going out and being mauled by a Snake Dog” ensemble:

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It was surprisingly difficult to get a shot of this one where you can see why it’s special, but the answer is, the buckles. The buckles make it special.

Here is proof of some random headcanon I created: None. It’s nice to have a break from the last episode, let me tell you.

What object would Bronwyn steal from this episode? 

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Pop in a bar sink, toss up some overhead lighting, and I think we just found Bronwyn’s new kitchen island.

What Merthur moment did Jess have the naughtiest thoughts about? Hands down, it’s the “Sometimes I think you forget who I am” scene when Merlin is expecting to die.

Check out Jessica Jarman’s take on the episode here

Check out Bronwyn Green’s take on the episode here

Or check out The Merlin Club drinking game, which, you know. I’m sober, so I can’t endorse it. But it’s still funny. Also, there’s a banner that shows you what I’m like when I’m not sober, which I never will be again, so enjoy the snapshot of an era gone by.

That’s it for this week. Join us on Monday as we watch S02E01, “The Curse of Cornelius Sigan” at 8pm EST on the hashtag #MerlinClub.

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7 Comments

  1. TayciBear
    TayciBear

    The next episode is on my birthday!!! I will be 26, woohoo.

    April 18, 2014
    |Reply
  2. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    <.< My daughter had a toy named 'Snake Dog'. It was a purply pink knitted draught excluded, like a long sausage dog. And that's exactly what I imaged the creature to look like while reading the recap…

    April 18, 2014
    |Reply
  3. I would argue that everyone is so damned vague about how magic really works that Merlin didn’t know. And c’mon he was so broken up about his boyfriend dying, he wasn’t thinking clearly anyway.

    AND if the dragon and Nimueh want Merlin on their side so badly, maybe (for the dragon) show some sympathy rather then being so dismissive of his mother dying and (for Nimueh) oh, I don’t know…DON’T KILL HIS MOTHER!

    Urgh, this episode drove me nuts but dammit, I just can’t quit this show!

    April 18, 2014
    |Reply
  4. Jim John
    Jim John

    Jenny, did you ever get around to writing that Morgana/Uther incest BDSM fanfic? Because I recall you mentioning it in a Fifty Shades recap and I won’t lie…I’m crazily interested in reading it.

    April 19, 2014
    |Reply
  5. Nadia Oliver
    Nadia Oliver

    Boooooo when I try to go to Bronwyn’s link all I see is green foliage. No words no pics. .. just a bunch of trees and leaves. Le sigh. :'(

    April 19, 2014
    |Reply
  6. Siobhan
    Siobhan

    This was the second episode that made me crazy with how free they are with Round Table Knights. No wonder Arthur was willing to back a commoner (Lancelot), saying “we need more knights like him).

    Bedivere dies offscreen. BEDIVERE. Arthur’s already lost Owein, Percival and who else? (someone, but I can’t look it up right now). He’s gonna have no Knights when he’s king. He’s killing them all.

    (although I admit I laughed when someone says “where’s Bedivere?” and you hear “aaaaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhh”)

    May 8, 2014
    |Reply

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