The second episode of BBC Merlin season one.
Spoilers are going to be shared down below. Continue to read at your own peril.
In Camelot there is a tournament where all the knights come from kingdoms and noble families from all around to show not only their fighting skills, but to prove that they are knights with valor, honor, humility and bravery. Prince Arthur is the champion that must work hard to keep his title. This is very important to this episode because the competition is here in Camelot where King Uther is watching to see how well Arthur is doing in his preparation to become King, as well as to offer any other knight to join his military ranks. During this exciting fight there comes to Merlin’s attention that one of the knights is using magic which we already know is forbidden to be used in Camelot. A brave knight falls to the pray of these snakes that are magically living in the shield of this cheating knight. So, when Arthur comes forward to tell the truth about this shifty knight using magic it turns out to be a horrible meeting when the brave knight turns out to be dead. Even though Arthur gets angry at Merlin for causing him trouble, Merlin still takes matters into his own hands to save Arthur from being killed. This was done by using magic to summon the snakes so that all of Camelot could see the fact that Arthur was telling the truth. Prince Arthur became the champion once again and caused his people and father be proud and have faith that Prince Arthur will be a good protector of Camelot.
In this episode we get the chance to take a look at who the Prince Arthur really is. Like Merlin we see Arthur as a person who gets all the glory and all the girls. Merlin doesn’t understand all the things that makes a prince. Until he starts to ask questions to everyone. Gaius understands the pressure and responsibility that rests on the shoulders of Arthur and tries to share that knowledge with Merlin. We as the audience can see all the hardships that comes to being Prince Arthur of Camelot and the son of Uther. At the begging of the tournament Uther comes over to his son, puts his hand on his shoulder and says “I trust you will make proud.” If Arthur wasn’t nervous then, he became so after. You can see in Arthur’s eyes that all he wanted was a simple “good luck” or “you’re going to be fine” from his father. The disappointment that is shown in his eyes just makes you want to reach out and hug Arthur. Something else we learn in this episode is that Arthur doesn’t have anyone he trusts except for Merlin which is why he gives him such a hard time with everything they do. Knowing this you can see why Arthur got so angry with Merlin after the confrontation he had with his father and the court of Camelot.
So, Arthur did what he has done all his life, he pushes Merlin away. But when Merlin comes back to try one last time to not let Arthur fight the knight who is using magic, we get a glimpse at how much Arthur loves his people. How he truly understands that his place as the prince is to die if that is what is required of him. Merlin has a hard time understanding this. But we know that this comes from years of training to not only be the best but to be better than the best. We also get the chance to see a sweet and loving interaction between Morgana and Arthur. Just like any relationship between a brother and a sister this interaction did not last long.
This character development is more then just watching the group grow into the characters we love today but it is about see how Arthur is growing. How he reacts to change, to having someone he trusts, to being disappointed by his father and of course to see how he handles being the prince. This development can make the audience feel like the can ether relate to the Prince Arthur or help us to sympathize with him. This was really well written by the writers of the show and was brought to life by the talented acting of Bradley James.
Design and Setting
In a TV show often you find that the filming quality gets better in every episode. The director has a vision that is shown through the camera as it moves from left to right or in any way it is sent. Now this episode is filmed mostly outside because of the tournament. This helps a lot because you know that you can zoom in and out of the two people who are fighting with their swords.
I am very impressed with how the magic is getting to feel more life like as the entire episode plays out. Take the snakes for instance, they are made to serve their master and will do his bidding when summoned. They look and sound like snakes yet still have a bit of a magic glow about them.
The medieval way of having a tournament was well represented in this episode. Which tells me that the writers did do their research. Now if a true historian were to watch this episode, I am sure that they would find some things that were not entirely accurate to the time period that is being presented. Yet they still did it well enough that you could feel like you were watching something from back then.
Now the episode was mainly focused on Prince Arthur and Merlin, you couldn’t help but notice that the acting done by his supporting leads was just as emotionally portrayed. First off, King Uther who is played by Anthony Head did a beautiful performance that started with joy at having a tournament to showing that he puts pressure on Arthur to the quick flashes of anger when a knight was accused of using enchantment, then the shock resting in his face as he now sees that his son was telling the truth, to the relief that his only son did not die. The acting of beautiful Morgana played by Katie McGrath showed an emotional response to her dream and to want to show that she does care about Arthur. She also was able to show her quick wit and thinking when Arthur needed it. Guinevere played by Angel Coulby does her best to teach Merlin all the things he needs to know about armor. She is after all the blacksmiths daughter and as such knows where everything goes and all the names. She also was amazing at taking the time to be a friend when Merlin needed it the most. This was very well acted by showing the need to want to help and yet the sadness and confusion of not being able to come up with ways to answer Merlin’s questions about how to help Arthur in his time of need.
There are so many other things that could be mentioned like Gaius played by Richard Wilson and of course we cannot forget the voice of John Hurt who played the Great Dragon. Yet their roles were much more of supporting Merlin when he need their advice and wisdom.
BBC Merlin is a family friendly TV show that is clean for anyone who watches. There is some excitement when you watch the episode as the swords swing and crash against the steel. The choreography is like watching the knights dance across the ground. Your heartbeat matches the music as your eyes tear up when you see Arthur walking to his death. You smile when Merlin and Arthur are together getting along. Now as far as being surprised and not seeing what could come next? There is a little bit of that yet the joy of being surprised is more for the children you are watching this with. There are some bit and pieces that will keep you as the adult interested and wanting to watch more. The comfort is that we know that Merlin will come through and that Arthur will succeed and become the champion was more. However, no matter if you can tell when something good or bad is about to happen you will still find yourself enjoying the wonders that are upon your screen. Now my friends, just sit back and enjoy the magic that is Merlin.