Well…this one was a bit darker than usual. They really were trying to make Merlin a much more mature show…
…but still keep it more or less family friendly.
See, this one was basically about Arthur realizing what being a king can really mean. While he and the knights are out hunting bandits (Merlin is the bait), they capture some and one of them is, er, the king of a neighboring kingdom who’s been raiding Camelot for the past few months. Now, Arthur’s inclination is to probably let the guy go with a stern warning or something, but then someone steps in with some timely advice.
It’s not Merlin, so you know the advice isn’t good. It’s Uncle Agravaine, the guy who is for some reason working with Morgana to bring down Arthur. Uther I get. Agravaine’s sister was Uther’s wife, and she died giving birth to Arthur. Plus, once again, Uther had children executed. Everyone should hate that guy. So, why team up with Morgana who isn’t even related to Agravaine? And why can a bastard child of Uther inherit ahead of a legitimate brother in Morgana’s mind?
Never mind. Agravaine’s advice is Arthur has to look strong, so give the other king a humiliating treaty to sign and if he doesn’t, execute the guy.
Why does anyone listen to this guy? Merlin and Gaius figured out he was no good ages ago.
Moot point: Arthur decides to follow the advice and does execute the other king…off-screen. That makes the dead man’s wife upset, and she’s off to go to war with Camelot. Arthur has bigger problems now.
Plus, he also follows Agravaine’s next bit of advice and (temporarily) dumps Gwen. Boo!
All things being equal, Gwen, Gaius, and Merlin all figure Arthur needs to learn he doesn’t have to do everything alone. Plus, Merlin can tag along and try to get his own advice in to Arthur about not being a dick.
Good news: Arthur listens and proposes to Queen Annis that they settle the whole thing with a trial by combat between one champion from each side to keep bloodshed minimal. And of course Arthur will volunteer himself. Heck, plenty would have gone in his place, including Percival who got a rare speaking appearance in this episode. Mostly he just stands in the background looking huge.
So, yeah, that sure was a lot more mature of Arthur, and even with Morgana cheating on one side, Merlin cheats right back the same way by making various weapons too heavy to lift, and Arthur defeats the mammoth guy from the other side…but let’s him live because he’s that kind of king. Then he goes home and makes up to Gwen.
But yeah, Annis is right: Morgana is more like Uther than she would like to be.
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