July 23, 2024

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Merlin “The Death Song Of Uther Pendragon”

Series Five, Episode Three

I think I gotta ask this:  how dumb is Arthur?

Never mind.  Merlin looks to finally hold Uther Pendragon accountable for everything he did.

Here’s the basics:  Arthur is missing his father, and when he gets his hands on a magical horn, he decides to see his dead dad again.  Then he screws up and accidentally brings his father’s angry spirit back to Camelot.  Hyjinks ensue.

Now me, I have long held the opinion that Uther is, well, a bad, bad dude.  This goes back to when we learned he had children killed for the crime of having magic potential.  The show, for whatever reason, opted to brush that little tidbit aside.  We’ve since learned Arthur was responsible for the deaths of some children too, but he actually felt guilty about it and made amends.  Did Uther ever make amends with, oh, anybody?  Nope!

Think about it:  everything that is wrong with the world of Merlin is Uther’s fault.   Morgana is his daughter, and he never told her.  He had countless people executed for the crime of having magical powers regardless of intent.  That created more enemies, including Morgana and her various allies.  Every diplomatic issue Arthur has to deal with is something Uther set a standard for.  Uther may be a more realistic king for a Medieval setting, but this is a fantasy show.  Arthur is clearly a better king.

Heck, the show’s even letting Arthur almost save the day by now.  Heck again, sometimes he does save the day.  Merlin may give a strong assist, but Arthur’s inherent decency and 21st century egalitarian attitudes mean, well, Camelot actually looks like a nice place to live.

You know, if Morgana wasn’t invading every three episodes or so.

But here we see Arthur decides, going against the advice of both Merlin and Gaius, to use a magical horn and chat up Uther.  And Uther isn’t happy with Arthur.  Why would he be?  Arthur is forgiving.  He elevated low born people to knighthood, and married a commoner.  Uther said many, many, many times he didn’t like those ideas.  Why did Arthur think Uther would have changed his mind in the afterlife?

As such, we see invisible things dropping heavy objects on the Round Table, an ax onto Percival (he’s fine), and in a surprisingly effective scary moment, something really tries to kill Gwen.  Like, by Merlin standards, this was a good use of atmosphere to provoke a sense of dread.  It’s no The Haunting of Hill House but it is at least scarier than 98% of American Horror Story.

Really, this is the episode for all those people who wanted the show to acknowledge Uther was a bad guy.  Merlin gets to show off some magic, much to the dead king’s disgust.  And just before Uther can tell his son Merlin’s secret, Arthur sends him back to the land of the dead.

By the by, I know I am sometimes harsh on this show’s special effects, but Uther’s ghost looked pretty good.  It might have been a simple lighting trick, but it worked.

It’s episodes like these that actually lead me to believe this show vastly improved in its last two years.