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Nov. 29th, 2008


# Uther's characterisation still carries over something from last episode; he's still hard, but at least not needlessly cruel rejecting Merlin's mother's plea, and his reasoning does make strategic sense.


# Gorgeous shot.




# The first of many awww moments in this episode.





And there's Arthur's quick, surprised 'You'll be coming back!?' that kind of slips out at Merlin's rather final 'It's been an honour serving you', which I think is the first real admission that Arthur likes having Merlin around and does not like the thought of losing him...

# Pretty!



I really loved Gwen and Morgana in this episode, the way their relationship (unlike Arthur and Merlin's, which takes most of the episode getting there) seems so completely equal from the start (and before the battle it'll be Gwen, not Morgana, who'll stand up to Arthur - 'We're not going anywhere'); the way accompanying Merlin is presented almost as a joint decision. (And maybe it was... there are a lot of 'we's in that scene, as well as later.) Seriously, where's the slash?


# Merlin nearly decapitating Arthur. And how long has Arthur worked on his entrance line? The whole ride from Camelot? Again with the awww.


# Morgana warrior princess! Saving Arthur. And fighting! Probably not very realistic (Then again, with Uther, who knows... I could kind of imagine him setting the two against each other only to be able to say something like 'You let a girl beat you?' Or maybe that's all the Smallville I've watched. Er.), but at least she's fully, if somewhat designerishly, dressed.


# 'You're living a lie...', 'Didn't fit in any more...', 'And if he doesn't accept me for who I really am...' etc., and so on. The magic = gay metaphor is so strong and obvious in this episode that for a moment there I was wondering if they're going somewhere with it on canon level. Probably not, though. I guess.


# Hard to recapture the completely dumbstruck Am I really seeing/hearing this or have I fallen asleep and my mind drifted off into fanfiction land?! reaction when you're rewatching, but it's still awfully cute. 'Had any luck?' - 'I'm not sure yet', which is— and, god, it's hard to write about this episode sticking to canon when the subtext is so very unsubtle, so this is not actually a conversation about their relationship, except that in a way it still is, from whichever angle you look at it, because in a carefully off-handed way this is Arthur asking if Merlin likes it at Camelot, if he's planning to stay, and like with the question about Merlin coming back, it betrays more interest than Arthur has shown so far outside the life-or-death situation in episode 4. And it makes sense that this would come after last week's episode that fixed Arthur's complicated relationship with his father, and just maybe made him a little less afraid to act on his feelings without being constantly afraid of rejection.





'He's one of the lucky bastards the camera absolutely loves. All cheekbones and black hair and mmm!' (RTD), and, hey, it's actually true... The dorky haircut that makes his ears stick out tends to distract from that a bit.


# Merlin's matchmaking mother. Still unbelievable.


# Merlin and Will, both conversations. 'The moment of truth' might not be so much about Arthur finding out or not finding out about Merlin's magic (which we don't really know), or Merlin telling him (which in the end he doesn't), it may very well be Merlin's realisation that however much he might love Arthur, however much Arthur might need him now or in the future, what he can't be and what Arthur doesn't need is someone who would put blind love and loyalty over moral principles and innocent people's lives. Merlin won't become a second Gaius to Arthur's Uther, and this episode shows them moving towards something brighter and cleaner, based on genuine friendship and equality, really two halves of the same thing.


# 'Men aren't the only ones who can fight.'







To reiterate, where's the slash?


# I simply love the dynamic between the four of them in that episode, the development of the relationships, their loyalty, how they support each other, the fundamental equality they achieve over the episode. Arthur and Merlin, Arthur and Gwen, Gwen and Morgana, who have it from the beginning, Morgana and Arthur, Morgana and Merlin... The strength of them together. The interesting thing is, I have no idea how they're going to develop the story, how it's all going fit into the Arthurian mythology or how much will be changed if the show is going to run longer, but in this episode it really looked like they were working towards a more modern version of the Round Table where equality isn't only between the king and his knights, but where gender or class or race (and just maybe, sexuality? In all seriousness, I'm beginning to wonder...) won't matter.






# Ultimate. Awww. Moment. *completely melts*





'It's been an honour' — returning, very seriously, Merlin's words from the beginning of the episode, closing the circle.


# And now for my one and only quibble with that episode. Flints? Flints?! How about a small fire in a clay pot? A candle? Torch? Oil lamp? Anything that doesn't have the big strategic plan of defeating a superior force depend on a princess's ability to handle flints? *facepalm*


# The big question of course is, does Arthur know it was Merlin? Now I was pretty much convinced he's more or less known at least since ep. 4, so I was a bit thrown by his freaked out 'Who did that?' reaction, but on the whole, whatever he might have suspected before, I think he must know by the end of the episode.

The way he looks at Merlin at his 'Will, don't!', wide-eyed and shocked, and not at Will at all, for a long moment, is when I think he realises it's Merlin. (Or is he more shocked that Merlin knew about Will than about Will's alleged magic itself? Possible. Less likely, IMO.) And there's the complete disbelief in his reaction to Will's 'confession' — 'You're a sorcerer?' But if he's surprised that it's Will, then he already must have more than just suspected it was Merlin. Was Merlin's 'Arthur...' before Will got shot already enough? Arthur can't be that stupid not to at least consider that dying Will who has nothing to lose might be lying to protect Merlin. Especially as he's not lying particularly well.

When Will says, 'What are you gonna do, kill me?' Arthur looks at Merlin, then says slowly - 'No', looks up to Merlin again, then down, saying not so much to Will, almost to himself, quietly, 'Of course not.' Consideration for Merlin's feelings since Will is his friend? Gratitude because Will saved his life and is already dying anyway? Or, of course he isn't going to kill Will, because Will isn't the sorcerer and the question he's considering (and answering) here is whether he would actually be able to kill Merlin?

Now personally I thought when Arthur said 'Do what you can for him' and ushered Gwen and Morgana out of the hut, he was giving Merlin a chance to save Will, not just time for a private good-bye. (And from the decisiveness with which Merlin says 'You're not going to die', I was expecting him to do - or try - just that, at first.) How would Arthur know that this kind of magic, if Merlin had been capable of it, is something that shouldn't be attempted? Will gets a friendly pat on the shoulder, Merlin some rather strange looks throughout the scene. I think Arthur is perfectly aware of what's happening here.

And then there's the conversation before they pyre that doesn't make a lot of sense taken at face value, but a bit more if one assumes that Arthur knows.

'I'm sorry. I know he was a close friend.' [Still side by side. Whatever happened, it didn't ruin the foundations of their friendship, even if Arthur is still a little cold.]

'He still is.' [Not making any concessions or compromises here to get back into Arthur's good graces, although Arthur's 'was' probably simply referred to the fact that Will's dead, not that he turned out to be a sorcerer and Arthur expected Merlin to repudiate him and their friendship.]

'You knew he was a sorcerer, didn't you? That's what you were going to tell me.' [Barely a question at all, like he's offering Merlin something they can both agree to and postpone talking about the too dangerous truth. Almost Lex-like. Except that Lex wouldn't have been that diplomatic and Clark would never have answered 'yes'. So he's been clearly going over the last couple of days and started connecting the dots, and is it really conceivable he believes all that 'please don't think any differently of me' was about Will? It was Merlin, after all, who left the village because he 'didn't fit in'.]

Pause; quiet, shaken, 'Yes. It was.' [Guilty because he's perpetuating the lie, or very aware that what Arthur might really be asking is 'You're a sorcerer, aren't you? That's what you were going to tell me'? Or answering that question even if he doesn't think Arthur is asking it, because he wishes Arthur would, but as it is, this is the only way he can tell him?]

'You know how dangerous magic is. You shouldn't have kept this from me, Merlin.'

Which is a rather strange conclusion to that exchange. Considering that Arthur is aware of Merlin's friendship with Will and seems to respect it, at the very least the implication has to be that Merlin can trust him enough not to immediately have the next sorcerer/witch he might happen to know beheaded/burnt at the stake, or else how can he expect Merlin to tell him?

On the surface it sounds like something Uther might say (except less calmly and with more threats of execution), and a bit odd coming from Arthur who after all was perfectly able to distinguish between magic done to harm someone and magic done to help before. But it's very - deliberately? - ambiguously phrased. Merlin does indeed know how dangerous magic is - most of all to him, in case Uther ever found out. Maybe it's not a coincidence that this scene is taking place before a pyre, flames flickering at the edge of the frame throughout the whole conversation between Merlin and Arthur. It's a reminder of Will and his sacrifice, but maybe also of the fact that if he'd really done what he claimed he'd done, he might have ended up in the fire regardless; like Merlin still might, if he isn't careful.

If one tried to read a bit more into it, then Arthur is angry that Merlin kept his magic a secret, but he also isn't stupid and knows what kind of a risk Merlin would have taken telling him, and that maybe he hadn't earned that trust yet. If nothing else, what Will did trying to protect Merlin from Arthur must have driven that point home quite painfully. I think underneath the shock and anger Arthur is simply ashamed of his own thoughtless and impetuous reaction that essentially got Will killed, and shamed by the deep friendship between Will and Merlin that for a moment made him - deservedly - the outsider.

And taking this even further, maybe there's something else behind the 'You shouldn't have kept this from me'. It's may not be only Merlin who's convinced he'd have to leave Camelot and Arthur if anyone found out; Arthur's thoughts might have gone along the same lines, and it's become clear that he doesn't want to lose Merlin either. So they're not going to talk about it because even that is too dangerous, but Arthur would still have wanted to know, because protecting Merlin might be even harder when he doesn't. With their friendship, relationship, whatever, developing like it does, it's a threat hanging over both their heads now.



... and I'm wildly overinterpreting again, I suspect. *hides face in hands*



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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
fanaddict
Dec. 9th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
Hi, I just friended you - hope that's ok? I'm enjoying reading your Merlin ep reactions. :)

The way he looks at Merlin at his 'Will, don't!', wide-eyed and shocked, and not at Will at all, for a long moment, is when I think he realises it's Merlin.

I don't see how Arthur couldn't know it was Merlin rather than Will, especially after their earlier conversation where Merlin asked Arthur not to see him differently no matter what happened on the battlefield - this after Will had left the village and neither one had any reason to believe he'd be back. How not to connect the dots???
solitary_summer
Dec. 9th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Of course friending is ok! :)

And yes, at least looking at it logically Arthur has to know, or else he must have come to the conclusion that Merlin was trying to come out to him in an entirely non-magical way, but I think I've read that fanfic. What struck me last episode is how everyone, including the dragon, immediately seemed to assume that as far as magic was concerned, things would be fine once Arthur became king, which canonically he hasn't given all that much indication for; a bit, certainly, insofar as he seems to be able to distinguish between harmful and helpful magic, but he also does seem to still be at least a bit torn about that matter.

Edited at 2008-12-09 10:44 pm (UTC)
fanaddict
Dec. 9th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
What struck me last episode is how everyone, including the dragon, immediately seemed to assume that as far as magic was concerned, things would be fine once Arthur became king

Yeah it's very much an assumption and I think he could fall either way right now. Certainly he seems more capable of viewing magic as morally grey than Uther does, which is a positive step. Still, say Uther was killed by magic, that would probably sway him to consider magic pretty evil for the most part. On the other hand, say Uther or someone else Arthur loves is saved by magic, then he would be more inclined to believe it can be a force of good. His questioning of whether all magic is evil came from him experiencing magic that saved his own life (even while other magic endangered him).

My guess is the dragon is swayed by the fact Arthur couldn't be worse than Uther toward magic (plus he hates Uther) and so he was telling Merlin that Arthur would be a great king/bring magic back to Camelot as a way to sway Merlin into allowing Uther to be killed. I don't see where the dragon has really been shown to know the future, although I would guess he can see many possible futures and tries to guide Merlin toward the one that most benefits magic/the dragon himself. I know he's the magical Slash Dragon to most of Merlin fandom, but to me he' more a conniving old dragon trying to work Merlin as much as he can to make events happen the way he wants them to by feeding Merlin ideas about his great future at Arthur's legendary side. Which again, is not to say it's not a possible future, just not the only one would be my guess. Maybe in other possible futures Merlin didn't listen to the dragon and never came to be Arthur's friend and it's their friendship that causes Arthur to bring magic back (or he never saved Arthur's life and Uther survived long enough to get another heir somehow who was also opposed to magic).

If Merlin himself believed Arthur would be fine with magic right at this moment, he'd have confessed by now (unless he and Arthur are playing an elaborate game of don't ask/don't tell so Arthur doesn't feel he's betraying Uther - which I felt was a legitimate interpretation of the end of ep 10 with Arthur basically telling Merlin that he had been talking about Will and that he shouldn't keep dangerous info from Arthur again). So I think Merlin isn't as certain Arthur would bring magic back, just that he wouldn't be as hard a king as Uther.
solitary_summer
Dec. 10th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
I know he's the magical Slash Dragon to most of Merlin fandom, but to me he' more a conniving old dragon trying to work Merlin as much as he can to make events happen the way he wants them to by feeding Merlin ideas about his great future at Arthur's legendary side.

I admit I never gave the dragon all that much thought (then again I also have to admit I only started to really pay attention to the show around ep. 7-ish...), but this seems rather accurate after the last episode.

And what's tricky about the possible futures is that there always are so many consequences, so many variables. How would it have affected Arthur's trust in Merlin if Merlin hadn't shown up to save the boy Mordred? Or what if Uther had died in that fight against wraith!Tristan? Did either decision change things for the worse - or for the better?

unless he and Arthur are playing an elaborate game of don't ask/don't tell so Arthur doesn't feel he's betraying Uther - which I felt was a legitimate interpretation of the end of ep 10 with Arthur basically telling Merlin that he had been talking about Will and that he shouldn't keep dangerous info from Arthur again

That's more or less what I got from the end, too; they both feel it's simply something too dangerous to be really brought into the open...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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