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Merlin “Arthur’s Bane — Part Two” 

Photo Credit: BBC One
Photo Credit: BBC One

The last twenty minutes of Merlin took all of my speculation about the direction in which the show is going and tossed it out the window. I thought Mordred might be Arthur’s bane. Wrong. I thought Mordred was in league with Morgana. Wrong. Instead, we learned that Arthur is indeed Arthur’s bane, and instead of helping Morgana, Mordred stabbed her in the back.  

The episode opened with Morgana dreaming that she was chained at the bottom of an oubliette with the baby dragon, Aithusa. We know Morgana has premonitions; she previously saw an elderly version of herself on a field of battle opposite Emrys. The latter suggests that while Morgana may be imprisoned at some point, it will be not be the final word for her. In her vision, Aithusa was still relatively small, which also suggests that this vision will come to pass in the near future. The manner of imprisonment seems cruel, which hopefully means that Arthur is not responsible for her position.

Meanwhile, Mordred and his men march Arthur and Merlin closer to Morgana’s lair. When Arthur and Merlin make a break for it, Mordred is on their heels. Arthur and Mordred stare at each other across a crevasse in the ice, and Arthur makes the decision not to shoot him, despite Merlin’s urging. Mordred likely would not have been killed even if Arthur had chosen to let loose his arrow, given that he is a powerful druid. But, the moment is critical for several reasons. First, Merlin’s obsession with protecting Arthur is going too far.  Merlin is essentially admitting defeat by not making any effort to bring Mordred over to the right side. Second, Arthur and Mordred have some sort of connection that keeps urging them to help one another.

In Ismere, Gwaine is still trapped in Morgana’s slave caves, but has encountered a strange, alien-like creature, named Euchdag. Despite his distracting appearance (Arthurian legend is fantasy not Sci-Fi), Euchdag’s role is important because he is the Diamair – the key to revealing Arthur’s bane – that Morgana has been searching for.

Mordred arrives in Ismere, much to the surprise of Morgana. I had thought that Mordred was working for Morgana, but he evidently is not. Morgana’s vitriol for Arthur is at full-force, and Mordred is put off by her attitude. It was an interesting twist to see Mordred being the voice of reason against Morgana’s irrationality.

Merlin and Arthur sneak into Ismere in an effort to rescue Gwaine and the other knights of the roundtable.  They find Gwaine with Euchdag, and Merlin instantly appears to have a connection with the creature.  In the tunnels, they also encounter Aithusa. Merlin busts out some of his dragonlord speak to reassure the baby dragon that he means him no harm. Merlin’s face betrays a deep sadness when he realizes that Aithusa is hurt and, more importantly, does not know how to speak. What is wrong with the poor baby dragon? If it has been hurt, Morgana’s vision of him imprisoned with her is tragic.

Morgana eventually finds them in the caves, throws Merlin into a wall and holds a knife over Arthur. Before she can bring her blade down, Mordred plunges his knife into her back.  Mordred turning on Morgana was a complete shock. He carries Arthur out the cave and forgets all about Merlin. Euchdag approaches Merlin and offers to answer any question that he might have. Merlin initially turns down the offer, but then asks what Arthur’s bane is.  Euchdag tells him that Arthur is Arthur’s bane. The only way I can see this being the case is if Arthur learns that magic is more pervasive than he thought, and follows Uther’s path of persecution.

As a reward for saving his life, Arthur makes Mordred a knight of the roundtable. This is a very bad idea. It is unclear whether Mordred is genuinely pleased with his new position. His expression is inscrutable. Merlin asks him why he saved Arthur and Mordred responds that he had to stop Morgana because she’d forgotten that, “The love that binds us is more important than the power we wield.” Is Mordred for real?

Merlin returns home to Gaius, totally defeated. He feels like the wheels are in motion and unstoppable. It’s hard to say which is worse – obsessive, paranoid Merlin, urging Arthur to murder Mordred, or defeated Merlin. Merlin has a great destiny and it is time he stopped feeling helpless and take action. It is almost the right time for Merlin to reveal his powers to Arthur. If there is ever a chance that Arthur can view magic differently, it is most likely to happen if he sees it lives in his closest friend.

Merlin airs Fridays on Syfy at 10/9c.

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