Merlin Re-Watch: Series 2 – Episode Break Down

Episode 1:
Title: “The Curse of Cornelius Sigan”

2x01-The-Curse-of-Cornelius-Sigan-merlin-and-arthur-33244705-1280-720In my opinion, I think that this episode is really comic, although delving in seriousness as well, as Merlin defeats the most powerful sorcerer he’s ever faced. It’s really sad to see Merlin being framed by Cedric as an idiot, and Cedric taking the glory for saving Arthur’s life on a hunt when it was actually Merlin’s magic that saved him. We really get to see how shadowed Merlin’s life is and how little recognition he gets for his strength and courage. I very much enjoyed Arthur and Gwen’s small interactions which I thought were so cute, sweet and reminiscent of “first date vibes”. Merlin’s relationship with The Great Dragon was also a key part of this episode as Gaius reveals that, not only did he know Merlin used to visit him for advice, but also that the dragon was Camelot’s only hope against the dark warlock Cornelius Sigan. Merlin must put aside his personal dislike for The Great Dragon, after their falling out last season, and ask him for help which I thought was really interesting.

Episode 2:
Title: “The Once and Future Queen”

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This episode is a must-re-watch if you love Arthur and Gwen because I think it’s where their romantic relationship really begins, and their love starts to flourish. There’s also a lot of other elements to the episode that makes it so packed with action. Not only do Gwen and Arthur grow closer, but Arthur strives to prove himself without his title of being a Prince to affect his chances in the tourney, and so competes in disguise. On top of this, there is also an assassin out to kill Arthur, a bounty set by Odin, bringing the past back to haunt the young Prince as he reveals that he killed Odin’s son in a duel. It’s a jam-packed episode that has everything you could ever want; jousting, action, romance, comedy, tension, Gwen shouting at Arthur, even Knight Leon’s first appearance. I also really like the title to this episode as it brings hope that Gwen will one day rule Camelot and, as it’s a play on the term The Once and Future King, it shows how important Gwen is in the legend, whether it be because of her comfort and love for Arthur or because of her just and fair council.

Episode 3:
Title: “The Nightmare Begins”

downloadAs the previous episode began the story of Gwen and Arthur’s love, this episode is chapter one of Morgana and her dark powers. You can see that the witch is so frightened and scared of her growing magic, as we see her set fire to her chambers, and then explode a vase of flowers. It seems that her first magical abilities are violent and hostile, probably due to her disrupting nightmares, but I think that it also foreshadows her evil destiny and that, in some ways, she can’t control who she becomes and is scared of her future. The King’s Ward seeks comfort from Gaius and Merlin but both restrain themselves from telling her too much, much to Merlin’s dismay. Merlin desperately wants to be there for her and tell her that her magic is not a curse, as he truly understands how alone she feels, having been there himself. I think Merlin and Morgana’s relationship in this episode is really interesting to see and, as I have said in previous posts, it does strike the question; Would Morgana have become so corrupted and evil if Merlin had told her the truth about his own powers and mentored her to use her gifts for good? We also see Mordred again in this episode, and Morgana bonds with the young Druid boy even more. Morgana, having everything she’s even been taught being completely turned upside down, is willing to leave her life in Camelot behind to live peacefully with Mordred and the Druids which shows her innocence and purity at this point, as well as her willingness to promote acceptance and peace. This is all taken away when Arthur and his men raid the Druid’s camp, in a bid to “rescue” the “kidnapped” Morgana, and Morgana sees all the Druid’s being slaughtered. We begin to understand why she is destined to turn bad. We also see Mordred’s strong, advanced powers again which is exciting.

Episode 4:
Title: “Lancelot and Guinevere”

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I used to really love this episode. It’s great to see Morgana and Gwen’s close friendship and Arthur’s determination to rescue Gwen from bounty hunters who, after Morgana escapes with Gwen’s help, frauds their way forwards by claiming the maidservant is the King’s Ward. However, after re-watching, I found myself becoming extremely bored as soon as Lancelot enters the scene. I’ve expressed my disinterest in Lancelot’s character but I never believed I disliked him until I re-watched this episode. I found Gwen and Lancelot’s relationship completely tedious and repetitive. Their interactions basically consist of confessing that they would give their lives for each other, quite stupidly I’d say, and not actually saying anything real and genuine in my opinion. It just becomes quite boring after a while when Lancelot keeps staying behind, risking his life for Gwen, when they could easily escape together. This is why I obviously think Arthur and Gwen are a better couple, as they grow and develop from being with each other. That being said, I loved the first half of the episode where Morgana and Gwen make a bid to escape the bounty hunters and Merlin and Arthur’s scenes together as they journey out to save Gwen are so comic.

Episode 5:
Title: “Beauty and the Beast: Part One”

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Sarah Parish is absolutely incredible in this episode. Like being able to pull of an alien-spider in Doctor WhoParish gives an amazing performance as a troll posing as the kind and gracious Lady Catrina. It’s also very funny when Merlin, suspecting Lady Catrina, enchants a mirror to spy on her from Arthur’s chambers, to which Arthur catches him. This episode is also the first part, of the only two-parter of Series 2, and the first two-parter of the whole show. This gives the story so much tension, especially with the cliffhanger of the episode as Merlin fails to stop Catrina and Uther’s wedding in time, meaning the King of Camelot is married to a troll who is desperate for wealth and gold. Although not meaning much in the entirety of the show, it is still a large plot within Series 2.

Episode 6:
Title: “Beauty and the Beast: Part Two”

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The second part of this story has more action and more comedy than the first. Uther’s blind and blatant love for Catrina, due to the troll’s enchantment, is hilarious. Even after Merlin and Gaius steal the troll’s potion which makes it human, turning it back into an ugly, stinking troll, Uther still appears to only see the beautiful Catrina and calls treason on anyone who “offends” her. The whole of Camelot now knows that the Queen is a troll, including Arthur and Morgana, but Uther is delirious and it is even implied that he and the troll “shared a bed” together, which could even mean sex. What ever the two of them did together, it must have been intimate as Uther, after the enchantment breaks, looks like he’s going to be sick at the thought of it. Arthur shows his courage and bravery in this episode as he warns Merlin to get out of Camelot after Catrina orders his execution, refuses to implement the raised taxes that Uther orders after Catrina persuades him, and is prepared to risk his life to dis-enchant his father. Merlin discovers that the only way the spell can be broken is if Uther cries tears of true remorse, and so Gaius prepares a concoction that will create the appearance that Arthur is dead so that the enchantment will break. It’s interesting to see Uther so regretful after rejecting his son, showing that his love for Arthur really is stronger than the troll’s magic.

Episode 7:
Title: “The Witchfinder”

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This episode is so tense and threatening for the magical characters of Merlin as Uther calls for the Witchfinder, Aredian, to capture anyone using magic in Camelot after Merlin accidentally gets his magic seen when he uses his powers to conjure a horse in smoke. We see Gaius prepared to falsely confess to being a sorcerer in order to save Merlin and Morgana from being executed. Morgana looks completely and utterly terrified in this episode. We really get to understand her self-inflicted fear and loneliness due to her emerging powers. It’s also interesting to see Merlin being correctly accused of sorcery in front of the entire royal court and Arthur still not believing the truth. Uther’s character also faces development as his terrible doings during The Great Purge are mentioned once again. Gaius reminds the King of how many wrongly-accused, innocent citizens were put to death for sorcery with no mercy or fair trial, and Uther genuinely appears regretful which is a light we never really see in him. Aredian is probably the most cruel and the most slimy villain in the show as he frames Gaius and makes a false deal with him, treating the old man with less respect than any other antagonist. This makes Merlin’s victory even greater as he frames Aredian as a sorcerer, enchanting a frog to emerge from the Witchfinder’s mouth. A fitting end.

Episode 8:
Title: “The Sins of the Father”

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The first appearance of the beautiful and enchanting Morgause, and a definite reveal of how Arthur’s mother died, makes this episode another jam-packed story. Beginning with a sword fight to the death between Arthur and Morgause, the action continues as Morgause becomes victorious and demands Arthur to meet with her. Like Series 1’s Nimueh, Morgause is mysterious, powerful and seemingly omniscient but Arthur appears to believe that she is a force for good. Merlin hopes that Arthur is beginning to see that not all magic is evil but this doesn’t last long as Morgause entices Arthur with words of his mother and conjures her from the dead in order to reveal to Arthur how she really died. Arthur discovers that his father used magic to trade a son for his mother’s life calling him a hypocrite and a liar and fighting him. Merlin saves the day, and Uther’s life, by lying to Arthur, stating that his mother’s ghost wasn’t real and that Morgause wanted to destroy Camelot. Merlin is forced to turn against his own kind, making Arthur believe, once again, that all magic is wrong and evil which is so sad to see. It’s also disturbing that Uther finds it so easy to lie to his son about his mother’s death but it’s funny that he thanks Merlin for fighting against magic. Morgause is also revealed as Morgana’s half-sister. The natural bond is present between the two characters from the start as Morgana feels she knows or recognises the mysterious swords woman. Furthermore, Morgause obviously shows care towards her sister as she enchants a healing bracelet as a gift for Morgana to rid her of her magical nightmares. These scenes really are the start of Morgana’s corruption to the dark side. This episode is also very funny, in my opinion, because there are so many Merlin and Arthur scenes which are always hilarious, especially when Merlin drops Arthur in horse dung when they try to escape Camelot to meet with Morgause.

Episode 9:
Title: “The Lady of the Lake”

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This plot is definitely a one-off, a unique episode, whether you think it works or not, as Merlin is given a romantic storyline for the only time in the show. Merlin is so in love with Freya, a cursed and hunted Druid girl, that he even lies to Gaius about helping her. We really get to see Merlin being himself in front of her, and how free and happy he can potentially be. This freedom is almost addictive to him which I think is really interesting. Merlin is even prepared to leave his life and destiny in Camelot behind in order to be with Freya, which does seem slightly rash. When I first watched this episode I thought that Freya was a boring and unappreciative character but, after re-watching, I really do understand her distant and shy attitude and enjoy the relationship and chemistry between her and Merlin. There are also funny moments as Merlin continuously steals Arthur’s food in order to feed Freya, his offensive excuses being that he’s trying to keep Arthur in shape and stop him from getting fat. The magical monster, a bastet, is really fascinating as it is revealed that Freya, after being cursed by a witch, transforms into the beast at midnight. I honestly think the bastet is very beautiful, taking the form of a large cat with wings and it is heart-breaking as Freya can not stop herself from killing and feels ashamed and keeps away from Merlin because of it. When Arthur wounds Freya, Merlin takes her to the Lake of Avalon where she dies in his arms. Obviously, the appearance of the lake, and the title of the episode, suggests that Freya is the Lady of the Lake who, in legend, gives Excalibur to King Arthur. This is very different from the usual myth as Freya is just a Druid girl and not a powerful enchantress or ruler of Avalon like most texts infer of the Lady of the Lake. Therefore, this may underwhelm some viewers but it is definitely unique and interesting.

Episode 10:
Title: “Sweet Dreams”

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Once again, Arthur is enchanted to fall in love. The Prince and Lady Vivian become completely under a sorcerer’s spell, in order to start a war between the leaders of the Five Kingdoms, as Lady Vivian’s overprotective father, Lord Olaf, would never allow her daughter to be with Arthur. Gwen gets her heart completely broken when Merlin messes up and assumes Arthur is in love with her and sends Gwen flowers on Arthur’ behalf. Gwen awaits alone for Arthur after sending for him and is in pain when she learns that he stood her up to declare his love for Vivian. Arthur and Gwen’s love is made stronger through this struggle and their relationship is assured when Gwen breaks the love spell on Arthur through kissing him, as only Arthur’s true love’s kiss can break the enchantment. I really love Lady Vivian’s character journey as she is so arrogant and rude but gets what she deserves when she is enchanted and then taken away from Camelot by her father without the spell being broken. When she is “in love” with Arthur, her actions are so impulsive and careless which makes the scenes so comic.

Episode 11:
Title: “The Witch’s Quickening”

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Morgana’s character takes a large turning point in this episode. In a bid to aid magical bandits who are harbouring Modred, who she cares for very much, she steals from Camelot’s vaults to help them. I feel that Morgana is so vulnerable and is very much manipulated at this point by the bandit leader, Alvarr, who seduces her into risking her life to commit treason. Mordred is still only an innocent boy at this point but his magic is shown as very powerful as he utilises his telepathy and escapes once again from Camelot’s clutches. However, it’s the first time we see Mordred in a dark light when Merlin trips the young boy in a bid to stop him escaping and fulfilling his destiny of killing Arthur. Mordred looks completely evil and corrupted when he warns Merlin that he will never forget this betrayal. The threat on Arthur’s life suddenly becomes more sudden. Additionally, Merlin catches a glimpse of the future in the Crystal of Neahtid which is very exciting and foreshadows to the finale episode. Morgana feels responsible for Alvarr’s capture, believing she led Arthur and his knights to the bandit’s camp. By helping her magical kin, she has put them in danger and, blaming Uther, we really get to see Morgana’s hatred for him. Morgana even disowns Uther and claims that he will go to Hell. Her darkness really does show through the climax of this episode.

Episode 12:
Title: “The Fires of Idirsholas”

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Morgana continues to delve into the dark side with the return of her half-sister, Morgause, who also tempts Morgana into the magical world using the comfort of family and acceptance. It’s obvious that Morgana doesn’t know what she’s doing. She appears so confused and scared when Camelot starts falling asleep, not knowing that she is the source of the magic after Morgause enchanted her. This creates such a sad scene when Merlin has to poison Morgana in order to break the spell. Morgause shows obvious care and love for her sister above all else because, after hearing Morgana’s telepathic screams, she stops the enchantment so that she can save Morgana from the poison. The ending of the episode is very important in the show’s story arc because Morgana is taken by her sister. The sisters spend a year together in which Morgana becomes a very different, dark character. Morgause taking Morgana from Camelot is the start of Morgana’s evil persona, and this is the last episode where we see any mercy or goodness from her. It’s also very funny seeing Uther, asleep, being dragged around the castle and Merlin suggesting they disguise him as a woman.

Episode 13:
Title: “The Last Dragonlord”

dragon-figurineAlthough not a two-parter, this episode is definitely worth the finale of Series 2. After Merlin releases The Great Dragon at the end of the last episode, the unstoppable magical beast is terrorising Camelot and it’s the pinnacle of Merlin and the dragon’s dislike for one another. It’s really great that The Great Dragon isn’t just that good character who comes to the rescue in every episode like most shows but does have some depth to him. After all, he has been imprisoned and made the last of his kind by Uther so he has understandable motifs for wanting to attack Camelot and is a redeemable character for all the times he has helped, and will help, Merlin in the show. With the reveal of one last Dragonlord, who can tame the beast, still being alive, Gaius tells Merlin that the Dragonlord, Balinor, is Merlin’s father. The relationship between Merlin and his father is so beautiful and equally heart-breaking when Balinor is killed. Merlin, filled with grief, must assume his father’s position as Dragonlord, as the powers are passed down from father to son, and tame The Great Dragon. Merlin’s new power is something that becomes a very important part of the show as Merlin can now order and control the dragon and so becomes an ally and friend with the creature in following Seasons, which we haven’t really seen much of so far. Merlin and Arthur’s friendship is very strong throughout this episode as the two of them have assumed the position of equals. Arthur also shows so much bravery and courage, with the comfort of Guinevere by his side, as he strives to face the dragon even after Balinor is killed and there is little hope of survival. Arthur’s knights, including Sir Leon, form a circle around the Prince, reflecting an image of the Knight’s of the Round Table, and lay down their lives to join Arthur in the hopeless fight against the dragon which is really beautiful. The whole ending, in fact, is really worthy of a finale as Merlin shows mercy and lets The Great Dragon leave Camelot instead of killing him and Arthur and Merlin return victorious to Gwen and Gaius’ open arms. It’s a peaceful and un-threatening climax that I surprisingly enjoyed.

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