First Season Reprise


Merlin comes to Camelot and encounters the privileged son of the King.  Even after finding out this ill-mannered young man is a prince, Merlin stands his ground and will not give way to Arthur’s rank.  This tells us a lot about our young warlock … integrity, nerve, and a sense of justice.


During the second episode, we learn that Merlin is not a wonder … he cannot solve every problem with an instant resort to his magic.  Instead, he learns that his larger power is not so easily accessed … but with practice, and more practice, he can actually build on his powers, learning to control and direct them.  During the years ahead, not many things will come easily to our hero … he will have to make the effort and work diligently in order to become proficient with his gift.

This is reinforced in episode five as Merlin puts all his effort into perfecting the spell that can save Arthur and Lancelot from the Griffin.  And at that point, his secret is safely shared with his friend, Lancelot.


The third episode carries a sober warning.  Merlin’s enthusiasm for his ability makes him reckless.  Despite Gaius’ warning, he becomes sure he can cure Gwen’s father, and perhaps the whole village.  This has catastrophic results for his good friend, Gwen, and though Merlin tries to accept responsibility his efforts are not successful bringing him the harsh reality that he alone has caused his friend’s arrest and subsequent condemnation.   Resolution comes with guidance from Kilgharrah and Gaius.  Merlin begins to understand his and Arthur’s being two sides of the same coin.  He has been forced to face how devastating the consequences of acting without thought can be. Gaius gently counsels him later … “The easy answer is like a light in a storm.  Beware, for it may not always lead to a safe harbor.”

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The Poisoned Chalice … Episode 4 … implies that Arthur really does have a soft spot for his servant.  Arthur travels far away to obtain the only antidote to the poison Merlin has ingested.  He encounters Nimueh and has a narrow escape.  He is aided, if he only knew, by an unconscious Merlin who is able to send a light to guide him.  (I had hoped that the unique ball of light would be used at the end to prove Merlin’s protection over Arthur all through the years … even from the beginning.  However, that was not to be.)   Uther’s interference delayed Merlin’s chance to recover leaving Gaius and Gwen very frightened that they had not been in time.  With great relief that he had not died after all, Gwen kisses him enthusiastically.  It’s a very sweet encounter between the two friends.

The Kiss MandG


Episode Five brings Lancelot to Camelot.  This will prove very important to Merlin and a great camaraderie grows between the two.  Together they defeat the Griffin, and at last Merlin has someone who knows about and accepts that he has magic.  This episode also introduces the attraction between Lancelot and Gwen … perhaps a future threat to Arthur’s as yet unrevealed affection for her?

The GriffinLancelot and Gwen


Episode Eight introduces us to Mordred.  We meet Merlin’s future nemesis as a very young boy.  Nothing (except our knowledge of the legends … and Kilgharrah’s adamant voice) warns us that this innocent will prove to be Arthur’s demise.  Merlin is intent on keeping Mordred from execution; he is sure that no one can know the future … that the future can be changed.

There is a very interesting camera choice in this episode.  Just as Mordred’s guardian is executed, just as the axe falls, Mordred is shown as a double image.  It is a flash, quite quick and easily missed … but it is there.  Comments were made, by those who wanted a different ending to this story, that the prophesied mortal wounding of Arthur could have been avoided if Merlin had heeded Kilgharrah’s advice and turned a blind eye to Mordred’s execution.  This is the first of Merlin’s choices that were deemed mistakes by these viewers; there will be others.   Yet, one of the key points of this series is the question … can we change our destiny … can we alter the future?  (In this case, for the producers of this particular series the question becomes … do we abandon the legends entirely?)


So, I ask:  Given the opportunity, you who are so sure, could you do it?  Could you let this young boy be executed?  Could you kill a child because you thought you knew that one day in the far future he would bring a tragedy to your world.  If you had known Hitler as a child, and knew absolutely the terror he would wrought, could you, yourself, have killed him at age 8 or 10?  Could you have picked up the knife or the sword and laid him waste?  Could you have seen him lying wounded and just let him die?  (Nor are there any real answers to these kinds of questions … but they do provide food for thought and reflection.)

The ninth episode introduces the mighty sword, Excalibur, along with Kilgharrah’s stern warnings to Merlin about the evil that could arise from letting the sword fall into the wrong hands.
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Episode 10 gives us insight into several relationships.  Merlin’s devoted and loving relationship with his mother, Hunith.  There is the high regard in which he is held by Gwen and Morgana.  And at last, we see Arthur’s unspoken but strong, protective feelings for his servant.  There are several important moments between them, including one in which Merlin is momentarily overcome by feelings to confide his secret to Arthur.  Although a servant and usually quite gentle, Gwen reveals her stronger side, not hesitating to speak truth to power when she feels the Prince is being thoughtless.  Gwen and Merlin are alike in this respect.  We are also introduced to Arthur’s oratorical skills, a portent of his ability to move and inspire people to act … a glimpse into a future king.  And, Merlin’s first devastating loss … the death of his childhood friend, William.

Moment of Truth.5

Moment of Truth.4  Moment of Truth.
Episode 11 provides opportunities for Arthur to learn humility … and finally begin to accept responsibility for a rash act.
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Episode 12 adds another reason to Morgana’s growing disenchantment with Uther, which after years of thinking him cruel is beginning to turn to hatred.
Le Mort d’Arthur: Ep 13.   These elements stand out:  Merlin’s sense of duty to fulfill his destiny even if it means giving his life for Arthur.  Merlin’s gentle and heart-felt assurance to his mother that he will cure her … that the gods will look after him and he will see her again.  (Colin’s portrayal here is beautifully done with tenderness and love.)  Merlin’s angry estrangement from Kilgharrah, and  Gaius’ brave attempt to save his beloved foster son.
Thus ends Season I.  We are enchanted.
 enchanted land