A new king, a new era and a new dragon
In honor of Arthur’s reign as the new king of Camelot, a new era has begun and, due to Merlin’s persistence in saving the last dragon egg, a new dragon is born as well. Aithusa is a white dragon, which the Great Dragon Kilgharrah proclaims is a symbol of how blessed Albion will be under Arthur’s reign. That Merlin was able to give such a gift to the Great Dragon, it speaks of a time that perhaps dragons and men shall be able to live in peace — for Merlin not only freed Kilgharrah, he found a way to ensure that the Great Dragon was not the last of his kind.
This episode was a grand adventure for Merlin as he found a way to honor his dragon friend and save one of the last dragons. But it also served to remind Merlin that the motives of man are rarely as good intentioned as he would like to believe. Merlin is still very young at heart and needs to start seeing that others are not as altruistic as he is.
It was also a reminder that while Merlin is a dragonlord and a sorcerer, he is still only a servant in the eyes of Arthur and the knights. Merlin was still the one who had to feed the horses, fetch the firewood, and cook the food — eating last and only if they saved him some food. Merlin chafes under the position that his birth placed him, especially when he knows that his destiny is to be so much greater, and that he is already saving Camelot, Arthur and everyone else time and time again. It is hard to be the hero and yet no one knows. Merlin may be allowed to risk his life for everyone else, but it goes largely unnoticed and unrewarded. It is expected that as a servant that, of course, he would happily do so.
So it is interesting that much of this episode was about Merlin venturing off on his own to complete his quest to find and save the last dragon egg. The knights did not come to his rescue, in fact, they were only in Merlin’s way. It was only because Julius Borden (James Callis) spiked the food and caused Arthur and the knights to sleep that Merlin was able to complete his quest unencumbered. They only arrived at the end to bear witness to the destruction of the tomb.
Merlin’s journey, like Arthur’s, is taking a new path. Each must find a way to achieve their respective destinies, even if it means they do so separately. Arthur cannot help Merlin become the world’s greatest sorcerer, only Merlin will discover that as he is tested time and time again; and Arthur must discover his inner strength and wisdom to rule on his own. Merlin is not yet trusted to be his advisor, only his unknowing bodyguard. These are the uncertain times when each must pursue their destinies and become the great men that the prophecies have foretold.
Merlin’s instincts to preserve the last dragon egg and set it free was noble. Very few men would have granted the dragon its freedom, and as a result, Merlin perhaps gained an ally for life. It also won the respect and gratitude of the Great Dragon, who only remembered the misery he suffered under Uther’s brutal regime. Merlin’s rise to power has begun — all through the simply love of wanting such a creature to live free.
It is always a delight to see James Callis on screen. He equally embodies the duality necessary to disarm even someone was wary as Colin Morgan’s Merlin. As Julius Borden, Callis was charming and engaging, but with a cunning heart just hidden from view. It made it easier to believe that Merlin would want to believe that Borden only wanted to rescue the dragon egg. It was also cool that Borden did not truly suspect that Merlin was anything more than he appeared. Even at the very end, as Merlin declared himself to be the last dragonlord, we sensed that Borden had not suspected a thing. He seemed genuinely surprised and worried at that moment. Borden had tried to tempt Merlin with more riches than he could imagine, so that he could finally escape his miserable life, but Merlin only looked back at Borden with sadness and said he did not think his life was miserable. When that did not work, Borden then tried to threaten him, Merlin calmly said, “I am the last Dragonlord and I am warning you, leave this egg alone.” That was a magnificent moment!
Another fun aspect of this episode was Gaius knowing full well that Merlin could not resist the temptation to save the last dragon egg and forgiving him for it. Gaius could have been more harsh with Merlin, but he knows that Merlin’s giving heart is one of the things that makes Merlin, Merlin. Without his trusting and generous heart, Merlin would be a different person entirely, so Gaius allows him to be exactly as he is. Gaius and Merlin’s strong bond of friendship remains another delight of the series, especially after Lancelot’s death, and Merlin is now more alone than ever.
The moments of levity as the knight pulled jokes on Merlin were also a bright spot as it is always great to see more of Elyan, Percival, Gwaine and Sir Leon. So many times, it seems that they only notice Merlin when they need him, so it is good to see that Merlin is allowed to be “one of the boys” even when their are not amidst a great battle. Plus, it serves to remind Arthur that it is okay to be friends with Merlin now that he is king. One of the better lines of the episode was when Merlin told Arthur, “Ever heard of the word ‘sorry’?” and Arthur good-humoredly retorted, “No, is that another word you made up?” Arthur may feel that now he is king, he must distance himself from a friendship with Merlin, his servant. But this exchange was reminiscent of the good ole days. We can only hope that Arthur does not forget his friendship with Merlin in the shadow of his kingship.
What Didn’t Work
It was not clear if the gas that Borden released in the tomb was supped to be lethal or not, but it seemed out of place that he was able to shake it off so easily after being immersed in it after opening the tomb door. Surely Borden would have been knocked out a lot longer.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
‘Aithusa’ was written by Julian Jones and directed by Alex Pillai. “Merlin” stars Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson and John Hurt. “Merlin” airs Fridays at 10 pm on Syfy.