Review of MERLIN – The Fires of Idirsholas (2010)

A sisters’ bond is stronger than religious zealotry and the desire to destroy an oppressive king

The sorceress Morgause (Emilia Fox) returned with the Knights of Medhir to wreak havoc across the land and destroy Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head), even if it brought down Camelot in the process. But in order to do so, Morgause needed her sister Morgana’s (Katie McGrath) consent. She would not topple the House of Uther unless it was with Morgana’s blessing. Fresh on the heels of her wrath over the treatment of Alvarr (Joseph Mawle), Morgana was only too happy to give her blessing. However, she did not foresee the dire consequences. It was not only Uther who suffered, but also the whole kingdom of Camelot.

Would Morgause have been content with only slaying Uther, or would she have slaughtered Arthur (Bradley James), Merlin (Colin Morgan), Gaius (Richard Wilson), Gwen (Angel Coulby) and anyone else who stood in her way? With Camelot under the sleeping spell and the Knights of Medhir at her side, who knows what Morgause would have done. In the end, she was content to take only Morgana, but surely she will not be satisfied with just that. Morgause wants vengeance and a new world order. There will perhaps be no place for anyone who stands against her.

With Morgause, Morgana, Mordred (Asa Butterfield), Alvarr and now the Dragon (John Hurt) all on the loose and all with one common goal, heaven forbid they strike together at their common enemy. Surely Merlin could not fend them all off. It may be time for Merlin to recruit a few allies to aid in the defense of Camelot — for an epic battle looms.

What Worked

Continuing down her dark path of betrayal, Morgana was awesome to behold. No longer quivering over her feelings, she did not hesitate to sell out Uther and all of Camelot.

Rising up just as Morgana was amidst her downfall was Merlin. His transformation from simply Arthur’s protector to protector of Camelot is fascinating to watch. As much as he cared and sympathized with Morgana, he was ultimately willing to sacrifice her in order to save them all. It was an interesting contrast as Morgana would not have done the same. In fact, she did the exact opposite. She turned to the dark, while Merlin embraced the light. She wanted them all destroyed, whereas Merlin wanted to keep everyone safe. It was sad watching the contrasting transformations of Morgana and Merlin. Both Katie McGrath and Colin Morgan were brilliant — especially watching the range of emotions flashing across their faces as their characters struggled with the paths they had chosen. It was easy to see the intensity of Merlin and Morgana’s decisions and how their betrayal of each other hurt them both. It was absolutely mesmerizing.

The entire episode was gripping and compelling. As Gaius prophesied, “Something has awoken [the Knights of Medhir] and I fear for each and every one of us.” Though it was hard to imagine that Morgana would be the one to ultimately declare the death sentence for Uther. Yet when Morgause asked her, “So you want Uther destroyed and his reign to end?”, Morgana replied, “More than anything.” Making sure that Morgana knew what she was agreeing to, Morgause sharply asked, “Are you prepared to bring about his downfall?” and it was chilling to hear Morgana calmly reply, “I am.” With those two little words, a kingdom was torn apart and the fates of all those who Morgana held dear were held in the balance.

Unable to combat the sleeping spell and with nowhere else to turn, Merlin returned to the Dragon seeking his assistance. But a caged enemy is never truly one‘s ally, especially since Merlin had failed to honor his bargain to set the Dragon free. So when Merlin came to him, the Dragon angrily roared, “Camelot’s end is nigh and there is nothing you can do about it!” Despite his anger at Merlin, The Dragon did reveal how Merlin may defeat Morgause’s sleeping spell: he must kill Morgana. With one last warning the Dragon said, “I have warned you about [Morgana] in the past, but you have failed to take heed. She is dangerous . . . and now she has chosen to turn her back on her own. . . you must kill her. . . if you do not, then Camelot will fall and Arthur will die and the future that you were destined to share will die with you.”

With the Dragon’s warning ringing in his ears, when Morgana fell in the hallway as they were pursued by the Knights, Merlin hesitated but did not move to intervene on her behalf. It was perhaps his worst fears confirmed when the Knight did not kill Morgana and let her live. Because the Knight chose to spare her, Merlin had no choice. He handed her the poisoned water — he had to sacrifice her to save Uther, Arthur and Camelot. The look of pain and betrayal on her face as she gasped for air was heart-breaking. But, in the end it was Morgause’s love for her sister that saved her. Morgause was willing to undo the spell and vanquish the Knights in order to save Morgana’s life. Morgause would strike down a king, destroy a kingdom upon Morgana’s command, yet she would also spare a king and a kingdom to save her sister’s life.

Later as Merlin agonized over his willingness to sacrifice Morgana for the greater good, Gaius reassured him, “I fear, unlike you, Morgana chose not to use her gift for good. You had no choice. Would we be sitting here now if you had not made that decision?” A boy no more, Merlin had to sacrifice a friend and it haunted him.

Just as Morgana and Merlin were amidst their own transformations, Arthur too showed further signs of his transformation from prince to king. His growing reliance and trust of Merlin was clearer when Merlin rushed to aid him in the battle with the Knights of Medhir, sustaining a wound in the process. The fact that Arthur insisted on binding Merlin’s wound was in recognition of Merlin’s first battle wound. Such bravery in battle is significant to Arthur as it demonstrated for the first time that Merlin would enter the danger zone and risk his life to protect Arthur. Up until this point, Merlin had always kept to the sidelines while using his magic to keep Arthur safe. This was the first time that he had shown himself willing to get a little bloody. In return, Arthur’s respect and trust grows as Merlin has proven he literally has Arthur’s back.

Another subtle moment was when Arthur and Merlin returned to Camelot finding everyone asleep under Morgause’s spell. When he found Gwen lying on the floor, Arthur gently picked her up and put her on Morgana’s bed like it was the most natural thing in the world to him. Subconsciously Arthur feels that is Gwen’s rightful place and does not think twice about it. Such a simple gesture belies his tender feelings. It was nice that Merlin also did not comment about it respecting Arthur’s wishes to not speak of it.

Finally, Arthur has begun to show shrewd perception such as when he kept asking Morgana why she was the only one awake. He insistently told her, “you’re the only one not asleep . . . there must be a reason!” Arthur’s instincts were dead-on. There must have been a reason and the absurd story about a potion that Merlin concocted to protect Morgana simply did not ring true enough. It is another sign that Arthur is thinking for himself and questioning the things around him. He is not just blindly trusting everyone and following orders anymore. He is thinking for himself and we are glimpsing the future king that he will be.

It was also nice interjecting a bit of levity in the midst of the battle when Arthur nearly fell asleep and Merlin was forced to slap him to keep him awake. When Arthur angrily said, “Don’t ever do that again!” Merlin simply retorted, “Then don’t fall asleep!” That was then followed by Arthur’s rueful acknowledgment of the precarious situation they were faced with when he said, “If I need a servant in the next life…” Merlin merely smiled and softly said, “Don’t ask me.” Yet we all know perfect well, that even in the next life time, Merlin would be there to aid and protect Arthur. It is his destiny no matter which life time their fates have chosen.

What Didn’t Work

It is hard to believe that a sorceress as powerful as Morgause would not have figured out by now that Merlin has magical abilities, or that word of Merlin’s abilities would not have spread beyond Mordred. With so many people wanting Uther dead, that little juicy secret would be too good to resist.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

‘The Fires of Idirsholas’ was written by Julian Jones and directed by Jeremy Webb. “Merlin” stars Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson and Anthony Head. “Merlin” airs Fridays at 10 pm on Syfy.

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