BBC Merlin: Episode Two
Last recap I had Merlin saying, “I want to wear black nail polish now.” to mark his emo-ness at being forced to serve Arthur, but I didn’t realize that he’d already been there and bought the doublet, so to speak.
For those of you who’ve got delicate internet connections that have the vapours if they so much as see one picture, I proudly present (those who want the extended version – scroll down):
Merlin Episode 2: Valiant in 5 seconds!
So Camelot holds its annual tournament aka time when Arthur gets to shine as The Best Knight of Them All While Being All Grunty and Sweating (not that the fans are complaining, mind). Yay?
But there’s this new guy in town and he’s beating the crap out of everyone else, which would be totally fine because Uther likes to resolve his homoerotic tension that way but then we find out that this guy has an evil magical shield. To wit: There are poisonous snakes on the shield that attack anyone this Valiant dude tells them to. [insert your Snakes in a Plane joke here] (And who the hell names their kid Valiant anyway?)
Of course Merlin can tell because he’s speshul liek dat, and he freaks out and ohnoes at Arthur, who believes him because he’s a woobie underneath all that armour. Then their witness dies of SNAKE BITES which apparently destroys their case in Uther’s eyes. (Uther = not only stubborn, but somewhat dumb as well. Like father like son?)
Therefore Arthur has to fight Valiant in this climatic battle to the death while the girls bite their nails and Merlin headbooks until he figures out the way Valiant makes the snakes come alive.
So then the snakes come alive, everyone = HOSHIT, Arthur = DAMMIT NO SWORD, Morgana = CATCH, Arthur = I KEEL YOU NAO, Valiant = DED.
Uther = I WAS NOT WRONG. I AM NEVER WRONG. FOR I AM KING, ETC.
Everyone else = WE CAN HAS PARTAY?
[ETA: I would like to point out that Valiant, with the way he was smacking Arthur around, probably would have made it without the Crazy Shield of Death anyway, but what a shame.]
(And now readers who’ve followed me since the Hong Gil Dong days can pass out in shock at the brevity. But wait! What recap through yonder link breaks? Usual warnings – capslock, gay subtext, picspam – apply.)
Episode Two: Valiant
- In Which There Are Snakes on a Shield!
One day I am going to find the person who thought dim lighting and guttering torches to be a good substitute for a foreboding atmosphere and smack him with my Rock of Awareness. Anyhoodle, Knight Valiant goes to this clearly black market dude for a shield.
Voilà! Snakes come out if you whisper to the shield. Of course Valiant can’t have word of his dastardly magical dealings spreading, so his first use of the shield is to kill the person who made it.
Then he rides, rather dramatically, off to Camelot on a very nice horsey that deserves a better master. *nods*
Meanwhile, Arthur is having fun breaking in his brand new manservant. (Not that way, GOD. YOU PEOPLE HAVE SUCH DIRTY MINDS.)
Poor Merlin is getting beaten into the ground because seriously, who can stand a chance against Arthur’s prowess?
I wanted to include this cap of their ‘fighting practice’ because um. PROOF THAT SUBTEXT EQUALS BUTTSEX.
The dear boy goes home to Gaius, clanging sounds still in his ears.
At least he gets post-exercise massage?
To prepare for the tournament, of course, Merlin has to learn how to dress Arthur properly, so he goes for help to Gwen. Conveniently, she does happen to be a blacksmith’s daughter, and knows the names of all the different pieces of mail. (Something about a… hauberk?) At least Merlin knows what the helmet is for.
Of course Merlin forgets to give Arthur his sword the next morning. Sometimes I think Arthur is just having Merlin on, like he’s doing for their special sword practice – because you don’t throw a raw country boy into servitude and expect him to do super well. Which Arthur is obviously expecting from Merlin. Talk of exacting standards, dude.
Luckily for Merlin, the tournament opens before Arthur works himself up into indignant anger at his incompetence, and Arthur automatically senses that Valiant is a baby-eating creep or something, because there is totally suspicion in his face. And this is the first time he’s met the man.
Lots of knights come to the tournament!
Aww. Merlin the fangirlboy is so cute.
UTHER: Make me proud, or else.
AUDIENCE: Father issues!
SCRIPTWRITERS: *high five* Points for deepness!
Arthur keeps winning, and the girls keep clapping. I want to know, do their hands hurt at one point, because I once had to clap intermittently for about 3 hours straight and I swear there was no feeling left in my hands at the end.
Oh look, anachronistic Persian ninja!
(Who, of course, gets pounded on by Valiant.)
VALIANT: *walks by*
MERLIN: Creep. *
ARTHUR: Ha. *
(* Yup. Verbatim. The Beeb has even said right out there that they know about the gay overtones, but I believe this set of caps is as good as it gets. Until episode 4, anyway, and then you’ll all explode. Because. Just because. OOOOOOOH I CAN’T WAIT TO RECAP #4.)
ARTHUR: To make myself feel better, I will order you to sharpen my sword, clean my tunic, polish my armour -
ARTHUR: – and rub down my boots too, while you’re at it.
MERLIN: I think I hate you.
Of course Merlin uses magic.
While Merlin is lying on his bed and studying magic (MAAAAAAAGIC), Arthur gets to be bored at the reception thing for the tournament’s knights.
VALIANT: I think you’re hot.
MORGANA: Why, thank you! HEAR THAT, ARTHUR. SOMEONE THINKS I AM HOT.
ARTHUR: And I would care because…?
MORGANA: UGH YOU ARE SO IRRITATING.
Camelot is actually the Château de Pierrefonds, located in France. Just thought you’d like to know so you can buy it for me.
Magical boy Merlin intuits that there’s something wrong with the shield. Bravo! Unfortunately Valiant interrupts him before he gets farther. (Remind you of episode one? Thought so.)
The next day, Merlin actually manages to dress Arthur properly. (And Arthur is amazed that he was able to finish all those tasks, which means that the prince was indeed trying to make life hard for his new servant. *shakes head*)
Day two of the tournament:
GAIUS: You seem to be liking this servant lark.
MERLIN: It’s not totally horrible all time.*
GAIUS: I am glad you have overcome your first impression of young Pendragon. I hope a meaningful friendship will form in time.
MERLIN: YES! GO, YOU HANDSOME DEVIL, YOU!
A little while later, Knight Ewan engages Valiant, and is on the way to beating him when, oops! Knight Valiant trips him and forces the Shield of Snaky Death onto the poor man. (I … can’t seem to make fun of this bit. It’s just so low of Valiant, because someone who can win all the way to the second day is obviously not a lightweight. WHY DON’T YOU TRUST YOUR OWN SKILLS, VALIANT?)
This is Gaius’ worried face. We will be seeing it often. He tells Merlin about the funny puncture marks on Ewan’s neck, and Merlin connects the hissing shield with what has happened to Gaius’ patient.
As a man of science, however, he feels the need to confirm his hypothesis.
Y HALO THAR FLEUR DE LIS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN CAMELOT, I WONDER? (At least it’s within the time period, having been first seen on royal emblems of the Frankish kings at around the late 400s, unlike those tomatoes. Or the Asian lilies. Still.) ENGLISH CASTLE. FRENCH ROYAL EMBLEM. IT HURTS THE CONTINUITY FAIRIES WHEN YOU ABUSE LOGIC SO.
Anyway! Merlin comes back all appalled that Valiant would cheat with magic, and so is determined to go to Uther with what he saw. Gaius, fortunately, beats some sense into him.
MERLIN: BUT HE WAS USING MAGIC! TO CHEAT!
GAIUS: The king won’t believe you.
MERLIN: BUT – ADDA – WIBBA -
GAIUS: Trust me, Merlin, it’s the Middle Ages, and no one is going to take the word of a servant over that of a knight’s.
MERLIN: I AM SO DISILLUSIONED.
GAIUS: YOU NEED PROOF. Now lay off the capslock angst and do something, will you?
The next day…
MERLIN: Wow, your opponent’s kinda … big.
ARTHUR: Yes, but he’s slow.
MERLIN: And… you’re fast?
ARTHUR: EXACTLY. NOW SHUT UP.
MORGANA: HOLY PURPLE POLKA DOTTED HIPPOS, THAT GUY IS HUGE.
GWEN: You’re not worried for Arthur, are you?
MORGANA: WHAT? NO! NOT AT ALL.
ARTHUR: *is indeed fast*
MERLIN: *singing* On the third day of tournament, my true love fought for me! One less giant in Camelot…
However, this victory means that Arthur and Valiant are now to face each other on the final day of the tournament (aka tomorrow). Merlin is all DO NOT WANT but he does at least recognize that he does not have the bloodlines nor the proof to convince Uther, so the only solution is to make Knight Ewan better – a knight’s word will convince Uther. (Note from the future: AHAHA THE IRONY.)
In order to cure Knight Ewan, they require venom from the snakes that bit him, so Merlin does a handy bit of sneaking around and manages to chop one of the snakes’ heads off. Unfortunately, Valiant comes back and discovers one of his snakes to be headless, which will prove interesting.
Now Merlin goes to Arthur (while Gaius is busy curing Ewan) and tells him everything.
MERLIN: So you see that he is evil and using magic and a bad person and you will stop him, yes?
ARTHUR: You… beheaded a snake?
ARTHUR: MOO HA HA!
MERLIN: *edges away*
ARTHUR: *wipes tears away* No, but seriously, why would Valiant use magic? He’s one hell of a knight, and just because I don’t like his face doesn’t mean he’s evil.
AUDIENCE: OMG. HE HAS MORALS!
MERLIN: BUT HE SO CLEARLY IS EVIL AND MAGIC-USING!
ARTHUR: Dude, stop smoking whatever it is and go to bed.
MERLIN: SRSLY. HE. IS. EVIL. AND. USING. MAGIC.
ARTHUR: O RLY.
MERLIN: YA RLY.
ARTHUR: Then we may have a problem on our hands.
MERLIN: You believe me?
ARTHUR: Just because you’re a servant doesn’t make you a liar. Just swear to me that you’re 100% certain he’s evil.
MERLIN: I SWEAR! ON … ON MY SHINY MAGICAL BOOK.
ARTHUR: You lay off on the crack and I’ll go talk to my father.
MERLIN: PRAISE THE LORD.
Just for the ominous, though, there is a snake watching from the beams. I’m not sure what Valiant thinks he’s doing, sending a snake to do his spying for him – unless he’s got some Slytherin in that family tree, of course – but obviously we are meant to anticipate Bad Things.
Needless to say, when Arthur makes his allegations everyone is shocked and appalled. Uther errs on the side of insanely angry like he always does, and he doesn’t even pause for reflection on how Arthur never lies to him on the big important issues before deciding that Arthur’s manservant must be on mushrooms.
ARTHUR: BUT WE HAVE PROOF!
VALIANT: Bring it on, princeling.
MERLIN: I hate you so, so much.
Unfortunately for Arthur and Merlin, their proof just got turned into snake food. D:
Obviously Valiant knows this, and just smirks off to the side, pretending to be all magnanimous.
ARTHUR: What do you mean Ewan’s dead?
MERLIN: He’s dead.
UTHER: I DEMAND AN ANSWER.
ARTHUR: Look, my servant -
UTHER: YOUR SERVANT? YOUR SERVANT?
UTHER: STOP SLEEPING WITH THE HELP. IMMEDIATELY.
VALIANT: If he’s too scared to fight me, I have no problems with him withdrawing.
UTHER: IS THIS TRUE?!
ARTHUR: This is clearly not my day.
MORGANA: … If only I could slip Uther some Valium, seriously. This is getting embarrassing.
UTHER: GUARDS! TAKE THE SERVANT AWAY!
ARTHUR: ALRIGHT. I’m sorry I accused you of being a dishonest, magical bastard.
VALIANT: Apology accepted.
UTHER: THIS IS HOW YOU ARE MEANT TO BEHAVE. TAKE NOTE AND LEARN.
ARTHUR: *to himself* SCREW YOU, VALIANT, SCREW YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON!
AUDIENCE: Moar daddy issues!
MERLIN: Look, I-
ARTHUR: GET OUT.
MERLIN: He’s -
ARTHUR: I SAID GET OUT! AND YOU’RE FIRED!
MERLIN: HE HATES ME! HE DOESN’T EVER WANT TO SEE MY FACE AGAIN! T.T
DRAGON: YOUNG WARLOCK, THE HALF CANNOT TRULY HATE THAT WHICH MAKES IT WHOLE. *
MERLIN: FUCK YOU AND YOUR CRYPTIC DESTINY CRAP!!
DRAGON: THAT YOUR PATH AND ARTHUR’S LIE TOGETHER IS BUT THE TRUTH. *
MERLIN: YOU ARE ON DRUGS. DRUUUUUUUUUGS.
DRAGON: THIS IS NOT THE END, YOUNG WARLOCK, THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING. *
(*You know the drill. Verbatim, again. I wonder if the dragon spends his time on the lonely stone shelves writing ‘Merlin Emrys loves Arthur Pendragon’ in giant dusty hearts or something. BECAUSE. THERE IS NO OTHER EXPLANATION FOR HIS MADNESS.) (Not that I’m complaining. Three cheers for the gay yenta dragon!)
Gwen’s such a sweetie. She comes and cheers emo!Merlin up, and tells him, gently but firmly, that he needs to do something about Valiant. I love her, in a platonic, I-want-to-be-your-best-friend way, because earlier she also calls Morgana out on wanting Valiant to win the tournament as the lie it obviously is. She is awesome and normal and this show needs that, what with Merlin being all ~*magical*~ and ~*fated*~ and Morgana being ~*gorgeously mysterious*~ and a ~*seer*~. Arthur… is just special.
The point of that… was… OH YES! Merlin realizes that he needs to unmask Valiant in public, and to do that, all he needs to do is make the snakes come alive. He thanks the bewildered Gwen and rushes off with a stolen statue.
We also see Gaius’ shocked face a lot, I think.
Merlin gets to work, trying to make the dog statue turn into an actual dog. Alas, that we still have about 15 minutes left of the episode, so Merlin’s efforts don’t do much. Poor man stays up all night chanting ‘Babay odothay arisan quickem‘ at a statue. (They tell me that the writers model the spells on Olde English instead of that overused, common Latin JKR is so fond of butchering.)
He’s not the only one not getting any sleep. Morgana, darling baby doll that she is, gets a nightmare about Valiant stabbing down at Arthur. From info we get later on in the series (also, Morgana’s nightmares from ep1 are totally a plot point), this is actually a vision of the future, and Morgana is a seeress. Yay? (I would also like to take a moment to remark that Katie McGrath looks like a goddess in purple, and um. That is important somehow. Also-also: she’s jaw-droppingly stunning in glasses. I never knew.)
Poor Arthur, forced to earn his father’s approval when it should never be something handed out as a reward. Poor Morgana, who cares far more about Arthur than she lets on and is mother and sister and lover to him combined, and possibly in danger from Uther’s fear of magic should he ever find out about her visions. (I will explain my theories on all this to you at a later date. For now, suffice it to say, Arthur and Morgana have no romantic chemistry for me.)
Merlin comes to Arthur’s room in the morning, and tries to dissuade Arthur from going to certain death.
MERLIN: He’ll kill you with the shield.*
ARTHUR: I know.*
MERLIN: Then why are you fighting him?*
ARTHUR: My people are expecting me to fight, I can’t be a coward now.*
Conversations like this make me want to root for Arthur and smack Uther upside the head for being a stubborn ass. (Btw, in case you haven’t twigged, this version of the Arthurian epic lays all the troubles of the kingdom squarely at Uther’s door.) Also, I want to take the guy aside and distinctly clarify the difference between cowardice, bravery and recklessness.
Merlin mopes in his room.
Arthur takes what he presumes to be his last look of Camelot.
And because I am a nice person (deep, deep inside), here is a touching Arthur-Morgana scene.
MORGANA: Let me?
MORGANA: Be careful.
The scene is so spare, but very powerful. If you ship Arthur/Morgana, chances are you’ll read that they love each other after all, but I don’t see much in the way of lovey dovey chemistry. What I do see is a deep, abiding affection that the two hold for each other, the kind you get when you know someone from the time they were chubby and wobbly on two legs, when someone insists on pushing you into a puddle of mud when you’ve got your prettiest dress on, when someone smacks himself everywhere and has bruises for weeks on end because his brain can’t catch up with his growth spurt – when you’ve spent the better part of your life in that someone’s hair.
They’ve been raised side-by-side, it’d be weird if they didn’t develop some sort of sibling affection. On the other hand, they’re also very aware that they’re not related – both Arthur and Morgana are also insanely attractive to boot, so there will be some confusion, but at the end of the day they’re brother and sister. (And I don’t mean to be condescending or anything, but you’ll see in the future episodes.)
Um, sorry, got sidetracked there.
So Valiant and Arthur face off. It seems like Arthur’s already kind of lost by his own reckoning, and is not fighting with his usual skill or reactions. (See: When you defeat a man’s confidence he is already beaten.)
Arthur gets smacked around quite a lot. At first he holds his own, but then Valiant hits him in the head (by stepping on his foot and holding him there, which is not exactly illegal but I think the fencing/swordfighting experts out there would agree is not The Done Thing). Arthur loses shield and sword in rapid succession.
Needless to say Morgana and Gwen are worried. The more I look at this, the more I see what people mean when they say that Morgana is the weak link of the main cast. I mean, this is her pseudo-brother/boyfriend about to be chopped into mincemeat and she looks… bored? Gwen is so much better at conveying the worry than she is. (I’m sorry. It’s just… yeah.)
Meanwhile Merlin gives up on the spell, exhausted and hopeless, until the dog attacks him, of course.
He runs over to the tournament ground and activates the snakey charm thing, whatever. Everyone gasps, because it’s not like Arthur just told them this last night, but hey. Also, it’s a wonder no one noticed Merlin canting spells right there in the open. *facepalm*
ARTHUR: Now they see you for what you are.*
MERLIN: Deadus snakus? Dammit!
ARTHUR: *does a Neville Longbottom*
AUDIENCE: Humph. You don’t fool us.
Have a pic of Arthur triumphant and sweaty for reading this far.
ARTHUR: My lady.*
MORGANA: My champion.*
MERLIN: See? He does just stand there being ‘oh look at me I’m so great’.
GAIUS: Oh just shut up and talk to him already.
MORGANA: Well, how does it feel being saved by a girl?
ARTHUR: … I wasn’t?
MORGANA: Now I wish Knight Valiant had won the tournament!*
ARTHUR: So do I!*
(*I laughed so hard. So so hard. If only because I know of a few people who sound exactly like this irl.)
ARTHUR: Morgana thinks she saved me. ME. The Golden Dragon of Camelot!
MERLIN: Do I look that sympathetic to you?
ARTHUR: About that…
ARTHUR: You’re hired. Again.
MERLIN: *giant adorkable grin that’s going to get him glomped by fangirls the world over*
ARTHUR: Let’s see, I need you to wash my tunic, polish my armour, sharpen my sword, buff my shield, clean my boots, change the sheets, tidy the room, oh, and someone needs to muck out my stables…*
[Me: Merlin is the happiest servant I have ever seen. Ever. In all the history of servitude, except for the ones who were routinely getting laid, and you see where I am going?]
- About Uther: He is not a bastard. He honestly believes, every single step of the way, that he’s doing the best for his kingdom and his son, by being harsh on magic, and … well just harsh in general. Look, he’s had a hard life, and his beloved wife (surprising in itself, given that we are talking about a royal marriage and in the middle ages), from what we can gather, died after giving birth to Arthur. So he’s had to bring up a most likely terribly adventurous son all by himself, while running a kingdom plagued by dark sorcerers. No, I’m not excusing his actions, I’m just providing a bit of context. A lot of what he does will come back to bite, and Arthur gets to reap the consequences of the magical purge eventually, but Uther is not evil. He’s a competent and obviously stressed-out king, who has a lot on his hands, is usually stuck between a rock and a hard place on issues of policy. But he tries.
- GUYS I TOOK 175 SCREENCAPS FOR THIS EPISODE I THINK I MAY BE TOO OBSESSED WITH MERLIN. (And this is my least favourite episode excluding 8, so you can imagine how much I take usually?)
- Merlin makes all the pain of recapping Beethoven Virus go away.
- Because I am deep like that: Rank the main characters in terms of attractiveness! Here’s mine: Morgana first, Merlin second, and Arthur third. (I have a thing for tall, dark and pale types, OKAY? DO NOT JUDGE.)
[ETA: I've figured out why I have a giant girlcrush on Morgana - it's because she's a hotter version of Keira Knightley. Unfortunately she also seems to have inherited KK's acting skills, but fear not!]