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[Merlin Meta] A Defense for 4x10

Or Why A Herald of the New Age deserves
its place in a fantastic Season 4

In easily the strongest season of the series, it seems that episode 4x10 wasn't as well-regarded as most of the other Season 4 episodes. At first I wasn't thrilled with it either, but with each revisit, I found myself appreciating the episode more and more. I thought I'd share why and address some of the common observations / questions / criticisms. 

Discussions mainly focused on Arthur and Merlin. Spoilers up to 4x11 The Hunter's Heart. Pictures not mine.


On the first viewing, I enjoyed the episode for effectively use of the creepy kid, the knights having some screen time, and of course Colin Morgan’s crying. However, I was a little disconcerted with some apparent out of character behavior throughout, particularly from Arthur, until the last scene in the woods blew me away. Not just because I was surprised, but because I realized Arthur’s secret would change my reading of the episode entirely! The episode pulled a Sixth Sense that merited an immediate second viewing and upon doing so, realized that this episode gave us a complex and nuanced Arthur, showed how far he's come in his relationship with Merlin, and provided great continuity in building up to Merlin's character arc this season. Whereas my first reaction to the episode was kind of meh and  why-are-merlin-and-arthur-ooc?, I've now come to really appreciate the episode, especially for Arthur.

I think what threw some people off was that Herald of a New Age didn’t feel like a typical Merlin episode. To be fair, Season 4 overall has been more mature and more serialized, so this episode almost felt like a regression to the more episodic feel of prior seasons, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that Merlin isn’t known to be subtle. Merlin episodes tend to be formulaic: there’s typically a very clear issue and a predictable outcome. Herald defied what we’ve come to expect from a Merlin episode: the big bad of the season or the weekly outsider didn’t cause trouble for the kingdom or our hero, there was no trouble-making magical item, there was no monster of the week. Yes, there was the creepy spirit, but he was just the catalyst of the story. The real monster was the one Arthur was battling internally: his past, his guilt, his shame. The episode felt a little off-kilter because Arthur was passive, unwilling to act, which isn't like our normal, decisive, action-oriented Arthur at all -- viewers didn't realize all the action was brewing inside Arthur's head.

What on the surface was a typical “filler” episode was actually a layered and complex story. It was about not taking things at face value – something Uther couldn’t do but we hope Arthur would learn. Another huge departure from the typical episode: Merlin didn’t save the day with magic. Arthur did, and not with magic, but by acting on the strength of his character.

Colin Morgan has in interviews stated that in terms of Merlin’s characterization and development, Season 4 was almost a regression. Where the previous seasons had Merlin becoming increasingly more at ease with his role as Arthur’s protector and their mutual destinies in building a peaceful Albion, Season 4 Merlin feels lost while the others seem to settle into the person they will come to be known as in legend. This episode is a great example of why Merlin would feel that way: Merlin was denied the role of savior. He didn’t fix anything; he didn’t solve any mystery or tell Arthur anything he didn’t already know. His attempts at helping his friend emotionally are rebuked. In his own eyes, Merlin was unhelpful in this episode (more on this later). The theme of shaking Merlin’s sense of place was introduced in the beginning of the series (1), but much further developed and explored throughout that latter half of the season, in the sequential episodes Lamia (2), Lancelot du Lac (3), and this one, to masterfully set up Merlin’s development in The Hunter’s Heart. Merlin still believes his purpose is to help Arthur, but he's always assumed that his magic was the means by which he would do it. 

Merlin needed to realize that magic can’t fix everything and that magic isn’t his only purpose, that in fact, he is needed in a different and more meaningful capacity: that of the advisor. In The Hunter’s Heart, it’s only after Merlin stops trying to affect Arthur and Mithian with magic and accept and respect them as people does Arthur reach out to him and Merlin quietly slips into the role he’s known for in legend, Arthur’s trusted teacher and advisor.  


What I also appreciated about this particular episode was that the show showed the strength of Arthur’s relationship with Merlin through his actions and reactions rather than hitting us over the head with soul-bearing, heart-to-heart Arthur-Merlin dialog that send Merthur shippers’ all atwitter. Yay subtly and nuance!
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE it when they have their heart-to-hearts, but they are meaningful only if they are few and far between and appropriate for the situation and in character. And it's all talk unless Arthur and Merlin’s day-to-day interactions back it up.

BUT WAIT! Arthur was a total prat to Merlin this episode you say? Arthur’s behavior has regressed to S1-levels you say?

Yes and no.

Arthur dismisses Merlin when Merlin tries to get Arthur to open up about Gwen. Yes, but as much as I’m sure he’s upset about Gwen, he was much more preoccupied with his role in the raid on the Druid camp. He had been since they stepped into the camp and he was reminded of his actions, prompting the silence that Merlin noted on the ride back and his sleepless night at the dinner table. He was grappling with the horrors of his actions and his inability to act when he realized the raid was getting out of hand. He was probably wrestling with the attitude he was raised to have against the Druids with his innate sense of humanity and reassessing what kind of king he wants to be. Of course Arthur was short with Merlin! Merlin was wrong: it wasn’t about Gwen, but Arthur definitely was NOT ready to correct him and talk about what was really bothering him. His dismissal, I think, was very in character and understandable.

Arthur threatened death if Merlin couldn’t provide an explanation for his absence and then jerks him around about sitting down to eat. At first blush, it seemed like Arthur was taking whatever he was PMSing about out on Merlin, because, really? Just because he wasn’t there to attend to you in the morning? Like it hasn’t happened before? But actually, while Arthur can be oblivious about things he has a hard time conceptualizing (like magic) – humorously and frustratingly so – I think this is a great example at how perceptive Arthur is when it comes to something he does knows about: law enforcement.

I think Arthur suspected that Merlin broke Elyan out of prison. Think about it: Merlin disappeared the same night the prisoner, his friend, escaped. Merlin came back with a visible injury, which is very rare in the Merlin-verse and Arthur made an explicit reference to it. Maybe I’m giving the show too much credit, but I think it’s a way of showing that Arthur knew this wasn’t a typical Merlin-is-a-klutz injury. That’s why Arthur warned Merlin to choose his words carefully; Arthur would have no choice but to punish Merlin if he said anything incriminating. Arthur’s harsh tone and bullying, I suspect, was coming more from frustration that Merlin would do something so stupid (yet so Merlin) and not because he was miffed over Merlin’s absence that morning.

Arthur is not amused.   Merlin's tired of playing this game.

But what really made my inner-fangirl squee was that Arthur wanted Merlin to be with him when confronted the spirit, even if he would never admit it. Consider the following:

a) Arthur sent Merlin to polish armor instead of letting him retire early. Now, while this might seem like regressive prat-like behavior, if Arthur really wanted to be difficult, he could have sent Merlin off to the stables. Instead, he chose a quick, relatively painless task that not only ensured that Merlin didn’t just go to bed, but also ensure that Merlin wouldn’t NOT see Arthur leave. Speaking of which...

b) Arthur is not dumb. He could have waited 10 more seconds for Merlin to turn the corner, but he didn’t. There was no urgency to the mission, no reason to believe every second counted, so I must conclude that Arthur meant for Merlin to follow him.

c) There was no heat in Arthur’s voice when he confronted Merlin in the woods. If he really wanted to be alone, he wouldn’t have even approached Merlin in the first place, he’d try to lose him instead. And if he really wanted Merlin to leave, he would have been more annoyed with his tone. Instead, Arthur didn’t even put up a fight, he just gave Merlin the option (not order) to leave and asked ‘You’re not going to are you?’ which I think is more to confirm that Merlin will be his predictable self and follow him. Merlin didn’t disappoint. You can see there was a little gratitude in Arthur’ expression when Merlin said he was coming along (which Merlin didn’t notice because he was too busy being pissy. More on that later)

is grateful. is annoyed.  

d) I’m convinced that Arthur would not have been comfortable with anyone else other than Merlin in this situation. Arthur has throughout the series been stubborn about winning tournaments so he wouldn’t appear weak as a leader. He definitely wouldn’t want any of his knights, no matter how good of a friend they are, to see him confess and submit himself to whatever punishment the spirit meted out. Gwen, disregarding the fact that they had a recent falling out, is the woman he doesn’t want to let down; he desires her approval, to be the king she knows he could be, despite her being his trusted counsel. But Merlin. Merlin has seen everything. Merlin has seen him behave badly and keep it to himself. Merlin has seen the worst of him, Arthur at his most vulnerable, Arthur at his weakest, and has not only stuck around, but Merlin lifts him up. Merlin doesn’t treat him with kid gloves because Arthur outranks him and Merlin believes in the king Arthur will be and not just the king he could be. Arthur needs the support confronting the spirit, but more, he needs a witness. Someone who knows the truth. Someone who will remind him of this moment when he needs to hear it and to tell his tale in case he doesn’t make it out alive. No one but Merlin fits the bill.

This all points to how much Arthur relies on Merlin and how much he trusts him with his true self. I think it’s a wonderful and tragic juxtaposition to how much Merlin doesn’t trust Arthur with the same. It’s even more tragic that Merlin, who so often feels unappreciated and unrecognized, doesn’t realize when Arthur is doing just that. Gah! Boys, you’re killing me!

Something else I love about this episode? Role reversal. It’s Arthur keeping secrets and Merlin being oblivious to the truth.

Just as Arthur continues to be oblivious to Merlin’s magic because it’s not even within his mental set of possibilities, Merlin struggled to discern the cause of Arthur’s turmoil. The role Merlin had come to define for himself was simple: identify the thing threatening Arthur’s life and get rid of it. But it’s not so simple anymore. It’s as if the absence of Uther, the parental figure, is forcing our boys to grow up (and perhaps why they changed the opening narration from ‘young boy’ to ‘young man’!) and the world isn’t black and white anymore. Unlike most of the episodes in the past, Merlin is discovering that he’s not always right. We saw this in Lancelot du Lac: he thought that Lancelot was going to physically harm the king, and was side-swiped when it turned out Lancelot was there to destroy Arthur emotionally and psychologically. Merlin’s not used to this kind of threat. He is ill-equipped to spot them.

Granted, the timing of the whole Gwen debacle was a great distraction and didn’t make figuring Arthur out any easier! Classic mistake of thinking correlation = causation. Come on guys, didn’t y’all take stats?!?

Other things I enjoyed:
- The knights getting more screen time and dialogue - with each other!
- Gaius telling Gwaine off! Heh.
- Arthur listening to Merlin (4) and Agravaine being surprised he was also being excused. 
- Arthur fighting with stools. Look at how resourceful he is! Did anyone else think Buffy! or Jackie Chan?

To address other observations/criticisms:

What's with Merlin's attitude?

Merlin hasn't been this sassy and irritable since he was mind-controlled by Morgana. Was he OOC in this episode?

I had seen comments that Colin Morgan threw in the towel in this episode, that it seemed like he wasn’t fully committed to this script and it bled through in his performance. To those people, I’ll just ask them to remember that episodes are not all filmed at once, but in tandem with others based on the availability of locations and talent. Colin’s choices are deliberate, made more apparently so because his affected performance was consistent throughout the episode.

At first I was a little baffled by Merlin's attitude, but now I’d say, of course Merlin was irritated and sassy in this episode! That's how he vents. For a few episodes now he's been marginalized and bullied by the knights, can see things falling apart and can't act on anything, and now he’s torn between two friends. He’s mourning the loss of Gwen and Lancelot (66% of his friends!), everything is so unfair, yet he still wants to be supportive of Arthur, who is grieving and hurting even more. Remember how strange (and hilarious) the delivery of Merlin’s wrong-side-of-the-table joke was?


A little forced and over the top, no? When was the last time Merlin pointed out what he said was a joke? There had always an ease between Merlin and Arthur when they were messing around. This exchange, in contrast, was a deliberate attempt to bring some levity that didn’t quite work. They are not on the same wavelength. Arthur, unable to talk about what’s bothering him, takes it out on Merlin, pushes him away. Merlin is feeling unbalanced for not being able to feel useful in a long time. He believes that Arthur is just being pratish for the sake of being a prat. Yeah, I’d be in a bad mood too.

This was just a filler episode.

Maybe on a technicality it is. Could the episode have fallen anywhere along the season 4 timeline? After Arthur is king, yes. Would Arthur have made the same decision if it wasn’t Elyan, but anyone else that was possessed? Yes. Would it have been as good of an episode if it was after any other episode? I say no.
Gwen’s banishment kept the other characters and the viewers distracted and thus heightened the impact of Arthur’s confession at the end. Had this episode not followed something as emotionally traumatic for Arthur as Gwen’s apparent betrayal and subsequent banishment, everyone would have guessed right away that the Druid shrine held some personal meaning for Arthur. A large part of our collective enjoyment of the episode came from our surprise at the end, which would have been impossible if it had fallen elsewhere on the timeline. Additionally, the writers were able to use Elyan’s status as Gwen’s brother to keep the other characters from blaming magic right away. How cool is that? In Arthur’s kingdom, they don’t point fingers at Magic first. And not all problems come from sorcery and mystical beings.

So while ultimately Arthur’s actions and the outcome of this episode would have been the same regardless of who the spirit possessed, it was a more enjoyable and character-revealing episode because it followed Lancelot du Lac.

And seriously guys, Arthur gave his word to prevent unjust genocide (hm, not a very high bar, but he’s working off of Uther standards here) and Arthur is a man of his words. He made sure there was a real person there to witness it - someone who would keep Arthur accountable. This was srs bsns, yo. The episode was called A Herald of the New Age. If that doesn’t scream pay attention this is the beginning of something!, I don’t know what the fandom wants.

WTF? Why did Merlin make light of Arthur’s decree?

For those who recognized that Arthur’s pledge was significant, Merlin bringing it up just to tease Arthur about crying seemed like a wasted opportunity (OMGmagicisokaynowI’mmagic!), but that’s only if we interpret Arthur’s promise to mean magic users are accepted and therefore magic is accepted. I think it’s neither of these things.
Giving the druids “the respect they deserve” does not necessarily mean that the ban on magic is lifted. In fact, if Arthur thinks they don’t deserve respect, he doesn’t have to give it to them and he’d still be true to his word. Sneaky Arthur! That said, Arthur’s remorse indicates that he believed attacking and killing the Druids without cause was unjust. I personally think Arthur means that the Druids will henceforth not be persecuted without just cause; they will not be persecuted by the mere fact that they identify themselves as Druids. This in no way implies that magic is now legal.

And Merlin knows this, which is why he doesn’t jump all over it. Accepting the Druids is a big step, but there is still a long road ahead. At the end of the episode, Merlin elicited just enough to validate his hope when Arthur doesn’t deny that he “meant it.”

From a story-telling perspective, Merlin needed to have witnessed Arthur’s speech to give him that glimmer of hope which will (unconsciously) give him permission to be more relaxed and reckless with his magic (which he has been this season!). This creates more opportunities for discovery, which I suspect will happen in the near future (we hope!)

Once Merlin confirms Arthur’s meaning, he turns it around and teases Arthur, I think partially to hide what a BIG DEAL this development is personally to Merlin. Would a non-magic Merlin, the Merlin he pretends to be, fixate on this newfound tolerance for magical people? Not likely. Additionally, I think it’s very much in character to turn that moment into something lighter to let Arthur save face; he knows it was hard for Arthur to admit his shame and that it was big of him to share something so intimate with Merlin. By not making this (embarrassing-to-Arthur) event a big deal and returning to the normal rhythm of their interaction (compared to the stilted, forced interaction throughout the episode), Merlin is letting Arthur know that they’re good, that Arthur showing vulnerability doesn’t change Merlin’s opinion of him. In fact, he approves! 


Um, what about Gwen?

Are those hating on the episode because it didn’t address Gwen saying that Arthur can’t be upset about more than one thing at a time? Or put his responsibilities to his kingdom above his personal life? Or that Arthur should go beg for forgiveness when by the standards of the times Gwen should have been executed? Or that Gwen should have been allowed to stay in Camelot where she’d be ostracized? Or that the writers should have conveniently let someone find the bracelet?(5) Sorry, I think it’s much more meaningful that our characters have this opportunity to really examine their values and feelings without taking the easy way out and blaming it on magic. When they eventually sort things out, their relationship will be all the stronger because they struggled (6). Gwen wasn't ignored; she was very present throughout the episode even if she didn't get screen time. 

Sorry for the rant, but I really don’t think that the lack of action regarding Gwen detracted from the episode at all.

A Herald of a New Age is a far cry from a perfect episode. I'm not in love with some of the knights' characterization, Elyan is inconsistent and it was never clear what influence the spirit boy had on his medium. Some of the lines were sloppily written and heavy-handed, like the writer were trying too hard to mislead us. It was apparent that the writers understood Arthur and Merlin and where they wanted them to go, but didn't have a good grasp of the knights (understandable, given their relatively recent introduction) so they are relegated to driving the plot without too much thought to character and made the episode less believable. (Ha! I know I'm watching Merlin, a corny, fantastical show that doesn't take itself too seriously - I'm just someone who's always hoping writers would treat the characters and world they've created with integrity) More concrete examples:

- Elyan hugging the kid. Really? Maybe we can blame it on the creepy kid’s influence, but the turn from terrified to sympathetic was really abrupt and downright uncomfortable.
- All the punching. Really? Yes, it served a narrative purpose by getting Elyan from on place to another without much of a fuss, but it certainly didn’t serve Gwaine and Percival’s character.
- Would the knights really believe that Elyan would die for his sister’s honor? (Regicide is a big deal!) I doubt it. Elyan didn’t make a fuss about his father dying at the hands of Uther nor was he above abandoning his family. In fact, we haven’t seen any familial warmth from him at all and seem to be more the type of guy who is more loyal to his frat than his family. The others’ insistence that Elyan was acting strange because of Gwen was a heavy-handed way to drive home the red herring.
Anyway, I cannot believe nearly wrote 4000+ words discussing an episode and I’d be shocked if anyone’s made it this far! Overall, I thought this episode was underrated for the very reason that made it good. It was fresh and surprising. It was different, it was sophisticated, it was subtle, it was character building and revealing and did so well trying to mislead viewers that it succeeded in convincing many that this episode was the opposite of all the aspects I just listed!
Anyway, this is my contribution and just my humble opinion. I also recognize that I tend to rationalize creative choices and I love my boys and I want to believe everything they do has thought and meaning behind them. If there are any readers left, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


(1) The theme of Merlin feeling lost and confused started as early as the two-part premiere, where Lancelot took Merlin's place saving Arthur. Then Merlin thought he would finally fulfill his role in helping Arthur accept magic but instead the plan backfired and Uther died. On a more positive note, after some struggle, Merlin asserts himself as a protector of magic and life in Aithusa, but this is, again, a departure from his usual role of Arthur's protector. In fact, they are on opposing sides. Talk about identity crisis!

(2) In Lamia, class issues between nobility (knights) and the commoner (servant) are brought to the fore, even if it took magic to make apparent. Merlin’s the outsider, the odd man out. The fact that Merlin was unaffected by Lamia only further emphasized his otherness and heightened the isolation he must have felt. He will always be different; he doesn’t belong, no matter how welcoming the knights are.

(3) In Lancelot du Lac, Merlin was at a complete loss regarding Arthur and Gwen. He couldn't fix what was wrong with magic.

(4) This is not surprising after we realize Arthur knew what happened at the camp they just visited and was more inclined to believe that a spirit was sent to punish him rather than believe his knight would commit treason. Still, it felt like a victory for our Merlin :)  

(5) Personally, I thought it was a cop-out for the writers to use the bracelet as a device to allow the betrayal story-line to happen without tainting Gwen’s character. Gwen would be a much more interesting character if she were more conflicted and complex and not immune to temptation but the writers didn't take this risk. But yeah, finding out about the bracelet now to exonerate her behavior would be an even worse. I don’t believe for a minute that there wasn’t still something between her and Lancelot.

(6) And was The Hunter's Heart not the most epic Arthur/Gwen episode? I don't know if it would have been nearly as effective if they have been reunited. 


( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
Brilliant analysis and I agree wholeheartedly.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad someone shares my views!
Dec. 17th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
Wow! I really don't know what to say... you voiced everything I was thinking and so much more! I agree with absolutely everything you said, but I could have never said it so well.

Thanks so much for putting this together! Definitely a keeper for future reference. :)

Do you mind if I friended you?
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
Not at all! Friend away.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
I loved this. I think you've looked at all the complaints about the episode and really explained them beautifully.

When I first watched the episode, I thought something was off about Arthur and then he recognized the place somehow but I thought it was more Uther's doing and that Arthur was feeling guilty about it. How much more effective it was to have Arthur be the one who was in charge! Plus since he'd done some things I considered OOC in other episodes (putting a sword to a Druid child's throat, following his father's orders to take no prisoners at the Druid camp), it made those instances much more poignant now that we know more about Arthur.

As for Colin and Bradley's performances, they've been very nuanced and gorgeous this year. I'm really enjoying Bradley especially now that he's gotten some meatier roles.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
Ah, I didn't recall those other moments, but yes, the other instances are much more poignant in retrospect. We always knew Arthur was desperate to please his father, but we rarely saw how much the person Arthur thought he needed to be was in conflict with who he truly was. We sympathize with Merlin because we experience the show from his perspective, but Arthur is in a way going through similar struggles of hiding who he really is. And it's even worse for Arthur because at least Merlin is happy with who he is (just not recognized for it). Arthur is recognized but never feels like he's good enough.

Gah! Season-4!Arthur, you're killing me!

And yes, Bradley has really been given a chance to shine, even if that means Arthur is in a perpetual state of unhappiness. Good thing Merlin's there to cheer him up!

Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting!
Dec. 17th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the whole review, but I saw where you were going with it. I LOVED this ep from the very beginning. I thought Bradley knocked it out of the park (he's killing me this season too) and hadn't really thought he was preoccupied with Gwen. Rewatching some of the eps really makes them so much better when you know what's coming and why certain things are the way they are.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
really interesting analysis, you've certainly made me think harder about that episode.

I have to admit I only dabble on the edges of this fandom, so I wasn't aware of people complaining about this ep or the characterisations, but I do remember thinking that Merlin and Arthur were acting a bit 'off' in that ep. I'll rewatch it in a new light now!
Dec. 18th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading. Yeah, I totally thought Merlin and Arthur was off too. As for the reactions/complaints, I recently discovered Tumblr and it is at once highly addicting, entertaining, and a frightening place where people give feedback on instantaneous gut reactions and that's how this review came about :) I love fandom.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
You are so right! :D

I absolutely agree with you! I think this episode wasn't the best, but it was much better than some people made it out to be. Thanks for writing my thoughts about this in an understandable way :P

(can't wait for this week's episode)
Dec. 18th, 2011 08:12 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading! I just rewatched this weeks episode and there was much to love.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC)
I love this. At first, Arthur and Merlin seemed a bit off, but by the end, it made perfect sense. I thought this was definitely one of Merlin's stronger episodes. It had a fresh, surprising plot that not even Gaius expected. The writers have been paying a lot more attention to character development this season.
Dec. 18th, 2011 08:15 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading! Yeah, it was kinda cool that even if you suspected Arthur knew more than he was telling, I think everyone was caught off guard about his personal culpability because he's Freaking King Arthur. It just reminds you that the noble and chivalrous Arthur of legend didn't sprout from Uther's head fully formed.
Dec. 17th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
I'll admit, I fell for the 'preoccupied with Gwen' thing the first time I watched 4x10, but I just saw it again, and I think you're bang on in everything you've said, both about it and the series as a whole. Nice to have someone articulate what I've been trying to sort through while watching this season.

The only thing that I would add - though in reading your analysis, I'm starting to wonder if there's room for it - is that I get the impression that Arthur is either aware or suspicious of Merlin having magic. There have been several times during Season 4 where Arthur has either been in a direct position to see/hear Merlin's magic (the rock slide comes to mind) or has visibly reacted to it (he looked around at the words Merlin used to send the wyverns away in 4x1/2, I think it was). Also, during the fight scene between Arthur and Elyan, Elyan reacted to the door lock exploding, but Arthur didn't - as if he was expecting something like this to happen. You can lose yourself in a fight, true, but Arthur's a good enough fighter to be keenly aware of his surroundings at all times. I am torn about how to interpret his lack of reaction. All of the main characters are played by very detail-oriented, deliberate actors, and I find it hard to believe that some of the actions/reactions we've seen are inadvertent and weren't caught by the director.

At any rate, I'd like to think that some of Arthur's behavior toward Merlin, especially in 4x11, is reflective of his conflict about having a known/suspected sorcerer for a friend and servant. I'd like to be able to interpret his allowing Merlin accompany him to met the Druid boy in 4x10 as partly a plea for trust on Merlin's part. Everything you've said stands on its own, though, so I'm probably off the mark - as usual. :-)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Dec. 24th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Hey there,

Didn't mean to delay so long in replying to your comment, but it gave me some food for thought about Arthur knowing and I wanted to think about it :) I'd like to think that Arthur at least wouldn't be surprised if Merlin was magic, that he's willfully ignoring the clues because once he starts acknowledging them he's have to uphold the law and get rid of Merlin and he doesn't want that! That said, I think the show tends to make its developments pretty obvious and if Arthur knows, we'd know too. Plus Bradley himself has said it's frustrating that Arthur doesn't know.

What would be kinda cool is if Bradley is quietly undermining the writers and playing Arthur as if he secretly knew in his not!reactions when Merlin is doing magic nearby to influence future episodes. :P Or...not.

Happy Christmas and Merlin Finale Day!
Dec. 17th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
This review is all my thoughts...

Seriously, my sister and I (psychology student, and a therapist) psychoanalyze this show to death, but hardly ever get our thoughts down on paper. This review said exactly what we've talked about over and over again, from Merlin's floundering and depression this season, to Arthur's internal feelings. I love it! It's good to see someone taking the show as seriously as we do, as sometimes even the writers don't.
Dec. 18th, 2011 08:20 am (UTC)
Haha, glad to find some kindred spirits. I was a psych student too! But I only psychoanalyze fictional people and rage over why the writers don't take it as seriously and then forcibly remind myself that they are writing for a family audience and then I calm down. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the read - makes me feel like I didn't just waste the last week tinkering with this on my spare time!
Dec. 17th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
Yes. Beautiful analysis. I read every word. This is the kind of stuff that I live for in fandom (even though I tend to be more of a lurker than anything ^^;)

I particularly like your thoughts on Merlin's characterization this season, because you're right, he's floundering a bit, and with good cause. Just as Arthur has to find his way in his new position as King, Merlin is going to have to really assess his role not just in Arthur's life, but in the big picture of what their joint destiny is really going to look like. You mentioned how Merlin is learning that not everything can be solved by magic, and how his role as teacher/advisor to Arthur is really starting to take shape. In addition to that, he's beginning to discover that there are parts of his destiny that actually extend beyond just Arthur.

Aithusa was a great episode because it pulled to the foreground the importance of Merlin as a dragonlord and how, in that instance, that role superseded Arthur's will. In The Secret Sharer he learns that there are others with magic willing to give their loyalty and lives to him and the future he seeks to bring about. That's kind of a big deal, because in my mind what that is really saying is that just as those without magic rally behind Arthur because of the kind of man and kind of king that he is, those with magic will do the same for Merlin.

I think it's going to be really important for Merlin to acknowledge these things; that part of him becoming the man that he needs to be will involve him really embracing his importance to the magic of the world; the Druids, the Dragons, and all others who were once persecuted under Uther's reign. There are people and creatures out there willing to lay down their lives for who he is and what he represents, but I think it's really easy for him to get stuck in the role of manservant and shield to Arthur. That perception of himself is making him act and feel smaller than what he really is. At some point, I hope that Merlin will get it. I hope that he'll realize just how significant he is in the grand scheme of things, because I really don't think he understands it yet.

Anyway, those are my rambling two cents. Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts to words. I'll be keeping an eye out for your postings in the future ;)
Dec. 18th, 2011 09:04 am (UTC)
Ooh, not rambly at all. In fact, you've put into words something my brain was just skirting around but couldn't really articulate. Yes, Merlin is limiting his conception of who he is and who he can be. From season 1 Merlin's had an attitude of 'Magic is who I am and poor me, I can't be myself but one day people will see me for who I am." But the truth is, he hasn't discovered all of himself yet, he hasn't grown into the person he could be.

Exactly as you've said, Aithusa was one of the few times Merlin took ownership of a role that was beyond his responsibility to Arthur. In this case, his actions were his choice, it wasn't something thrust upon him that he was just reacting to. As for The Secret Sharer, even though I thought it was a bit convenient that er...that sorcerer guy...turned on Morgana and declare his loyalty to Merlin, the point is, Merlin has allies. And poor Merlin doesn't know what to do with that information! He just kinda...runs away. It's happened nearly every time he meets the Druids - they're like 'hey, you're important, we believe in you and we're behind you,' and Merlin's all 'um...I'm going to go now.'

It could be that Merlin isn't only stuck in his perception that he's just Arthur's shield, but that he's hiding behind that role as well. It must be terrifying to have Dragons and creepy people, and Gaius (oh Gaius!) keep telling you that he's important, that the peace of his kind and all of kingdoms that make up the future Albion depends on him. How great of a responsibility and burden is that!? It's understandable that he'd stick to something more manageable in scope, but yes, just as he's taken ownership of his role as dragonlord, I think it's important to his development for Merlin to acknowledge that there's a bigger picture and he's not as alone as he think he is. He needs to learn how to trust.

I mean, he doesn't have to lead an army, but maybe if he needed help, say, getting rid of Morgana, he could enlist his magical allies and burn her hovel down or something?

It's 1 in the morning. I'm probably not making sense. But yeah, you made some great additional points. Thanks for commenting!
Dec. 18th, 2011 12:50 am (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to write and share all this thought-provoking material! I don't think A Herald of the New Age will ever be a fav s4 ep for me (so many cool eps this season!), but it is certainly a unique one and has earned it's place in this great season. I liked it more than most people for many of the reasons you expanded on (especially because this particular story works perfectly taking place right after Gwen's banishment--those clever writers), but you also shined light on a lot of things for me (helped me make peace with the curious nature of some of the Merlin/Arthur interactions, particularly). Great in-depth piece of meta. I love your brain!

Dec. 18th, 2011 01:04 am (UTC)
Oh you're welcome! I don't know what came over me, I just felt like I wanted to defend the episode. 4x10 isn't actually one of my favorites, there were just so many strong episodes this season, but I didn't want to title the essay 'or why this episode didn't suck as much as people think it does!' I liked your turn of phrase -- maybe I could steal it and rename this 'Or Why 4x10 Earns Its Place in a Great Season 4' ?

Dec. 18th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)
Sounds good! And you've done it with the correct "its", very nice. ;) Seems I will never learn to get my "its" and "it's" straight, for some reason...

Looking back at other seasons, I think we have gotten some real duds in the past. 4x10 is not one of them, imo, though it is peculiar and has its faults. Now if you can just convince me to like "Lamia" I'll be able to say season 4 is completely dud-free... ;)

Edited at 2011-12-18 04:09 am (UTC)
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
Is that a challenge? :)

I think it was one of the weaker episodes this season in that it wasn't particularly sophisticated nor was it necessary to drive forward the major plots. Plus Arthur and Merlin were separated most of the time, so that extra spark was missing!

That said, there was a lot to love. It brought some issues to the fore, reflected the state of several relationships and I actually really liked seeing who Merlin was outside of Arthur. Plus, this is the beginnings of Merlin-the-Physician, who we got to see again in the Sword in the Stone (Part 1)!

I might write something up and just post on my journal if there's interest - but I'm currently flailing over the finale. I've been trying to analyze the trailer, and while Arthur's story is pretty straight forward, I can honestly say I really can't predict how Merlin will play into the finale at all! (Which is a good thing, but it's driving me bonkers!)
Dec. 20th, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)
Plus Arthur and Merlin were separated most of the time, so that extra spark was missing!

Ding ding ding! Shortage of Arthur/Merlin tomfoolery is always fair grounds for episode disappointment. Lol!

It's true, though, there is always something redeemable in every episode of Merlin, at least imo. Even the eps that leave me frowning, when I go back and watch them, there are some bits that still have me giggling and squeeing and crying.

OMG finale part one!!!!!! I share your flailing. As soon as I was done watching, I went back and watched again. Love it. I'm planning a small feast with two of my friends this Saturday while we watch part two, this is how geeky I am (Christmas Eve is just an excuse, really :P).
Dec. 24th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
So jealous that you have friends to enjoy the finale with! I've already told my family that part of my Christmas Eve will be spent watching Merlin by myself (so I can flail without holding back) and to give me some space if I'm a little moody afterwards :)

Enjoy your Merlin-watching feast and Merry Christmas!

Edited at 2011-12-24 07:56 pm (UTC)
Dec. 24th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
(Oops, accidentally posted anonymously.)

:) Thanks, I'm fortunate to have two such fabulous geeky friends. Though they are a little behind on Merlin... so I have to wait for them to catch up today before I can watch the new one... aaahhh the finale I can't wait!!

I'm glad your family will give you space, I've heard tales from fans whose family would hide their computers around Christmas Eve/Christmas to force them to spend all their time with family-- lol! The horror!
Dec. 24th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
And Merry Christmas to you too!
Dec. 18th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading this and I agree with your points on Merlin and Arther. They have both seemed a little lost in many ways this series.

The only thing I would disagree with is saying that the bracelet was a cop out. For me it was a reminder that Gwen and Morgana once knew each other well. They were once friends. Morgana knows that Gwen ia a loyal person; loyal enough to let herself be captured so that Morgana could have a chance to escape and loyal to Uther even after he had her father killed.

To me it seemed like Morgana knew Gwen would be tempted by Lancalot (let's face it, who wouldn't be?) but wasn't sure temptation would be enough, and used that knowledge of her character against her.

I do agree that finding out about the bracelet would be a cop out though (unless Morgana herself reveals it as a taunt or something which I could kind of see happening).

Anyway, thanks again for this. It is reassuring to know other people spend as much time as I do over-analysing fiction!
Dec. 18th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
Oh thank you for sharing your thoughts. Actually, I do agree that Morgana resorting to the bracelet does demonstrate that Morgana understood Gwen very well, that Golden Gwen wouldn't act on temptation once she's committed to Arthur and she needed that extra push. Plus, Morgana needed a guarantee, and she wasn't going to sit around waiting for things to develop over time! The bracelet totally made sense for the episode.

I think what I was trying to say is that I'm a little disappointed in the overall characterization of Gwen, that the writers had established her as Heart-of-Gold, Do-No-Wrong Gwen and to me, it made her a little 2-dimensional. The presence of Lancelot presented a great opportunity to expand her character and they didn't take it. What would have helped was not killing Lancelot in the first place so that this love triangle could develop organically. Ah well.

OMG, I spend so much time analyzing fiction! But it's fun though, no?
Dec. 18th, 2011 01:19 am (UTC)
I truly admire the complexity of your analysis and that you've tried to rationalise it as you have. I love such deep thought going into episode deconstruction. But I'm afraid just dont see it as you do. 'You're as stupid as you are ugly' finished it for me. As far as I can see the producers have lost their way completely with the characterisation of Merlin - he's whatever suits the plot from episode to episode, whatever enable the progress of other characters. Because they wont allow the reveal they've got nowhere to go with him and ' the greatest sorceror ever ever ever' becomes an adolescent using party tricks depending on whichever conceit they're using for a particular episode. I find Im losing my handle on Merlin as a character, and I sometimes wonder if Colin is as well. 4.10 wasnt the worst though by any means - I agree for example about the red herring of 'Arthurs pining for Gwen' which was very well done. 4.11 now - that was a TOTAL stinker... :p
Dec. 18th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comment and to each their own opinion, right? :)

Actually, I found it peculiar that so many people took issue with the line 'You're as stupid as you are ugly' as if Arthur actually meant it. Isn't that how buddies and siblings talk to one another?

Merlin was teasing Arthur about crying ("tears streaming down your face") and was being totally playful at that point and Arthur just wanted to end it - it was a sore point for him and probably not something he wanted to joke about. I didn't see it as any different from an exchange between an annoyed big brother and his brother:

*mockingly* I thought you've changed
And you're dumb, go away

On Merlin, yeah, I was just thinking today that they spend a lot of time developing Arthur while Merlin remains mostly stagnant and that does frustrate me. They can do so much with him with a talent like Colin and I don't think revealing Merlin's magic is necessary for growth. Like actually take a stand for the magical community even if he doesn't reveal himself like Morgana did before she went crazy, or realize his place in history is so much more than Arthur's bodyguard, or get dark and be more morally ambiguous -- Merlin in legend was devious, no?

But on that line you quoted, it didn't seem terribly out of place - it was predictable and did its job of saying, show's over, everything is back to normal!

Anyway...clearly they did something right if they can get us so emotionally invested! Thanks for commenting.
Dec. 18th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
Hey there :) And of course each to their own. :) Thats the joy of this for me - that we can all discuss our own ideas of what we see.

Re the line - I agree it would have been fine if it were in the context of buddies or siblings but it wasnt. That ep and subsquent ones showed that the M/A relationship had mysteriously slid back to S3 - Merlin is just a servant, not a buddy. Not someone who can say the same stuff back; not someone who can do anything other than snipe from the sidelines in revenge for slights. Plus watching Merlin mishandle the situation as he did - mocking Arthur's catharsis - just felt wrong and out of character. Not Merlin who knows how emotionally undeveloped Arthur is, who handles his emotional moments with kid gloves. Till now.

On the issue of the magic reveal, I really don't agree that its not necessary. I think this season has proved that without it the character of Merlin has nowhere to go in this show beyond plot device to other people's development. And the A/M relationship becomes stagnant, discordant and incoherent. As someone who loves the character of Merlin as well its become hugely unsatisfying. There is no reward for Merlin. Ever. Just loss and the odd patronising pat on the head.

BUT as you say we all see things differently! Im glad you didn't mind me commenting. :)
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Happy Merlin Day!

I just realized I hadn't responded. Just wanted to say that your comments definitely gave me a lot of food for thought! Thinking on this some more, I agree that a reveal is necessary for Merlin as a character and that his character has been stagnant for a long while now. Even professional reviewers have commented on the fact that though Merlin is the name of the show, he basically just an accessory to Arthur's growth episode after episode. And he can't ever take on grown-up responsibilities and be accountable for his decisions and actions if others don't know about him and hold him accountable - last episode Merlin took away Arthur's free will and I found it troubling that he did it so easily and without consequence.

From what I can gather from interview material, it seems that the show's goal is to tell the story of how Arthur became the King Arthur of legend. What I suspect, and fear a little bit, is that this has caused the writers to prioritize Arthur's story over the others and it may or may not be a conscience choice that Merlin's character development has remained stagnant. Assuming that the writers are writing with Arthur as top priority, I'm not surprised (though a little disappointed) that Merlin as a character is compromised occasionally to serve the plot/tone/a joke etc. If this is the attitude of the writers, it's possible that they can keep Merlin's secret for a little while longer, but for Merlin the character, a reveal has been very very long overdue.

That all said, the writers have a very difficult task of playing off a well-known story, maintaining their own show identity, writing for a specific demographic and all under severe time constraints and uncertainty of the show's fate. I'm sure they are all trying to do their best. :)

Maybe this whole conversation will be moot in a few hours (fingers crossed). Enjoy the finale and merry Christmas!
Dec. 18th, 2011 07:41 am (UTC)
I agree with a lot of what you say here. Did want to comment about rather than hitting us over the head with soul-bearing, heart-to-heart Arthur-Merlin dialog that send Merthur shippers’ all atwitter. Yay subtly and nuance!

I don't like that people have this general perception of Arthur/Merlin fans as somehow immature or trite. It's like people can appreciate something between two women or between a woman and a man, but the moment you appreciate something between two guys it's automatically perceived as somehow juvenile or obnoxious. Regardless of other very worthwhile elements of this story, there is unquestionable intimacy between Merlin and Arthur, no matter how you look at it; I don't think it makes someone shallow to enjoy that.
Dec. 18th, 2011 09:54 am (UTC)
Hi ghrelin,

Thanks for sticking up for your views! And I mean it :) That said, I was surprised that that particular turn of phrase elicited that particular reaction (perhaps I used the term Merthur wrong? or perhaps 'atwitter' has a negative connotation I was unaware of?), so let me try to clarify.

You'll notice that I followed up the line you quoted with "I LOVE it when they have their heart-to-hearts" and spent a good portion of the review loving the fact that Arthur is willing to share and would only share such intimate moments with Merlin. I even used the word 'intimate' in the essay, so in that regards, we are in total agreement. Regardless of who Arthur marries, Merlin and Arthur are best mates, soul mates, and the strongest relationship either will have with any one else and the strongest relationship in the entire Merlin-verse.

I revel in moments that are just Merlin and Arthur - I just watched the fireside chat in the latest episode multiple times, and gah, just, their relationship is breathtaking. How is seeing the possibility of this relationship going further given the groundwork laid in canon juvenile or trite or shallow? I never thought it was and the ship has generated both beautiful and highly entertaining fanwork. It does make me a little sad to hear that people feel belittled for what they enjoy though. I try to stay out of shipper wars.

What I WAS trying to get at was that I appreciate it when the writers 'show' and doesn't rely on just 'tell.' In this episode, Arthur didn't 'tell,' not directly, but he did 'show.' It was about the things unsaid but implied that makes Arthur and Merlin sparkle. The show tend towards very not-subtle (perhaps for the kids), so I was merely celebrating the fact that his episode gave us something a little more challenging and layered to enjoy.
Dec. 18th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC)
*stumbled onto this post through mxa news*
Very interesting read! I honestly hadn't realized episode 4x10 wasn't well received. I've only read a few reactions and they were all really positive. A lot of the time while reading your commentary I thought 'Of course! How can you interpret it differently?' So I totally agree with everything you've written and I admire how you expressed it so eloquently!
Especially the whole "Choose your words carefully", obviously Arthur suspected Merlin had something to do with breaking Elyan out!
Arthur's emotional revelation at the end of the episode was amazing; I hadn't seen it coming, like Merlin we thought his moodswings were about Gwen. His teary promise was heartwarming while yes, at the same time, it doesn't change anything immediate about the fact magic is forbidden in Camelot.
The fact that Merlin was chatty and commenting on everything struck me as a little odd at first; I figured it was just this particular script-writer that interpreted Merlin like that which isn't really OOC, because we can pretty sure that's how Merlin thinks all the time, he just doesn't always voice it quite so candidly. But yeah; venting, that's how I think it has to be explained too; he was stressed and uncomfortable and that's what it resulted in. It was endearing in a way too :-)
I think around the end of season I was reading a small discussion about the character and someone said 'kill off Uther and you kill the series because the conflict will be gone'. It's great to see that Uther dying has meant for Arthur and Merlin to be forced to mature and that there is still plenty of conflict to provide great episodes. One word that kept crossing my mind while watching season 3 was 'stagnation', it felt like there wasn't enough development, both in the characters as well as the general overarching plot; S4 has been nothing like that and this episode does indeed rightfully belongs in this lovely season!
Dec. 18th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughts! I think this episode was less well-received in relation to a really strong start to the season. If this were from previous season, I don't think there'd be an issue at all! And clearly, I should stick to LJ for positivity!

Why, oh why are there only 13 episodes a season!?!
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 18th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Here from merlin_tv
Hi silkorsatin! I responded to lullabylily that I think this episode was less well-received in relation to a really strong start to the season. I didn't mean to give the impression that there was a lot of proactive dislike for the episode, just that it didn't get the love it deserved because people only watch it once and didn't pick up on some of the really great things about it!

Regarding Elyan, I can see you're point about the potential implication of the ghost-hugging scene. I forget if Elyan knew the boy was a victim of the (or any) king at that point, but regardless, facing his fears and sympathizing with a marginalized, reviled race would have done wonders for Elyan's characterization. Sadly, I didn't get any of that from the performance -- I've yet to be impressed by the actor -- but I guess that's what fan fiction is for! So yeah, kudos to the writers if that was their intent!
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 24th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Here from merlin_tv
Happy Merlinday and a merry Christmas to you too :)
Dec. 18th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
I very rarely ever end up actually commenting on things, but I definitely had to in this case. I've always wanted to make the time to send down and really do an in depth analysis of Merlin episodes in response to some reviews that really don't delve very deeply at all. You have done so much more than I think I ever could for this episode. I think this show really does have a certain level of sophistication when analyzed at this level, and it makes it that much more rewarding to watch. Having read this, and agreeing with you on pretty much everything, I am even more excited for the conclusion of this series.

One thing that I haven't had time to think about too deeply is that Arthur hid his suspicions about Elyan being possessed from Agravaine. To me, that indicated that in some way Arthur doesn't fully trust him. I don't think he suspects betrayal (and having seen more episodes he obviously didn't), but maybe he views Agravaine as being less capable of making more nuanced judgements about morality than just Good/Bad? That's what I took from that, but I thought that was a big moment for Arthur. It's the first time we've really seen him actively pursuing one direction, while leading his uncle in another. It's a moment of independence for him, which shows that after all that internal conflict he is starting to gain some confidence about the decisions he has to make on his own in regards to dealing with Elyan.
Dec. 24th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
Hi lailinte,

My apologies for the delayed response and thank you very much for commenting! And I'm sure many of us would appreciate more in-depth analysis of Merlin episodes if that's any incentive for you to write them :)

Regarding the moment with Agravaine, it was a moment to celebrate wasn't it? It was nice to see Arthur disagreeing with him. That said, I suspect it was because Arthur knew he had more information than anyone and therefore Agravaine's advice wasn't fully informed and reliable. In retrospect, that the exchange showed was that Arthur was still capable of making his own decisions when he feels confident about it and that it's when he's in a new situation that he really relies on his uncle. Still, it's nice to know see Arthur able to assert himself! He had us worried for a while, no?

Merry Christmas!
Dec. 18th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
Excellent bit of meta. I think episode 4.10 is underrated, possibly because viewers were too quick to assume the surface was all there was. I loved your comparison to the 'Sixth Sense' where the reactions of the characters fall into place on second viewing.

I'm also impressed with your discussion of Merlin, especially for the latter half of the season. You raise an excellent point that he's discovering magic is not always the answer, and that he has strengths other than magic.
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks Anon,

Yes, I think it was the underratedness (it's a word now!) was what prompted the post. But I just realized that not every law-abiding citizen has the option of rewatching! I totally forgot. I do hope that people will have a chance in the future though, and find new appreciation for it the second time around.
Dec. 24th, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
Late to the party!

I love you for defending this ep so thoroughly. I had a couple of nitpicks about the ep, but they were more or less the same ones as you had ("Seriously guys? You think he'd attack Arthur for that?"). Otherwise I really enjoyed it. I hadn't considered rewatching it, and your post has really put some of the episode's actions into perspective in light of the ending, but even as a stand alone single viewing I thought it did not bad.

I sort of wish I had rewatched it now. It had bugged me at the beginning the way Arthur "got the heebie jeebies" in the camp. It's not like him to get the heebie jeebies, and it puzzled me. It really is a "Sixth Sense" type episode like you say, where things are odd for the whole thing and click into place at the end. Sure, it's no movie script, but it was reasonably well done and I hope they aren't put off putting that kind of depth into an episode again.

I think Arthur suspected that Merlin broke Elyan out of prison.

The subtext of "That's very interesting Merlin. And was that before or after you broke Elyan out of prison?" was almost palpable. He made the concious decision to watch Merlin lie to his face, and ignore it. Like I think he has so often done. I like that he ignores Merlin's "fabrications" in general, but I was particularly interested in the way he more or less consented to Elyan's release.

But what really made my inner-fangirl squee was that Arthur wanted Merlin to be with him when confronted the spirit, even if he would never admit it.

Ditto! Especially from a post-revelation perspective, when you realise Arthur knew damn fine how emotional and traumatic that encounter had the potential to be. Letting anyone witness that was huge, not least for someone like Arthur. He knew Merlin would follow him, let him follow him, and wasn't at all annoyed when Merlin did as he always does and followed him. That's an immense bond of not just trust, but friendship, to want Merlin to be there. Just, guh. Now that we're towards (at the!) end of S4, he seems to realise it more conciously, but in the past it's like no matter how much Merlin is just an empty-headed sack of spuds for a servant, he's a constant background presence that Arthur doesn't feel as secure without.

At first I was a little baffled by Merlin's attitude, but now I’d say, of course Merlin was irritated and sassy in this episode! That's how he vents.

I wonder if this was any easier for British viewers. Sarcasm is not only a fairly regular form of humour here, but a fairly regular way for someone to express when they're emotional. If someone gets unusually smart, smarmy, or sarcastic with you, often it's a sign that there's something on their mind. I really don't watch enough US TV to know how similar it is over there.

I know that I at least reacted to Merlin's attitude with a mix of "ouch" and "awww". He may not have stopped and had a good old cry about it, but I spent a lot of the episode sad because of how blatant I felt his pain was throughout.

and perhaps why they changed the opening narration from ‘young boy’ to ‘young man’!

To be fair, this might have something to do with Colin being 25 and quite possibly asking them if now that Merlin is feasibly in his early twenties, can we please stop calling him a "young boy" in front of all and sundry. I giggle whenever I hear the intro because I tend to imagine that it's the 25 year old asking them to swap it (I know I'd be bugged if a TV show was calling me a young girl!).

Or it could be a reaction to in-character physical age. Or d) some combination of all the above.

tl;dr: You are awesome for being able to write this sort of thing better than I ever could. This episode deserves more praise. It wasn't typical, and there was more char development than ZOMG ANCIENT ENEMY, but it wasn't bad by any manner or means.
Dec. 25th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
Haha, thanks for joining the party! And you tl;dr'd your comment - how awesome :)

I want to highlight parts of your reply and go yes, yes, and oh interesting! Maybe when it's less hectic after the holidays. But I thought your comment on British vs. American audiences was particularly interesting (And I think from the spelling and phrasing alone it's clear I'm the latter, no?). Since the show is written first and foremost with the British audience in mind, I'm probably not getting everything the show intended because I don't have that cultural insight and experience.

On the intro, when I wrote that aside it was more tongue in cheek; I'm pretty sure the show runner changed it more because it was getting absurd to call Merlin a young boy and it was just a coincidence that the show has matured. :) But what a happy coincidence! (I don't think Colin asked for it though, I saw an interview where someone asked about the change and he didn't even know it happened! I love that he doesn't seem to have an ego ^_^)

Wow, this reply got long! Happy holidays!
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