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Series 4 – Merlin’s Transition to Advisor

Merlin is doing some of his advisory role already when the series opens. He’s already writing Arthur’s speeches. And Arthur is being particularly kind with Merlin’s fears, as well as open about his own fears once the Doracha are unleashed.

We once again check in with the fundamental obstacle in the friendship – the fact that Arthur can never truly know or understand Merlin as a person as long as Merlin continues to hide the fact that he’s a magical being:

Arthur: Of all the things I’ve faced... I’ve never worried about dying.
Merlin: I don’t think you should now.
Arthur: Sometimes you puzzle me.
Merlin: You’ve never fathomed me out?
Arthur: No.

No change there then. And then there’s this:

Merlin: I always thought if things had’ve been different, we would have been good friends.
Arthur: Yeah.
Merlin: That’s if you hadn’t been such an arrogant pompous dollophead.
Arthur: *laughs* *nods*

And I can hear you say now, “I thought you said they were friends in S2 and S3! There goes your entire argument!” And to that I say, “Hey, nothing’s perfect.” And I’ll also point out the following:
A)Arthur AGREES that they would have been good friends. He never would have done that if Merlin had said the same thing to him back in S1 or even the beginning of S2.
B)Merlin doesn’t blame Arthur’s station for their supposed lack of friendship, he blames the fact that Arthur made a very bad first impression. Merlin doesn’t say “If things WERE different”, but rather “If things HAD’VE been different”, meaning that the thing that prevented them being good friends was an event in the past. So, you might be accusing me of stretching things, but I think Merlin is referring to how long it took them to become friends, rather than the idea that it is impossible for them to be friends NOW (which is the notion that Arthur operated under during S2 due to their different social status.)

I mean, it’s pretty obvious how much Arthur cares for Merlin when Arthur wants to call of the quest to save Camelot after Merlin is injured. (Also, um, Arthur still doesn’t expect that maybe Merlin is a little different when he survives something that “no mortal” has ever survived? I guess Arthur just doesn’t like questioning his miracles.)

We get further proof that the master-servant thing is now a non-issue when Merlin offers to sacrifice himself in Arthur’s place:

Merlin: What is the life of a servant compared to that of a Prince?
Arthur: Well, a good servant’s hard to come by.
Merlin: I’m not that good.
Arthur: True. One thing - Look after Guinevere....

Arthur just carries on as though Merlin hadn’t even spoken, even after acknowledging the fact that Merlin IS a horrible servant. But it’s not Merlin’s services as a servant that are important to Arthur. 

Of course, we get a minor setback to everything when Uther is killed in 4x03 and Arthur takes the throne. This comes right after Merlin’s plan to change Arthur’s mind about magic backfires spectacularly, so it’s a tough time all ‘round for everyone.

I should point out though that even after Arthur unknowingly (by association) calls Merlin “pure evil,” Merlin still sits outside the great hall all night while Arthur mourns his father, and we get this exchange that reaffirms that the friendship is still there:

Arthur: Merlin. It’s a new day. You been here all night?
Merlin: I did not want you to feel that you were alone.
Arthur: You are a loyal friend, Merlin.

When Arthur takes the throne, he, like most people in a new job, thinks that he has to change to suit the job, rather than changing the job to suit him. So, he not only goes back to dismissing Merlin as only a servant, but he also tries to break up with Gwen. It doesn’t help that Agravaine is feeding into this false belief of Arthur’s that Arthur as he is, is not good enough to be king. (This comes down to the fact that Arthur is human and, for all his outward arrogance, is actually quite susceptible to low self-esteem. I’ll talk about this in an Aside later.)

Arthur stops taking Merlin’s advice and chastises him for speaking above his station (4x05):

Merlin: Arthur, you’ve always shown mercy in battle, you’ve never sought to humiliate your enemy in this way. This isn’t like you. This isn’t who you are-
Arthur: You have no idea what it is to make these decisions - Decisions that will shape the future of this land-
Merlin: Arthur-
Arthur: -So please! Stick to what you do know.

And...

Merlin: So you don’t regret what you did?
Arthur: My conscience is clean, Merlin, which is more than I can say for my room. So, just, do your job, will you.
Merlin: Look, I’m just saying, if there’s something bothering you, you can talk to me. You shouldn’t push your friends away, you know? Not now, not when you need them most.
Arthur: You’re wrong, Merlin. I don’t need anyone. I can’t afford that luxury. The kingdom’s my responsibility now, mine to bear alone, and you must learn to accept that.

And who can blame Arthur really? His only model for a ‘successful’ king was his widowed, paranoid, and tyrannical father, who seemingly had only one friend (Gaius) who he didn’t even trust. If Arthur thinks that he needs to be more like his father in order to be an effective king, then it’s no wonder that Agravaine’s advice sounds like the right course of action rather than listen to his own gut or Merlin.

Of course, when following Agravaine’s advice leads to unwanted war, Arthur eventually realizes the mistake he’s made. He both reassures Merlin that they are friends (“Thank you, old friend”) before he goes off to a deadly battle, and when he’s in the thick of battle and has the choice whether to end his opponents life or spare him, he looks up at Merlin before making the decision – no doubt thinking of Merlin’s earlier advice that mercy could also be a sign of strength. Then, wonder of all wonders, at the end of the episode, Arthur actually outright tells Merlin that he should have listened to Merlin in the first place.

And this brings us to 4x06, which is a great episode and shows how much closer Merlin and Arthur’s friendship has grown over the years. First, we get some great h/c when Merlin is injured in a surprise attack and Arthur attempts to get him to safety. We get a great conversation:

Arthur: I’ve seen worse...definitely seen worse.
Merlin: On a dead man?
Arthur: You’re not going to die, Merlin. Don’t be such a coward.
Merlin: If I do die, will you call me a hero?
Arthur: Probably.
Merlin: But whilst I’m still alive, I’m a coward?
Arthur: It’s the way these things work, I’m afraid. You get the glory when you’re not around to appreciate it.
Merlin: Unless you’re the King.
Arthur: Come on, it’s got to have some advantages.
Merlin: You have a very good servant.
Arthur: You’re right, I do. A servant who’s extremely brave, incredibly loyal, to be honest, not at all cowardly.

They are separated and Merlin goes missing, and we get to see Arthur go out of his mind with worry. When Merlin turns up after days, Arthur hugs him even though Merlin is covered head to foot in mud...which is a pretty far cry from the days of the almost-hug back in S2.

Although the rest of the episode is primarily comedic, we actually get to see a lot of the domesticity that occurs between Arthur and Merlin on a regular basis. Most importantly, we see how much Arthur confides in Merlin during any given day. We get to hear that Merlin is the only person that Arthur feels that he can trust (I’m assuming he trust Gwen as well though). We also get to hear that Arthur finds being King quite lonely, with everyone expecting him to have the answer, but he “values the guidance of others.”

Finally, we are reminded WHY Arthur keeps Merlin around:

Arthur: Two whole days in the tavern....give me one good reason why I shouldn’t get rid of you on the spot.
Merlin: Because you’d have no one to polish your armour, make you breakfast, organize your clothes-
Arthur: Ah, well, that’s where you’re wrong. George! Merlin, meet George. George is perhaps the most efficient servant I’ve ever seen. He’ll be spending the rest of the week teaching you.
Merlin: Teaching me?
Arthur: If you want to remain in my service.
George: We will start in the armoury. Lesson One is my favourite: Polishing.

*Arthur tries to hide a smile*
[...]
Merlin: If he’s so good, why don’t you just give him the job?
Arthur: He’s seriously boring. I’ve never met anyone so dull. The man makes jokes about brass.

So, we see, that this episode is really about WHY Merlin is still Arthur’s manservant, even after all these years of becoming Arthur’s friend. The position of manservant means that Merlin is with Arthur constantly to serve as his friend, confident, and (as we are beginning to see) his most trusted advisor.

Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing. Arthur won’t believe Merlin when he accuses Agravaine of framing Gaius in 4x07, or of stealing the siege tunnel plans in 4x12 – Arthur’s belief that his family wouldn’t betray him wins out over his appreciation for Merlin’s advice. We’ll have to see if Arthur ultimately learns a lesson from this in S5.

When Elyan attacks Arthur in 4x10 after Gwen’s banishment, however, Arthur treats Agravaine and Merlin as EQUALS when it comes to listening to them about the situation – much to Agravaine’s disgust. Of course, being equals with a non-trustworthy advisor isn’t something Merlin feels too pleased about either. He’d probably much prefer to be Arthur’s sole and most-trusted advisor...and I’m really hoping that’ll happen in S5.

In 4x10, Arthur also allows Merlin to see him at his most emotionally vulnerable, when he lets Merlin follow him to the druid shrine and both admits, and apologizes, for his part in the genocide that took place there. Merlin, like a true friend, makes fun of Arthur for it as soon as he can, so that Arthur knows that it doesn’t change their friendship.

Gwen’s banishment also shows us how Merlin and Arthur both fall back on the master-servant relationship when they are fighting – they emphasize it in order to piss each other off. After all, how do you give someone the silent treatment when you have to spend all day with them? Well, you call them “Sire” and only speak when spoken to or you order them about and threaten to banish them when they try to talk to you.

Agravaine gets his brief moment of triumph when Arthur threatens to exile Merlin in front of him – but of course, Arthur can’t stay away from his servant-cum-advisor for very long. Weighed down by his doubts, Arthur once again asks Merlin for his advice:

Merlin: Is there anything you need?
Arthur: How can I love someone who’s betrayed me? It doesn’t make any sense. Yet how can I make myself love another? Tell me that.
Merlin: If there is nothing else that you require, perhaps I can-
Arthur: I don’t know what to do. I have no idea what to do. What shall I do, Merlin?
Merlin: All I know my lord is that no one would sacrifice more for you and Camelot than Gwen.
Arthur: And if that were so?
Merlin: You must do what your heart tells you so.
Arthur: And if I don’t know what that is?
Merlin: I think you do....Is there anything else, Sire?
Arthur: You may go.... Thank you, Merlin.

Here, we see Merlin is still mad at first. He’s practically throwing his servant status in Arthur’s face. Even as he advises Arthur, he still slightly cold about it – which is understandable, given that this isn’t anything he hasn’t already tried to say to Arthur when Arthur was unwilling to listen to him. But, Arthur thanks him as he moves to leave, and in my experience with male friendships, that’s the equivalent of “Sorry, I was an ass.”

In 4x12, we once again see Merlin ordering around the King. When Arthur spots Agravaine in the advancing army and realizes the depth of his betrayal, it’s Merlin who forcible holds him back and basically commands him to stand-down. Just think about what any other servant would have done in that situation! Even Merlin, who has never been a typical servant, had only once before physically held Arthur back and issued commands (3x12) which was a similar situation, though Arthur was much more vocal in his protests then in this instance when he agrees and allows Merlin to lead him away.

Of course, there are limits to what Arthur will agree to, so Merlin does in fact have to take charge by removing Arthur’s will entirely and making him a momentary “Simpleton.” Now, I don’t think this enchantment changes Arthur’s fundamental personality at all – it just appears to. It stripes away everything about him that he “wills” (and obviously, his intelligence), but I think the emotions that remain and the complete trust in Merlin are things that exist in Arthur normally.

This is also the episode where Arthur realizes that Merlin knew about Agravaine betrayal before him:

Arthur: You knew. You knew Agravaine was betraying me.
Merlin: I couldn’t be sure, but I did have my suspicious.
Arthur: I feel like such a fool. I had such trust in him...
[...]
Merlin: All I know is that for your many faults, you are honest and brave and true-hearted. And once day you will be the greatest king this land has ever known.
Arthur: Good to know I have the support of my servant, at least.
Merlin: I’m not alone. Believe me.

Arthur, at this point, has fallen into a fairly dark place self-esteem wise (some of which is Merlin’s own fault). With two people he loved having betrayed him, Merlin becomes more and more the only person that Arthur feels he can trust.

Sidenote: It also means that it would be the worst possible time for Merlin to reveal that he’s secretly been a sorcerer the whole time. Even if Arthur could see that Merlin only used his magic for good, the secret and the subterfuge itself would be seen as a type of betrayal. (Merlin, of course, will have this problem no matter when he reveals his magic, but doing so when Arthur is already feeling betrayed would only compound the problem. Agravaine practically spells this out for Merlin when he suggests that he and Merlin are similar because they’ve both easily fooled Arthur.)

The weight of just how precious Merlin has become to Arthur presents itself as they flee from Ealdor and Agravaine’s approaching army in 4x13. When they are followed into the caves and Merlin volunteers to double back and create a diversion, you can see in Arthur’s face how much the thought of anything happening to Merlin pains him, even though he reluctantly let’s Merlin go.

He doesn’t let him go for long though, because Merlin meets up with him in the tunnels after dealing with Agravaine and they have this exchange:

Arthur: Merlin! Where have you been?
Merlin: Were you worried about me?
Arthur: No! I was making sure we weren’t being followed.
Merlin: You came back to look for me.
Arthur: Alright, it’s true. I came back because you’re the only friend I have and I couldn’t bear to lose you.
Merlin: Really?
Arthur: Don’t be stupid.

Now, the first time I watched this scene, I interpreted “Don’t be stupid” as “No, not really – you’re an idiot servant and I’m a king and we’re not friends at all!” But, watching a second time, I realized that “Don’t be stupid” could be interpreted as “Don’t be stupid and ask me to repeat it or confirm, because we both know it’s true and this is already too mushy for me – grrr, I’m a man!” (or words to that effect.) But, no matter which way you slice it, it’s painfully obvious that Arthur is completely sincere when he tells Merlin that he’s his only friend and he couldn’t bear to lose him.

When they leave the caves, it’s once again Merlin doing the advising and Arthur following. Arthur continues to confide in Merlin too, even about his low self-esteem. Merlin, of course, solves that problem handily...and even when Arthur thinks that he’s about to make a fool of himself in front of his entire remaining kingdom trying to pull a sword from a stone, he still trusts Merlin.

Even when his self-confidence is restored and Arthur is confidently talking to the knights, Arthur still confides in Merlin about his fear of Morgana’s power. Merlin and Merlin alone (with a side-order of Gwen) has become Arthur’s confident and most trusted adviser.

And that’s where we leave off in S4. We have to wait for S5 to start before we see if Merlin’s role will be made official (I’m hoping yes) or if he’ll forever remain in the guise of a servant, so that he can stay by Arthur’s side 24/7 just as he has been doing.

Aside #4 – Lamia (4x08)
I think it’s a nice juxtaposition to give us the Lamia episode in S4, when Merlin’s servant status is really in name only. We get to see just how much Merlin isn’t usually treated like a servant; because, when the knights do start treating him like a servant, it serves as proof of their enchantment. (Sidenote: It drives me as crazy as everyone else that they never followed up with the emotional repercussions this episode would have produced.)

Aside #5 – Arthur/Merlin/Gwen – the Non-Sexual Threesome
At this point, you might be saying, “Wow, I can’t believe she just talked about the Arthur/Merlin relationship throughout four series, and she didn’t even mention the Great Dragon.” Well, I’m going to do that now, but, surprisingly, I’m not going to talk about how the Great Dragon (or the “Slash Dragon”, as fandom calls it) informs us about how Merlin and Arthur are in love and soulmates or whatever. Instead, I’m going to say that what the Great Dragon is trying to tell us is that whether they like it or not, Arthur, Merlin, and Gwen are in a threesome. Or rather, that whether they like it or not, Arthur and Merlin will ALWAYS be in “moresome” with each other and each other’s partners.

Now, as I disclaimed at the beginning, I don’t mean that they’re all having sex with each other. Arthur is having sex with Gwen (only after they are married, I’m sure ;) ), and Merlin is a non-sexual third partner in the relationship. He’s just as much a part of the relationship as Arthur and Gwen are, and the dragon tells us why.

The most famous “Slash Dragon” quotes when referring to Arthur and Merlin are:

You are two sides of the same coin” and “A half cannot truly hate that which makes it whole.

So, what do we notice about this? Here’s a hint: It’s not saying that Merlin and Arthur are romantic soulmates (at least not in the definition of “two souls that are destined to be together or complement each other.”) In both cases, what the dragon is saying is that Merlin and Arthur are INCOMPLETE without each other. I believe, he’s saying that Arthur and Merlin share one soul between them.

This means, of course, that if Gwen is to be with Arthur, she must also be with Merlin, because Arthur and Merlin, despite being in separate bodies, are not separate beings spiritually.

And this is why I like the way the show took time to establish a good Gwen+Merlin friendship, before they started setting up the Arthur/Gwen romance. I even like the fact that in the beginning, Gwen flirted with Merlin a little too, even though he was oblivious to it and she may have even been doing it accidentally. I like the fact that one of the first scenes of Gwen and Arthur working together was the episode in which they had to save Merlin from poison – and that Gwen kissed Merlin when he recovered and left him momentarily flustered. Gwen and Merlin’s friendship is adorably cute. It’s obvious they love each other, but their relationship never really has a sexual tone to it, even though they display a fair bit of physical affection.

When Arthur falls for Gwen, it’s Merlin who becomes her champion. He’s constantly encouraging Arthur not to give up hope, or to give it a go, or to change the laws once he’s king. Merlin knows that whoever Arthur marries, Merlin will effectively be married to them too – and Merlin already loves Gwen. He even flirts with her on behalf of Arthur:

*Arthur waiting for a quest*
Gwen: What’s he actually doing?
Merlin: Thinking.
Gwen: About?
Merlin: You. *smiles*

Merlin has a hand in nearly all of Arthur and Gwen’s private moments. He brings the dinner that Arthur “makes” Gwen while hiding out in her house. He helped Arthur take Gwen out on a picnic in 3x10. One of my favourite moments though is when the show gives us that shot of Merlin listening outside Gwen’s window when Arthur proposes, and we see him smile at her acceptance. Gwen isn’t just agreeing to marry Arthur, she’s agreeing to marry Merlin too. Gwen must know who it was that lit all those candles!

Arthur also constantly puts Merlin in charge of Gwen’s happiness. In the first few episodes of S4, whenever Arthur believes that he’s about to die. His final instructions to Merlin are to make sure that Gwen is happy.

We also see Merlin’s investment in the relationship after the Lancelot fiasco. The tricky thing about being in a triad is that if two members of the triad break-up, well, what say does the third have (especially a non-sexual third)? Merlin should have been talking to Gwen during the episode instead of assuming that Shade!Lancelot was going to target Arthur directly. Sadly, Merlin doesn’t clue in until it’s too late.

I really like the way they wrote Merlin in these scenes, because it’s not just Arthur losing a mate, Merlin is too. Arthur has effectively decided for Merlin that his relationship with Gwen is over. Merlin doesn’t want it to be, but, as we see, his arguments to Arthur are for naught. So, yes, I like the fact that we don’t actually see what words Merlin and Gwen may or may not have exchanged before she left town – or maybe they really didn’t speak at all – but Merlin is the last person Gwen sees, and the only person to see her off...and to me that’s just as heartbreaking as Arthur and Gwen’s heartbreak.

Furthermore, in the episodes that follow, Merlin constantly advocates for Gwen. We’ve seen Gwen and Merlin act as each other’s advocates to Arthur before – when Gaius was falsely accused of treason, Gwen promised Merlin that she would try to reason with Arthur, and we see that that relationship goes both ways while Gwen is in exile. Merlin advocates for Gwen to the point that Arthur and he end up in a fight themselves. Of course, you can’t exactly break up with yourself (“a half cannot hate that which makes it whole”).

And when Merlin can’t convince Gwen to move back to Camelot in 4x11, he sends her to his mother’s house in Ealdor. To me, this is Merlin taking back control of the relationship from Arthur (and to a certain extent, from Gwen, who is like Arthur is refusing to try to work it out.)

I’m very interested to see what the Gwen/Merlin relationship will be now that Gwen is queen. Mainly because Gwen knows Merlin in a different capacity than Arthur does. Except for the beginning of the 4x08, Gwen has ALWAYS gone to Merlin whenever she’s had a problem. Even in 4x08, it’s Merlin and her vs. the enchanted knights. Gwen knows Merlin as the guy who will always somehow find a way to solve problems. Gwen valued Merlin’s wisdom far before Arthur even began to notice it.

Aside #6 – Arthur’s Lack of Confidence
Merlin: Are you alright?
Arthur: No one likes to be called fat, Merlin.

Merlin isn’t perfect. Everyone makes mistakes (*cough*notlettingMorganadie*cough*). And everyone makes mistakes in their relationships too. One of Merlin’s mistakes when dealing with Arthur is to not realize that Arthur might actually have self-esteem issues underneath all that bravado.

We find out in 2x01 that Arthur always thought he was a disappointment to his father. And then Merlin, for all his care to build up Arthur’s faith that he’ll be a good king, goes ahead and gives Arthur a body complex in 2x09. When Merlin suggests that he’s put Arthur on a diet to prevent him from getting fat, Arthur doesn’t roll his eyes and let it slide off his shoulder. He’s genuinely offended. You don’t get genuinely offended about something unless part of you believes it to be true. (If it’s not true at all, you just get confused and maybe sad about being misunderstood.)

In 4x12, when Arthur’s self-esteem and self-confidence is an issue, Merlin doesn’t realize soon enough and actually compounds the problem when Arthur is in his “simpleton” form. Now, it’s my opinion that, just because Arthur doesn’t remember this exchange doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect on his emotions afterward:

Merlin: A Please and a Thank You all at the same time, that’s amazing.
Arthur: Is it?
Merlin: Well, let’s just say manners are not your strong-point.
Arthur: Really? In what way?
Merlin: Rude, thoughtless, insensitive, and that’s when you’re in a good mood.
Arthur: Sorry to hear that.
Merlin: [...] It would be nice if you could do one small thing for yourself, as a gesture, a mark of respect.
Arthur: I’m sorry to be a disappointment, Merlin. I’ll try to do better in the future.
Merlin: I look forward to that.

It just goes to show that the underlying fear of being a disappointment is always with Arthur. You can also see it in simple exchanges between him and Merlin:

Merlin: I’m serious. You are becoming a very good king.
Arthur: Thank you. You’re still the worst servant I’ve ever known.

And...

*Merlin drags Arthur bodily out of bed*
Merlin: You’re doing very well, Arthur.
Arthur *lying on the floor*: No, I don’t think so.
Merlin: Everyone’s saying it.
Arthur: Well, I’m glad your friends at the tavern approve.

Just because Arthur is the prodigal son who is destined to be king, doesn’t mean that he automatically has the confidence to do so – even if he knows how to act the part for the sake of the court (and apparently enough to fool Merlin, who believes his arrogance to be real, rather than an act). If anything, being the prodigal son, the sole heir to a paranoid tyrant, has probably given Arthur more of a self-confidence issue than if he had grown up with siblings (siblings he knew about anyway.)

Aside #7 – The problem of the Magic Reveal S1 vs. S4
I touched on this above, but with Uther’s death, the problem of Merlin’s magic reveal changes. In S1-S3, Merlin couldn’t reveal his magic for fear of death. In S4, Merlin can’t reveal his magic because of friendship. Whether he dies or not as a result, I believe Merlin’s greatest fear is Arthur being angry with him – it’s of Arthur not loving him anymore. His fear is that Arthur will see it as a betrayal for the very fact that for the past 7-9 years, Merlin has been hiding a fundamental aspect of who he is from his best friend. Arthur has confided EVERYTHING in Merlin – his worries about the knights, his fears of not being a good enough king, his feelings about Gwen. Yet, Merlin has not and cannot reciprocate and confide in Arthur. In S1-S3, it’s because he doesn’t want to put Arthur into a place of having to choose between Merlin and his own father...and in S4, he can’t tell him because a)Arthur might be mad about the failed attempt to save Uther, and b)The longer he keeps the secret, the more painful it’s going to be when Arthur realizes how long he’s been “lied” to. 

Aside #8 – The Sword in the Stone and Merlin’s magical ‘assist’ to Arthur
I talked about this before in a previous post about Merlin, so I’m just going to repeat what I said then again:

I remember people complaining that Arthur couldn't remove the sword from the stone without Merlin's help - and that somehow that undercut Arthur's strength/destiny...I think these people are missing the fact that Merlin put the sword in the stone in the first place - that he MADE UP the legend in order to give Arthur confidence. The fact that the legend of the sword in the stone wasn't actually real doesn't make Arthur's destiny any less real - Arthur is destined to be The Once and Future King because Merlin believes in him, and really for no other reason than that. Merlin making up the legend of the Sword in the Stone is Merlin making his beliefs (or the slash dragon's beliefs) into a physical construct that others can see.

When people erect statues of a famous person, the person isn't famous because they have a statue - they have a statue because they are famous....and then years later, when the memory of that person fades from public thoughts, THEN they are famous because they have a statue. Arthur pulled the sword from the stone because Merlin believes that he'll be The Once and Future King and unite all of Albion, and then later, he'll be the Once and Future King because he pulled the sword from the stone.



To Part 3

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jul. 16th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Hey, anonymous lurker here! I just wanted to drop a line to say that I absolutely adored this. I have yet to find the happy interesting corner of Merlin fandom, so it's nice to get little bits of it here. I also loved your ideas. I have seen a lot of grumping about Arthur's "reversion" in season 4, and I personally had some difficulty with it, but your explanation of it as a need to be "kingly" helps it make much more sense, so I appreciate that.

I also liked your asides, especially considering Gwen/Merlin friendship, because I think it's basically the cutest part of the show, and I'm glad that other people appreciate it too.

I'm agree with you about the problem of the magic reveal. There has never been a good time for Merlin to reveal it. One thing you didn't really mention is that for the first season and a bit, there was also the issue of Arthur not accepting the possiblity of magic as being good. People use the sword metaphor (the sword is only as good or evil as the one who wields it) all the time, it seems like, but the problem is that Arthur didn't see it that way for a long time, in addition to Merlin not wanting to make Arthur choose between Merlin and his father. Additionally, due to Merlin needing to be the good guy, the closest thing to a good "magical" person we've had is probably Freya, and that was really only after her death when the curse was no longer an issue. This makes it a little difficult for Arthur to develop the belief that magic can be used for good; after all, pretty much all the magic users he's encountered are evil.

Although then there's the issue of the druids - especially with the druid camp. But then I'm rambling excessively all over your meta, so I'll stop.
hells_half_acre
Jul. 16th, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
Hi! Thanks for the comment! I was just talking to one of my flist members about how I haven't got any comments on this yet and I found that to be rather odd. I'm glad that you found it!

I'm not really a member of the Merlin fandom - at least, not one that hangs out with any other members of the Merlin fandom or in Merlin fan spaces... I only occasionally see people's thoughts on Tumblr while I'm looking for pretty pictures of Colin Morgan or Bradley James :P

I'm glad that my explanation for Arthur's "reversion" worked for you. I really do believe it was the case.

I absolutely love Merlin and Gwen's friendship. I think, save for the fact that Gwen doesn't know Merlin's secret either - it's quite possibly the deepest friendship that Merlin has on the show (including his friendship with Arthur, since Gwen and he were never divided by status, nor did they get off to bad start.)

And yes, of course you are right, for much of S1, Merlin fully believed that Arthur would kill him just as quickly as Uther if he found out about the magic...and any episode where Arthur voices that perhaps magic isn't evil, something bad always happens to him to make him fall in line again with Uther's way of thinking.

I'll be very interested though in how the druid story-line pans out - because Arthur did effectively grant them pardon and acceptance in that episode with Elyan (the name and number currently escape me).
(Anonymous)
Jul. 17th, 2012 04:27 am (UTC)
I have to say, I would like to be more involved in Merlin fandom, I just can't find it. But seeking pictures of the boys is a very worthy goal, I approve.

As for Arthur's reversion, Merlin is one of my "not thinking about it that hard" shows, so I didn't really come up with my own explanation, it just kind of niggled at me, so I'm glad you chose to share yours.

Up until Gwen and Arthur's romance really took off and became an actual relationship and now marriage rather than a flirtation, I honestly expected Gwen to find out before Arthur. It seemed like a reasonable intermediate step, in lieu of being able to tell Arthur. At this point, however, it would put Gwen in essentially the same position that Merlin was trying to put Arthur in - having to choose between two people you love with regards to an incredible important secret.

Of course, I also have vague suspicions that Arthur has suspicions. So take that as you will.

I think the issue of the druids is going to be important because they are the first openly good (or at least non-evil) magic-wielders we've had, so I think they'll play a role in Arthur's eventual acceptance of magic. At least, I hope they will because that would be pretty spiffy.

And I can never remember episode names or numbers, other than the super literal ones from first season Supernatural, or whatever. I am jealous of those who can.
hells_half_acre
Jul. 17th, 2012 04:45 am (UTC)
Haha, yes, I suppose that's my problem with the Merlin fandom too. I've found a few LJ fic comms, but for the most part the fandom seems to be on tumblr and AO3. My only Merlin fic really took off on AO3 and is my most read story there (granted, it's a crossover with Sherlock, which is a hugely popular fandom).

Merlin was supposed to me my non-thinky fun show too - but I screwed it up! :P I just couldn't help myself it seems. I blame the fact that I had this editing software from when I tried my hand at vidding, and I suddenly had the thought that I could edit Merlin episodes down to 10-15 minutes and not lose any essential storyline...and I did. But when you are watching something for the second time and trying to decide whether it's important or not to the overall story - you start having a lot of thoughts about the overall story. :P

I must admit, I got a thrill when it seemed like Gwen was starting to put it together in the Lamia episode...and I thought maybe, MAYBE she'd be the one to realize first. But, I agree with you, at this point Merlin has to tell Arthur first or reveal it to both at once, because revealing to just Gwen would put her in a very awkward position.

I'd also like to believe that Arthur suspects...but we'll just have to see what the show does. I have a feeling they'll want to go for the BIG reveal.

I don't know if you've been keeping up with S5 spoilers or not (I have a bit, because I had the first four series spoiled for me before I watched them, so I figure I might as well keep up the tradition). But I'm thinking you are right about the druid thing...

I can remember episodes names (for the most part) for Supernatural, but numbers always escape me.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 18th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC)
First of all, I kind of loved that Merlin fic. And the fact that Arthur was totally onto him. Because, come on, he's a smart boy. He can't honestly be as completely oblivious as he plays it. I think, if he doesn't actually suspect magic specifically, he knows Merlin is up to something.

At this stage, there is no way to tell Arthur, in my opinion. If Merlin was prone to the type of season-ending cliffhangers that Supernatural likes, I would expect season 5 to end with Merlin saving Arthur's life in some dramatic fashion, turning to face Arthur with his eyes still gold, and then Merlin passing out or something from an injury or exhaustion or what-have-you. Fade to black, end season. But Merlin likes its closure on the seasons - coronations, weddings, whatever, so who knows where it's going to go.

And I don't really follow spoilers, but druids are pretty darn cool, in a theoretical sense. Also, it would bring Mordred back, potentially, and even though that kid genuinely creeps me out, it would be a nice change from evil!Morgana. Even though Katie does evil very well, while looking fabulous.
hells_half_acre
Jul. 18th, 2012 06:16 am (UTC)
Well thank you! I'm glad you liked my fic. I'd like to write more in that 'verse if I can, but because it hinges on Sherlock, it's a tricky thing to do.

And yes, I completely agree with you about the fact that the reveal won't happen on a cliffhanger, even though that'd be kind of awesome (and horribly horribly torturous). Also, since Merlin likes to skip whole years between seasons, they wouldn't do that - Supernatural more often then not picks up where it leaves off, but Merlin never does. Things have always advanced.

They've switched actors on Mordred. I hope you don't mind me telling you. The kid got popular in the movies (he just wrapped Ender's Game, which I'm ridiculously looking forward to/nervous about), so they've gone with a different dude...so, maybe you will find him less creepy? Though, I think we are supposed to find Mordred creepy, because he's Mordred (Just his name is creepy.)
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:33 am (UTC)
I personally would love to see more of that verse. However, I understand the trouble with Sherlock, and accept the trouble as a necessary side effect of your efforts to stay canon compliant, which I appreciate.

And you're right about them always skipping time. I'd forgotten they did it in the early seasons too. But that would be awesome/horrible season end, wouldn't it? Maybe they're just lulling us into a false sense of security and then they'll spring surprise cliffhanger on us.

And I did not know that Mordred was doing Ender's Game. I'd heard they were making one, but I share the fear/excitement, due to loving that book kind of a lot, (I'm not sure what that says about me - if you think too hard it's kind of a horrible premise) and therefore haven't looked into it much. I didn't want the potential ruined before I even get to see a trailer or something. And I think we're definitely supposed to find Mordred creepy, so well done creepy kid. I don't want to meet him in a dark alley, so it's clearly good work.
hells_half_acre
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the most I could do in that verse is a pre-series story, until the next series of Sherlock comes out. I just refuse to go AU with it (more than it is already AU :P )

Haha, yeah, it WOULD be horrible to suddenly leave us with a cliffhanger after 4 years of neatly wrapping things up. I highly doubt they will though!

Mordred is going to be Ender! Oh man...I so absolutely love that book too, and I'm really nervous that they'll do a poor job of the film. And you're right, it kind of IS a horrible premise and I'm not sure what that says about us...but it's so well done!
mymuseandi
Jul. 17th, 2012 08:37 am (UTC)
Now onto season $4!

I think this, apart from season 1, is the season that I enjoyed the most. I'm more emotionally invested in the characters, as evidenced by the fact that when Lancelot willingly walked into that portal(?), I was whispering, no, no, don't go in there! to my computer screen LOL

I love the beginning of the season, and there are quite a few surprises, like when Arthur let Merlin write the speeches for him, or that Lancelot is quite comfortable in suggesting to Merlin to magic the stains away from Arthur's shirt, etc. And I love when Merlin was injured in the course of protecting Arthur because it showed Arthur first-hand how valued (and loved) he was to his servant (although it might also be because I'm a h/c addict :p). And I still think that it's rather unfair of Gwen to single out Lancelot to ask him to take care of Arthur and makes sure he come back, because what are the rest of the knights for? But I've gotten past that, mostly.

His only model for a ‘successful’ king was his widowed, paranoid, and tyrannical father, who seemingly had only one friend (Gaius) who he didn’t even trust.

You forgot to mention single-minded LOL Especially when he kept on asking Arthur to go out in search of Morgana, not heeding Gaius' advice. Although I do think that he loves Arthur as much as he could, and Morgana too, but it's not an excuse is it?

I love that in 4x06 they showed Arthur and Merlin conversing about supposedly secrets while getting on with their day. Arthur didn't even tell the rest of the knights the path that they were taking before they were attacked, but yet he was blabbering to Merlin about who to trust and using him as a sounding board. I'm also surprised that even when he wasn't in his right mind Merlin could still carry on with the conversation, defending Elyan or Gaius when he evaluated them out loud.

I'm also of the same agreement that revealing his magic to Arthur would only compound the betrayal he was feeling when he found out about Aggravaine. I think that there's no good timing to tell Arthur, and I'm of the opinion that Arthur should find out himself, maybe he accidentally saw Merlin doing a spell, or making things move. Of course, I also think that Arthur already has suspicions about Merlin and his magic, because hey. miracles happen on a regular basis around him! :) Or maybe Gwen would be suspicious (how could she not, after the ceiling fell on Morgana and then Merlin came up behind her) and voiced it out to Arthur. I imagine there would be a big fallout though, maybe lasting several episodes. Show, don't disappoint me.

Arthur's lack of self-esteem is quite an obvious thing, if you know what to look for. He's always pandering to Uther when he was still King, letting him have the last say, even almost going through the wedding with the Princess, indulging him when he ordered the search all over the kingdom for Morgana. Although I only noticed that he was also directing the lack of confidence on his own body when he was quite offended when Merlin called him fat, or when he told Merlin not to let anyone know about the extra hole on his belt LOL That was such a normal ordinary-person thing to do!

Oh, don't get me started on the whole Merlin's 'assist' to Arthur for pulling the sword out of the stone. I had a very intense discussion about it to my RL friend, who was quite put out by that scene, and I used the exact argument that you made. I also added that the sword that he pulled out was meant for Arthur in the first place -forged in the dragon's breath right? - and that Arthur was meant to have the sword, and the fact that he's supposed to pull it out of the stone is just so that he could gain the confidence that he could be a good King. Also, I think that Merlin just released the enchantment that he cast on the stone and the sword, and thus the sword could be pulled out easily by Arthur, and that Merlin didn't exactly help Arthur to pull in out. *shrugs*

On an aside, I often wonder if Arthur was a virgin before he married Gwen LOL

Sorry for all the mix of tenses in both comments. They're in a bit of a mess. :)
hells_half_acre
Jul. 17th, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC)
Gwen does a few things in S4 that are a little questionable - such as singling out Lancelot to protect Arthur (again, I agree - that's what the knights are FOR and honestly, "Hey ex-boyfriend, can you protect my current boyfriend with your life?" - kinda cold, Gwen, kinda cold.) And also when Merlin is missing and Arthur is going out of his mind, Gwen tries to prevent him from searching the woods himself. It'd be fine if she JUST wanted someone to go with him, but she was also like "Everyone is sure he's dead, Arthur. Give it up!" Which...uh, kind of strange, and I just try to ignore.

I'm also a h/c addict, which is why Merlin is such a torturous show for me. They have great h/c potential, yet RARELY any emotional follow-through...so, it's like I'm in a constant state of foreplay. Merlin is a h/c cock-tease. :P

And yes...can't forget single-minded when talking about Uther. :P

I also liked the fact that Merlin defended the knights even though he was enchanted.

I have a vision in my head of how I want the magic reveal to go - and it's not a small thing. I want it to be a huge thing, that Merlin has to use a huge display of magic in public in order to save Arthur. That being said, I wouldn't mind if they made Arthur a little less oblivious and had him slowly starting to work it out before hand.

After the Lamia episode, I also really wanted Gwen to start putting it together first. And who knows, maybe she has to an extent - she did go stay with Merlin's mother...though I think Hunith is too smart to let anything slip.

Arthur actually started really endearing himself to me when he got all upset about Merlin calling him fat...and I think it was BECAUSE it was so ordinary. That, more than anything, convinced me that Arthur was just as insecure as anyone else and that the bravado and arrogance were mostly a cover, or a myth that he himself sometimes believed.

Haha, yeah, I try not to argue with people about the sword in the stone thing. I agree with you about it though, obviously...but there is no reasoning with some people.

I actually don't think Arthur was a virgin before he married Gwen...I sort of have two versions of the show running in my head at all times though - the family version that we see, and the "realistic" version. In the realistic version, there is a lot more blood and a lot more sex. :P

mymuseandi
Jul. 19th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
After the Lamia episode, I also really wanted Gwen to start putting it together first. And who knows, maybe she has to an extent - she did go stay with Merlin's mother...though I think Hunith is too smart to let anything slip.

I forgot to add that I love that Merlin sent her to Ealdor to stay with his mum! It's like he's taking care of her while Arthur comes to his senses and gets her back to the castle :) Although I did think that they confronting each other is rather short though. Arthur goes from telling to her face that he's not trusting her to accepting her back in one episode.

And yes, Hunith is a smart woman. And a brave one too.

Now I'm curious about your "realistic" version though! In my head canon, Merlin is a virgin, because of the way that he acts around Freya (at least that's my "proof", for want of a better word), Gwen has lost her virginity to either Arthur (or Lancelot) before the wedding, and Morgana is too busy being a villain to sleep with anyone, although I'm also thinking that Aggravaine was holding a candle for her.
hells_half_acre
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's stuff like that - Merlin sending Gwen to stay with his mum, while he tries to get Arthur to come to his senses - that make the threesome dynamic shine for me (and I love a good threesome dynamic).

I agree about the swiftness of Arthur accepting her back - though, I do think they did a good job of making it clear that it wasn't because he suddenly trusted her, it was because he didn't want to live without her.

In my "realistic" version, Arthur was sleeping with Gwen back in S3...and Gwen may or may not have slept with Lancelot before that. I'd probably err on the side of "yes, she did." Morgana WAS probably rewarding Agravaine with sex, even if she wasn't actually attracted to him (he obviously was attracted to her.) Merlin is far too gay in my mind for me to put him with a girl - even Freya...plus, his relationship with Freya was so amazingly all-in-his-head, that I don't think he slept with her...plus, she was a rape victim, so I don't think she'd have been cool with sleeping with Merlin either. I'd sooner say that Merlin has been sleeping with Gwaine, then I'd put him with a girl. Though, you can totally cut together that Morgana-is-magic episode in S2 to make it look like Merlin and her are sleeping together. :P
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hells_half_acre
Sep. 27th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, no, this is my only Merlin meta-post. I only started watching it last winter... and then I reedited the entire series to be shorter (for fun...because I'm strange like that), focusing solely on the Merthur friendship...hence why I had a lot of thoughts about them. :P

But yeah, I'm not sure what else I would say! I guess we'll see if I get bored and re-edit the entire series to be from someone else's point of view. ;)
hells_half_acre
Sep. 27th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you like it!

Gwaine is really a wonderfully devoted friend. I love every scene with Gwaine as well. And I know what you mean about not intending to discredit the Lance/Gwen/Arthur and Merlin friendships - but there is something about Gwaine's friendship that hits on another level...and I really think it's Gwaine's fierce yet quiet love of Merlin that is imbued in every scene they have together.

And yay! Someone who agrees with me about Arthur's self-esteem problems! There's a huge difference between the image someone puts forward and what they actually believe about themselves - and Arthur is a testament to that. I think sometimes Merlin understands that and sometimes he doesn't and it's the times that he doesn't that he often puts his foot in it and makes things worse.

I also love some Merthur-smexings, but yeah, I'm a canon-nazi when it comes right down to it. :P

Thanks so much for reading! :)
Kirsten Caspers
Apr. 19th, 2013 06:02 am (UTC)
Series 5 pretty please?
I just stumbled upon your wonderful analysis of Merthur friendship! Is there any chance you'd continue it about series 5? I would love to read your thoughts!
hells_half_acre
Apr. 19th, 2013 06:08 am (UTC)
Re: Series 5 pretty please?
Thanks! I'm glad you liked my analysis.

I'm a bit conflicted about series 5, because although there was some great Merthur friendship stuff... I actually really didn't like the way the series ended, and so I really don't want to watch S5 again. :(

That being said, I'll probably write something eventually. It might not be as thorough as my S1-S4 stuff. I might just touch on the highlights.
Kirsten Caspers
May. 8th, 2013 10:46 am (UTC)
Re: Series 5 pretty please?
I totally understand that - I didn't like the ending either. There was simply no need, there are many ways the legends end, not only Malory's version. Besides, they set out to show Merlin's and Arthur's adventures BEFORE they were famous, but apparently the large fandom base and great appreciation for the show (despite the occasionally sloppy writing) went to their heads and they thought they'd go all the way to Camlann, instead of showing us just the beginning of the Golden Age. I hated it. Yet there have been some very beautiful moments of friendship throughout series 5 and I think you could give us some food for thought. I really love your insights - I actually just read the piece again. I hope you do find it in you to write a little something. I'd be thrilled. Thanks again!
hells_half_acre
May. 8th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Series 5 pretty please?
Yes exactly! You've voiced my own disappointment about the finale. They seem to have forgotten what story they set out to tell - it was never supposed to be the tragedy of Camlann, it was supposed to be the triumph of the golden age and the return of magic to Camelot. Sigh... part of me really just wants to rewrite S5 too, but I've got so many projects on the go right now (both fan-related and non-fan-related.)

But yes, I'll probably try to watch S5 again, because you're right - there were some really beautiful moments in there that I DO want to talk about. So, maybe I'll find time in June? We'll see. If only I didn't have to work for a living, it'd be much easier to get stuff done. :P
Kirsten Caspers
May. 10th, 2013 09:48 am (UTC)
Re: Series 5 pretty please?
Haha…yes, jobs (and in my case, family and children) tend to get in the way of many interesting things. I'll wait very patiently indeed! :) <3
hells_half_acre
Jul. 25th, 2013 02:41 am (UTC)
Re: Series 5 pretty please?
Hey! Just to let you know - I've updated the Merlin Meta for S5 now, in case you were still interested. :)
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