In the continuation from last week’s “Arthur’s Bane”, Morgana continues her search for the D’amare. But things aren’t all roses for the sorceress. Her nightmares appear to be back as she envisions her and Aithusa, her dragon pup chained at the bottom of a well-like hole which looks every bit the prison she deserves. She awakens to find a limping Aithusa hoping towards her. She promises the dragon that their troubles are in the past and better days are ahead.
Better days, however, appear to be quite far from Arthur and Merlin’ sights. The two are dragged through the icy wastes toward Ismere, prisoners ready for Morgana’s perusal. Despite his abilities, Merlin once more hides them away, a fact that Mordred finds interesting but also can understand. He and Merlin have a quick chat the morning before setting off and the young druid offers them food. Merlin questions his generosity and Mordred’s answer is simple; Arthur saved his life once and he is in the King’s debt. After promising to keep Merlin’s secret safe, Mordred tells the wizard of the D’amare, the key to all knowledge and Morgana’s current obsession.
In the castle, Gaius visits a terrified Sefa, offering her a potion to keep her nerves at bay (I just assume it can be a bit uncomfortable watching someone set up the gallows and the nice rope knotted especially for your neck) but she begs him to grant her an audience with the Queen. Gaius comes through and Sefa pleads to Gwen for clemency. “I only did it for my father,” she whines and while I understand her pleas, just throwing the blame at her father’s feet is a bit irritating. The Queen rejects the heartfelt apology though when Gaius suggests she re-consider sparing Sefa, Gwen once again showcases just how crafty she can be. She never had any intention of executing the servant girl but the deception was for the ears of Ruadan, Sefa’s father. Gwen assures Gaius that the druidic wizard will appear in the attempt to free his daughter. After watching Ruadan’s earlier scene with Morgana, where for the first time he shows an inkling of love towards his daughter when he alerts the high priestess of Sefa’s predicament. Though Morgana reminds Ruadan that he can do nothing for Sefa, his betraying look is a foreshadowing towards the brilliance of Gwen’s manipulative plan.
Jumping back to our captured heroes, Arthur feigns exhaustion just long enough for the head slaver to check up on
him. When he does, the King pilfers the slaver’s dagger. Not too much longer he uses it to create a distraction; after a few guards are chopped down, the two escape their captors. They leap over a crevasse, with Arthur in the role of Hawkeye, taking out their pursuit left and right. One pursuer he does not arrow up is Mordred. Though he has the druid in his sights, Arthur lets him go to Merlin’s dismay. When Mordred disappears back towards his caravan, Merlin berates Arthur for not taking the shot. Obviously he can’t really explain his motivations to Arthur but in truth, I’m not so sure it would really happen, considering the virtuous nature of Camelot’s King.
Still laid up in the cave, Gwaine awakens to find the creepy alien giving him the eye. He tries to get up but bulbous, blue, and shiny tells him to slow his roll; it shares a bit more about itself, namely that it’s the last of its kind. The others had been hunted and killed. Alien fellow or fem (it’s tough to tell with the scraggly voice and its androgynous physical nature on the gender specifics, if there even is one, of the alien) tells Gwaine to get some kip as he’s still healing. He heeds cone head’s suggestion and falls back into a fitful slumber.
In Camelot, Gwen’s words ring prophetic when Ruadan using his stealth skills, the Camelot night watch’s ineptitude and their lack of any sort of intuition, and some pretty bad ass slow motion infiltrates the castle ‘Solid Snake’ style. He finds Sefa and frees her but the two are quickly surrounded by Eylan and several knights. Though Ruadan’s skills are formidable and he takes out several knights, Elyan breaches his defenses, implanting a sword in his belly. Before the others capture him, Ruadan creates a magical distraction and he and Sefa scramble through the woods. They regroup at the ruins, the location of their previous meeting and though she tries her best to be positive for her father’s condition, Ruadan harbors no such hope. He writes a message to Morgana, ordering Sefa to tie it to the crow that has just caw-cawed its way into the ruins. Once Sefa attaches the message to the bird, she hugs her father. A complete one-eighty from his hard tones from last week, Ruadan reminds Sefa that he will always love her before passing on. His message arrives at Morgana’s chambers; it’s one of warning and encouragement. Arthur will soon arrive at Ismere but Morgana is to take heed as the D’amare will soon be in her hands.
As they perform an autopsy, Gaius finds a prayer on Ruadan’s neck. It gives him a chance to not only talk to the Queen in regards to the druids but also the prophecy that Arthur would be felled at the hands of a druid warrior. The warning gathers her attention though what she’ll decide to do about it remains to be seen.
Now at the gates of Ismere, Arthur and Merlin watch as Mordred arrives with the band of slave traders. Merlin can’t let go of Arthur not killing Mordred but the argument is put on the backburner as the two look for a way into the castle. They find one in the delectable tunnels of the sewer line—Merlin nearly gagging after being given a sewer bath is a highlight of the show—and are able to reach the caves. They run into Percival who tells them of Gwaine’s disappearance and the two head into the caves to find the knight while Percival is tasked with freeing his fellow knights.
On the other side of the Ismere coin, Morgana and Mordred are reunited. They share a meal though Morgana’s instability is on display as she rages at Arthur being alive and running free. Mordred tries to calm her; his emotional control is a show of his strength and signals the potential for a foe deadlier than Morgana has ever been. While Morgana trips out over her once brother, Arthur and Merlin discover Gwaine and the knight’s newest companion. As the three men of Camelot begin their trek out of the caves, they are accosted by a charging Aithusa. Though avoiding its charge, Merlin goes after the dragon, telling Arthur to get Gwaine out. He corners the albino creature and, using his powers as dragon lord, quells the creature’s rage. He starts to connect with it though its inability to speak hinders their communication. Though Merlin wants to speak more with Aithusa, to help the poor creature, he’s forced to send it away when he hears Arthur searching for him. The King’s bad luck continues when he runs into Morgana and Mordred, with the former dropping a serious magical beat down on her overmatched brother. Arthur tries his best to reach Morgana and, for the first time since her move to the dark side, we see Arthur still does care for his wayward sister. Her insanity is complete as though she may have had cause to hate Uther, she has no such rational justification as it relates to Arthur. When she prepares to kill him, Merlin dashes in and, not respecting rule number one in confronting a sorceress—namely, not rushing in like an inexperienced idiot without an incantation at the ready—and is rewarded by Morgana hurling him through the air. No doubt concussed, he tries to stop Morgana from killing Arthur but his brain’s too scrambled. Help comes, though it’s from the least likely of sources. Mordred stabs the gloating Morgana in the back and she turns toward her attacking, shock and hurt written into her features.
While Mordred takes Arthur back to his men, cone head stops by and heals Merlin. During their short conversation, the wizard recognizes the alien for what it is—the D’amare, the key to all knowledge and the artifact Morgana will never discover. Recognizing Merlin as Emrys, it asks if he wishes to have a question answered and, though he balks at first, he asks it the true nature of Arthur’s bane. It is Arthur himself, it replies and we see just where this is going when the scene cuts to Arthur bestowing knighthood to Mordred.
After the ceremony, Merlin confronts the young druid man, asking him why the change. “Arthur was right,” he says, “the loves that binds us is more important than the power we wield.” His words, though convincing, don’t fully win Merlin over and the young wizard tells Gaius nearly as much. No matter what, he says, he does know that Albion’s great trial has begun. It’s a trial where Morgana will still greatly factor as the final scene is of her and Aithusa desperately trudging through the snowy landscape of Ismere.
“Arthur’s Bane, part 2” was a busy episode packed with a lot of moving parts. Methinks ten extra minutes could have been used to slow the frantic and sometimes unsteady pacing. The decision to cast the D’amare as such a gangly and horrific creature is baffling though its simple words re: Arthur’s bane was very intriguing. Like his father before him, and many of us in fact, Arthur’s greatest foe is himself. Whether it’s his inability to see treachery in those closest to him or heed Merlin’s advice, advice that’s so often correct, Arthur’s biggest troubles will be caused by his own actions. But unanswered questions remain: where did Sefa go and will she join Morgana’s cause? How much longer can Merlin hold out in telling Arthur of his true nature? Will we learn more of Morgana and Aithusa’s hard times and will our friendly neighborhood wizard be able to direct the young dragon on the right path? We will have to wait another week to see where things lead, though I’m sure the next episode will only create more questions.
Countdown to the End: Has Uther returned? We will see in next week’s episode, aptly titled “The Death Song of Uther Pendragon”.