Season 1 Episode 13

Le Morte d'Arthur

Aired Unknown Dec 13, 2008 on BBC

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

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  • 'You have taught me so much, taught me who I am, taught me the purpose for my skills, taught me that magic should only be used for great deeds, but most of all, you have always taught me to do what is right.' (SPOILERS)

    The final episode of the series takes its name from one of the most famous works of Arthurian literature- and it seems that the episode has the same ambitions. When out hunting, Arthur and Merlin come across a fearsome creature which Gaius works out to be the Questing Beast, a dangerous and deadly monster who can kill with just one bite. It is also prophecied to appear at a time of great upheaval. Naturally, Uther brushes this away and orders Arthur to kill the creature. On their next hunt, Arthur and Merlin encounter the Beast again and it is vanquished... but Arthur is bitten and lies close to death. Distraught- and with no way of curing him through conventional means- Merlin asks the Great Dragon for help. The Dragon tells him to find the Isle of the Blessed, where the old religion has its power, where someone will be able to cure Arthur. But there is a price to pay: for in order for a life to be given, a life must be taken... The first series, which has arguably hit more than it has missed, ends with a strong story full of strong performances.

    Colin Morgan is absolutely brilliant here. Strong, determined, vulnerable, angry, resigned, fighting... its a strong performance which must rank with some of the better performances he's given throughout the series. His sacrifice is noble and tender and the scene in which he decides to give up his life to save his mother is heartbreaking in its simplicity and sincerity. Similar kudos must go to Richard Wilson as his performance as Gaius is probably the best since A Remedy To Cure All Ills. He also is noble in the sacrifice he makes and I genuinely thought the cliffhanger ending of the episode would be Merlin trying to revive Gaius... but not to be, the wise old physician lives on to fight another day. To be honest, the show would be weaker without Gaius and Wilson's always dependable and deep performance. Bradley James is good as Arthur although his attitude in the final scene before Merlin goes off to die is a little puzzling. As a character, Arthur has swung between arrogant jackass and noble prince and its arguably when he's the latter that he's more sympathetic. Better is his very nice scene with Gwen when he's recovered and he jokes with her about what she said about him. The past few episodes have hinted at the Arthur/Guinevere relationship that is to come and it's worked well. Angel Coulby only has a few scenes but she does well with it, especially in the tender moment when she tells Arthur he isn't going to die because he will lead Camelot to fairness and justice. Anthony Head doesn't get a lot but does well with it. There's an incredibly powerful moment when he's carrying the comatose Arthur across the courtyard and he breaks down in tears. Always better when you see Uther the man rather than Uther the king, there are a few moments which shine here. Katie McGrath is given little to do, although the writers seem to have taken a leaf from the Ancient Greek's book in presenting Morgana as a kind of Cassandra figure in this episode: cursed with prophecy and attempting to warn those who will get hurt yet ignored and dismissed... until its shown she's right. The episode- and this series- ends with her waking from another disturbing dream. Does it have anything to do with the raging of the Great Dragon in his cave beneath the castle? Time will tell...

    The whole story revolves around the old religion, the balance of life and death and good and evil. It is interesting to see characters taking up contrary positions: Gaius, whose books of lore and old myth have informed the entire series, states that he doesn't believe in superstition when giving Merlin the rabbit's foot yet calls the Questing Beast's appearance 'an omen'; similarly Uther who states he doesn't believe in miracles yet says to Arthur he may need 'a guardian angel' on his way to becoming King. Several interesting twists are thrown in, most notably the true self-serving nature of the Great Dragon who only wants Arthur to be king because he will then be free. His final raging against Merlin hints at something interesting for the second series. I have to say this has probably been John Hurt's best vocal performance as the Dragon as he's finally been given something juicy to do. Similarly, Michelle Ryan looks like she's having an absolute ball as Nimueh. Yes, it is she who resides in the Isle of the Blessed and she who will grant Merlin's wish. Ryan seems to absolutely relish the wickedness of the character and gives a very spirited performance. The long-awaited Merlin/Nimueh smackdown looks very good but is a little brief for my liking, although the effects are good. It's a very good final episode to a very good first series. OK, the writers have played fast and loose with some of the accepted truth of Arthurian legend but it's always been fun. I look forward to seeing the second series when it comes out next year.
  • Evil never really goes away.

    It just finds a more willing host, and the sweet ward of the King seems destined to get in touch with her dark side...

    This series and shows like it, have been a godsend this year in terms of providing a 60 minute get-away each week, and coming away from it with a fully exercised imagination. Unconventional or not, this version of the classic has me hugely entertained, much in the way of "Seeker", "True Blood" and "Fringe". I think the performances of Colin Morgan and Bradley James have matured beautifully over the season, and the bond between their characters has also been nicely solidified as witnessed by the "so long, its been good to know you" scene between them prior to Merlin's supposed "final" departure.

    As season-enders go, this one seemed to be less than cliff-hanging until the final 10 seconds with a Morgana...what?...supercharged by an evil older than time? And perhaps to be aided and abetted by a P.O'd dragon...?

    Dunno. But I WILL be back to find out!
  • Arthur gets bitten by a questing beast, and Merlin has to set out on a mission to save him.

    One of my absolute favorite episodes! Merlin shows just how far his loyalty to Arthur is when he offers his life up for the injured prince. Then he proves just how powerful he can be when he defeats the high priestess Nimueh in the end and trades her life instead. He's getting closer and closer to becoming the legend he is destined to be.

    The storyline was well written, and the actors did a wonderful job portraying their individual roles. I enjoyed all the extra scenes with Gaius, and am so glad the writers decided against killing off Gaius like they had first planned. This is an episode that calls out to be watched over and over.
  • The Questing Beast a mythological creature rumored to bring grief to a kingdom returns to Camelot. One bite kills. Arthur is bitten as Merlin kills the beast. Arthur decides to do anything he can including sacrifice himself to save Arthur.

    We've thirteen episodes where Merlin continually saves the day. In this episode he decides to sacrifice himself to save Arthur.

    Uther sends Arthur out to kill the beast. Morgana seeing the future tries to stop Arthur from going. When the time comes Arthur is lucky to have Merlin at his side to slay the beast but unfortunately he is bitten before Merlin can dispatch it.

    Now the deed is done. There is no cure for the bite and Arthur will die. Merlin not one to accept fate or reality for that matter. He goes to the Dragon and asks for a cure. This brings about one of the best quests we have seen this season.

    Merlin goes to the Isle of the Blessed to seek a trade of his life for Arthur's. Surprisingly he comes upon Nimueh played by Michelle Ryan. He offers his life for Arthur's but she of course corrupts the bargain.

    Things become a nightmare for Arthur until after almost sacrificing the people closest to him he starts to mature into the man and sorcerer the world will remember. He destroys Nimueh in the end restoring the balance of life and death (much to her surprise) and things should return to normal.

    This episode was most interesting because Merlin defies the Dragon and then defies and faces Nimueh all in the same episode. This is something only a very old and powerful sorcerer could or would ever do. We are seeing the maturation of Merlin in much the same way we've seen it in Arthur the last half dozen or so episodes. Merlin the sorcerer was a man of legend who changed the fates of the world. He set fate in motion and didn't wait for others to write history.

    I will be interested to see if we are back to the old Merlin or this new one in series 2?

    I liked the overall storyline but the execution was a little iffy in places so even though this was one of the better storylines of the series I don't rate it as high as say The Moment of Truth. Thanks for reading...
  • A brilliant season finale... thank God there's going to be a second season!

    This episode is one of my favourites. When Arthur is bitten by the Questing Beast, his life hangs in the balance and everyone scrambles to come to terms with the possibility that the great hope of Camelot may not be there tomorrow. The reason this was such a brilliant culmination of the season is that it really shows how the multitude of diverse characters have come into their own, and come together. Uther is never likeable, but Anthony Head is a genius and manages to portray him as a deep, emotionally traumatized character whose aggression and unwavering hatred of magic is in this episode overshadowed by an astounding love for his only son. His grief at Arthur's predicament is moving and never overacted. There is a particularly poignant scene where Uther carries the unconscious Arthur across the courtyard (I hate to take away from the seriousness of this, but did Anthony Head actually have to carry Bradley James? He must have some serious upper body strength!). The loss and devestation on his face is heartbreaking, and particular shocking considering his usual stony demeanour. Throughout the episode Uther struggles with an overwhelming grief and we are shown once again how much he truly cares for Arthur.
    Merlin, of course, is completely frantic. Another reason I like this episode is that it nicely bookends the first episode - remember Merlin saying to the dragon, "Anyone who wants to kill him can go ahead - in fact, I'll give them a hand!"? Well things have changed, and now Merlin is willing to sacrifice his life for his friend, which really shows the purity of Merlin's spirit. The noble gesture saves Arthur's life, but unfortunately backfires as Arthur's mother falls desperately ill. Colin Morgan is brilliant at making Merlin look distraught and torn while not going into soap opera territory. I have never been a big fan of Nimueh, her character seems unremarkable to me, but her presence here was an interesting twist and the final showdown where Merlin angrily challenges her after he thinks she killed Gaius is a nice end to the episode. That relationship has been a constant grounding in the show and Richard Wilson brings an essential presence to the show.
    An Arthur-Merlin scene worth mentioning is the scene where Merlin says goodbye to Arthur - without really saying 'goodbye' of course, because he can't let Arthur know what he's doing. It really shows the strength of their friendship that Merlin can laugh and smile at Arthur's cocky - but good natured - comments, which at the beginning of the series really offended him - and the progression and softening of Arthur's character, as Merlin calls him a prat and he laughs. It's pathetic but I actually had a tear in my eye when I watched that.
    I love Katie McGrath as Morgana. She is completely brilliant! I think she's going to be absolutely phenomenal as a villain when she eventually turns, but I'm going to be upset when she does because I really like her. I'm glad the show has decided to really invest in her journey to the dark side though, not just making her turn evil for no reason whatsoever the way some supernatural shows have done with their characters. She has such a presence on the screen, I think she will only get better with time, and what happens with her next season should have an interesting effect on the rest of the characters.
    As much as I like Gwen - because she is really impossible not to like - I do prefer the old chemistry between Arthur and Morgana. But I don't want to cast judgment on that relationship just yet, as it's barely started - I did think the scene where she talks to Arthur while he's unconscious was quite sweet, and so was the joky excerpt where Arthur mortifies her by revealing he remembers what she said.
    Overall, this episode was really dynamic. Mainly, it really made an impression of Arthur not being just an essential part of the future but also an essential person in many people's lives. I think it's commendable and very important that they keep this character really human and vulnerable and not just a figurehead for the whole Arthurian crusade and Merlin's destiny. Since Bradley James didn't have much to do this episode rather than be unconscious (though he looked hot doing it :D) I think it's necessary to mention that he does do a really good job with Arthur - even when he's being a prat he's great to watch. I can't wait till next season!
  • Hooray Merlin is fantastic to watch and enjoy with the way it was back in history...They have a wonderful casts for the show.....The friendship between between Arthur and Merlin is amazing and funny...

    As I have been watching each and every week I have throughly enjoyed the show...Well done to all. Merlin and Arthur have a very strong bond even though Merlin is a servant I often seen Arthur looking at Merlin in a different light as if there are more sides to Merlin that he has not shown.....with shows much violencer than this I would love to add more of history done in this way...maybe we should listen to history...Merlin shows us on how to value each and every person and his value he places on his family and friends who need protection against evil.
  • Excellent!

    Execellent! That is the one word I would use to describe this episode.

    Whilst on a hunt for a beast causing problems for the people of Camalot Arthur and his group come up against a questing beast. Gaius trys to stop Uther from sending his Arther once again to kill the beast. Arther falls, unconscious, and Merlin uses Magic to slay the beast! But it is too late and Arthur has been bit, meaning he will die!

    The only way to save him is for Merlin to go to Nimueh and ask for help to save Arthurs life. But in the old relgion, for one life to be saved, another must be taken, Merlin says he will pay the price, thinking it will be his life, but it turns out to be his mothers!

    The whole of the young cast have matured into their roles. Colin Morgan and Bradley James have an excellent friendship which is vital for a show which has two leads, such as in the Professional's. This goes to show the BBC can do fantasy other than Doctor Who (remember Robin Hood anyone?).

    The stars of this weeks episode had to have been Anthony Head and Michelle Ryan. The heart breaking scene where Uther carrys Arthur accross the courtyard was made expecially touching by Anthony Heads Acting and never have I seen an Actor enjoy being evil as much as Michelle Ryan does. This has never been more apparent than in the face off between Merlin and Nimueh! A preformence that shows that it isn't the acting that brings East Enders down.

    Carry on the good work BBC!