Valiant comes to Camelot to attempt to win the courts combat tournament but he is using a magical shield that poisons his opponents. Merlin makes the discovery and then must figure out a way to save Arthur before he meets Valiant in the tournament final.
A pretty good follow up to Dragon's Call the series premiere. As Merlin is now Arthur's man servant because that was his "reward" for saving Arthur in the first episode, he has the perfect position to stay close to Arthur and keep him safe. Unfortunately their relationship is less than cordial at times and negative enough that Merlin returns to speak with the Dragon about the mistake he made.
Valiant is a thug who is looking for any way to increase his chance of winning the tournament. It sort of takes a little shine away from the term Knight as they were suppose to be men of chivalry and honor. There is nothing chivalrous about Valiant. He has designs on Morgana and means to see them through.
Merlin makes the discovery by chance that Valiant's shield is enchanted. Unfortunately as he is not a member of the court or a Knight his word is worthless to the King. Luckily for everyone involved both Morgana and Gwen are concerned for Arthur and believe Merlin is on to something. Arthur even tries to stand by Merlin but in the end must apologize to Valiant for miss-speaking.
In what I see becoming a far to common occurrence, Merlin saves Arthur, exposing Valiant for what he is and in general saves the day for the court. Of course only a very few have any idea and certainly they can't or won't give the credit to Merlin. Arthur for his part reconciles with Merlin the only way he can by making some backhanded compliments about what a good man servant he is. NBC is showing these episodes the first few weeks as back to back shows. Unfortunately I believe it takes away from the individual nature of each episode. The way it was advertised my wife thought it was a special or a mini-series so NBC did not do a good job of informing the public about the show.
Next week we see episodes The Mark of Nimueh and The Poisoned Chalice back to back. The following week we then have one episode. Hopefully this will be the case the rest of the thirteen episode series.
Well produced, good storylines, and enjoyable characters mark this fine UK production. Thanks for reading...
I was very impressed with this episode. It is important to note the promising introduction which proceeded it in the first episode, Dragon's Call, which succeeded in introducing the central characters in a way which left me curious to know more. In Valiant, we see the development of the relationship between Merlin and Arthur as Merlin begins his new role as Arthur's manservant. Despite their animosity last episode, Merlin seems to have accepted his position and treats Arthur with surmountable - if reluctant - respect, though there is certainly an adjustment period as he takes great umbrage at Gaius's take on a servant's credibility in the castle. Arthur, meanwhile, may be treating Merlin like a dog but you can tell he isn't being deliberately cruel, just a little selfish and thoughtless. I was very glad to see some depth and dimension to Arthur's character, as I had liked the character in the last episode and hoped he wasn't just going to be a villain. Here we see the first signs of a tempestuous relationship between the imperious King Uther and his son, and we realize just how much pressure Arthur is faced with, particularly during a nice scene where he rages at Merlin for humiliating him and making him look a coward. His concept of bravery and honour are admirable, if a little hard to relate to in this modern age. All in all, it was the first push to what will of course eventually be the noble, kind hearted Arthur we all know from history - but true to form, he does retain some aspects of his 'royal ass' self, which is a lot more interesting than the traditional golden boy Arthur - firing Merlin unjustly and generally being a bit cocky and self-absorbed.
We do see some genuine affection and chemistry between Arthur and Morgana - as much as I adore Katie McGrath's performance as Morgana, I almost wish she would switch to being Guinevere, because as much as I like Angel Coulby's portrayal the whole Arthur/Morgana thing has a lot more chemistry and I know it won't work out. The final fight scene I loved, as it really showed Arthur's dedication and bravery, and him amicably clapping Merlin on the shoulder on the way out and reinstating his job at the end do show the beginnings of a friendship.
Anthony Head is a consistent pleaser, his portrayal of King Uther has made a potentially inconsequential, one dimensional villain into an interesting character.
The story for this episode allows the threads of Merlin's bond with Arthur to grow as a dishonourable knight threatens the life of the prince. As well as the more of the location and setting being shown, expect lots more small details of the two main protanganists and their blossoming relationship to emerge. Furthermore, some of the minor characters like King Uther, Gaius and Morgana get fleshed out some more. All of this is well-woven into the main plot of tournament in which Arthur will eventually be pitted against the baddie. It is during the climax of this tournament that Arthur finds himself in mortal danger and with his honour questioned.
Both these threats see Merlin doing his best to save the prince, only for setbacks and the repercussions of using magic to affect young Merlin some more. The subplot of the dragon and Merlin's "destiny" is again touched upon, providing another tantalising peek at what aways us a number of series further down the line.
A credible performance by Will Mellor as Knight Valiant was the highlight of the episode for me. Overall I wouldnt expect fireworks from this episode, but nonetheless it is entertaining while being informative and develops the ambience of the show rather well.
The plot is reasonably predictable, but still the development of the relationship between Merlin and Arthur is the key to the overall show and this is done sensitively, with a level of trust growing and Merlin softening Arthurs character to semi likable.
Arthur is engaged in a major tournment to find the champion Knight of the realm of Camelot.Merlin is busy as his lackey and training partner and the use of magic here is simple and engaging- Merlin managing amazing cleaning feats.
Merlin becomes suspicious of one of the Knights, Valiant, who wins a bout that he was losing that leaves a knight unconscious with suspicios fang marks on his neck. Merlin sets out to retrieve some venom so that a remedy can be made.
Merlin warns Arthur and so convinced is he that he confronts Valiant in front of the King, but with no proof and the death of the only witness (from another snake bite)Arthur looks like a coward afraid to fight Valiant.
Fired from his job and confronting the Dragon Merlin is frustrated about his supposed destiny, but nevertheless searches for a way to save Arthur. He steals a gargoyle and spends the night using incantations to try and animate the creature with no success. With the inevitable final confrontation about to begin Merlin tries one llast time and the stone turns into a large dog. He arrives just in time to see Arthur without his shield and losing. Merlin sens a spell toward the shield and the snakes appear ready to kill Arthur who is defenceless, Morgana throws him a sword and he decapitates the two remaining snakes and Valiant.
Arthur reinstates a reluctant Merlin as his man servant.
Valiant certainly plays on the strengths on the previous episode and builds on that strong base. A tournament is held at Camelot with competitors coming far and wide for the prize of a thousand gold pieces. One of these would-be champions is Knight Valiant from the Western Isles. However, Valiant has an advantage over his competitors- an enchanted shield that will cause poisonous snakes to spring from it at his command. Seeing it paralyse one combatant, Merlin seeks to expose Valiant for the cheat he is. However, Arthur's attempts to unmask Valiant's villainy in front of Uther falls flat, leaving Arthur furious and Merlin without a job. Even worse, Valiant's next and final opponent... is Arthur himself. There are no surprises as to how this episode goes- we know that, by Merlin's use of magic, Arthur will be safe and Valiant will be vanquished- but it's the journey rather than the destination that is intriguing.
The episode actually made me feel empathy towards Arthur. As Gaius rightly explains to Merlin at the start, he is the future King and is therefore under pressure and scrutiny. Certainly, Uther's pressure to make him proud at the tournament doesn't help and Arthur is very short with Merlin on a few occasions. It's quite something for Arthur to trust Merlin so completely so quickly regarding Valiant's treachery. Although, he still remains a bit of a tool when he arrogantly brushes aside Morgana's help and even more arrogantly gives Arthur his servant role back. Even so, Bradley James did well to capture some of this inner angst.
Colin Morgan continues to excel as Merlin, also caught up in his own angst. The pseudo-Sorcerer's Apprentice moment when he uses magic to do several things at once is quite funny. Richard Wilson and Anthony Head are as good as always in their roles, with Head suitably imperious during the court scene where he challenges Arthur for making the accusations against the fellow knight. The main guest star of the episode is Will Mellor as the treacherous Knight Valiant. He does fairly well with the material given, which frankly isn't much. No motivation other than perhaps greed is given for Valiant's actions and any real characterisation is quite thin on the ground. Perhaps a better actor could have done more with it but it's good enough.
There are also intriguing hints laid in this episode about Morgana- her 'dream' about Arthur being killed at the tournament is interesting. An anxiety dream... or maybe prophecy? It'll be interesting to see where this goes. The CGI effects on the snakes does at times look a little cheap and maybe a little too much for younger kids or those of a sensitive nature. Despite that, there's no bloodshed and a conveniently clean death-scene for Valiant, Ewan and the snakes. James Hawes' direction of the fight scenes is nice and zippy, with the editor really playing their part too. Plus big kudos for making them look like the combatants have actually been through a scrap- Arthur is properly sweaty and out of breath by the end of his fight with Valiant.
So in conclusion, a predictable but enjoyable slice of family entertainment.
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