Season 1 Episode 2


Aired Unknown Sep 27, 2008 on BBC

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

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  • 'The half cannot truly hate that which makes it whole' (SPOILERS)

    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.