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TV Review: Merlin S1, Episode 2: “Valiant”

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Buy MERLIN – Series 1 Vol. 1 (BBC Series) [NON-USA Format / Import / Region 2 / PAL] on Amazon || Watch on Hulu.

Riding the coattails of the very strong pilot episode “The Dragon’s Call,” “Valiant” continued to pull its audience into the world of medieval times and magic. Although there was a scene present in this episode that caused me to cringe horribly, this was another tale that had me cheering.

My [rating:4]

(Spoilers After the Jump)

Recap:

This second episode begins with a knight, Valiant, approaching a shield maker, arranging for him to make a magical shield decorated with enchanted snakes. We soon find out that he intends to register for the tournament that Camelot is holding (and Arthur is one of the participants of), and intends to win.

Merlin, meanwhile, is adjusting to his new position as Arthur’s servant, having to learn the ins and outs of armor. He and Gwen strengthen their friendship as she teaches him; her blacksmith father comes in handy here.

As the tournament progresses, Valiant displays his fighting skills, and swiftly moves up the ranks to become one of the favored knights to win. Along the way, however, he does not spare his opponents, unleashing the snakes on his shield and seriously injuring a fellow knight. As it becomes clearer that Valiant and Arthur will face off in the final battle of the tournament, Merlin fears for Arthur’s safety. The question is: how to prove that Valiant is using magic, without Merlin exposing himself, as well?

When the knight is injured from the snakes on Valiant’s sword, Merlin tells Arthur of the danger, and Arthur approaches the King about it. Not having sufficient enough proof – the knight in question was killed before he could testify to Valiant’s treachery – Arthur looks foolish in bringing the matter in front of his father, Uther, and for that, dismisses Merlin from his service.

Now, Arthur is completely alone, and the danger of Valiant’s sword grows ever closer. As the final tournament between Arthur and Valiant begins, Merlin is able to expose the magical shield by performing the same spell that Valiant uses to unleash the snakes, but far enough away that he wouldn’t be caught practicing magic or harm Arthur in the process. By doing this, he exposes Valiant and protects Arthur once more. In recognition of Merlin being right about Valiant, Arthur agrees to take Merlin on as his servant once more.

Review:

Overall, I enjoyed this episode. The scene I referred to in the beginning of this review as making me cringe horribly came towards the end of the episode. While at the celebration feast, Merlin and Arthur have a “bonding moment,” in which Arthur thanks Merlin for his help during the tournament. Merlin responds by nonchalantly telling Arthur that if he was really grateful, he would offer to buy Merlin a drink. Even as I type this, I cringe. For a television show that does a wonderful job of bringing its audience into the world they’ve created, allowing them to escape their mundane lives for an hour every week, this exchange took me right out of that world. It is highly improbable that Arthur, son of the King, would even contemplate about “getting a drink” for his servant, especially not in medieval times. I realize that this show plays fast and loose with medieval history, but most of it I can forgive. This, I can’t. However, failing this, the episode was a strong follow up to the pilot episode, and continued to keep me engaged and wanting more. I am eager to see the continuation of character development as the series progresses, especially to see if Uther will continue to be as stern as he has been thus far.

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