Like with so much that’s gone on in Merlin so far, what happens in episode 10, “The Moment of Truth’ is something of an oversell. As this isn’t actually the moment of truth at all, even if for most of the story they sell like a demented The Apprentice contestant the idea that this where Merlin will have to show-and-tell to Arthur. How this gets avoided, ultimately, is horribly contrived. You can only do this rubbish a few times and the viewing audience gets the hint it’s not going to happen, and I got this one nine episodes back!
Merlin’s mum arrives at Camelot after a bad man called Kanan (Alexander Siddig) turns up and demands maize with menaces. We know he’s bad because he’s got a very obvious scar, and he’s been to Ye Olde School of moustache twirling.
But her audience with Uther reveals that she and her village are on their own with Kanan, because it sits outside the boundary of Uther’s Kingdom, beyond the M25.
But Merlin must go to help, and he’s not alone. Gwen and Morgana decide to accompany him, so Kanan is going to be really worried. Actually, to make this a sliver more appropriate, it turns out that Morgana wears chain mail under those long dresses and is a female warrior, something they’ve failed to mention in the previous nine stories. On route to the village, Arthur joins them, because it was on his way to somewhere.
They turn up just in time to initiate the rest of the plot of The Magnificent Seven (or Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film, Seven Samurai, if you prefer), other than there are four of them and the far-away kingdom isn’t just across the border of Mexico. In the initial encounter with Kanan, Merlin uses his magic to avoid being killed and it’s observed by a childhood friend. Conveniently, he’s the only person in the village other than his mother that already knows he’s a fully paid-up member of the magic circle.
‘William’ is the local naysayer in this version of The Magnificent Seven, because there must be one in each village by law. He’s the one who suggests that they should give Calvera, err, I mean Kanan, their food rather than suffer the indignity of being known as the Piñata people.
Arthur trains the village folk how to die quickly when confronted by a trained soldier, and things look pretty bleak. But obviously Merlin has magic up both sleeves, even if it’s a ‘secret’. Yawn.
Kanan and his men attack, and they’re about to win until Merlin summons a magical tornado, that blows them off their horses. Actually, this looks like a really unhelpful weapon, because it impacts on everyone. not just those working for Kanan. But it turns the tide of the battle in their direction, and leaves Arthur and Kanan enough room to have a final sword fight. Arthur wins this, but forgets you’re supposed to check they’re dead when you’ve stabbed them. Doh! As he’s dying, Kanan produces an entire crossbow from his pocket and shoots at Arthur, killing William. As he’s dying, it’s him that takes the rap for being a sorcerer, so that Merlin can keep on being ‘mysterious’. He doesn’t deserve one episode mates like that!
Having resulted in the slaughter of at least half the population, our four heroes ride off towards a CGI horizon. The End.
I was bored with the ‘secret’ nature of Merlin’s magic shtick in the second story, and by now that idea has worn thinner than my lucky socks. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me. Try to fool me for an entire 13 episode season and you’re insulting our intelligence. No, really!
Next week the BBC blows most of its budget on having Frank Finlay turn up as the leader of the preservation society for magic creatures, after Arthur rather stupidly kills a Unicorn out of season. I can’t wait.
Read Mark’s review of last week’s episode here.