Things are looking pretty bleak for Camelot as Morgana exacts her complete revenge in the first of the two-part season finale of Merlin, “The Sword in the Stone, Part 1″. But Morgana (Katie McGrath) won’t rest until her army has killed the deposed King Arthur – who, along with Merlin (Colin Morgan) and the denizens of Camelot, must flee the kingdom during “The Sword in the Stone, Part 1,” directed by Alice Troughton. The second half – and the series’ season finale – airs March 30.
Aligned with the powerful Southron warlord Helios (Terence Maynard), Morgana’s ferocious attack shocks Camelot. But for the merciless Morgana, the King’s escape is not an option as she sends her forces after her injured step-brother and the young warlock.
Ben Daniels (Doom, Jack the Giant Killer) and Miranda Raison (MI-5, My Week with Marilyn) guest star in the two-part season finale as Tristan and Isolde, respectively: expert smugglers with little love for Arthur. The pair eventually come to understand the potential and power of the deposed king of Camelot.
Arthur’s ascent to the throne has had parallels in the blossoming of Bradley James as an actor, says his co-star McGrath.
“Bradley has definitely grown into the role – it’s been a wonderful experience for the two of us, evolving as actors as our characters themselves have evolved. I couldn’t imagine another King Arthur,” she says.
MERLIN co-creator and executive producer Johnny Capps adds, “Bradley hadn’t done a lot of television work before MERLIN, and the more work you do, flexing the acting muscles you get from working on television, the more confident he has become,” Capps says. “With that confidence, he’s learned to trust his instincts more. He’s learning more and more as an actor – playing the part of the king, he really is learning to be a king.”
James himself observes that his four years as Arthur have been eye-opening, professionally and personally. “As Arthur has developed positive aspects of his personality, I have had to learn what it is that makes a person obtain those certain traits,” he says. “It’s not only helped me develop as an actor but also as a person as I have taken aspects of Arthur and used them in my own life experiences. I have also learnt from his mistakes as well as his achievements, but as he grows into the King of legend he is making far fewer of them.”
As Arthur, James also gets to use his comedic skills – often in unexpected situations, a signature touch of MERLIN that is on display vividly in “The Sword in the Stone.” Seeking to force the ever-stubborn Arthur to flee Camelot rather than fight with the hopelessly outnumbered knights, Merlin casts a spell that reduces the king to a polite, obliging simpleton, who will respond to his servant’s every command. In addition, Merlin convinces Arthur to abandon his royal attire for a most ridiculous-looking peasant wardrobe, in order to better hide him from Morgana’s army. The result is sheer silliness in the midst of an otherwise tense, dramatic episode.
“Bradley has a phenomenal comedy instinct, and that’s always great to write for, especially in (this episode),” Capps explains. “It’s not always easy to fit into his character, but it’s that much funnier when we have these comedy moments.”
“Arthur’s simpleton was an absolute pleasure to play, if only for not having to wear chainmail for an episode,” James says. “It was a license to play around with a character who usually has certain boundaries according to his status and era. It helped having Alice direct the episode as she has a mischievous side and was keen to see how far we could take it. Not to mention I looked the bomb in that costume.”
“The Sword in the Stone, Part 1,” an all-new episode of MERLIN, airs Friday, March 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on Syfy. All three seasons of MERLIN are now available on DVD and on iTunes. Be sure to follow the latest news on MERLIN at the Official Merlin page on Facebook.
(Photo Credit: © Shine Ltd. & FremantleMedia Enterprises.)