In an emotional roller-coaster ride of an episode, this week’s Merlin is sure to cause a wide range of responses, emotions, and opinions among fans. I have to admit; I both loved and hated this episode for various reasons. I’ll get to those later.
Arthur declares to his Uncle Agravaine that he’s going to marry Gwen. She’s good council and good support, and doesn’t have any stubble, like Uncle Aggy does. As soon as Uncle sees Arthur’s resolve, he runs off to Morgana like the good little informant that he is. Morgana is horrified, because this is just like her dream! No way will she see Gwen on her throne! (Someone correct me if I’m wrong here, but Morgana really needs to learn more about ascension to the throne, because sweetie, if you killed Arthur, Gwen could never be Queen, and even if she were, the throne wouldn’t go to Gwen. It would go to Arthur’s male next of kin, and it isn’t you, because you’re illegitimate. Really, show. But I’m nitpicking, aren’t I? The show has dragons and warlocks; I’ll stop with the reality checks, now.)
Morgana hatches a plan to revive Gwen’s “first love”, Lancelot, who happens to be dead. Though, how she knows so much about this, I have no idea. The only inkling Morgana had of Lancelot’s crush on Gwen was way back in series one. And before that, everyone thought Merlin and Gwen had something going on. Anyway, Morgana visits an old crone who gives her information on how to revive the dead. Morgana makes it look easy by tossing a large, ancient coin into the lake and making a wish. In slow motion, a naked Lancelot emerges and he only knows two things: His name, and that he’s at Morgana’s command. There’s a lot more she could have done with that/him, but it’s a family show. Morgana schools Pod!Lancelot, (Zombie!Lancelot?) teaching him things he’ll need to know in order to make everyone believe he’s truly returned.
While all of this is going on, we have separate shots of Arthur sneaking up on Gwen and covering her eyes as she’s making a bed. It’s all very intimate. He whispers something in her ear, blindfolds her, and leads her to her home. The room is filled with candles. It looks kind of dangerous, albeit romantic. He asks Gwen to marry him, and she hugs him with joy. “Is that a yes?” he asks. It’s a yes, Arthur. Merlin stands outside the door, (probably with buckets of water in case a fire starts) and while I know he’s happy for his friends; give them some privacy Merlin! Stop creeping around. Arthur throws a jousting tournament to honor his betrothed. Arthur and each of the knights present her with tokens. Another knight appears, offering Gwen a ringed token, and he reveals himself as Lancelot. Everyone is shocked and amazed. A guy just came back from the dead.
At dinner, Lancelot tells everyone how he was near death, and rescued. They believe his story. Only Merlin seems suspicious. He offers Lancelot a place to sleep and tells him that he’s often thought of that day and whether he could have saved him using magic. Lancelot says that if they all had magic, life would be easier. Uh oh. Lancelot knew of Merlin’s magic. This tips Merlin off. This guy may not be the real Lancelot! Gaius says helpfully, “He looks like him.” Good one, Gaius.
Agravaine runs back to Morgana. He tells her everyone fell for it. Except Gwen wasn’t really rattled or moved in any way by Lancelot’s presence. Aggy thinks that Gwen truly does love Arthur, and that whatever happened with Lancelot is in the past. Morgana says she’s prepared for that, and enchants a bracelet. Uncle Aggy always looks a bit uncomfortable when Morgana does her hocus pocus. I wonder if there’s something to that later in the series.
Lancelot visits Gwen at her home. She’s a bit wary, but he says he only wants to wish her well. He gives her the enchanted bracelet as a token of good fortune, wishes her everlasting happiness with Arthur, and leaves. Meanwhile, Merlin is looking up information about necromancy, and a book entitled, The Art of Necromancy. Merlin asks Gaius about it. Necromancy was viewed with utmost suspicion, even in the days of the old religion. He believes someone has raised Lancelot from the dead. That someone being Morgana. Creatures raised from the dead are called shades. Merlin paints circles on the floor and when Lancelot walks over them, sure enough, we see he’s a shade. Merlin now knows for certain that this is NotReal!Lancelot. He’s a shadow with ill intent and he may be there to harm Arthur.
Later, there’s more awesome jousting scenes. Gwen visits Lancelot in his tent at the tourney. She’s wearing the enchanted bracelet. She seems to be in and out of enchantment as she doesn’t understand why she’s there, or why she’s drawn to him. Arthur and Pod!Lancelot are in the finals. Arthur is hurt, and Lancelot yields. Merlin wonders what fake Lancelot is up to, if he didn’t kill Arthur when he had the chance. Merlin sees Gwen enter Lancelot’s tent.
Later that night, Lancelot meets Agravaine and tells him the plan is set. Gwen is going to meet him. Merlin overhears this, and tries to stop fake Lancelot, but is knocked out cold. Gwen meets Lancelot and Uncle Aggy rouses Arthur from sleep to show him something important. Arthur walks into the council chambers to see his beloved Guinevere kissing Lancelot. Enraged, Arthur withdraws his sword. The two men fight, Merlin is on the sidelines and helps with a bit of magic. Only Gwen coming between them stops the fight. It’s pretty intense, as I’ve never seen Arthur lose control that way before. Lancelot and Gwen are thrown into separate prison cells. Gwen is mortified, and sobbing, she angrily removes the bracelet, tossing it aside. She’s now released from the enchantment, but poor girl has no idea that the bracelet was enchanted.
Agravaine tells Arthur that he’s been made a fool of. This is not only a personal matter, it’s also a matter of state. He says that adultery in noble families is punishable by death. Gwen is brought into the throne room. Arthur demands that everyone leaves. The scene here is what elevates this episode. Bradley James and Angel Coulby knock it out of the park. Arthur is deeply hurt, Gwen is confused and remorseful. She’s sobbing. I feel for both of them. She doesn’t understand her own actions, doesn’t know why she was drawn to Lancelot. She tells Arthur that he means everything to her, she loves only him. Lancelot was in the past. The scene is quite intense, Arthur grabs her and shakes her a bit, and pulls back realizing he’s crossing a line. He tells her that they’re saying she should be put to death. He doesn’t want to see her dead, but nor does he want to see her. He banishes her. To return to Camelot means death. Gwen is so distraught, she doesn’t want to be without Arthur. He says he’s made his decision, he’s truly sorry. As painful as this scene was, it was so well acted, serious kudos to Bradley and Angel. I know there is debate about how all of this happened, I’ll ask about that later. Merlin is upset. This is what Morgana wanted all along. Gaius says she couldn’t stand to see Gwen on the throne. Merlin wants to tell Arthur that this was all Morgana’s doing. Gaius says it won’t change what Gwen did. Gwen will have to pay the price for her actions. This is where I have to stop and just ask these characters, who all know Gwen and have known her for years. You didn’t think to question why she’d go off kissing Lancelot? No one gave her the benefit of the doubt, when it’s the least she’s done for everyone else? She’s helped pretty much everyone. No one would help her? Merlin couldn’t tell her that Lancelot was not really Lancelot? Gwen could then tell him fake Lance gave her a bracelet? Any time other characters have been enchanted, the truth has come out, and all was forgiven. But not for Gwen? Instead she loses the only home she’s ever known, the man she loves, and has to cart all of her belongings in a horseless wagon to parts unknown? It seems unfair to me. Merlin thinks this is kind of unfair too, and asks Arthur to reconsider. Arthur tells Merlin that while he loves Gwen with all his heart, he can no longer trust her. Well, Gwen can’t even trust herself, because she never knew she was enchanted, and doesn’t understand why she acted the way she did. No one knew, and now everyone thinks the worst of her.
Agravaine gives fake Lancelot a message from Morgana. He’s found dead of an apparent suicide. Arthur wants Lancelot to have a proper burial. While Gwen is carting her things away, wedding decorations are taken down. Here’s where Merlin makes his plea for Gwen. Arthur loves her but can’t trust her now. Wonder what Arthur’s going to do when he finds out Merlin has magic, and has been lying to him all this time. Hmm. Wait and see.
What did you think if this episode? Do you think Arthur was too harsh? Do you think they will ever find out that Gwen was enchanted? Will she be exonerated? How will Arthur and Gwen come back from this?
5 our of 5 stars for the Angel and Bradley scene alone. It hurt.
All images and videos belong to BBC 1