Merlin raised the bar a bit this week, in a much needed deviation from the usual plot. While I enjoy pretty much every character on the show, I admit this week was a nice respite from the usual Morgana and Uncle Agravaine scheming against Arthur, Arthur clueless about slimy Uncle, Merlin saves the day, Morgana tossed around and her evil plot foiled again – episode.
Last week I wished for more Gwen and the Knights. This week delivered. We open on a small village at night. In the home of a middle-aged couple, the man comments on how there’s a chill in the air tonight. His wife chuckles and reminds him that he always says that. She wants him to stop his fussing at the fire pit and come to bed. At that moment, a man’s not-so-distant scream is heard outside. The husband, John, goes out to investigate, despite his wife’s pleas to stay inside. He’s the elder of the village, he says, it’s his duty. John grabs up a torch and searches outside. As John exits a building, a young man collapses on him, looking wide-eyed and deathly pale. John holds up the young man, calling out, asking if anyone is there, wondering what on earth is going on.
Gwen is at home folding clothes. Someone knocks on the door. It’s the woman from the village. Her name is Mary. Somehow she knows Gwen and Gwen knows her. Gwen knows people outside of Camelot, how cool is that? And people know her too. Sorry, it’s just that we usually get so little about Gwen; it’s nice to learn something else about her. Anyway, Mary tells Gwen that she knows they haven’t seen each other in years, but that she had nowhere else to turn. A grave illness has come to her village. She asks Gwen for help. Mary is obviously aware that Gwen is close to the king. News travels fast in Camelot. Gwen takes Mary to see Arthur. They’re in Arthur’s chambers, not in court, which is the usual way commoners go about having an audience with the king, if they get to speak to the king at all. It’s a little odd, but, this is what Arthur does best. He’s a king of the people, and while the young king may flounder and accept poor advice from scheming uncles, and make newbie mistakes about affairs of state and politics, or try to emulate his father; his heart has always been about the people of Camelot. I could never imagine Uther listening to a common villager asking for help in his chambers, but with Arthur, it kind of works. Arthur tells Mary he will do what he can to help, since the village has no physician to cure this illness.
Gaius is treating a young man with ‘sweating sickness’ it’s the fourth case he’s seen today. He tells Arthur that if it were any other circumstances, he’d gladly go. He suggests that Merlin go to the village to help instead. Arthur’s not sure. What if the illness isn’t something straightforward? Gaius suggests that if it’s too complicated, Merlin can bring his findings back. Arthur says that Merlin can’t find his own backside half the time. Gaius assures Arthur that Merlin is capable of much more than he’d imagine. Merlin can handle the responsibility. Merlin himself is unsure, but Gaius has faith in him. Gaius gives Merlin his medicine bag in a kind of passing-the-torch gesture. Awww, it’s sweet.
Merlin, Gwen, and Mary (along with Sirs Gwaine, Elyan, Percival, and Leon), ride to Mary’s village of Longstead. John and a few villagers are there to greet them. John says they are grateful for Gwen’s help, and asks the whereabouts of Gaius. Merlin steps forward and says that Gaius was needed in Camelot, but he’s there to help in any way he can. John gets a bit pissy, and says they need a skilled physician, not a boy. Sir Elyan steps up and says, “His name is Merlin,” in a show of support. Gwen assures John that Merlin has been appointed acting physician by King Arthur, himself. Merlin asks where the sick men are. He checks for symptoms and prescribes a treatment. Once alone, Merlin tries magic to heal one of the men, but to no avail. This gets Merlin thinking something else might be going on. Possibly an enchantment? Later that night Merlin sees a shadow pass by a window, takes up a fishing pole as a weapon and goes outside. It’s only Gwaine, answering the call of nature. They joke about Merlin’s fishing rod as a weapon, and Gwaine is off, probably to answer another call.
The following morning the men are no better after treatment. They are dying. Merlin says there’s something else at work, and John asks if he suspects sorcery. Merlin says it’s possible. John explains about an evil presence he felt, and suspected that evil magic was at work. Merlin says they need to go back to Gaius, he’ll know what to do.
The knights, Merlin, and Gwen ride back for Camelot, and along the way come upon an encampment of bandits. Gwaine sees a group of men tormenting a young woman. The fight is on as the rest of the knights follow Gwaine into the bandit camp. It’s a nicely filmed action sequence of the knights using team work and a dash of humor to defeat the bandits. When it’s over and the bandits run for the hills, Percival is found holding the young tormented woman Gwaine had seen moments before. She’s unconscious, and Percival fears they’re too late. Merlin reaches out to touch her and the young woman is suddenly awake, and screaming. Percival assures her that she’s safe. She’s with knights of Camelot and no harm will come to her. Gwen approaches and carefully removes the girl’s bonds. She introduces herself and asks the girl her name. “Lamia. My name is Lamia,” the young woman answers. Gwen asks what happened to her. Lamia relates the story of traveling home when the bandits took her. She begins to cry again, and snuggle closer to Percival. Well, he does have nice arms. Merlin attempts to treat her wounds, but she cries and flinches away from him, as though his touch has burned her. Leon approaches and asks if she’s strong enough to ride. They have to get out of there before the bandits return. Merlin thinks something is odd about this chick, but doesn’t say anything.
They reach a spot in the woods to camp for the night. Merlin attempts to help Lamia dismount from the horse, but again she has an adverse reaction to his nearness. She just doesn’t like Merlin. Percival gets all protective, pushes Merlin aside and warns him to stay away from Lamia. Gwen notices the odd behavior but tries to smooth things over by saying Percival didn’t mean it. He’s just tired.
Night time at the camp. Everyone is sleeping and Percival is on guard. He hears weeping. He finds Lamia crouched behind a tree. He comforts her and tells her that no harm will come to her now. He hugs her, and Lamia’s eyes turn yellow and snake-like. She’s enchanting him even more. As she’s about to possibly kiss him, Merlin comes upon them and offers water. Percival and Lamia stare daggers at poor Merlin and walk away together.
Back in Camelot, Arthur is worried. It’s been two days and his favorite knights, his best friend, and his lady love are not back yet. Despite Uncle Agravaine’s excuses and protests, Arthur wants to leave for Longstead at first light. Gaius will accompany him.
Back at camp, Gwen tries offering Lamia some food. Lamia refuses to eat. Leon says they’re breaking camp to ride east. Merlin says that Camelot is west. They’re not going back to Camelot. Elyan says that Lamia wants them to take her home. Looks like Lamia’s getting to all the knights, controlling all of them now. Merlin says no, they need to get Gaius, and Gwaine says Gaius can wait. Merlin reminds them that they were sent to help the people of Longstead. Sir Leon rounds on Merlin. “You dare to question our judgment? You are not a knight. You’re not even a physician; you’re nothing but a servant.” Gwen steps up and tries to get them to see reason, when she too is silenced by her own brother, Sir Elyan who tells her to stay out of it, that it’s none of her business. Oh wait till Arthur finds out you guys, you’re all in big trouble. The knights help Lamia and walk away, leaving Merlin and Gwen to wonder what the heck is going on.
Arthur and company are traveling the woods, when they come upon an encampment of what appears to be dead men strewn about. There’s not a mark on them, but yep, they’re dead. Arthur’s group thinks the dead men may have been slave traders. One is barely alive, and they take him back to Longstead.
The knights with Merlin and Gwen have stopped to rest. Gwaine attempts to bring water to Lamia, but Leon snatches the water bag out of his hands. They bicker, and both men are soon having an all-out sword fight over her. Really guys, she’s not that special. Elyan and Percival separate them, while Lamia looks on smugly, playing with the ends of her hair. She’s creeping me out. Leon is wounded, Merlin is angry with them, Gwen helps Merlin fix up Leon’s wound.
Arthur’s group reaches Longstead where they discover that the knights left the day before, headed back to Camelot. Arthur thinks something must have happened to them, and says they’ll ride out at dawn. Gaius has a look at the sick men in Longstead. He agrees that Merlin is right; there’s sorcery involved.
Back at the knights’ encampment, Merlin shares his suspicions about Lamia with Gwen. The knights are brothers, yet bicker and fight like foes since they found Lamia. Gwen agrees that they aren’t acting like themselves, but she’s not sure that Lamia is the one to cause it, since she’s just a lost, frightened girl, how can she have this effect on them?
Gaius has been able to treat the slave trader, and tells Arthur that they were transporting a girl. The slave trader claims that all the men fell under a spell. Quarrels and fights broke out among them. They suspected the girl of bewitching them. The girl escaped and killed them all but one. Gaius explains that the girl is a Lamia. A creature of magic, born of the blood of a girl, mingled with the blood of a snake, created by high priestesses of the old religion. These creatures could control the mind of a man and suck the life from him. Heh. I think we all know of people like that. Anyway, Gaius says the Lamia can transform at will, and become hideous monsters.
It’s Sir Elyan’s turn to be on night watch. He hears a noise and goes to investigate. Lamia is there. They both say they couldn’t sleep. Lamia approaches him, tells him not to be afraid. She kisses him, and he falls unconscious. Lamia’s eyes turn yellow and snake-like. In the morning Elyan hasn’t returned to camp, the others search for him. Lamia tells Gwen they’ll find her brother soon, but it’s not in a comforting way. Gwen is creeped out. The knights return with Elyan’s body. He’s barely alive. Gwen thinks Lamia had something to do with it. She tells Merlin she knows Lamia did this. Merlin insists they go back to Camelot. Lamia interjects saying she knows of a castle nearby. They can take shelter and take care of Elyan. Merlin says they don’t need shelter, they need Gaius. Gwen says he’s right. The knights refuse and tell Gwen and Merlin to shut up. They have no say in this. They either come with the knights or stay behind. Lamia gives Gwen and Merlin an evil look as she follows behind the knights.
Arthur is tracking them, while Uncle Aggy is doing what he can to screw it up. He’s covering track marks and trying to lead Arthur off the trail. Gwen however, finds use for her tunic, and begins tearing strips of it, tying the cloth to tree branches, to leave as clues for Arthur to find.
Lamia leads them to an abandoned castle. Merlin tries once more to stop the knights from entering. Percival threatens Merlin. They enter the broken-down castle, their torches blow out and Lamia disappears. Merlin ignites the torches. They come upon rooms full of skeletal remains. Merlin tells them it’s a trap. Lamia brought them here; she’s responsible for harming Elyan. Leon won’t hear it. His concern is for Lamia. He shoves Merlin aside. Gwen attempts to redirect Leon’s anger and attention away from Merlin, by reminding them that Elyan is hurt. They find a spot and start a fire. The rest of the knights warn Merlin and Gwen to stay put, while they search for Lamia.
Arthur’s still searching. Agravaine suggests they’re following the wrong trail. Arthur says they’re not and he won’t give up. Aggy tries again to dissuade Arthur, but he’s having none of it. Guinevere is out there and he’ll search all night if he has to. Awww.
Gwaine goes in search of more firewood. Merlin tries to warn him that it’s not safe. Gwaine acts like a jerk, and tells Merlin to stay out of his business. Percival and Leon are looking for Lamia. Gwen wonders why only the knights have been enchanted. Merlin claims not to know. Gwen says there’s something about Merlin, because Lamia looks at him as though he’s an enemy. They hear a man’s scream, Merlin investigates and finds Gwaine. Lamia has gotten to him. He’s pale and lifeless.
Arthur finds a strip of cloth. “It’s Guinevere’s. It’s from her tunic, I’d know it anywhere. They must be close.” Arthur spurs his horse onward. I’m not going to wonder how Arthur knows so much about Gwen’s clothing. It’s a family show, which I find unfortunate at times, but my imagination is just fine. Arthur sees the castle in the distance, as Percival finds Lamia. She kisses Percy. He passes out. Leon comes upon them, and sees what Lamia has done. He tries to attack her, but she’s tossing him around the room with her powers. He’s knocked out as well.
Just as she’s about to suck the life from Leon, Merlin arrives. “You won’t find me such easy prey,” he tells her. She says she could have killed him any time she’d wished. Merlin asks her what she’s waiting for. Go Merlin. I love when he’s badass. She uses her power to throw him against a wall. After he lands, Merlin uses his own magic, and we see Leon’s fallen sword fly through the air toward Lamia. She’s skewered. Nice one, Merlin! She falls over a large piece of building debris, and Merlin thinks it’s done. But no. She transforms into a hideous octopus-like creature, and really, that’s the best I can do because this thing is kind of indescribable. It smacks Merlin with a tentacle, Merlin tries to bury it under debris with his magic, but the thing busts through it. Gwen hears the commotion and picks up a sword. She sees Merlin running toward her and is momentarily relieved until she sees the creature coming after. Merlin gets Gwen out of the way, but the creature lashes out with a tentacle and grabs Merlin around the leg, pulling him. Gwen is panicked, but she’s got a sword, and after a moment, she overcomes her fear and charges the monster, stabbing it. Gwen and Merlin are both on the ground now as the creature closes in. Merlin’s eyes glow and he’s about to use magic again when the creature suddenly falls. It’s Arthur! He’s dealt the final blow. Gwen runs to him and he picks her up in a semi -twirly hug. It’s cute. Merlin is relieved as well. Arthur tells him it’s almost good to see him. It’s also cute.
Back at Longstead, Gaius is treating the knights. Arthur teases Merlin about being saved by a woman. Merlin says it’s better than being dead. Once back in Camelot, Gwen visits Arthur at his request; he commends her for her bravery, and says he’s proud of her. She says she only did what anyone would have done. It’s a sweet scene between them, and ends with a kiss.
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 Much needed departure from the norm. We got to see more of the knights, and more of Gwen.
Next week: Lancelot’s back from the dead?