Anyway, in the interests of making the most of what's left, here are my thoughts on The Labyrinth of Gedref, a.k.a. Arthur and Merlin's Bogus Journey.
- Our tale begins with Arthur marching through the woodland in search of something to shoot, while a few extras with no lines charge about aimlessly and Merlin scurries behind, representing the Guardian-reading anti-hunting lobby. Then suddenly it appears: a
horse in a bad wigunicorn!
If this is what unicorns looked like, it's no wonder they died out. Surely they couldn't see where they were going and must have kept falling off cliffs and accidentally impaling their horns in tree trunks? Anyway, Arthur is a terrible smug rich-boy fascist for killing a lovely horsey, and will have to be taught an Important Lesson (TM) to atone for his crime.
- When they get back to Camelot, Arthur gives Uther the horn. In the literal, rather than the suggestively incestuous sense, thank goodness.
- "Do you know what THAT is?" - Umm, is it an excuse for Arthur to grab Merlin's head and shove him down by the bed? No, it's just some
melted chocolatesrat droppings on the floor. How disappointing.
- Of course, the curse falls on Camelot and all the crops die and the water runs out. It's like Survivors goes medieval. Nobody suggests cannibalism as a solution, possibly because this is a family show.
Note that Merlin is incapable of understanding Arthur's simple hand signals, mainly because he is too busy staring into Arthur's eyes and not even vaguely looking at where his fingers are pointing.
- Enter the mysterious figure of Gandalf Guy (a.k.a. Anhora, but that's a bit of a girl's name), who is keeper of the unicorns and presenter of Albion's least popular gameshow. "If you fail any of these tests, Camelot will be damned for all eternity." But if you pass them, you could win a caravaning weekend for two, so there's lots of play for.
- When Merlin kept smacking his lips because his mouth was dry, for a moment I thought that Arthur might offer to share a bit of saliva. He seems to have plenty to spare, after all.
- Arthur spares the life of a looter and his bleeding heart tendencies win back the missing moisture, hooray! Then he and Merlin go crazy with a big water binge, but resist the temptation for a celebratory shared bath (more's the pity). Instead, they squabble over their main course, which is rat casserole in a coulis of rat with extra rat shavings.
The jury is out on whether this is the first time Arthur's forced Merlin to swallow something he didn't want to...
- Back out in the forest, Arthur finds the former looter is actually a nasty little thief who's been stealing anachronistic vegetables (including a pair of rather suggestive melons) and calls Arthur names. Arthur feels his honour has been dissed and goes all stabbity on his ass. UH-UHHH!! That was the wrong answer, Arthur. You lose the grain you won in the first round and now all your subjects will die horribly. As everyone knows, the correct response in this situation is "Leave it, love, he's just not worth it."
- Here is a completely gratuitous screencap of some enticing medieval scenery. Hem hem.
I will excuse myself by saying that it is acceptable to admire Arthur at this point, because he's about to stand up to his dad and refuse to be a total fascist to his people, yay.
- Spurred on by Arthur's pouting on the balcony, Merlin decides to take the matter in hand and get the final clue from Gandalf Guy himself. Sure enough, Arthur must go to the
Crystal MazeLabyrinth of Gedref. Arthur gallops straight off, and finds this:
Okaaaay. Why is there a bloody great maze in the middle of the countryside? And how did Arthur already know where to find it? Is it some local tourist attraction for vacationing peasants? Or a piece of recycled landscape from the end bit of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?
- Anyway, you can tell that the labyrinth is serious business because as soon as Arthur and Merlin start running around in it, the soundtrack cranks up the ominous Latin chanting and a decent air of menace builds....
...and then THIS happens.
Is this the lamest special effect ever? Merlin looks embarrassed just to be seen with it.
- Arthur finds his way through the maze to the beach (perhaps that's what the maze is for, to keep the peasant crowds down on bank holidays?) and finds Gandalf Guy and Merlin engaged in a low-budget re-enactment of The Seventh Seal. Or more likely Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
In this version, however, they don't have to play chess, or even Twister. Instead it's a drinking game, and not the fun kind, either.
- "I had no idea you were so keen to die for me."
"Trust me, I can hardly believe it myself."
This bit was deeply sweet, I thought. Even the corny old "look over there!" trick didn't stop it from being touching. I'm a soppy thing at heart, clearly.
Fake out! It was only a sleeping potion after all and Arthur has saved the day. Now Merlin, you know the traditional way to wake up sleeping princes, don't you? Darn, they're cutting back to Camelot now...
- And as the happy ending arrives, we find out why Merlin should never be backlit (it makes his ears glow, bless him), discover that Arthur is "pure of heart" (but that doesn't mean that he's a virgin, so don't tell his mates, all right?), and that Gaius has a secret love of phallic vegetables (watch him scuttling off with a large marrow). Oh yes, and horses in wigs are able to come miraculously back to life (so don't get upset, small horse-loving children!)
Good job they just took its horn off rather than its whole head, isn't it?
- In conclusion: some things are silly, and some things are serious, and nothing makes a great deal of sense if you look at it for more than five minutes. But Merlin and Arthur still love each other very very much, and this continues to be the sole basis of the entire series. Some things in life are reassuringly simple, aren't they?
We can only hope that the whole thing gets a suitably classy climax. And a second season, more to the point. Perhaps if we are good boys and girls, and promise not to kill any unicorns?