Red Scharlach (redscharlach) wrote,
Red Scharlach

Oh brother, where art thou?

After a slight birthday-related interruption*, it's time to return you to your usual programme. Here's a better-late-than-never look at this week's Merlin, in the form of some thoughts on The Castle of Fyrien:

  • Poor Gwen, getting kidnapped is the last thing you want after a long day at work. It strikes me that a great proportion of this show's storylines wouldn't happen if Camelot's servants were allowed to live close to the people they actually serve. But no, even in the cod-Middle Ages, they've got to commute. Maybe Uther should instigate a cow-sharing scheme. Then they could comMOOte. (Sorry.)

  • "Can't you think of anything new to say?" - I don't know whether Arthur was criticizing the repetitiveness of Merlin, the scripts, or me here. All three of us, probably. Still, I cackled at Merlin's gleeful variations on wakey-wakey, especially "Let's have you, lazy daisy". Thank goodness Arthur stopped him before he got to "What's the story, morning glory?" or "Buongiorno sugar-tits!"

    Arthur wakes up to find a mini-Merlin springing up from his groin area. And not for the first time, either.

    Of course, the REAL news here is that after a couple of weeks of disappointing modesty, Arthur fights back and sets a triumphant new shirtlessness record for the series, at two minutes in! Surely this is going to be hard to beat, unless we get pre-credits shirtlessness. Or perhaps a multi-chested sauna scene or something. Four knights would beat a royal flush, in my book...

  • And if that wasn't enough titillation, this episode also features the return of King Cenred von Leather-Trousers. When he's not chewing apples, he's chewing the scenery and practising his-and-hers evil smirking with Morgause. "What would a man like Cenred want with us?" asks Gwen's brother Elyan. Well, I'm guessing that his groovy new seaside castle hasn't got cable TV, so he and Morgause are bored and have to make their own entertainment. Cenred therefore wants to Gwen to be the first contestant on a new gameshow he's invented called "Bring Me Arthur Pendragon or Watch Your Brother's Heart Get Torn Out". Gwen is upset, and wishes she'd applied for Deal or No Deal instead.

  • Meanwhile, back at Camelot, Arthur and Merlin play sniff-the-rag and Arthur accidentally chloroforms himself. Another big tick on the "how many times a series can Arthur be knocked unconscious" board, but Bradley James is so good at eye-rolling faint-faces that I feel I can't complain.

  • Due to recent cuts in Camelot public spending, Uther is reluctant to waste any of his valuable resources on saving the working classes. Never let it be said that this show does not contain topical social comment!

  • Anyway, Gwen soon turns up again, and although she has a half-hearted try at keeping schtum about her heartbreaking dilemma, she soon spills the beans to Merlin so that everyone can get on with a standard let's-ride-through-the-woods-to-the-rescue story. Well, they can, just as soon as Arthur finishes his bit of clunky exposition about why the name of this week's episode is actually highly relevant to the plot and wasn't chosen at the last minute because nobody had any better ideas, oh no, definitely not.

  • This week on World's Weirdest Excuses To Tell Your Parents, Arthur claims he needs to go out for a few days to buy some ladies' clothing. Of course, says Uther. Nothing suspicious about that at all.

  • Gaius puts in a tiny appearance to tell Merlin to behave and then disappears for the rest of the episode. What, is he still in recovery from all the pixie seduction he was forced into last week? And speaking of unusual absences, where has Sir Leon Regular-Speaking-Part been for the last couple of weeks? Did all that face-spitting in the goblin episode lead him to some sort of May-to-December clandestine romance with Gaius? On second thoughts, don't tell me. I don't think I really want to know...

  • Merlin's plans for a cosy little menage-à-trois outing with Arthur and Gwen go horribly wrong when Morgana invites herself along AND polishes up her Shiny Corset of Evil for the occasion. Meanwhile, Gwen is so upset by her brother's life being in danger that she only brings half a cardigan with her. The poor girl can't even rely on Arthur to keep her warm, since she's seen for herself that his fire-lighting skills are utterly useless.

  • Forced into the woods by Arthur's non-too-subtle hints, Merlin finds himself obliged to hang out with professional mean-girl Morgana, and dares to ask her why she's decided to stab all her friends in the back this season. Unable to come up with a sensible explanation, Morgana has to resort to pouting, sulking and blaming the scriptwriters. In her position, I'd be tempted to do the same thing.

  • "I do this only to please you." / "Then please me." Crikey, it appears that Cenred and Morgause have found their own solution to the lack of central heating in castles, and it doesn't involve magic either. Sadly, we don't get to see what it DOES involve, but I'd like to bet that the sounds of squeaking leather could be heard for miles around.

  • Oh look, it's the patented BBC beach, the same one where the Doctor Who posse filmed The Time of Angels, and indeed any other episode that required sniffling on the sand.

  • Arthur claims that giant spider webs in the tunnels are a good sign because they mean that no one's been down there. Um, surely they're usually a BAD sign because they mean giant spiders? It's supremely fortunate that this week's budget doesn't stretch to such things, possibly because Cenred's spent it entirely on headscarves for his henchmen and fruity nibbles for himself. That man just can't get enough roughage, it seems.

  • Predictably, our heroes all get captured within five minutes, creating a chance for Cenred to indulge in some scene-chewing amateur dramatics (he must be a hoot at Beltane parties), Gwen to give her brother a quick update on her love life (or is Arthur just "chivalrous" to all the maids?), Merlin and Arthur to share a cell with nothing in it but a mattress and yet still fail to make decent use of it (oh boys, why can't you prioritize?), Arthur to practise his Spiderman impersonation (too late, sweetheart! Andrew Garfield's already got that gig), and Merlin to prove that he knows a trouser-dropping spell. Yeah, that's a surprise to nobody.

  • At long last, Cenred pulls his swords out! His actual swords, I mean, not a pervy euphemism (unfortunately). At least it's proof that he doesn't go around with two handles attached to his shoulders, purely for fashion reasons.

  • Rather ridiculously, Morgause elects to attack Arthur with a pillar of flame that shuffles towards him slowly, giving Merlin plenty of time to fight back with his own version of the classic "rocks fall, everybody dies". But since this is family viewing, it's more like "small pieces of polystyrene fall, several people get conveniently knocked unconscious".

  • Ha ha, Morgana's inept attempts at evil are unwittingly avenged when Arthur flings her over his shoulder and gives everyone a good look at her tightly clad bottom. Don't complain, Morgana, it could have been worse. At least you had flattering trousers on.

  • Oh, you silly Morgsisters, why are you trying to get rid of Arthur via a serious of obscure and handwavey plans that have a very high chance of going wrong, and not choosing a more straightforward murder plot, like hitting him over the head with something big and heavy and then claiming it was an accident? Is it simply because there are six episodes left and they need to be filled with something?

  • Given that this episode was ostensibly about Gwen's brother, it's a darn shame that he wasn't in it for more than five minutes. After all, he was quite cute, his shirt was definitely responding to the strange gravity conditions of the Camelot area (linen is pulled helplessly towards the ground, it's positively spooky!), and his prison scene with Gwen was quite nicely played, for what there was of it. Still, he's apparently moved to Camelot now, so will he be back later? And more precisely, was his gratuitous swordplay scene a piece of justification that will pay off later in the series when someone has to heroically round up all the competent swordwielding hotties for an orgy important homeland security purposes?

  • Overall: a case of "nice trailer, shame about the episode". On the plus side, Elyan was fine (but underused), Cenred was hammily amusing (but overdressed), and Arthur and Gwen's chemistry was twenty times better than last week (thank goodness). On the minus side, we had TWO instances of people saying "why are you telling me this?" (your clue to limp scriptwriting!), and I started keeping a count of Morgana's evil smirks and then gave up because I lost count after ten. A few decent lines stuck together with horse-spit and running around do not a good storyline make. Disappointing.

  • Next week: more tacky amber jewelry from the Ye Olde MacGuffin gift shop, plus the return of Gwaine! The forecast for man-on-man heroics looks decidedly promising...

* By the way, thanks to all those who left me birthday wishes! I had a very nice Saturday, involving food, wine and friends in varying combinations.
Tags: merlin
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