- Oh look, it's a dream sequence, albeit the kind that doesn't have wibbly screen effects to introduce it. All the Camelot cardboard extras have their best cloaks on, Arthur's wearing Uther's crown, Gwen's got a lovely new frock because she is The Queen (TM), Merlin is happy, and Gaius is doing a frowny face, possibly because nobody bought him a new dress for the occasion.
- Morgana wakes up in a tizzy knowing that this is All Wrong (TM). Waking up in a panic is SO last season! Smirking's her thing now, didn't everyone get the memo? In a flash she rushes down to the cellar to see Morgause, who's taking one of her regular breaks from shagging King Leather-Pants in order to explain the plot to her less attentive sibling. Basically, Morgana's challenge for this episode, if she chooses to accept it, is to split up Arthur and Gwen. And how does she plan to do this? By encouraging them to snuggle and go on nice dates with each other. Ooookay. This can't possibly go wrong, can it?
- Morgana starts by quizzing Gwen about Arthur's feelings for her. "It must be hard..." she says, although fortunately she's talking about hiding their lurve, not about anything else that may or may not be hard (hem hem). Then she goes to Arthur and tells him that Gwen talks about him all the time but she can't tell him exactly what, because she is too
unimaginativediscreet. And then she sits around secretly smirking as Gwen takes the world's least convincing sickie in order to go on a date. This villainy lark is a walk in the park, isn't it?
- Merlin, however, is charmingly happy that his friends are in lurve, and thinks Arthur and Gwen are darling and adorable and as cute as little buttons together. I almost expected him to start pinching their cheeks and cuddling them. (To be honest, I expect him to do that with Arthur almost every week. I simply adjusted the image slightly so that it included Gwen. It wasn't difficult.)
- Down at the Arthur Pendragon Idyll-in-the-Woods Picnic Spot and Café (tongue sandwiches a speciality), Arthur uses a tea-tray to check his perfectly plucked eyebrows. Then he treats Gwen to a lavish spread of grapes, cheese and posh cushions, and tells her about his fantasy of running away to live in the countryside... with Merlin. This comes as a surprise to precisely no viewers at all. Then he bravely saves Gwen from a wasp and they have a kiss-up that's clearly pretty good because they totally fail to hear Arthur's dad and secret half-sister stomping through the middle of it on horseback, until it's Too Late (TM).
- In a piece of unexpected historical accuracy, Uther finds it totally normal and even rather hilarious that Arthur wants to shag serving girls. What a shame that this is family telly, otherwise Arthur could have played the "Yeah, I'm just using her for meaningless sex, innit!" card and Uther would have probably patted him on the back and given him a shiny new groat to spend on cod-medieval condoms. But no, Arthur is a noble soul and admits its True Lurve (TM), which is the kind of girlie concept that his dad's never going to understand. "You've had your fun, now it must come to an end." says Uther. Arthur fails to mention that they hadn't actually got that far, and was there any chance of an extra couple of hours of "fun" before Gwen gets banished forever?
- "You couldn't keep a secret if your life depended on it!" / "You'd be surprised!" - Probably the best of this week's sweet little Merlin-and-Arthur scenes. Oh, I so want Merlin to confess to Arthur at the end of this season. It'd put a neat spin on the next series, and the conspiratorial squabbling scenes could be epic.
- Morgana realizes she has to revise her Evil Plan a bit because Arthur's talking about running away with Gwen (and Merlin, presumably, because we now know that Arthur's romantic fantasies always include Merlin, if only to do the heavy lifting). So she secretes a suspicious herbal teabag under Arthur's pillow, whispers the secret word "enchantment!" in Uther's ear, and sits back to smirk while the guards ransack Arthur's bedroom. (Fortunately they don't find the "artistic" naughty parchments or the chest full of emergency phallic objects, so it could have been a lot worse.)
- Major drama now, as Uther is utterly horrid to Gwen, Gwen bravely stands up to Uther over her dearly departed dad, and Arthur does his Very Serious Business face and relinquishes his entitlement to the throne. (Obviously this is never going to happen, because there isn't a legend about Farmer Arthur and his Cows of the Round Cowshed, but hey, it's the thought that counts.) Arthur and Gwen even manage to have a very dramatic snog, while being pulled apart by soldiers (the indoor equivalent to wild horses, perhaps).
- The one weak link is, of course, the smirky presence of Ms Smirking-Hood in the far corner, but her own smirkiness becomes her undoing when Gwen actually manages to catch her mid-smirk! Oh no, Morgana, I fear you're never going to make a truly fearsome villainess unless you go cold turkey. Or should that be "cold smirkey"?
- "If we can't catch the true sorcerer, we must invent one..." Nice plan, Merlin, even if it does have a touch of Baldrick about it. At least you didn't suggest that you could get a mad wild killer bull and disguise it as a sorcerer.
- Now, old-age make-up is usually a cause for groaning all round in my house, because it never looks even remotely believable. However, not only was Colin clearly having a whale of time doing silly voices and face-pulling, but the episode suddenly turned hilarious at this point. I cackled madly at Merlin's on-the-spot invention of an Evil Plan (TM) as a reason why Arthur can't just stab him to death, AND at his getting payback by throwing something heavy at Arthur's head, AND at his delight at being able to tell Uther exactly what he thinks about him, to his face.
When Merlin had imagined himself bending over Arthur's pillows with his wood in his hand and Arthur about to take him roughly from behind, this hadn't been quite what he'd had in mind.
- And where is the "real" Merlin when this strange old wizard is at large? Well, according to Gaius, he's decided to spend all day down the pub. Well done, Gaius, because that's a perfectly reasonable place of a servant to be in the middle of the day and nobody's ever going to question it, are they. Whatever happened to that old standard "he's picking herbs", eh? Or does that sound too much like a synonym for masturbation?
- Predictably, Merlin's magical mojo goes wonky in a crisis, so it's down to Magic!Gaius to concoct an antidote, using a book with a handy colour chart and mixing shade after shade until he finally achieves a nice blue (Avalon Afternoon Heat Haze) that would look quite attractive on a bathroom wall.
- All the extras gather outside for what promises to be a fairly dull burning-at-the-stake of someone they've never heard of. Fortunately, they get more of a show than they were expecting when Merlin does a bit of vengeance-based improv and uses a spot of magical arson as a distraction technique. All right, it's not a great afternoon's viewing, but it's the most those peasants can hope for, given that cable TV hasn't been invented yet.
- ...and Merlin changes back into his normal self, just in time for Arthur to tell him off for having spent all day in the pub. Still at least it's a good excuse for why Merlin's sounding a bit rough. Although not as rough as he's going to be looking (or smelling) after he's spent a day knee-deep in horse dung.
- Meanwhile, Morgana is utterly confused by what happened to her oh-so-well-thought-out plot. I'm sure she'll be rushing off to her room to text email@example.com in the hope of finding out the answer.
- A nice little scene with Arthur and Gwen at the end. Of course, when he's king, he can institute socialist principles and marry Gwen if he wants. Also, that means Lancelot will be able to be a knight and come back to Camelot, and.. um, guys? I can see an issue here. I fear the red string of mythical fate is about to get tangled around your ankles once again...
- Overall: shock horror, this was actually quite a good episode! A nice balance of drama and laughs, and everyone got something to do (it's amazing how infrequently that happens). Arthur and Gwen don't always set the screen on fire, but it turns out that Gaius wasn't the only one generating chemistry this week: the romantic stuff worked rather well for me, especially when Arthur started being all serious and purposeful (cor). And Colin Morgan's such a little star that even a ridiculous wig cannot hide his shininess. More like this please, BBC.
- Next week: is that Dudley Dursley doing magic? Someone had better call J.K. Rowling, quick. I'm pretty sure this is going to make mincemeat of her canon...
* A title that invariably puts this song in my head. (Is my advanced age showing?)