(Sadly there are no pics this week, because at time of posting, the episode hadn't turned up on iPlayer. On the other hand, there was no shirtlessness this week, so you ain't missing much...)
- Who's this stomping through the CGI-enhanced woodland? Gosh, it's young Dudley Dursley, only he's calling himself Gilli* now. In what may be some form of cross-franchise retribution scenario, he's also getting beaten up by bigger blokes and having his
wandsword stolen. On the plus side, he's modelling yet another item from the Camelot magical giftshop, in the shape of a (relatively) tasteful ring. It comes with the standard "Glowing Eye" magic app, but without any of the nasty stomach cramps Arthur got from the blingy bracelet version a few weeks ago.
- This week at Camelot, it's Tournament time! As Arthur explains, the first rule of Tournament is that
you don't talk about Tournamentthere ARE no rules. And the second rule is that there are still no rules, BUT if you want to do anything particularly gruesome, you'll probably need to warn the cameraman to move back to a discreet distance, because this is meant to be family telly. For the same reason, any fighting style that requires repeatedly kicking your opponent in the bollocks until he screams like a little girl is not strictly speaking banned, but is unlikely to get you very much airtime. Got it? Right, on the with the show.
- Are you a cod-medieval peasant looking for cheap decorating ideas? Well, why not hang lots of red rags (or are they socks?) on washing lines and use them to add a festive air to the mud-filled dirtpit that you call home? You can also hang them from the ceiling in your local gastropub to detract from the grubby clientele. Alternatively, why not make a few groats by tying the same rags to sticks and selling them to your fellow peasants to wave at popular sporting events? (Personally, I was grateful that nobody turned up with an anachronistic vuvuzela.)
- Well, the good news is that the tournament attracts so many people that room-sharing becomes compulsory in all local hostelries. The bad news is, none of the contenders are even remotely sexy, bah humbug. This causes a problem when some non-sexy blokes try to bully Merlin - he only puts up with that sort of treatment from handsome guys ("MERLIN!!!!" Yes, Arthur, he can hear you). Nonetheless, Gilli helps him out and they bond a bit on the grounds of mutual oppressed status and prominent earage.
- Forced to improvise her own evil plans for once, Morgana encourages Uther to engage in a bit of mid-life crisis tournamenting. He falls for this ruse, possibly because getting a Porsche hasn't been invented yet. Morgana also sees the event as an excuse for some blatant public smirking, just for a change. (By the way, there's no Gwen at all this week, unless she was secretly hiding down the front of Morgana's frock and pushing up her bosoms, in place of an anachronistic Wonderbra.)
- Much hilarity at Arthur's Indiana Jones-inspired victory in his first tournament bout! Sometimes no amount of fancy swordplay will beat a good old-fashioned punch in the cakehole.
- Not very subtly, Gilli keeps fingering his ring in public. Being familiar with the workings of the Camelot Committee for Unsubtle Freudian Symbolism, Merlin notices this and realizes it means MAGIC is in the air. And when some guards catch Gilli flashing in the corridor, the Committee's involvement becomes undeniable...
- The same incident also drives Uther into a brilliantly random rant about how this MUST be sorcery, because there's a burn mark on this door and doors never ever get burned, and there's no other possible explanation. Good grief, Uther, there are a zillion other explanations for weird bursts of light and heat, especially in your neck of the fictional woods. "Anachronistic lava lamp", perhaps?
- Uther gloats to Arthur about the fact that they'll be fighting each other in the semi-finals. We know what this means, don't we? Yes, it means the competition organizers are useless incompetents who failed to arrange for the two obvious favourites to meet in the actual final! Of course, we know that they must've been paid off by the scriptwriters so that this week's guest star can be in the final, but Uther doesn't know that. Good job he was distracted by his own manly victoriousness, otherwise there might have been trouble.
- Oh no, Gilli has killed Beardy Bully Bloke with the use of a Discreet-O-Cam murder shot! Merlin soon turns up to tell him that killing is bad, mmkay? But then everyone in the pub teaches him that killing is good and gets you lots of free booze. Moral dilemmas, eh? No wonder the youth of Albion are in a terrible state.
- "Do you have any idea what it's like to live with a man who constantly thinks he's the best?" - Hee hee! I think Merlin might have a teensy idea what that's like, Arthur. And yet he still spends every spare minute polishing up your phallic symbol for you.
- "I didn't inherit this kingdom, I won it." - Thanks for this dollop of sudden back-story, Uther. We don't really need it now but it might turn out to be foreshadowing at some later date.
- And it's Uther vs Arthur in a fight to the... not-death. A fight to the falling-over, maybe? You can tell it's Srs Bzness, though, because they bother to take the buckets off their heads and give their stunt-doubles a rest.
- Merlin gets v. peeved at Gilli using his magic for EVILZ and decides that another mentor chat is in order. But this time, it's so serious that Merlin decides there's no choice but to out himself as a wizard by setting fire to his own hand (in the way that Claire's bio-mom was so fond of doing in Heroes). All of a sudden, things get very teary-eyed and touching. Merlin knows what it's like to be lonely, bless him! And it turns out that he himself is the titular Sorceror's Shadow, since he's both a sorceror AND has to live like a shadow of his real self. Of course, all this could teeter on the edge of cheesiness, but as always, Colin Morgan brings his best game and makes it all very heartfelt and endearing. Awww.
- Merlin sneaks out at midnight and yells for the Dragon to tell him what to do. (Translation of Dragontongue speech: "Oy, Dragon! Get your scaly arse over here and tell me what to do! I know this week's plot isn't very slashy, possibly because Gilli looks too much like my brother or something, but Gwaine's back next week and we all know what that means, nudge nudge wink wink!")
- The Slash Dragon points out that if Arthur sees Uther being killed by sorcery, he'll never
love Merlin for who he really ischange his mind about magic. Excellent point, dragon. Merlin's task is therefore to stand in the background and prevent Gilli from cocking up his whole romanticfuture, while acting only with his eyebrows. Fortunately, Colin Morgan's flexible features are entirely up to the challenge.
- Uther wins the tournament and the cheering hordes of peasants are delirious! Admittedly, they're probably cheering because the bloody thing's over at last and they can put down their crappy flags and go home, rather than pretending to be happy on pain of painful execution.
- When the revolution comes and the magic folk are free, Merlin and Gilli's paths may cross again. But not before that, it seems, possibly because he doesn't quite meet the massively stringent standards of handsomeness required for a regular guest part on this show. Poor Gilli. He is quite a good little actor, though, and reminded me of a less bony-faced Simon from Misfits: there's something similar in their sulky muttering and frowny stares.
- Oh dear, Morgana's half-baked plan seems to have sunk like a sad soufflé. Not only did Uther fail to conveniently kill Arthur or vice versa, but the whole business actually brought them closer together and cemented Arthur's future kingship. Curses, curses. Let that be a lesson to you, Morgana. Leave Morgause to do the thinking next time. Her plans may be just as useless, but at least they frequently involve men in leather trousers.
- Overall: a fairly low-key episode that didn't look hugely promising on paper. But with some space for quiet character work and decent acting, the results may not have been stellar, but at least fitted firmly in the "actually not bad" category. And actually, that's not bad.
- Next week: Thrills, spills, leather trousers, and a hunt for the non-specific golden shiny Cup of Life? I'm in!
- As a post-script, I'd like to point out that we've gone THREE WEEKS without gratuitous shirtlessness now. Wibble! On the plus side, if you haven't yet been exposed to this slightly spoilery cast portrait from the forthcoming finale, you might want to take a sneak peek, but only if you feel your hormones can take it. Blimey, I'd say that looks like a VERY promising future by anyone's reckoning...
* He fails to mention whether his surname is Ossenfeffer-Katzenellen-Bogen-by-the-Sea, however.