Anyway, here are some thoughts on The Wicked Day:
- It's Arthur's birthday, and he hasn't had one of those since season 1. So what better way to celebrate than a guest performance by the Cirque de So-Sue-Me, wandering experts in juggling, fire-eating and anachronistic hair gel. They've also brought a lot of sharp objects with them, which is useful because birthdays in Camelot are always surprisingly stabby occasions. Remember that time Arthur gave Morgana a dagger and she tried to use it to kill Uther? Well, the murderous cabbie from Sherlock has decided to remake that episode with a twist, perhaps because knife-throwing with a side of regicide is the most fun you can have with an Arthurianism.
- Gosh, Uther seems to be feeling quite upbeat and chatty for once. Even his dreadful comb-over seems to have abated slightly. I fear this can only be a foreshadowing of Doom to come.
- Hurrah, it's now time for Camelot's hottest new gameshow, Wheel of Fortune with Bonus Men in Bondage. It's an avant-garde concept, but I feel it could run and run. Or spin and spin, at any rate.
The apple was surprising enough, but then Arthur suddenly realized where the banana was heading.
- "In a few hours time, the sedative on the apple will begin to take effect…" - Hold on a minute: a poisoned apple, a very short bloke, Arthur's snow-white thighs… Morgana, I think this Gleeman guy is trying to steal your Wicked Queen act!
- "You're not wearing any trousers…" - Well, no sign of any princely shirtlessness this week (and any future shirtlessness will be kingly, not princely), but we do at least get a scenic view of Arthur's Seat:
- So, the evil Gleeman wants Arthur to have his Bout of Convenient Unconsciousness early this week, and almost gets his wish. But don't get lulled into a false sense of slapstick, because here's Unexpected Swordfighting Uther, representing for the Camelot massive! Steel clangs in the night, middle-aged character actors slash and parry, and it all ends in a haze of triumph-turned-tragedy. The guards have succumbed to a bout of inconvenient unconsciousness and suddenly Uther is making a touching goodbye speech before falling into a Not Yet Dead (™) stupor and it's all too quick and Arthur's not even awake enough to process it all. Bloody hell. I wasn't expecting this episode to go there.
- "If there's anything I can do…", says Agravaine. Actually there IS something: you can trot off through the forest and tell Morgana this week's plot. She'll be ever so surprised, since she probably thought this was going to be a comedy episode, just like I did. But do keep your hands off her frock. It's from a terribly exclusive seamstress that she's just discovered: Vivienne of the West Woods.
- What's this? Arthur wanting to use magic to save Uther? Lest we forget, Uther asked Gaius to do the same for Morgana, back in HER stabby birthday episode. But when Merlin starts thinking that Arthur might be open to a bit of magic and gets that adorable hopeful look on his face, we KNOW it's all going to end in tears before bedtime.
- Gaius foresees this disappointment and tries to dissuade Merlin from his plan to wig up and give it the full Gandalf. "Oh, come on," says Merlin. "It was surprisingly entertaining the last time I did cosplay! And besides, I want to come out of the closet and have
my boyfriendArthur lovesee me for who I really am! And besides, you can't stop me because we're a whole half-hour from the end of the episode, and we need SOMETHING to fill it with."
- In this week's gigantic metaphor, Merlin takes Arthur and goes out riding -- in search of himself. Deep, eh? Fortunately, he already knows of an empty cottage to head for, because he had a romantic night in with Lancelot there, just last week. (Well, either it's the same cottage or dead furry animals are this year's cutting-edge interior design trend down Camelot way.)
- What I primarily remember about Old!Merlin from last series is how expressive and hilarious he was, and fortunately I wasn't disappointed on that score. Jug-related annoyance and Arthur's inept broom skills! Having to constantly push the plot along, because Arthur can't be trusted to do it himself! And funniest of all, "For once in your life, would you just do what you're told!"
- "You mean to say you were peeing, all the time that I was in there?" - And the hilarity of this moment is only made sweeter by the following fact, which deserves to be presented in capslock format: ARTHUR NOW CANONICALLY BELIEVES THAT MERLIN'S COCK HAS SPECIAL ABILITIES. And that's all I have to say on the topic.
- Morgana finally reveals how she can afford to keep herself in hair products and designer gowns: she has a cottage industry making magic jewelry. I'd give you a link to her Etsy store, but she's having trouble keeping it up to date, what with the terrible WiFi reception in her hut. That's why Agravaine has to keep coming over with plot spoilers: when she gets a new router installed, she'll be back on Digital Spy and won't need him any more.
- Just like the last time Merlin was missing due to Old Man Pretendy Syndrome, Gaius trots out the "he's at the tavern" excuse. Well, it might go some way to explaining the constant peeing, I suppose.
- And now folks, it's gratuitous piggyback time! Faster, faster! Merlin's utter glee at getting to be on top for once was highly entertaining.
- After this final silly interlude, we return you to the serious portion of our programme. The healing goes horribly wrong, and the look of hurt and incomprehension in Merlin's eyes was palpable and painful. The king is dead, long live the… actually, hold that thought for later.
- Everyone blames themselves for this terrible tragedy. Even Morgana's a bit upset, and her eyeshadow takes advantage of that weakness by trying to break away from her eyelids and conquer the whole of her face. As he did once before, Arthur decides that magic is Evil, utterly and absolutely, if destroyed still true, no takebacks, cross my heart and hope to die in a ditch without my manservant saving my life. This makes Merlin very sad indeed, and he fears he's turned Arthur against magic forever. Awww. Fortunately, we've still got Gaius who is able to keep calm and blame Morgana AND to keep flying the Merlin/Arthur shipping flag when all seems lost. What a guy.
- Oh, look at Merlin and Arthur and their shiny tearstained reconciliation moment. Bless 'em, bless 'em, bless 'em.
- And now, please welcome local pagan celebrant-for-hire, Sir Geoffrey of Bulletbaxter, to provide his deluxe coronation service. Do you, Arthur, promise to uphold and promote ridiculous levels of shirtlessness, bromance and anachronistic haircare throughout your kingdom, for as long as you shall rule? Do you promise to have a proper relationship with Gwen, and promote her to a job that doesn't involve flower-arranging or emptying your relatives' chamberpots? And do you promise to love your manservant more than any man ever loved his manservant before? Then by the sacred law vested in me, I crown you Arthur, king of Camelot. Heavy metal, top of the class, shove your Malory up your arse. Hurrah!
- Long live the king! Nice to see that the Lovely Knights bothered to turn up for the coronation. Did they spend the rest of this episode sleeping off their hangovers from Arthur's birthday bash, or were they down at the tavern, working on the next one?
- In conclusion: A shock episode in many ways, but after the sweeping scale and knightly camaraderie of the season opener, it was also very simple and back-to-basics: just Merlin and Arthur and magic and destiny and all those serious things (with a few piggybacks and pee jokes for variety). Full of interesting throwbacks to earlier events, and completely carried by the two excellent central performances, particularly from Colin Morgan who is a heartbreaking little star and deserves to be hugged until the end of time.
- Next week: Oh look, it's Battlestar Galactibloke. I confess I haven't seen that show, so I'll have to leave the Gaius-meets-Gaius jokes to somebody else...
And now, a customer service announcement. It may have been Arthur's birthday this week, but next weekend it's MY birthday, so you are likely to have to wait an extra day or two for my review of next Saturday's episode. Brave hearts: I know you can be patient. And anyway, I imagine you might be too busy trying to wrap up all the knights and leave them on my doorstep as a present to even notice…