And now on to important televisual matters, in the form of this week's episode of Merlin. My belated thoughts on Aithusa are as follows:
- Somewhere in an unconvincing CGI cave, that bloke off Battlestar Galactica is sneaking into a druid slumber party to steal a novelty drinks coaster from a mini Pandorica. If he manages to collect the full set, they'll turn into a delightful novelty pot stand. A quest with a useful household outcome, what a refreshing change.
- But where oh where can the last novelty drinks coaster be? In a handy coincidence, it's at Camelot, right under the nose of Galactibloke Borden's old chum Gaius, who's terribly suspicious, partly because Borden is a wheeler-dealer-stealer type, and partly because he's trying to do a deep, booming actorly voice that doesn't seem to come very naturally to him. But what's this, peering through a crack in the door? Ah, it's an artfully dishevelled Merlin, practising his kinky voyeuristic plot-spotting skills. Good boy.
- "A dragon's egg and you have come to steal it." / "I wouldn't say steal." - What would you say then? Poach it? Fry it? I think you're going to need a bigger saucepan, whichever way you scramble it.
- It turns out that the pot stand is actually a cod-medieval version of Google Maps and contains directions to the Tomb of Ashkanar, where a dragon's egg has been sitting for 400 years. Merlin can't wait to rush out and tell his old chum the Slash Dragon that there might be a new reptile on the block, and the Dragon seems quite happy to hear it, despite the fact that he'll have to stop using "Hey baby, I'm the last of my kind!" as a chat-up line. Shame, really, because it probably works rather well on passing Wyverns, not to mention the occasional Time Lord…
- Fired up with Dragonlordy pride, Merlin goes to find Borden and plays the storming-into-his-bedroom-without-knocki
ng card, which always works so well on other boys. Sadly he finds Borden fully dressed and ready to stab him (what a disappointment) but manages to convince him of his goodwill with his "I'm just a keen dragonspotter, honest!" act.
- To make up for the disappointment of the previous bedroom scene, Merlin sneaks into a place where he's always sure to find something tasty on display. Yes, it's Very Much Expected Shirtless Arthur, waking up to find Merlin fiddling with his dangling items. "I'm looking for woodworm!" claims Merlin, "Has any unusual nibbling and wriggling been going on in here?" Thank goodness Arthur does the best just-woke-up-WTF? expressions EVER. Otherwise people might start to think that these scenes were ENTIRELY GRATUITOUS, hem hem.
- But even this bout of kingly shirtlessness is too tame to set a suitably daring tone for Arthur's reign, so Merlin cooks up a two-part plan for a memorable dessert. First, he takes lots of Arthur's laundry away so there aren't many clothes left to put on. And second, he grabs Arthur and launches into a dazzling display of public trouser-dropping, bum-grappling and floor-wrestling that must have been ripped straight from the feverish brain of the crackiest of fanficcers. Happy birthday to me, in other words!
- As a postscript to the above: do you think someone has the job of pulling Arthur's trousers down on set, or is it all taken care of by advanced technological means? And even if it's the latter, could I get a job pushing the button and yelling "GERONIMO"?
- Anyway, Merlin is obliged to stop wrestling his old boyfriend in order to run downstairs and open up the back passage to the vaults for his new boyfriend. Oookay. Borden can't wait to get into Camelot's Dusty Old Plot Device Room, where he immediately starts practising some awe-and-wonder gurning at the tacky items contained therein. (Awe-and-wonder gurning, if you were wondering, is pretty much the same as making your eyes pop out and hoping for the best.) But then he finds the last twiddly bit of triskelion, and lo, the novelty pot stand of Ashkanar is complete! Time for more eyepopping. Oh dear, he's not very good at this stuff, is he?
- Merlin wakes up in the street with hazy memories of being taken roughly from behind by his new boyfriend. Then he realizes that no, it was the BAD kind of being taken roughly from behind and his vault's been wide open all night. Oops.
- Time for a quick trip up to Arthur's bedroom to check everything is still gratuitously half-naked in there. Yep, it is. Merlin even crawls on top of Arthur for a REALLY thorough rummage. How do they get away with this stuff? Whoops, no time to find out now. Quick, down to Arthur's ransacked closet, where King Poutychops realizes that all the time his dad spent killing endangered species is going to be entirely wasted, so he decides to round up the Lovely Knights and head out for a campfire bromance and gourmet alfresco dining weekend. Yep, that sounds like the ideal solution to all MY problems, at least.
- Out in the same scenic bit of countryside they always use, Arthur suggests that they "find somewhere to hole up for the night." because it's getting dark. When he says this, it's bright daylight in a gorgeous blue sky. He just can't wait for the campfire snuggling portion of proceedings, can he?
- And now on to the gourmet part of the weekend. Merlin cooks up something so tasty that Leon, Gwaine and the lads can't get enough and he gets lots of bromantic cuddles for it. I don't know what it is, but it seems that anachronistic tomatoes ARE the food of love. Or at least, they are the food of Mad Flirting In The Woods For No Reason, Other Than Because It Is Funny.
- Anyway, Merlin's flirty foody night in the woods is disturbed by some whispering druids. "Emrys, Emrys!" they say. "We just want to tell you that the legends are very clear about your quest being vaguely dangerous!" Smug and unhelpful at the same time, then. Thanks for that.
- Excitingly, the road to the Tomb of Ashkanar goes inside a cave and through a Waterfall of Gratuitous Slow-Mo Shower Scenes. Sadly, however, only Arthur gets a proper slow-mo moment, and everyone else has to make do with a bit of water sprayed on them by the hair-and-makeup team. Even more disappointingly, by the time the next shot arrives, they've all dried off in the wind. Boo. You promise me wetness, I want 'em to STAY wet.
The Tomb of Ashkanar may be compensating for something, but it can't compete with Percival's third leg.
- So, Castle Phallus is within sight but the camping trip's going rather floppy. First Percival gets an arrow in the thigh (although he's terribly stoic about it, bless him) and then Borden adds an extra ingredient to that night's campfire casserole, so there's precious little flirting time before they all pass out in a stupor. Fortunately slash is more powerful than sleep, and Merlin is forced to go round the camp, fondling everyone and whispering sweet magical nothings so that they don't die. Good work, lad.
- Hmm, it seems that Ashkanar's approach to security measures was technologically advanced, anachronistic AND slightly inept. Magic gas that can be blown away by some slightly different magic: not very thrilling, is it? Still, the faceful of poison misty stuff does give Borden a weirdly gruff 'n' growly delivery in the next scene. Maybe Ashkanar watched him gurning earlier in the show and thought he'd need help for the finale?
- "Leave this egg alone!" - Has anyone ever used that line as a threat before? Or rather: has anyone ever used that line as a threat when they WEREN'T trying to avoid getting knocked up?
- Clearly Borden's chewing of the scenery did more damage than expected, because the entire tower falls down on his head, and everyone else too busy worrying about the welfare of Percival's thighs to care much. Ooops. Let that be a lesson to all guest stars. Colin Morgan is ever so good at gazing with great seriousness upon flimsy plastic props. You are not. You can try to imitate him, but you're almost certainly doomed to fail.
- Aww, Merlin's little face at the dinner table. Fortunately, Gaius is Camelot's answer to Derren Brown and knows the look of a boy who's got a secret magic egg stashed in his man-bag.
- Surprise, Slash Dragon! Merlin has brought you a friend! Or a baby! Or a future boyfriend! Or an archenemy! I'm afraid I can't tell until he takes the wrapper off, but it's bound to be at least one of those. Or perhaps it's just your own personal Godzuki?
- Now it's time to play Name That Dragon! Merlin resists the temptation to yell out "Dave!" or "Mr Burnypants!" and remembers that a clue was cunningly left in the title of this episode. Meet Aithusa, which is apparently Dragontongue for "Sunshine Twinkle". He's quite cute and is bound to spawn a nice range of tie-in products before next Saturnalia. And in case you haven't noticed, the Big Dragon points out the meaning of his birth: it "bodes well for Albion, for you and Arthur, and for the land that you will build together". So basically, it is the Baby Sunshine Ultra-Slash Dragon! All hail, and pass the anachronistic Kleenex!
- In conclusion: Well, I found the guest star of the week distinctly underwhelming (sorry, Callis fangirls) and there were NO women at all this week - even the Baby Sunshine Ultra-Slash Dragon is male (Aithusa pretty boy, then?). Nonetheless, this was a decently jolly romp with a bit of Dragonlordy significance and a startlingly HUGE portion of slashiness sprinkled over everything and baked until ripe and cheesy. It's probably not good for me, but I'd chomp down another bowl of that with pleasure.
- Next week: Morgana comes back from her woodland spa weekend, Lindsay Duncan yells in a wig, and the massive CGI armies of cheapness return! I can barely wait, viewers. Can you?