Here are some thoughts on Lancelot du Lac:
- "Hi Agravaine!' says Arthur. "After weeks of dithering, I've suddenly decided to marry Gwen! Her Octophant-stabbing skills from last week were such a massive turn-on that I can no longer restrain myself!" "You don't need a woman for support, sire!" cries Agravaine, hastily embracing the gay agenda in the hope that it will win him votes. Too little, too late, Aggie boy. The gay agenda on this show doesn't need help from you: it already has its own army and much better hair than yours.
- "I fear you have rather too much stubble to be my wife." - Merlin laughs heartily at this. He knows how Arthur likes a smooth boyish complexion...
- Of course, when Agravaine turns up to give Morgana a plot update, she's predictably petulant. So in the interests of ruining Gwen's day, she pops over to a cave to see a wrinkly old witchy person (officially named the Dochraid). "Morgause left me a plot token in case of emergencies but I don't know how to work it!" she whines. "Oh, go jump in a lake," says the Dochraid.
- So Morgana does, although she doesn't exactly jump; she just walks in gingerly, wearing all her clothes, as if visiting some sort of low-budget country spa. And what's all the bubbling in the water? One of those fish pedicures, perhaps? No, it's better than that; it's half-naked Lancelot, and he's yours to command, Morgana!
- Morgana takes Lancelot back to her hut and dresses him up in flattering yet villainous black and he says he's ALL HERS. So what does she do next? Love him and squish him and call him Lancey-Pops? Take lots of pictures of him posing in silly hats and post them on Faebook to make her friends jealous? Have a lovely his-n-hers shopping trip to Habitat for new hovel furniture? No, she does none of those things. Instead, she claims she's got no interest in his sword and only wants to go ahead with her latest ridiculous plan, thus proving categorically that she is STUPID and her priorities in life are ALL WRONG. (Ahem.) What's more, he's come back from the dead as a blank slate so she has to reprogram him with his own back story. Given that she only ever met Lancelot once and didn't really talk to him at the time, this should be pretty darn difficult, but Morgana has always smirked in the face of good sense.
- Meanwhile, the viewers get to watch some footage of Arthur and Gwen in a cutesy proposal scenario that involves blindfolding Gwen and turning her wooden house into a blazing fire hazard. How sweet. "Marry me!" says Arthur. "Get someone else to make the beds and I'll think about it!" says Gwen. "Squee!" says Merlin, who clearly believes that it's his duty to listen in on every single aspect of Arthur's life, like a cod-medieval version of celebrity phone-tapping. (Shame they don't get as far as the wedding night because Merlin would probably be hiding behind a curtain, letting out the occasional cheer of encouragement.)
- "Instead, you've given her two days of sweaty men knocking the sense out of each other." - I don't know about any of you, but I've spent a large chunk of the evening trying to add this to my Amazon wishlist for Christmas, but there doesn't seem to be an option for it. What a disappointment, eh?
- Anyway, everyone loves a tournament that involves massive lances being poked through teensy pink rings (and Sigmund Freud probably loves it more than most). And speaking of massive lances, here comes the original version, making Gwen pull a very perplexed face indeed and giving the non-speaking peasant masses something to really flap their flags about.
- Lance has a reunion dinner with the gang, and obediently regurgitates the "I was Not Yet Dead" excuse for a backstory that Morgana's trained him to repeat like a particularly soulful-eyed parrot. Still, everyone's so pleased to see him that they totally fail to notice he's wearing EVIL CLOTHES. Maybe they're too dazed from imagining what he'll look like when he's NOT wearing them.
- "You can have my bed..." - true to form, Merlin wastes no time at all getting down to Lance-related business! I also found it hilarious that Merlin immediately spots the massive flaw in Morgana's plan, i.e. the fact that she had no clue that Lance
was Merlin's boyfriendknew about Merlin's magic. At the same time, it was touchingly sad that Gwen could gaze at Lance and imagine the romance was still there, but that Merlin couldn't have his friend back. His dogged snooping wasn't just loyalty to Arthur, it was "he's not MY Lance!" anguish. Aww, bless.
- For once in his tedious life, Agravaine actually makes a sensible observation: namely, Gwen actually loves Arthur now, so what good is this Lance-a-plot? But Morgana has anticipated this obstacle and brought along a Bracelet of Convenient Reawakened Stirrings, for Lance to give to Gwen. I'm not sure how it works: maybe it just whispers "Ooo, Lance in a black shirt! Look at those undone laces! Look at that hint of manly chest! Phwoar! Doesn't he look lovely?" on continuous play. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could hear it speaking directly to me for the entirety of this episode...
- "Chicken is good. Nice broth. What do you know about necromancy?" - Ha! Now there's a show-stopping recipe: a stew in which the meat does synchronized swimming around the bowl.
- Merlin now suspects that Lancelot is only a Shade of his former self, mainly because he's found a book called "The Art of Necromancy" and it's still got Morgana's library card in it, plus a Post-It reading "Note to self: great spell for dinner parties!" But to double-check his theory, Merlin paints a magic spiral on the floor, watches Lance getting dressed for important research reasons (after all, he's ridiculously hot for a corpse), and then hides away for another bout of voyeurism. This time he sees rather more of Lance than he bargained for, including his skull. Shudder.
- There now ensues a sort of wandery, unsatisfying stretch of show in which people scuttle around a lot, doing things they don't quite understand the reasons for. Gwen comes over all entranced by Lancelot's clothes of sex, then thinks better of it, then comes back again later for another covert fondle! Arthur and Lancelot joust in ye olde noble tradition, as dramatic counterpoint to the rage-fuelled hacking they're going to be doing later! Merlin sneaks after Lance and finds him having a hugely unsubtle plot-revealing conversation with Agravaine in the corridor! Lancelot knocks Merlin unconscious and his waking-up-shirtless-Arthur duties have to be passed on to Agravaine! Not very edifying, is it?
- Still, it's basically just a build-up to the clashing of tongues, followed by the clashing of swords. At least Arthur and Lancelot's FIGHT! (TM) is the most rousing bout of man-on-man action we've seen for a while. (I secretly suspect that Arthur is extra-peeved because Lancelot got the first shirtless scene of the week.) No wonder Gwen is moved to step in and stop it. Unlike your average Saturday night scrap outside a kebab shop, it ends with Arthur tossing both his girlfriend and her bit on the side into jail. This seems unduly harsh, but compared to Agravaine's preferred policy of a painful death for everyone involved, Arthur looks like a tree-hugging liberal.
- Gwen's bracelet ends up being tossed into the corner of her jail cell, where nobody's ever likely to discover its crucial role in this week's plot. Then again, perhaps not: maybe a guard will try it on, and the next time Arthur wanders downstairs he'll find all the prison staff rolling around in the throes of previously unspoken passion.
- Given the awkward nature of the Deus ex Bracelet device, I think the Arthur/Gwen confrontation itself was pretty well done, with a palpable sense of frustration and disappointment on both sides, and strong acting, especially from Gwen. Better still was Merlin's one-to-one with Arthur afterwards: Colin Morgan plays hurt and anger so beautifully, but Arthur's response more than matched him.
- Ode to a Departing Gwen
Alas, poor Gwen must leave, all sad at heart
Her dreams of great romance have gone all wonky
She's also forced to pull her own damn cart
Because it seems she can't afford a donkey.
- Urgent letter for Sir Lancelot: "Dear Lance, please self-destruct in two minutes. If you can take out Agravaine when you go, even better, but I won't be counting on it. He's as hard to get rid of as a bloody cockroach. Love, Morgana."
- Crikey, it's a bonanza week for the Camelot florist trade. First they get the contract for the royal wedding (and can probably do you a great deal on a pre-owned bouquet, never used, one upset lady owner), and then they have to provide a whole boat full of blooms for Lancelot's funeral.
- After waiting all episode for Lancelot's real self to reassert itself, it wasn't until Merlin touched him that it actually happened. I confess that this was the moment when I got a bit sniffly. Awww! Poor sweet Merlin, you need someone else to tell your secret too, a.s.a.p. One word: GWAINE. He needs more stuff to do, he adores you, he's already used to sleeping in your bed, and he does a lot of good work promoting fruit consumption. What's not to like?
- In conclusion: A mixed bag, with many incidental pleasures hampered by an intrinsically awkward plotline. The problem with including the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle in this show is that Gwen would simply never cheat on Arthur under normal circumstances. Thus, enter the magic bracelet of plot convenience, but this leaves Gwen not knowing WHY she's done what she's done and unable to explain herself, and Merlin not knowing or being able to help either. The results, therefore, are frustrating rather than satisfying, despite some pretty strong acting along the way. On the plus side: Lancelot in black linen. Lancelot in black linen. Lancelot in black linen. Yep, those words will NEVER get old. I only hope Freya keeps him safe under the lake and regurgitates him once again when Albion's need is greatest...
- Next week: Elyan actually does something! Shame he didn't try that this week when his sister needed help, eh?