- "Think of something pleasant." / "You in the stocks?" - For a moment, I thought Arthur was going to say "You in the stockings I bought you last Beltane?" but fortunately he's a teensy bit more subtle than that, even when he's looking kingly in his undergarments. The anachronistic cakes may be taking their toll on his girth, but the milkiness of his thighs is happily beyond reproach.
- Any good party attracts gatecrashers, but this ravening horde didn't even have to crash because the door was wide open. Yes, Agravaine's torch-shake brings all the thugs to the yard, and he's now so cocky that he's openly practising his slow-motion Bond villain walk while things explode scenically in the background. With an eye on economy, Morgana's decided to attack at night, not just for the surprise factor but that so the CGI team only have to make a lot of little floaty flames and it'll look like a huge army. The BBC bigwigs will surely approve.
- At the surprisingly bijou Beltane feast (Leon, Gwaine and Elyan didn't even bother taking the night off, I notice), Arthur spots Percival chatting up a girl and does a sadface. It's all right, Arthur, he's probably just telling her how great all his knight boyfriends are! Oh, you're actually thinking about Gwen? Well, don't fret, I imagine she'll be turning up in a few bullet points time...
- Now, for the people of Camelot, a brief FAQ section:
How did all these soldiers get in? Agravaine opened the bloody door.
OMG, is Agravaine a nasty traitor, then? Um, where have you been for the past twelve weeks?
Where do we go now? Run outside to the woods with Sir Leon. He'll probably keep you entertained with haircare tips and tales of the times that he's run into the throne room and shouted "Sire!", until it's safe for you to come back indoors.
- Oh Arthur, don't you look lovely, charging up a corridor in slow-motion, with your sword clanging in the shadows? Unfortunately it ends in tears because Merlin's slow-mo running isn't quite fast enough to beat a faceless goon's slow-mo slashing. And no, I mean the BAD sort of slashing, the sort that bruises you and makes you limp down the corridors in a wobbly fashion.... What do you mean, that doesn't narrow it down?
- Arthur gets a brutal reminder that
ChristmasBeltane is the traditional time of year for a) having to see family members that you hate (Morgana) and b) realizing that you hate family members that you thought you liked (Agravaine). Never mind, Arthur. At least you didn't buy them expensive presents first.
- Okay, panic stations, everyone! Merlin, you cast a convenient comedy spell over Arthur to make him all floppy and amenable. Now, we need a combination of bromance and enthusiasm to get him out of the building. Percival, you grab Arthur. Gwaine, you give Perce a gun-squeezing goodbye to send him on his way. Elyan can meet you out in the woods and hold off the troops at the Canyon of Convenience. Then it's tally-ho and on to Merlin's mum's house. Who's with me? Hurrah!
And the award for Most Distractingly Silly Expression during an Otherwise Straightforward Bout of Bicep-Fondling goes to Arthur Pendragon!
- Oh dear, Agravaine decides to flaunt his villainy in public and breaks out a black leather waistcoat from his new Evil pour Homme (TM) collection. But if he wants to impress Morgana, it's tragically too little, too late: she's already got her flirt on with Helios, who works the leather look so much better. Have you got muscular tattooed biceps, Aggieboy? No? Then get out and do something more suited to your skill set, such as organizing a celebratory barbecue of everyone's crops. Morgana LOVES the smell of blazing anachronistic potatoes in the morning.
- And now, viewers, the pilot of an hilarious new sitcom called Hello Trees, Hello Arthur, in which Merlin is the clever one in charge, and Arthur is the sweet-natured happy-go-lucky turniphead. Episode 1: Washing-Line Wackiness! Yes, the latest happening look for Camelot kings is crop tops and cut-off pants, but I can't say I'm complaining. I also suspect that Arthur's belly button was jealous of all the attention his thighs and nipples get, and insisted on having its own feature episode.
- Having learned very little since the last time she tried to use a pet snake as a plot device, Morgana uses a travel-sized serpent to torture Elyan into telling her the plot. The funniest part, of course, is when Helios and Agravaine are standing outside, listening to the screaming and swapping awkward glances, as they wonder which one of them Morgana fancies most. Bad luck, Agravaine: I'm not expert, but "Fail me again and you'll be taking Elyan's place" sounds suspiciously like Camelot-speak for "She's just not that into you, mate."
- While Morgana sits reading her fanmail ("Dear Morgana, you're simply the best and by the way, I totally love what you've done with your hair this week. Endless smoochy admiration from Yourself, xxxx"), Agravaine pops in and demands a touching moment in which he can show his true feelings and loyalty and love and stuff. Her "...okay, bye then" reaction was pretty priceless, but for a teensy second, I did feel slightly sorry for old Aggie boy. Well, for about three seconds, at least.
- Back in the woods, Merlin gets startled by a lady with a sword and anachronistically cantilevered bosoms! Her boyfriend is jealous for a moment, but never fear: Merlin isn't the type to mess with the pointy ends of either of those things. Anyway, this lovey-dovey pair (the people, not the bosoms) are actually this week's cod-medieval guest stars, Tristan and Isolde, or as I prefer to call them, Tristan and Tallulah. Clean-cut smugglers to the Camelot middle classes, Tristan has the worst hair I've ever seen on this show (this is one crop I wish Morgana had burned) and
TallulahIsolde has two pounds of frankincense packed down her Wonderbra. Hello, boys.
- By the way, this week we had Arthur's gold (or should that be "my GOOOOOLD!"), and the box of frankincense, but where was the myrrh? Or should I say, whyrrh was the myrrh?
- "What kind of coward would deny who he is?" - I don't know, Agravaine; perhaps the sort of coward who understands discretion being the better part of valour? Aggie, meanwhile, always thought posturing was the best part, with smirking a close second.
Arthur loves nature. Literally.
- The sitcom japery is going so well that Merlin's a bit disappointed when Arthur sleeps it off and wakes up with his normal, non-fluffy brain. Still, there's plenty of fun when he's obliged to stay in character and unwittingly instigates a new tradition: International Talk Like A
PirateSimpleton Day. Then there's MORE fun at Tristan and Isolde's shock at him being both a secret badass (OMG WTF!) AND a secret royal (OMG WTF HRH!), which gets sidelined into a brief discussion about taxation policy (OMG WTF IRS?). Then Tristan gets to show off what he can do with a sword (yay!), Arthur gets to show off what cut-off trousers can do for a shapely behind (yum!), and Isolde gets a bop on the head very quickly and becomes boringly limp and helpless (boo!).
- "Oh Gwaine, so handsome, so selfless" - but sadly, not quite shirtless enough. Still, he cuts a swoonsome figure, standing up for Gaius's right to supper (ah, Gwaine knows the suffering of a man deprived of snacks!). And Morgana's got a great new idea for courtly entertainment: MMA, or Muscular Men Attacking! As we all remember from the end of last series, Gwaine's terribly good at this sort of thing, and goes for it with gusto, gurning and several very interesting shots of tightly clad buttocks. After all that sweating, Gwaine wins half a spinach and ricotta pastie! Sadly, his shirt was still fairly intact at the end of the bout, but since we leave him about to go face-to-face with TWO thuggish dudes, the chances of a bit of strategic ripping next week must be relatively high. Please, they MUST be. It's Christmas, after all.
- In the woods, Arthur has a sudden realization that Merlin was right all along. Agravaine WAS evil! So was Morgana last year! Why didn't he notice? You'll notice that Merlin keeps VERY quiet at this point, possibly because he fears angering the writers if he fingers their large role in Arthur's cluelessness. He may be the title character now, but he could so easily be busted down to Second Yokel On The Right if he doesn't remember on which side his cod-medieval bread is buttered.
- Hooray, it's Merlin's lovely mum again! Shame she hasn't really been given anything to do yet, but you can tell she wants everyone to fall in love with everyone else and eat lots of cake and be fussed over. No, I'm not just projecting my own wishes on her. Honest.
- "Hello Arthur" says Gwen. Hello Arthur's nipples, say I. It's been simply ages since we saw you both. But you're looking perky, I must say. As is Gwen, who's got a new blouse and a wistful yet hopeful expression. In any case, it's a heartwarming reunion, and only slightly confused by the fact that Gwen was wrapping bandages around the UNinjured bit of Arthur's torso (we know, because we've been looking at it all episode), while leaving the big bruised bit uncovered. Maybe she was trying to discreetly cover the love handles he's developed since she last saw him? Don't think of it as putting on weight, Gwen. Think of it as Arthur being enhanced for comfort and ease of use...
- Hmm, that was a bit of an abrupt ending, wasn't it? Let's nearly set fire to Agravaine and run away! We can tie the whole thing up with proper Drama (TM) next week, can't we? And no, there's not enough time to fetch a cardigan for Isolde. She'll have to rely on her love to keep her warm.
- In conclusion: well, it was hardly great drama, what with Morgana suddenly deciding to attack just because it's the end of the series, and her motivations being as ridiculously petulant and unformed as ever. But the episode was packed with pleasures, mainly built around Merlin and Arthur's hilarious interactions, confessions, indignities, expressions and mutual adoration, along with a decent side order of stuff for the knights to do (Gwaine!) and even a bit of swords-for-the-girls, with the prospect of more next week. Never mind the storyline, feel the characters, feel the love, feel the love handles. I certainly wouldn't mind grabbing another handful like this.
- Next week: Swords! Stones! Slow-mo! Slash Dragon! And Santa Claus! Or at least Merlin in his white-bearded Emrys disguise -- surely that's close enough?
Please note: next week's finale coincides with the festive season, so I'll be watching it in the ancestral homelands of the north. However, celebratory commitments permitting, I shall try to pop in to provide a portion of semi-coherent critical comment when I can. I do hope you'll join me.