However, we also found time to sit down and watch the season finale of Merlin en famille, so here for your delectation are some briefer-than-usual thoughts on The Sword in the Stone, Part II.
Please note that I don't have my usual access to Photoshop so the only screencaps I've got are from the BBC preview clip. But since they involve Gwaine with no shirt on, I assume nobody will mind too much…
- It's the time for year for getting in touch with friends and family that you rarely speak to, so Merlin calls the Slash Dragon and invites him over for an impromptu barbecue of faceless extras. Well, it's the (murderous) thought that counts, innit? At least there's plenty to go around.
- "You have magic!" / "I was born with it." - Despite the fact that he seems to be getting his punchlines from Lady Gaga these days, Merlin's kind of hot when he gets his hardcore magic face on, isn't he?
- And so, a rather abrupt farewell to the much-maligned Agravaine. We shall notice your passing for all of about two and a half seconds, and then we shall totally forget that you ever existed. And Morgana will do likewise, especially since she's got a much more thrilling line in gentlemanly entertainment lined up for the evening...
Bored with the Bellatrix-lite look, Morgana tries to impress Gwaine with her Voldemort impersonation.
- Yes, it's shirtless Gwaine time! Merry Christmas to me! And as a special reward for my season's reviewing (or so I like to imagine), I got to admire his nipples in HD for the first time, courtesy of my parents' telly. Ain't technology grand?
This season, Gwaine will be mostly wearing not very much at all, and wielding his wood boldly in front of a crowd of sweaty men. So no change there, then.
- "You and you alone must restore the king's faith," explains the Slash Dragon. "How?" asks Merlin. "Bloody hell, I don't know," says the Dragon. "Perhaps someone left a useful clue in the title of the episode? And if that fails, there's always the blowjob option. Or are you saving that one for season 5?"
- "I'm really not interested in your favourite bedtime stories…" - oh, don't be so fussy, Arthur. Given his usual poor improvisational skills, it's impressive that Merlin managed to come up with as coherent a fake back-story for the sword as he did. AND it didn't even once mention picking herbs, going to the tavern OR pissing in a bush. No wonder Arthur was keen to
go to bed with himkeep listening.
- "And you're going to pull it out!" - A huge hooray for the biggest double entendre of the season! Not only is Arthur going to pull it out, but he's going to pull it out while a big crowd of extras watch him and Leon and Percival look very impressed indeed! AND lest we forget, he can't actually pull it out without Merlin's help! Ah, sword/penis analogies: the Freudian gift that just keeps on giving.
- Having said that, I must explain that the dramatic weight and mythological movingness of the sword-in-the-stone scene was somewhat hindered by the fact that my brother had fallen asleep on the sofa by this point and took it upon himself to start snoring REALLY loudly. Pure class, my family.
- Are bright red cloaks a good fashion strategy when you're storming a castle? I imagine not, but it doesn't seem to hamper the Camelot crew. And they're a wonderfully unsubtle match for Leon and Percival's best "ARRGGGHHHH!!" faces.
- It may have been the wine, but I found it slightly hilarious when Merlin's mischief prevented Morgana from getting it up, magically speaking. There's a reason why scuttling away in tears when your plan doesn't work is NOT in the Evil Overlord Handbook, Morgana, and it immediately overruled any brownie points you got from your moodily lit face-off with Arthur (what a relief that relationship never went the full Skywalker route, eh? That would have been a WHOLE new level of awkward).
- So what was the point of Tristan and Isolde, then? They squabble a bit, they swordfight a bit, they are in Lurve (™), they remind Gwen and Arthur about important Stuff (™). And then Isolde gets pointlessly stabbed and Tristan… um, I don't know where he went after that. I didn't spot him sobbing in the corner at Gwen's coronation, did you?
- Long live the Queen! Gwen wears the same dress Morgana dreamed about last series (Morgana should TOTALLY get a job as a fashion trend predictor, don't you think?), Merlin has a nice new coat, Gaius is back to normal after his earlier bout of "I'm going to die, honest!" whining and gasping. All good things, but where was Sir Geoffrey of Bushybrows, cod-pagan presider over almost all Camelot special occasions? Did he have another gig that night? The Camelot Librarians Association Saturnalia Pie-Fest and Bingo Evening, perhaps?
- Poor Morgana stumbles through the woods, clutching her tragically wounded frock and feeling her career prospects slipping away into oblivion. But what's this? It's Aithusa the Baby Slash Dragon, who's somehow got less cute and more cheap-looking since we last saw him. And now he's breathing on Morgana and healing her wounds, the annoying little splitter! At least, I think that's what he's doing, but it's not very clearly defined. Maybe he just REALLY wants to make sure there's another season? Didn't he hear that it got commissioned months ago?
- In conclusion: "That was a crap end," says my mother. I think she was expecting a magic reveal, or more accurately, one that lasted for more than 30 seconds. I, on the other hand, have learned not to hope for game-changing plot developments, and merely wanted a bit of riproaring action, flirty bromance and uplifting mythological referencey stuff. DId I get it? Well, kind of. Some of those elements were there: Colin Morgan's still great at everything he gets given, Gwen was sterling, Arthur is adorable when he's not changing his bloody mind every five minutes, the brief glimpses of Lovely Knights were lovely. And yet the whole thing was basically just a reminder of stuff that we already know, rather than taking us anywhere new. Did I enjoy this season? Hugely. But was this a fitting conclusion? No, it was just a place to stop while we wait for whatever comes next.
- Next time: "How long are we going to have to wait for the next series?" asks my mother. "Next autumn? I can't wait that long! I may be dead!" Viewers, she may be exaggerating somewhat, but I can't deny that I feel her pain. Next autumn is very nearly a world away. I can only hope to see you all here again when the hour comes around...