Now, let's see what happened next in Arthur's Bane (Part 2):
- Blimey, it's a long time since an episode of Merlin began with Morgana having one of her dream sequences. Her floaty nighties of yesteryear are no more, so she's forced to catch a few Zs in her full corseted regalia, and ends up having a nasty flashback to a time when she and Aithusa the dragon spent a long time down a deep well. At least, I think that's what happened. Maybe they just watched a DVD of The Silence of the Lambs and ate too much cheese before bedtime. ("It puts the lotion on its skin, or else its lines get cut again...")
- Merlin and Arthur's bromantic road trip has taken a rather chilly turn. Not only are they now trudging miserably through the snow, being oppressed by bandit overlords, but Arthur's not getting any attention, mainly due to the All-Albion Intense Staring Competition that has broken out between Merlin and Mordred. It's a ruthless battle, interrupted only when Mordred promises that Merlin's secret is safe with him, thus helpfully reminding me that Mordred does know about Merlin's magic (I couldn't remember whether he did or not, oops).
- In Camelot's only prison cell, Sefa the traitorous maid is still suffering from the hard-line policymaking of Unexpectedly Right-Wing Gwen. When Gaius turns up with some free booze to make her forthcoming hanging go with a swing, she identifies him as a well-known tree-hugging hippie liberal and begs for help. It's the wig, Gaius. No one's going to take you seriously as a loyal pawn of the state with THAT hairdo.
- Ah-ha! Gwen reveals that she's NOT Unexpectedly Right-Wing Gwen but actually Unexpectedly Cunning Gwen - her plan is to catch Sefa's dad when he turns up to rescue her. Which she knows he will, because she's read the script for this week. She's not just Cunning, she's Meta-Cunning, see?
- Working with little more than a stolen dagger and Bradley James's fabulous face-pulling skills, Arthur and Merlin manage a daring escape, complete with flying leaps over unexpected canyons. If Sigmund Freud were writing this review, he might make a comment about the symbolism of massive cracks and how keen these boys are to avoid those cracks and all their consequences. But he isn't. What a relief, eh?
- Meanwhile in a cave, Gwaine's glowy new friend is taking care of him by staring at his nipples. The nude and androgynous Diamair (who speaks with the voice of Dayna from Blake's 7 and seems to have a wobbly motion-capture version of her face, too) doesn't appear to have any nipples of its own, so maybe that's why Gwaine's are such a source of fascination. "Go back to sleep, fair knight," it croons. "I'm the last of my kind and I've had a tough life, so I deserve to stare at your nipples some more until your friends arrive!" Gwaine, bless him, obligingly lies back and thinks of Camelot.
- Sefa's dad Ruadan gets back to Camelot ridiculously quickly, given how long it's taking Arthur and Merlin to go the other way. Does he know a secret Druid shortcut? He's certainly quite efficient at slow-motion prowling and ninja kicks, but unfortunately he's tragically vulnerable to long pointy things, especially when stabbed in his general direction.
- Let's all pause for a moment and have a big hand for Sir Leon's only line this week: "Almost certainly." Will he have more to do next week? Almost certainly.
- Alas, Ruadan dies but not before sending a quick Ravenmail to Morgana: "Dear Morgana, Arthur is coming over to your place but I fully support you in your evil but inept plans. Please remind the scriptwriters that my daughter is still alive because she could probably do with a bit more work later in the series if there's any going. She is good at looking tearful and can supply her own anachronistic vegetables if necessary."
- And now, over to Merlin and Arthur's daring expedition to Castle Phallus for an unsubtle Freudian symbolism update:
- And what happens when you crawl up a tight Freudian tunnel? Yes, you reach the land of half-naked men! By the way, I reckon that the Ismere man-on-man underground resort deserves more publicity so I've decided to name it Club Serve-Morgana and have written the following sing-along theme tune:
Club Serve-Morgana, shirts are banned
Rocks and dirt-pits, there's a tool for everyone
All the boys will lend a hand
So if you want help, you'll soon get some...
- "The place is crawling with Saxons." / "Better make sure we blend in." Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a big groan for the Most Deliberately Disappointing Line of the Week. Because of COURSE we're all going to hope for a shirt-off scene and of COURSE they're going to disguise themselves as guards instead. Ha-not-very-ha, writers.
- Morgana is so excited at being reunited with grown-up Mordred that she turns into a dotty auntie, feeding him chicken legs and promising to cleanse all the nasty men from the earth so they can be magic together. Mordred's not very impressed, however, probably because demented supervillain ranting is OMG like totally uncool these days, and hanging around in the background biding your time quietly is what all the hip young druids are doing now, yeah?
- Probably not for the first time, Gwaine wakes up and thinks "What the hell was I drinking last night?"
"This is not what it looks like, guys. "
Arthur and Merlin are both a little startled by this turn of events, although Merlin's reaction is more "I bet this is relevant to the plot, maybe I'd better come back later for some destiny-related magic chat", while Arthur's is pure "WTF Gwaine, this is worse than the incident with the Camelot Topless Tiddlywinks Squad and the family-sized tub of banana yogurt."
- Hurrah, it's half-naked Percival, who takes Arthur's order "Do what you can to free the others" and runs with it, basically building his own boyband of sword-wield shirtless hotties, who pack their few seconds of screentime with an impressed quantity of taut musculature. Now, that's value television!
- Suddenly, a wild Aithusa appears! Hilariously, Merlin announces he's going to go running after it for no reason, mainly because he wants to use his Dragonlord skills but can't wait for Arthur to be conveniently knocked unconscious first. When Merlin does catch up with Aithusa, however, it's all rather sad because Aithusa can't speak and is generally in a Bad Way (TM). Something nasty and traumatic has clearly been going on. But before we can find out what it is, I think Merlin needs to do a Dragonlord therapy course, or at least learn to say calm and understanding things in Dragonish, rather than just doing Scary Yelling.
- Morgana's having a terrible hair day, isn't she? But she doesn't let it stop her from catching Arthur in a corridor and having a Supervillain Gloating Session. She then elects to stab him slightly ineptly using the power of her mind, while Arthur bravely challenges her dodgy character development arc (that's right, Arthur, hit her where it hurts!). Worse still, Merlin's attempt to rescue him is swiftly foiled by Morgana's favourite spell, Makus Peepul Fallova. But what's this? Up steps Mordred, who chooses this moment to stab Morgana in the back, quite literally, before dragging Arthur back to the warm circle of his half-naked chums. Well, homing instincts like those should serve you well at Camelot, young Mordred. Always head for the shirtless men, it's a no-fail rule.
- Meanwhile, Merlin's been left behind for a mystical catch-up with the Diamair. Given the chance to ask the Key to All Knowledge any question he wants, Merlin doesn't ask for next week's lottery numbers or the winner of the current series of X-Factor, and instead chooses to request an explanation for the title of this episode. If Mordred isn't Arthur's bane, who is? Answer: Himself. So is this a doom-laden hint that Arthur's cockiness will bring about his own destruction, or does it simply mean that Arthur's going to trip over accidentally and impale himself on Excalibur? I'm guessing the former, because the latter would be an embarrassingly unlegendary way to go...
- Blimey, here's a shock. Arise, Sir Mordred! I wasn't expecting this development, but I'm quite excited now it's happened. For the first time since the sad demise of Lancelot, Merlin has someone in Camelot who knows his secret but isn't Gaius. Even more interestingly, there's now LOTS of opportunity for Merlin/Mordred gay/magic unsubtle symbolism: after all, he's not the only sorceror in the Camelot closet any more! I was also really struck by how alike Merlin and Mordred looked in this scene: they could almost be brothers. Here's hoping that Mordred starts to display more characteristics other than moody staring, because there could be some really interesting stuff here.
- Meanwhile, any whimpering noises you can hear are Morgana stomping into the distance with a cheesed-off dragon mooching along behind her. I hope she's hunting for a good therapist. Or failing that, a pub.
- In conclusion: A rather more interesting conclusion to the tale than I was expecting. While it's no surprise that Morgana has survived to pout dismally again another day, the introduction of Mordred into the Camelot clan promises to throw a fascinating spanner into the status quo. Is he nice or is he nasty? Will they maintain the mystery? Whatever happens, all the major players were bringing their A-game (and their A-dorableness) this week, so let's hope there's more good stuff where this came from.
- Next week: Arthur gets an unexpected call from his dad. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. Wooooo.