So without further ado, here are my thoughts on The Diamond of the Day: Part One:
- "I'm not an entertainer, my lady." - Gosh, it's a tough life being a shaven-headed tough-guy sorceror, isn't it? There you are, expecting a nice guest spot full of scowling and yelling and general henchperson duties, when suddenly Morgana demands that you... turn some lights off? How pathetic: that's almost the equivalent of pulling a bunny out of a hat. However, Morgana's also got her own special animal surprise to pull out and it's most definitely NOT a bunny. Nope, it's a big pervy face-hugging magic-sucking slug creature! Before you know it, you're writhing awkwardly on the floor in a sea of unexpected impotence symbolism. Ouch. No wonder Mordred starts giving Morgana some major side-eye and almost seems to be crossing his legs in magical sympathy...
- Meanwhile, in the local tavern, Merlin and Arthur are having a delightfully homoerotic night out, complete with dollops of Dramatic Irony ("I knew you'd discover my secret, my lord."). Accompanying them is Percival, a homoerotic knight who's ALWAYS out, or at least his biceps are. The most significant element of this scene, however, is the canonical confirmation that Merlin has MAGIC BLOWING POWERS. This comes as a surprise to precisely nobody.
- When Merlin finally stumbles home from the tavern, it turns out that one of Morgana's little helpers (a.k.a. the Irrational Elf Service) has left a nasty present under Merlin's bed. This leads to a brief but hilarious scene in which Merlin flails around on his bed while a thing that resembles a massive slimy tongue tries to shove itself down his throat. Fortunately Gaius is there to stab it, proving that where ridiculous Freudian symbols are concerned, long and hard beats short and squidgy hands down.
- Oh no, Merlin wakes up to find his magical mojo is gone! Gaius immediately looks up "Big Pervy-Looking Slugs" in his Book of Suggestive Ailments and discovers that the creature has devoured Merlin's magic like a tasty midnight snack. (Minor quibble here: WHY were all such creatures "destroyed during the Great Purge"? If they ate magic, surely it would have been sensible to keep them around, if you were anti-magic?) Anyway, this leaves the poor magic-less lad with nothing to do but tearfully wander the corridors of Camelot, loafing in front of that eagle wall-hanging so he looks like a particularly forlorn fairy prince.
- Seems like Morgana loves having Mordred around – who wouldn't want a handsome magical chum who looks good in black? To prove they're getting on like a garrison on fire, they even engage in a bit of synchronized fireball-tossing together. I look forward to seeing them on the next series of Albion's Got Talent, just as soon as the showrunners have worked out a way of flameproofing the audience.
- As everyone's running around squealing, Gwaine somehow manages to pull in the height of battle, althought the most surprising thing about it is that it's with a woman. As well as scoring his personalized damsel-groping services, Eira the Obviously Traitorous Blonde also manages to get Merlin to fondle her inner thigh. Altogether this demonstrates MUCH better use of evil than Morgana has ever managed, so fair play to her.
- Hmm, what should Morgana get as a Christmas present for her new boy toy Mordred? Why, what every brooding anti-hero wants: a dragon-forged sword of his very own. Now, what would be a good name for a sword with no danger of copyright infringement? Excaliburtoo? Excaliburp? Excalifornicator? Excalifragilisticexpialidocious? Answers on a postcard, please, or failing that, just tie them to the leg of a passing raven.
- Too late, it occurs to Merlin that he should have looked up the location of Camlann earlier, and possibly written "GIANT GENITAL-EATING SPIDERS LIVE HERE – STAY AWAY!!" across it on every map he could find. Drat. In happier geographical news, he decides that the solution to his own woes lies in the Crystal Cave, where he's been before. Admittedly, there may be a few stabby bandits along the way, but that's a great excuse to bring along...
- ...Gwaine! Aww, I really miss those days when Gwaine and Merlin were BFFs and went on bromantic quests at the drops of a hat, so I was delighted to see those days revived. Gwaine himself is so happy that he celebrates by introducing his new ladyfriend to his nipples. Little does he know that she's about to scurry off to the woods and tell Morgana everything she knows, although at least she draws a veil of discretion over whether Gwaine's bedroom skills are as lacklustre as his spy-spotting abilities.
- Oh dear, Arthur is worried by Merlin's sudden organizational talents, not to mention his reluctance to go on a big boys' end-of-season outing. And Merlin gets tearful AGAIN when Arthur thinks he's running away. What could save this sad situation? How about a spot of seasonal animal impersonation?
Arthur is unimpressed by Merlin's Rudolph impression, despite the length of his antlers.
- As the little-known knight Sir Sigmund of Freudia could have told you, the most obvious solution to symbolic impotence is a symbolic vagina, so Merlin and Gwaine head straight for the cave, pausing only to stab a few bandits. If you squint, you can even imagine that Merlin's tempted to tell Gwaine his secret (they used to be close, remember?) but of course he doesn't. There's just time for a spot of scenic gazing at each other and then it's bye-bye bromance. Destiny awaits...
- Earlier in this episode, Morgana dared to use the line "If I wanted him dead, I'd have put a sword in his gut." However, does she do this to Merlin? No, she bloody doesn't. Instead, she tries out a variation on that ever-popular option for inept villains, Polystyrene Rocks Fall, Nobody Dies, But Merlin Gets A Bit Grubby, Although That's Not Likely To Stop Him From Escaping, Is It. What a silly witch she is.
- Hooray, it's the return of that popular money-saving battle tactic, the Tiny CGI Army of Cheapness! They're so far away that they might as well be hamsters carrying Christmas lights. In fact, I'm rather disappointed that they aren't, because that would make for an excellent battle. (Well, I say "battle". I mean "YouTube video".)
- Gaius tries to talk Arthur out his suspicions about Merlin's whereabouts. Gwen, however, he confesses that Merlin's doing Important Plot Stuff, and she sensibly accepts this. Then Arthur and the Lovely Knights trot off to stare meaningfully at the BBC Quarry of Destiny, that time-honoured place to meet your potential prime-time doom. (Catering not provided; please bring a packed lunch.)
- After wrestling with his own man-pain as only he can (i.e. manfully yet painfully), Merlin manages to find the bit of cave that's full of sparkly crystal ornaments (eco-friendly, fully rechargeable, buy early for Saturnalia!). And who should he find there but his daddy Balinor, last seen shuffling off this mortal coil several seasons ago. Like Uther earlier this series, he seems to have turned rather blue and glowy in the afterlife. Like me, however, he is strangely optimistic about the outcome of this series and encourages Merlin to pull himself together with a rousing speech about magic and finding yourself and believing, which sounds frighteningly like the cue for a song but fortunately isn't one.
- Elsewhere, in a big tent, Gwen is giving Arthur a similar confidence-boosting speech. This isn't the cue for a song either, but it IS the cue for a spot of marital hanky-panky. I suppose that if everyone dies next week, they can take comfort from the fact that many of them managed to get some before biting the anachronistic bullet.
- Hooray, Merlin's mojo is back, back, BACK! He celebrates by making a little fluttery butterfly. Aww. Then he decides to watch highlights from the rest of the episode on a BBC iPlayer crystal to see what he's missed. Cunningly, he discovers that Morgana's planning to sneak round the back way, but how can he relay this important plot point to Arthur in the most homoerotic manner possible? Easy: he uses CrystalMaps (TM) to locate Arthur and Gwen in bed (thank the druids that they're not in flagrante at the time) then PENETRATES ARTHUR'S DREAMS. And what is the outcome of this? Yes, Arthur wakes up MUTTERING MERLIN'S NAME.
Awkward, yet not really a surprise to anyone.
Lest we forget, Merlin groaned Arthur's name in his sleep way back in series 1 so it's about time there was some reciprocation. Charming as this moment was, however, I was slightly distracted by the fact that Arthur's army had apparently carried a massive wooden bed to the battlefield with them. Umm. (I have a mental image of a galloping horde of elegantly armoured knights, followed by one VERY overloaded donkey...)
- Okay people, it's action time, so ominous choirs at the ready! It's time for an uplifting speech from Arthur about "the war on tyranny" and "the future of the united kingdoms" (hmm, bit of politics there!), a meaningful goodbye from Merlin's dad, and then it's all hands to battle stations and crank up the slow-mo cameras! Morgana, meanwhile, hangs around the sidelines looking smug and admiring how hot Mordred looks with a sword, even if his battle frown makes him look more like a slightly disgruntled kitten.
- But hark! Who's this storming hairily through the woods? Yes, it's
Santa ClausEmrys, and he's staring right through the Fourth Wall! He sees you when you're sleeping
He speaks inside your head
He gives you handy plot-hints
So you shoot straight up in bed...
- In conclusion: Woah. After some patchy outings of late, I'm so relieved that the show has managed to find a stash of the good stuff and start pulling it out in the nick of time. Everyone was given something to do, playful moments were scattered amid the serious stuff, the Arthur/Merlin relationship was returned to centre stage at last, Colin Morgan succeeded in displaying fifteen sad facial expressions that were all slightly different from the ones he's shown us before, and all in all, I'm DESPERATE to know what happens next. Only two days to wait until we find out. TWO DAYS. Eeep!
- Next time: The grand finale! Arthur stares! Gwen reigns! Morgana looks frazzled! Old!Merlin glowers scenically as a wind machine whips his hair! And there's a shocking announcement: "I'm a sorceror. I have magic." (Dear BBC: this had better NOT be Merlin confessing his secret to Arthur just as Arthur is dying. IT HAD BETTER NOT BE or I WILL CRY.) Can you stand the suspense? I'm not sure I can. Thank goodness it's the season in which drinking heavily is considered socially acceptable.
Merlin returns on TUESDAY, which is of course Christmas Eve. I shall be visiting the ancestral homelands of the north, but if all goes well, I should be able to pop in and share a few ponderings...