This week we’ve got a sexy redheaded queen, Arthur doing the unthinkable to Merlin (not like that), a flaming sword of doom, a royal kiss-off, Merlin the Knight of the Round Table, and someone calls someone a cabbage head. Full steam ahead!
What do I spy over there in the yonder? Why, it’s one of Arthur’s knights, being chased by an angry mob. Just another day in Camelot. But wait! The knight turns out to be…Merlin. Has he been given a really excellent promotion since last week? We’re not sure, but he runs into a gully with no exit. The mob follows him, the leader telling Merlin smugly, “Trapped, are we?” When arrows start to fly from above, and a line of knights appear on both sides of them, the leader looks at Merlin with shock. “That’s the idea,” Merlin says with the most adorable grin. He looks very fine as a knight, I must emphasize.
The mob is soon captured, and the leader, it turns out, isn’t an Occupy Wall Street holdover, he’s Caerleon, the king of a neighbouring kingdom, rummaging around Camelot to see what trouble he can get into. Agravaine, who is so adept at giving good advice with a poison pill thrown in, tells Arthur the other kingdoms think King Arthur inexperienced and weak. The obvious solution to that is, naturally, to kill the other king in cold blood if he won’t hand over the keys to his castle. Arthur’s all, um, nooo. But Agravaine insists it’s the only way.
Arthur spends the night mulling it over, and in the morning Merlin tries to talk sense into him. “This isn’t you,” he urges. Arthur wigs out, saying Merlin has no damn idea how hard it is to be king, and Merlin should stick to what he knows. Which is, of course, saving Arthur and Camelot every two minutes, but that’s neither here nor there.
Arthur presents Caerleon with the treaty, which he promptly sneers at. Arthur tells him he’ll pay with his life if he doesn’t sign it, but there’s no way he’s bending over for the likes of Arthur. Unlike Arthur, Caerleon knows exactly where he stands on the issues. He’d rather die than compromise! Arthur implores him to think of his people, how the treaty would bring peace to both their hoods, just like when their fathers were kings. “I’m not my father! And you’re certainly not Uther, you lily-livered flouncy boy!” he says. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. And so Arthur has to chop off the dude’s head with his sword. Off camera, ’cause this ain’t American Horror Story, folks.
Back at Camelot, Agravaine heaps praise on Arthur (Who’s a good boy? YOU’RE a good boy!). Agravaine isn’t too thrilled when Gwen gives Arthur a big hug hello, but what’s a villain to do? Other than smirk when no one is looking, I mean.
Merlin hangs around while Arthur gives himself a sponge bath, trying to make him feel bad about being a stone-cold killer. It doesn’t work. Arthur thinks he’s done the right thing, the strong thing, and that’s that. Merlin tells him he can talk to Merlin anytime he gets the guilts, because Arthur needs his friends now more than ever. Arthur sets him straight. He can’t have friends as king, because kings are islands, islands in the stream. That is what they are. No one in-between. How can they be wrong? Wait, what was I saying again? Oh yes: Merlin, clean my room and stop talking to me.
Meanwhile Queen Annis gets the body of her beloved Caerleon back. She was cool with it when she thought he died a noble death in battle, but when she realizes he’s been executed, she’s royally pissed (’cause she’s a queen – get it?). Oh, Camelot will rue the day, don’t you doubt it.
Agravaine is feeling especially feisty since Arthur is being such an eager puppet for him, so he decides to push his luck and tell Arthur that he can’t be cavorting with servants like Gwen now that he’s king. What will Morgana his people think if he loves a mere daughter of a blacksmith? But…but it’s not a matter of state, it’s a matter of the heart! Not when you’re royalty, bucko. Although that nice Pippa Middleton is still available, you might want to give her a shout. Arthur wants so much to be a good king (like dear old dad) that he takes this advice to heart, even when Agravaine has such black, villainous hair.
The next day, Merlin is assisting Arthur with Ye Olde Medieval Punching Bag. When Merlin suggests that Arthur might be upset about something, Arthur makes sure to deny such silliness by punching the bag right to the ground — on top of Merlin. They don’t have time for punny banter though, because Sir Leon comes to tell Arthur that Queen Annis’s army is marching for Camelot. Oh oh.
Arthur and his generals and such have a meeting to decide how to attack the army while Camelot still has the advantage. Agravaine is all for war and spurs him on. Yay everybody’s going to die, long live the king!
Morgana’s breaking into a castle at night as per usual, but I hope you didn’t bet money that it’s Camelot. She wants to see Annis, who is rather irritated that yet another Pendragon is messing with her. She changes her tune when Morgana reminds her that Uther killed Morgana’s stepdad, who raised her and loved her and drove her to her ballet lessons and shit. So what does Morgana want to do about it? She wants to offer her specialized services to Annis, almost completely free of charge.
That night, Merlin is turning down Arthur’s bed (not like that). They’re discussing Arthur going off into the wilderness again (“eating weird animals…being eaten by weird animals”). In fact, it’s the last time either of them will get to sleep in a proper bed for a while. Which makes Arthur loudly proclaim that there’s no way he’s sharing his bed with Merlin. Which makes Merlin loudly bray with laughter at the very thought of him and Arthur sharing a bed together. Naked, perhaps. Spooning when they get cold. That sort of thing. Aha. Ha ha. Arthur puts on a cloak and stalks out of the room. Aw, no more flirting.
Arthur sneaks into the village to, you know, dump Gwen. She’s so happy to see him that it’s all heartbreaking when he cuts her loose. She tries to be strong and not cry as he gives her the “it’s not you, it’s Agravaine” speech. Before he goes, she tells him to not listen to anyone, to be his own man and follow his heart. Which is a paradox, because if he can’t listen to anyone, then he can’t listen to her. Oof, paradox brainfreeze.
The next day, Camelot’s army rides to war. Arthur looks down from the bluff at the huge army milling around waiting to kick his ass. He’s calm and resolved, and tells Agravaine that they attack at dawn. Dammit!
The inner circle of knights are having a fireside chat that night, knocking their cups together even though they’re obviously empty. Hee. Arthur comes out of his tent to watch them, but doesn’t join them. He can’t have friends anymore, or even acquaintances. He must be forever alone.
But the knights are having none of that. They all shuffle into his tent to tell him that they would totally make out with him on a drunken dare. I mean…they tell him they’re honoured to fight for him, for freedom and justice and puppy dogs and unicorns! Arthur is touched (not like that). After they shuffle out, Merlin reminds him that even though the battle is dangerous, Arthur had no choice — he must defend Camelot. But he did have a choice, didn’t he? He could have spared Caerleon and avoided this entire disaster. Arthur is learning what kind of king he wants to be, slowly but surely.
Once again, Arthur cloaks himself and steals off into the night. Merlin hears him and wakes up, although nobody else does because nothing makes a soldier more sleepy than knowing you’ll probably die in battle the next day. He follows Arthur, who goes to the enemy camp. For the third time a Pendragon has messed up one of Annis’s sleeps. Or maybe she doesn’t sleep, because she’s always fully dressed and ready for company.
After a hello slap in the face from Annis, Arthur tells her to call off the battle, that he’ll fight the warrior of her choice to the death, with half of Camelot the prize, just to avoid any more of their men being slaughtered. She’s surprised to hear this proposition, but even more surprised when her guards bring in Merlin, who was lurking outside spying on them. She orders him killed, but Arthur begs her to let him live, because he’s just a simple-minded servant. Ha! True enough, since he didn’t even bother to make himself invisible or something. Silly Merlin. Annis agrees to spare him, but Arthur totally owes her one! No two, including calling off the battle! Let it be done. Noon tomorrow, behind the school, bring the champion of his choice.
Arthur gives Merlin hell all the way back to camp. Merlin insists he’s just trying to be a good friend. Plus, it’s his destiny! He needs to help and guide Arthur to Albion, even if he gets both of them killed doing it. Heh, Merlin needs a little bit of help finding his path, too.
The next day Arthur breaks the news to his men that he’s going to be the one doing the fighting. The knights are aghast, although Agravaine smirks happily at the thought. You’d think his face would freeze in that position he does it so much.
Annis thinks it’s some sort of trick that Arthur wants to do the fighting himself, but Morgana assures her he’s just that noble. Annis reminds her that Arthur is rather good with a sword, and they both should be worried that Arthur will win the fight. Morgana is going to make sure that he doesn’t, thanks to her bag of magic tricks. Annis is a bit squicked throwing in her lot with magic, but hey, a win’s a win — and half of Camelot is on the line.
I’m not sure how, but somehow Morgana makes contact with Agravaine in camp and tells him to steal Arthur’s sword. He does, and brings it out into the middle of the woods so she can cast a spell on it. “Arthur is as good as dead,” she breathes. Now, I’m not sure how Agravaine is going to get the sword back into camp what with the ENTIRE ARMY OF CAMELOT just outside Arthur’s tent, but we don’t have to worry about it because they never show us how he does it. We just have to trust the writers. ::nods::
The next day, Merlin is helping Arthur get on his armor. Merlin is worried, but Arthur tells him that for the first time since he was made king, he knows in his heart he’s doing the right thing. He thanks Merlin for his help, and they shake on it. Merlin might cry a little. And now it’s time to fight!
Annis’s champion is a huge brute of a man, too vicious to even be able to talk — he just grunts. He’s not scared of any man, not even the king of Camelot. The battle starts, and Arthur holds his own. He even draws blood — which just makes the guy angrier (we can tell because he grunts more loudly). Morgana has had enough of this nonsense, and gets her enchantment fired up. Her enchantment makes Arthur’s sword so heavy he can’t lift it. Oooh!
Sure enough, just when he needs it most, Arthur’s sword might as well be a magnet stuck to the ground. But guess what? There are two battles being waged here, and here comes Merlin on the other side to wage his own magic, head-to-head with Morgana. Yay! Arthur tries to persevere, but his sword is working against him, his enemy is moving fast, and Arthur is about to die! But then Merlin zaps the brute, giving Arthur just enough time to take his sword and run it straight through…the ground. He’s learned his lesson, and knows that mercy shows a better kind of strength than cruelty. The knights cheer their sexy, dirty heads off. Agravaine claps as though Ricky Gervais just made a joke about his wife. Morgana slinks off, pouting prettily.
Queen Annis comes to Arthur and promises to agree to the treaty. But why, she wants to know, did Arthur spare her champion? “Because it’s not victory I seek — it is peace.” At long last, Arthur is beginning to turn into the king he’s destined to be. Annis thinks so too, and is mighty impressed with this young man. Honestly, I think SHE should rule Camelot with Arthur in her bed, because she kicks all sorts of ass and has sexy red hair, but I’m not writing this show. So Arthur it is.
Back in her tent, Annis is packing up when Morgana pays her a visit. Next time, she promises, Arthur won’t be so lucky. But Annis, queen of my heart, isn’t buying it. She sees right through Morgana and tells her that Aniss’s grief led her astray for a moment, but seeking revenge wasn’t right, and Morgana’s bitterness is spreading through her like ebola. Morgana sneers and calls her week, vowing to keep fighting until all of Camelot bows before her! Which, I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems to me a good portion of Camelot would enjoy being in that position. Morgana storms off, but Aniss stops her long enough to point out that Morgana is more like Uther than she might want to admit. Ouch!
The knights come home to a hero’s welcome, with cheering peasants lining the streets. Merlin puts Arthur in his place, telling him they wouldn’t be cheering if they knew what a cabbage head he was. Arthur agrees with him (!), and apologizes for not listening to him earlier, because he was so right (!!). Wowie, who are you and what have you with done with the real Arthur?
The next morning, Arthur is lying in bed when Gwen comes in with fresh water for him. He jumps out of bed and presents her with a handful of wildflowers he has hidden under his pillow. She tries to be professional, but he confides that he’s learned that he must be his own man, and choose himself who he’s going to be with — all the while getting all up in her personal space. He kisses her, and we all swoon. Kiss her again, Arthur! He does, too. For today at least, all is right in the kingdom of Camelot.