Arthur has something Very Important to ask Gwen, a thrilling yet tragic yet naked guest star shows up, betrayal, angst, and heartbreak come calling, lances shatter most sexily, and someone loses an eye…both eyes…and most of her teeth—this week on Merlin.
It’s late, and Agravaine would rather be in Morgana’s bed, but this won’t wait until morning—Arthur needs to talk to him right now. Why? Because he wants to tell Agravaine that he’s marrying Guenevere. But…but sire! Don’t bother, pal. Arthur wants a queen who is smart and knows her own mind, has his back and gives good advice. Arthur, you medieval feminist, you! Of course, if he really wants someone like that he should marry Merlin. But this is Camelot, not Canada, so Gwen it is. Agravaine is suitably chagrined, unlike Merlin, who’s positively beaming as he dusts the same spot for their entire conversation.
Agravaine hies it to Morgana’s hovel to break the bad news to her. She’s beside herself that her dream/vision is now coming true. But wait! No need to worry, she says with her Evil Smirk TM, she knows exactly how to stop this royal wedding from happening. You mean smash Gwen’s head in with a poker and put her body in the woods for the wolves to eat? I have a feeling Morgana’s plan will be a touch more convoluted than that, don’t you?
Morgana goes at once to visit a blind and powerful old “woman” who lives in an even worse place than her—a dank, dark cave with nothing in it but…well, there’s really nothing in it. As far as we can tell, the old woman just curls up in a moist ball and hibernates until the next willing victim comes a-callin’. She recognizes Morgana by her smell (hey, just like Agravaine) and knows that Morgana is part of the prophecies that seem to be coming faster and faster these days (hey, just like Agravaine when he thinks about how Morgana smells). Morgana has a magic medallion—that seems to be only one of a cartload of enchanted do-dads that Morgause unloaded just before she croaked—and Morgana wants the old lady to tell her how to release the soul that’s inside it.
The instructions are as complicated as the ancient instructions for setting up your VCR to record, but let’s just say that Morgana ends up at some important magical lake, ankle deep in mystical lake water. She tosses the medallion in, and after a short Mentos/Coke moment, up comes an incredibly sexy, wet naked…LANCELOT. I’ve never been so glad to see a dead guy in my whole life. He walks out of the lake and bows, saying he is hers to command. Okay, I know this is a family show, but I’d like to imagine Morgana commanded him to within an inch of her life all morning before finally getting down to the business of messing up Arthur’s marriage to Gwen.
Back at Chez Hovel, she tells Lancelot that he won’t be needing his sword for this mission, only his heart. His instructions are to go to Camelot and seduce Gwen, thereby shattering Arthur’s trust in her. As she’s explaining this, we see Arthur sneaking up behind Gwen as she’s making a bed and blindfolding her. Before I go on, let me say that I think it’s rather insulting that Arthur is planning on marrying this young woman, but doesn’t even think to, I don’t know, get her a different job in the castle other than a maid. Isn’t there anything at head office? Anyway, he guides her blindfolded (presumably all the way out of the castle and through the village to her house, which is approximately two miles), where a thousand flickering candles await her. We all know Arthur sure as hell didn’t light all those bad boys; maybe it was Merlin, who’s lurking outside the window like a world class creeper. As expected, Arthur asks Gwen to marry him. As expected, she weeps and laughs and says yes. Yay!
Morgana is done training Lancelot and even she feels bad that Lancelot has gone from a mighty warrior to what he is now, a shade, a poor imitation of his former life. She doesn’t feel bad enough to stop this madness and send him back from whence he came, but still. A single perfect tear and all that.
To celebrate their engagement, Arthur has a tournament in Gwen’s honour. There’s all sorts of jousting and shit, and after Arthur spears a wreath to give to Gwen, so does the mysterious knight who shows up out of nowhere. Who is it??? OMFG, it’s Lancelot. Everyone, and most especially Gwen, is shocked speechless.
Lancelot tells a convincing story of how he survived after his ordeal on the Isle of the Blessed (he lived in a little house owned by seven dwarfs). Merlin is only too happy to let Lancelot sleep in Merlin’s bed (not like that) because I guess Percival snapped up Lancelot’s corner bedroom, like, 15 minutes after he heard he was dead. Merlin takes a moment when they’re alone to talk about how terrible he feels about what went down at the Isle of the Blessed, and that he wishes he’d used magic to save him. Lancelot assures Merlin that if any of them had magic, all of life would be easier. Oops. Of course, Lancelot should know that Merlin possesses magical powers. Bam, his cover story is blown already. Merlin tells Gaius about it, and Gaius advises him to wait and see what happens next. Yes, lets!
Morgana is taking no chances that Gwen is going to suddenly fall back into Lancelot’s arms, so she gives Lancelot a bracelet infused with a love spell. As a way to show there’s no hard feelings, Lancelot gives Gwen the bracelet as an engagement gift. Sneaky!
Speaking of sneaky, Merlin tries to wheedle some information from Gaius thus: “Mmm, this chicken is good. Nice broth…so what do you know about necromancy?” Ha! Gaius admits that raising someone from the dead is possible, but there’s no way to know if that’s the case with Lancelot. Or is there? They set a trap for him, and when Lancelot comes home and walks through the enchanted circle Merlin has chalked out on the floor, his face flickers and changes into a skull for a moment. Dammit! It’s all true.
It’s Day 2 of the tournament, and Gwen finds herself inexplicably drawn to Lancelot’s tent. And by tent I mean penis. She starts to help him get dressed just so she can touch him, then catches herself and scurries away, flustered and horny. Poor Gwen. She doesn’t deserve this, at all.
The jousters have all battled, and it’s down to the final two: Arthur and Lancelot. Merlin and Gaius are on high alert, wondering if Lancelot’s shade was sent by Morgana to kill Arthur while jousting (instead of, you know, bashing him on the head with a poker while he’s bending down to tie his bootlaces). They grow even more anxious when Lancelot demolishes Arthur’s lance, rendering him injured and barely conscious. Merlin’s ready to save Arthur with magic, but on the next go-round Lancelot yields at the last second, sparing Arthur altogether. So Lancelot isn’t here to kill Arthur—but then what’s he here to do? Merlin notices Gwen sneaking into Lancelot’s tent, but doesn’t realize that one and one and one adds up to a whole lotta trouble. Gwen and her bracelet of doom are falling into Lancelot’s arms right on cue.
That night Merlin follows Lancelot, who’s having a midnight meeting with Agravaine. Lancelot tells him that Gwen is as ripe as a Georgia peach ready for picking (he doesn’t actually say that), and Agravaine says that Morgana will be pleased as punch (also paraphrasing). Agravaine hurries away and Lancelot… Well, he doesn’t get far because Merlin comes up behind him and gives a big old magic push. Lancelot sprawls to the ground, knocked out cold, of course. Merlin goes to check on him, only to find out the hard way that he wasn’t out cold at all—he was totally faking it. He punches Merlin in his pretty face and it’s clear that Merlin really is out cold, and not faking it whatsoever.
Meanwhile Agravaine has gone to wake up Arthur, to tell him there’s something he must see at once. Oh no! Just as we knew would happen, Gwen meets with Lancelot in the council chambers. She and her stupid magic bracelet only have eyes for him, but his eyes are on the door. Everything happens so fast: Merlin wakes up and tries to stop them in time, Arthur’s hurrying down the hall with Agravaine, Lancelot and Gwen kiss. It’s a perfect storm of treachery.
When Lancelot sees Arthur coming, he really puts his back into kissing Gwen. Arthur sees them, and freaks completely out. I have to say, Bradly does a bang-up job of conveying the hurt and anger Arthur feels when seeing his fiance with his best friend. He draws his sword and comes at Lancelot, who’s 100 percent ready for him. They fight viciously, and the only thing that prevents Lancelot from killing Arthur is Merlin’s magic. Arthur gets the upper hand, and goes to run Lancelot through—but Gwen comes between them and tearfully begs him not to. This final betrayal makes Arthur drop his sword.
Next stop for the cheating cheaters: the dungeons. Gwen at long last tears off the bracelet and throws it against the wall; not because she realizes its significance but because she can’t believe what she’s done. Poor Gwen doesn’t know what the hell just happened. She collapses into a sobbing mess on the floor of her cell.
Agravaine is only too happy to remind Arthur that in the days of Uther, adultery was punishable by death. “You’ve been made a fool of,” he tells Arthur, who has lost every bit of his new-found confidence. The guards drag Gwen to the meeting hall, where they shove her to her knees when Arthur arrives. He orders everyone out, which is obviously not the way these public condemnations usually work.
Arthur turns at once from king to broken-hearted man. He wants to know, did she love Lancelot? Wasn’t she happy with Arthur? Did she have doubts about their marriage? Gwen can only cry and deny, which only makes Arthur furious. And rightly so—why did she do it if they both loved each other? And Gwen has no answer for him; she doesn’t know either. Instead of putting her to death, he banishes her from the kingdom so he never has to be reminded of what she did to him. She begs him to reconsider because she’d probably rather be dead than without him, but he doesn’t waver. “Where will I go?” she asks him. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” he replies. Not really, but that’s what it boils down to.
Merlin and Gaius are discussing what happened and why, and Merlin is sure that this was Morgana’s plan from the beginning. Since nobody knows about the bracelet, they think that Gwen just couldn’t contain her feelings for Lancelot. Merlin wants to tell Arthur that Lancelot is just a Shade, but Gaius points out that that won’t change what Gwen did. Now, this is irking me to be honest, because hello! How many times have all of them done things that were completely out of character because of magic? How many times have they tried to kill each other, and been taken over by beasties, and turned into hilarious braying donkeys? That’s right I went there. But now Gwen has done something even she can’t understand and it’s a vote off the island for her? I DO NOT APPROVE.
Agravaine visits Lancelot in his cell and gives him a note from Morgana. “She has one last wish for you.” “As my lady desires.” Man, I’ve never hated Agravaine and Morgana more than at this moment. I have to hand it to her, though. One of her zany schemes finally worked, and tore the kingdom asunder. Well played, you horrible woman. Well played.
The next morning at dawn, Gwen packs up the last of her cart to get out of Dodge, and Merlin is there to watch her go. No, really, he just watches and doesn’t even ask if he can help her. In fact, her brother is nowhere to be seen either, and neither are all the people of Camelot who Gwen (or even her father) helped and was kind to all these years. What a slap in the face.
Back in the castle, the servants are dismantling the flower arrangements meant for the wedding. Well, that’s depressing. Merlin finds Arthur and tries to convince him to change his mind, saying that Agravaine doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Arthur doesn’t get angry, doesn’t even raise his voice. He says that he still loves Gwen, and one day he’ll probably even forgive her. But he’ll never trust her again, and that won’t do for a king, and especially not a husband. And what can Merlin say to that, because it’s true.
Agravaine comes to tell Arthur that Lancelot was found dead in his cell after having taken his own life. Arthur commands that he gets a proper burial fit for a man of honour.
Which means, somewhat inexplicably, that Merlin sets his body off on a canoe. Merlin takes a moment to put a hand to Lancelot’s forehead and murmur a spell. Lancelot comes back to life with a gasp, and has time to whisper, “Merlin, thank you,” before slipping away for good. Merlin both laughs and cries for this one last moment they got to have together, then pushes the boat into the water. As it drifts away he uses magic to set the boat on fire, turning it into a pyre. Now there’s just tears as he comes to accept his friend is gone forever.
Arthur heartbroken, Gwen banished, Lancelot dead, and Merlin helpless to stop any of it. God, this episode was sad. ::chugs vodka while eating an entire bag of Cheetos::