Yay, it’s Arthur and Gwen’s anniversary. Everybody celebrate! Except…
Oh yeah, the Queen is an empty-headed bobble-head doing Morgana’s bidding by going full-tilt Wile E. Coyote after the King. Exhibit A: a flaming bag of fire crackers meant to knock Arthur off his horse and hopefully injuring him enough to fall to the two bandits hired to take him out. Unfortunately for the plan’s sake, Arthur’s manages to shake off the horse toss and is able to defeat his attackers with a little, hidden magic help from Merlin. But before you can say, “ACME rocket and sling shot” the Camelot gang quickly realizes that there’s treachery afoot in the kingdom.
Instead the episode took on a crime procedural feel, Arthur and the knights commit to an investigation of the incident and discover that Arthur’s saddle was sabotaged, on top of the explosives and the mercenaries. This trifecta of treachery leads the knights to the king’s stablehand, Tyr Steward, who is arrested on the spot. When the home he shares with his mother is searched, the knights find the smoking thread, the same thread used to reattach Arthur’s severed saddle strap making it just firm enough to pass inspection but loose enough to throw him if the horse was startled by, say, a bag of fireworks.
Case closed, right? Yeah right. Tyr is brought before Arthur who demands to know if his stablehand had an accomplice in the plot. Not only does Tyr deny he had an accomplice, he denies any knowledge of a plot. Arthur sentences the kid to death, and orders him taken away, but Merlin isn’t sure that’s the right call. So in the dungeons, Merlin pops in to talked to Tyr and in the privacy of the cells the stablehand let’s slip that there is another. He saw someone fiddling with Arthur’s saddle who threatened the life of Tyr’s mother if he snitched, but he’s too scared to say who.
Merlin’s even more convinced of Tyr’s innocence and goes to Arthur. Arthur will hear what Tyr has to say immediately, but Gwen says leave it till morning when cooler heads will prevail all around. Merlin made sure to note that as it was most unusual. Indeed, by the time Arthur pays Tyr a visit in the morning, he’s dead in his cell. The Queen had a little “talk” with him during the night. And although this initial Kill Arthur plot didn’t go according to spec, Morgana is pleased with Gwen’s progress when they meet the next night outside the castle.
Still, there’s the small problem of the still living king. Morgana pays a visit to apothecary named Sindri and buys off him a fatal poison. Disguising herself as old Hilda, Morgana gets the poison to Gwen who “seasons” Arthur’s dinner with it that night. When the King falls victim to the poison, Gwen points the finger at Merlin, the only one that has access to both the food and Arthur. Despite earlier reservations, Gaius has to agree with Merlin, something ain’t quite right with Queen Gwen.
One thing’s for sure, only Merlin’s magic can save Arthur’s life. Gauis sneaks Merlin the aging potion and as Dragoon the Great, Merlin escapes the dungeon and makes his way to Arthur’s bedside while evading the patrolling knights, eventually healing the King under the nose of everyone. In the morning, Arthur is back to normal and frees Merlin from the cells. Before the court he reveals that Gwen was “able to track” the markings on the poison back to Sindri who admits that he sold the poison to Morgana. Gwen is cheered by the court, but Merlin knows for sure, the danger is far from over.
-So we’re officially halfway done the last season of Merlin. Pour a forty of meade on the dirt road for everyone’s favorite youth-oriented, Arthurian legend origin re-telling British serial. In other news…
-Oh, Dragoon the Great. He says things Merlin only ever gets to think about… And incidentally, it was kind of nice to see Old Merlin again. The novelty was wearing by the end of last season, but now was a good time to whip it out again. (On the other hand, I guess I called it about Morgana and the Hilda disguise. One would thing the Camelot guards would have been shown an artist’s rendering of what “Hilda”/Morgana looks like so they can be on their guard, but maybe I’m putting too much credit in medieval crime fighting techniques.)
-This was an interesting episode even though it was light on action. Definitely darker given how Gwen implicates Merlin and how she quite nearly succeeds at both killing Arthur and framing Merlin for it. Strangely enough, the evening’s most perilous action sequence belonged to Merlin as he had to scale the tower wall from the outside in order to get access to Arthur’s chamber. The whole thing was positively Cliffhanger-esque.
-On the other hand, zombie mind-control Gwen isn’t that compelling. I’ll reserve finally judgement for when the whole arc resolves itself, which I hope is soon. This is getting as bad as the whole mole-inside-CTU meme on 24 with all these traitors and conspirators, even the coerced ones. The end kind of bothered me with Merlin once again staring across the room at someone he once thought friend and trying to comprehend their betrayal and what form it might take next. All that was missing was Merlin saying at the end, “How can the same $#!% happen to the same guy twice.” Except there’s no swearing in Camelot. Oh well.
Next Week: Merlin gets called away on urgent Druid business, while Gwen ponders a new evil scheme (and an unlikely team-up). Yippie Ki-Yay, mother-father!