This week’s Merlin brings to a head the last month’s storyline involving a puppet Gwen and her attempts to bring down Camelot and Arthur according to the will of everyone’s favorite bastard princess and witch, Morgana. The episode’s title, “With All My Heart,” refers to what Gwen said to Arthur when she accepted his wedding proposal, but it’s also a reference to an Elvis Presley song, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” recorded by The King as a single in 1956. It was his second number one hit on the Billboard pop charts. I’m not sure if the writers had that in mind with the line, but it’s where my mind went anyway.
But let’s get down to this very important episode, which opens once again with Guinevere meeting Morgana in the woods outside the castle to discuss their latest takedown options. This time though, Merlin and Arthur are hiding nearby listening to every word. Arthur wants to strike now, but Merlin advises patience. They need to find a way to free Gwen from Morgana’s control.
Gauis says there is a magic that can help Gwen, and although Arthur is hesitant, the combined convincing power of Gaius and Merlin brings the king around to the idea. But first, a field trip for Merlin. Gwen is suffering the Tiene Daga, a magical method of brainwashing that binds the brainwashee to the High Priestess by instilling horrific fear (see: The Dark Tower). Merlin must see the Dochraid in order to find a possible cure for Gwen, and she’s not going to be very accommodating.
Merlin goes in disguise as Dragoon the Great, but that doesn’t fool the Dochraid, she knows who she’s dealing with: Emrys, and he ain’t no friend to the Old Religion or Morgana. Screw it! Merlin goes gangsta on the Dochraid, and busts a cap… Or rather wounds her on the arm with Excalibur. The Dochraid gives up the info: Merlin and Co. will have to travel to the Cauldron of Arianrhod where Merlin will have to summon the Triple Goddess herself as only her healing touch can hope to save Gwen. But the rub is that Gwen will have to enter the waters of the Cauldron willingly, she cannot be tricked or enchanted, or else risk losing her soul forever. As Merlin turns to leave, the Dochraid tries to kill him with an enchanted knife, but Merlin deflects it easily and instead uses it to strike down the Dochraid.
With info in hand, Arthur, Merlin and Gaius plot to get Gwen to the Cauldron (and to disguise Merlin in order to perform the ritual, since Arthur is already aware of the Dragoon ruse). Using a belladonna-spiked drink to put Gwen’s lights out, Arthur and Merlin head out, surreptitiously followed by Mordred, who, at just the right moment, reveals himself in time to save both our heroes from falling off a perilous cliff. But that’s not the only danger. The Dochraid survived and has tipped off Morgana that her old friend Emrys is looking to de-puppetize the queen.
Morgana ambushes the gang as they’re nearing the Cauldron, and she has dragon back-up. Merlin tells Arthur to take Gwen ahead and he uses his Dragon Lord powers to call off Aithusa’s attack, but then Morgana strikes, knocking out Mordred and leaving Merlin with just enough juice to get away. That was fine by Morgana, who, with some lingering degree of affection for Mordred, tries to get out of the knight the identity of Emrys. But nope, Mordred will not tell her anything, or betray Arthur, so he knocks Morgana out with magic instead.
Finally at the Cauldron, Arthur and Gwen are confronted by the sorcerer who will help them: Dolma. If she looks familiar, it’s because she’s Merlin in drag (with some temporary magical sex reassignment, not that we got into the technicalities of the spell). Arthur tries to get Gwen into the lake, but she’s not having any of it. Merlin/Dolma reminds Arthur that he has to convince her to enter the lake of her own free will, so Arthur offers some romantic words to his queen: “Do you remember when I asked you to marry me? Do you remember what you said? You said with all my heart. That’s what you said Guinevere. No subterfuge, no trickery.” Gwen is moved, and enters the lake with Arthur. Merlin lays on the spells, and all is right with the world again.
Arthur prepares to depart and thanks the Dolma for her efforts. The Dolma asks Artur to remember that it was magic that healed his wife, and that the practice itself isn’t bad, it’s how people decide to use it. And by the way, do you want your serving boy back? I’ve got “him” all “tied up” back at my “lair.” Our heroes make their way back to Camelotand everything’s grand, at least until till next week’s crisis, and Mordred tells Merlin that he wasn’t fooled by the whole Dolma ruse. Not one bit. Arthur however, totally bought it.
-Who else is loving bad ass Merlin? Taking on the Dochraid was just the latest in a long line of ballsy moves the wizard’s done since offing Uncle Agravaine in “The Sword and the Stone, Part II.” Of course, somewhat muting Merlin’s development as a magical Punisher was this week’s experimentation with cross-dressing, but you kind of have to respect a man who will literally do whatever it takes to save the day.
-But seriously, is there no such thing as Polyjuice potion or fake mustaches in the Merlin universe? The two options were going old, or going fem?
-Mordred once again got involved in the action this week, which was nice considering he’s done a lot of standing on the sidelines lately (and to prove it, Alexander Vlahos has been made to do that standing on the sidelines to show that Mordred’s still around). However, I found Mordred’s still rather staunch defense of Arthur and Camelot interesting given our proximity to the series finale. Maybe Mordred should be questioning his commitment given that Arthur was using magic to solve his own personal problems while Merlin was perfectly happy to leave him to Morgana and whatever fate she concocted?
-It’s somewhat disappointing that the episode didn’t lead to someone who’s not Mordred discovering Merlin’s secret identity, and I don’t mean Dolma. From the looks of next week’s episode though it looks like somebody might be getting close, perhaps too close. Still, I will call the evil Gwen storyline a mostly success. It added some nice shades of grey to Gwen’s story arc and the resolution was actually very emotionally moving. Bravo!
NEXT WEEK: Morgana goes from 0 to 1,000 in her quest to get rid of Emrys once and for all.