It has been three years since Arthur pulled that sword out of that stone. Since then Camelot has entered a new golden age of peace and prosperity. But storm clouds are gathering. In the frozen lands to the North, deep beneath the fortress of somewhere I have yet to learn how to spell, Morgana is desperately searching for something I have also yet to learn how to spell. With it she will find Arthur's Bane and bring about the fall of Camelot.
As is now traditional, we kick of the season with an epic two-parter. Like many two-parters, part one was mostly all set up for part two (which does look bloody spectacular). But it was rather good set up, with some nice character moments spread throughout. Everything looks more cinematic this season. Even though I'm willing to bet they were shot in a quarry in Wales, the scenes in the Frozen Lands of the North looked fantastic. Normally when our heroes go off on a quest to another land, it just looks like they're running around the same Welsh woodlands they're always running around. Thanks to that winter wasteland, the freaking huge wolves and Davos Seaworth, this episode had a definite Game of Thrones vibe about it. At least, there was until one of the aliens from The Abyss turned up. Seriously, what the hell was that?
I'm willing to bet my groan could be heard from here to Hong Kong when we found out that Gwen's new maid (and possible Merlin love interest) was working for the bad guys, and Davos' daughter no less. Great, that's all we needed, another endless 'when will the traitor be exposed' storyline, only with fewer evil smirks. Fortunately for Camelot (and us), Badass Queen Gwen is on the throne. She isn't going to be repeating Uther and Arthur's mistakes. Queen Gwen gets shit done. What once took almost an entire season now only takes Gwen a few minutes. The former maid is proving to be quite the ruler.
Gwen isn't the only one who has undergone some changes since we last saw them. He might still be Arthur's servant, still keeping his magic a secret, still wearing the same clothes and still engaging in blatantly homoerotic activities with the king, but Merlin has changed. He seems older, more willing to stand up to Arthur. More frustrated than ever with having to hide who he really is. Dammit, Merlin, just tell him that you
Not everyone has changed. Morgana is just as evil as she ever was. She's still dedicated to bringing about the destruction of Camelot. Still looking fabulous in nothing but black. And still looking for any excuse to get Gwaine's shirt off. Honestly, Morgana, a slave army to dig for a secret weapon? You are so transparent. But where has she been for the last three years? What did she mean when she said she saw nothing but darkness for two years? And does she still have magic? Last time we saw her, Merlin had taken away all her powers. We didn't see her use magic once in this episode so is it possible that, three years later, she is still powerless?
Even if she is, it looks like Morgana will not be the biggest threat to our heroes this season. That will be none other than cute little druid boy Mordred, now all grown up and played by Alexander Vlahos. It's clear that this season is going to be about the final conflict between Arthur and Mordred at the Battle of Camlann. This is something the show has been building up to since the first season, and now all the pieces are finally starting to come together.
There has been a lot of speculation this past year that this will be the final season. There has been talk of a sixth season and/or a movie, but everyone involved with the shows has been very vague on the subject. It is possible that this is all intentional, so that there is a genuine sense of foreboding to this visions. Are the writers willing to go there, will they actually let Arthur die? If they do, I hope the final showdown is better than the one we saw in Merlin's vision. That looked rather feeble to me.
When they are not sleeping very close together, Merlin and Arthur are busy getting themselves trapped in a net. Any excuse to snuggle up to each other.
Liam Cunningham (Ruadan) was one of the unfortunate souls to star in Outcasts. Since then he joined the cast of Game of Thrones. Julian Glover (Lochru) is one of the few actors to have appeared in the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond and Harry Potter franchises. Like Cunningham, he also currently stars in Game of Thrones.
Notes and Quotes
-- Even when he's roaming around the Frozen Lands of the North, Percival still has no sleeves.
--Lindsey Duncan was back as Queen Annis from 'His Father's Son'. She and Arthur are now allies.
--Alice Troughton might not have directed this episode, but there was still a lot of pointless slowmo in the battle scenes.
--Not all the CGI was up to scratch. That snake Merlin summoned looked especially fake.
--Arthur and Merlin hiding under the tree from Morgana and her men was right out of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
--Those are some impressive juggling skills you've got there, Colin.
Arthur: “Merlin, is there anything you're actually capable of doing?”
Merlin: “Putting up with you.”
Ruadan: “Patience is the stepping stone to wisdom, Morgana.”
Morgana: “You think I don't know that after all I've been through? For two long years, I saw nothing but darkness. Patience and I are old friends.”
Sir Gwaine: “Lady Morgana, we really have to stop meeting like this.”
Morgana: “You're not looking so pretty now, are you, Sir Knight?”
Sir Gwaine: “It would appear not.”
--Oh, get a room you two.
Lochru: “I have been haunted by this moment for many years... since long before you set foot on this Earth, Emrys, I have waited for its arrival with sorrow in my heart. For even as Camelot flowers, so the seeds of her destruction are being sown. The prophets speak of Arthur's bane. You would do well to fear it, for it stalks him like a ghost in the night. Unless you act quickly, Emrys, even you cannot alter the never-ending circle of his... fate.”
Merlin: “You know, if Morgana doesn't kill you, I will.”
Arthur: “Threatening a King is treason, Merlin.”
Merlin: “What about threatening an ass?”
Arthur: “I heard that.”
Arthur: “Look, no matter what adversity we face, we stand for what is right. To betray our beliefs, Merlin, that is what would destroy everything we've strived for. I swear I'm going to rescue my men... or die trying.”
Merlin: “Then I swear I will protect you or die at your side.”
Gwen: “Respect is to be earned! It cannot be bought with blood. Your treachery cost the lives of many good men.”
Three and a half out of four place names I haven't bothered to learn how to spell.