“Merlin” Recap: “Arthur’s Bane Part 1”

Previously on Merlin, the series, realizing it will soon be entering its last season, quickly ticked off the mythical legends of Tristan and Isolde, the Sword in the Stone, and a Congress able to actually make a decision on anything (now that’s really fantasy fiction!), Arthur had yet another crisis in confidence (I’m sorry, but if I had Bradley James’ body my crises would be more likely to involve public nudity than waning confidence). Nonetheless, he rallied in time to defeat Morgana (again) who had invaded the kingdom (again) and restored Camelot (again) to its usual air of peace and prosperity (again, until next week.) Arthur married Guinevere/Gwen (which means Kate Middleton will be the second commoner to be Queen of England) and an injured Morgana was saved by being breathed on by a deformed hairless Chihuahua (funny, when my dog breathes on me all I get is to smell his Puppy Chow breath.) Finally, Merlin was left pretty much where he started: in brown corduroy and fabulous Ugg boots and a red ascot that always, without fail, makes me think of Freddy Jones from Scooby Doo

Three years later, Camelot is enjoying a brief respite from Morgana’s wily ways, so apparently Arthur has done little during this time except practice his continuous flirty banter with Merlin (Arthur to Merlin: “Is there anything you are capable of doing?” Merlin to Arthur: “Putting up with you.” Oh, you silly boys…) But, just in time for the season premiere, a crisis has arisen: it seems Gwaine (and not Gawain, for whatever reason,) still more goofus than gallant, something Dame Ragnell would approve of (and if you get that referent you really are my kind of nerd,) has gone missing with several of Camelot’s finest warriors in the frozen wastelands of the north. Then again, judging by the wintry, wolf-strewn, barren landscape Gwaine is struggling through, he could just be lost in my backyard.

But it appears that Morgana is back and up to her wicked ways, which apparently included moving to the North Pole, where she cooked and ate half of Santa’s reindeer. (I have a recipe for Rudolph chili that can make anyone magically fly…) I half expect to the see the Winter Warlock running around scaring people until Merlin gives him a choo-choo train. Seriously, though, Morgana has taken over an old fort and has a mine full of hunky elves searching for some kind of key. Without it, she’ll never get Arthur’s diary open, and if she can’t read Arthur’s deepest, darkest secrets, she may never know why his floppy mop of blond hair always looks so shiny and fresh, even in the darkest of ages…

The Knights of the Round Table gather and Arthur decides that he will go on a quest to save his men. Seriously, am I the only one who has noticed how many knights Arthur Pendragon goes through on a weekly basis? He goes through knights like I go through clean underwear on a roller coaster. I think the only job more dangerous than being a knight of Camelot is being Lindsay Lohan’s personal assistant. (I shudder to imagine the horrors that person has experienced.)

Guinevere suggests the group approaches Morgana from the West, since apparently Morgana only believes there are three points on a compass, not four. This means they have to go through Queen Annis’ lands, but she probably won’t mind a large group of well-armed men romping through her woods—it’ll be just like the first day of deer season in my hometown, so as long as she wears a fluorescent orange farthingale, she’s all set. On the way Arthur and his knights find a small group of slaughtered villagers, and Merlin chances upon a Druid seer who presents him with a most horrifying vision. In the vision Merlin spies a great and terrible battle in which an emo-knight with One Direction hair slowly approaches Arthur. Merlin is terrified he’ll kill Arthur; personally, I’m worried emo-knight will break into a boy-band inspired forgettable pop song, because that’s what I watch Glee for. The vision ends and Merlin gets all broody and worried about Arthur.

Or, in other words, what happens in just about every episode of Merlin.

Merlin, worried about his love interest king, uses his “dragon talking” powers to summon the Dragon for an emergency therapy session. Seriously, I hope that poor dragon charges $75 per hour for these little encounters. Can you imagine flying halfway across England every time some nervous sorcerer gets worried over his favorite slab of blonde beefcake? And, by the way, I love Merlin’s “dragon talk” language—it’s like a cross between German and my dog choking on a chicken bone. The dragon tells Merlin it is up to him to keep Arthur safe. Merlin looks constipated.

Back in Camelot, Guinevere is worried that there has been no word from Arthur—no messenger, no passenger pigeon, not even a text. Who doesn’t have time to text? (Well, I imagine the cellular reception in any place called “the frozen wastelands” must be spotty at best.) Guinevere’s worried look has me worried—Botox hasn’t been invented yet, after all. A queen cannot afford to frown if she wants to keep her king’s mind on her royal goods with so many comely wenches around, after all!

At Annis’s court, Merlin is ordered to “perform” for the amusement of everyone, since, as Arthur’s “fool,” he must have some talent, as serving is apparently not one of them. Numerous slash writers take the opening to describe their version of what kind of “performance” Merlin will pull off. On the actual show, Merlin uses his magic to juggle, and Arthur later admits he has never seen Merlin handling his balls so well. (Cough, cough.) Later, the two have a fireside chat before exhaustedly tumbling into bed and having a brief spat over whose turn it is to the take the dog out for his late-night pee-pee run. No, wait, check, that was me and the hubby. Merlin and Arthur just go to sleep.

In Camelot we watch Guinevere spy on her new maid heading off for what she thinks is a romantic rendezvous. Turns out the new maid is meeting Morgana’s new right hand, a Saxon sorcerer. And, yes, the maid is a spy inside the castle. Wow, this is a trope the series has never explored before (Except Season 3 Morgana, Season 4 Agravaine…) Seriously, haven’t they instituted background checks in Camelot yet? Calling a potential employee’s references up front can save a person a lot of hassle later. I tell you, I can’t wait to see how this all plays out. I’m on the edge of my seat seeing how this fresh and inspired plot device develops (sorry, I may just be a bit cranky because I was the one who lost the late-night doggy pee-pee run squabble.) Anyway, the maid, Sefa, warns the man (her father) that Arthur and his knights are approaching the ice fort from the West and that they have a two-day head start.

Happily, the evil Saxon’s horse is a hybrid or something. Since he didn’t have to stop and refuel he makes up the lost time in a snap! He gets to Morgana ahead of Arthur and warns her of his approach. They set a trap for the knights of Camelot and the small group is surrounded and set upon. Arthur gets whacked on the head with a mace and Merlin saves him (anyone sensing a pattern here?) Merlin pulls Arthur away from the battle. While the knights of Camelot are hopelessly overmatched, several of them—including all with speaking parts—get away and report back to the Queen. Guinevere really proves her mettle when she quickly puts two and two together and figures out that her lady’s maid is neither really a lady nor a maid (discuss.) She has her brought before the court and wrings a confession out of her in five seconds flat. Hah! Then, to top it all off, she sentences the maid to death. Dang! Somewhere in Alaska, Sarah Palin is jealous. Guinevere is going rogue! But I’m impressed. Take notes, namby-pamby male rulers of Camelot—this is how you get the job done.

Somewhere, lost in the woods, Merlin and Arthur have forty-two heart-to-heart conversations in between petty bickering and general wandering. They talk about Arthur being hurt and each other’s destinies and how Arthur feels about his men (Arthur says they are “More than friends, more than brothers…” Isn’t the next step in that progression kissing cousins?) and Merlin always saving Arthur and Merlin having many talents and what they are going to wear to the prom and which boys they hope ask them to go. Seriously, I understand the whole fondness for the “bromance” these two have going on and AfterElton.com readers’ fascination with “Merthur” slash, but I’m sorry—these two are not homoerotic, they’re homo-neurotic. All they do is gab, gab, gab, talk, talk, talk. That’s not sexual tension you’re sensing—it’s laryngitis.

In the mines, Percival and Gwaine are shirtless… and I really don’t care what else is going on. (Seriously, do you? Because I haven’t a clue…) But as for Percy and Gwaine, dayum but those are to fine specimens. I’d sit at their round table any day. Being enslaved in a mine is apparently fabulous for one’s pecs. 


Oh, and Gwaine sees a blue light. Probably just the will-o-the-wisp or a circuit party or something like that. Gwaine checks it out and a couple of Saxons kick the snot out of him and leave him to (presumably) die. Then a mysterious, deformed, CGI-figure who looks oddly like a blue version of Pepper from American Horror Story: Asylum appears. This reject from a Whitley Strieber book hovers over Gwaine…

Back wandering around near the Fanghorn Forest, Merlin and Arthur are almost caught spooning by Morgana. They are eventually trapped in a net. Just as all hope seems lost, the emo-knight from Merlin’s vision appears. He suggests that Morgana will decide their fates, but then tells Arthur that he is Mordred, whom Arthur once saved…

And that’s it, end of Part One. Will Mordred help Arthur? Or will he turn him over to his crackpot sister? Is the blue—whatever that thing is—there to help Gwaine? (And I’m sorry, Merlin creators, but if it is Gwaine, the creepy blue thing should have been green!) And—most important of all—will Percival spend all of Part Two shirtless? We’ll have to tune in to see… unless you’re from Great Britain and have already seen the whole bloody season. In which case, don’t tell me! Except the shirtless Percival and Gwaine part. If either of those two takes his clothes off, that you can tell me. Preferably with pictures.