This week’s episode of Merlin actually opens with a shot better suited for Project Runway: Dungeon edition. We spy a fabulously appointed cloak, mostly from the hem upwards, done in a regal gothic black. It might be a Christian Siriano original, but, alas, it is just Guinevere—or, perhaps, alternate-universe Guinevere (wouldn’t it have been hilarious if she had come back evil with a goatee?) stomping her way through Camelot’s dungeons. She is spotted by hunky slab of man-meat Percival, who wonders where the Queen is going. Guinevere feeds him a cock-and-bull story about how being the Queen all the time can be harsh and she prefers wandering around the streets of Oldtown, alone, in the middle of the night.
Hey, if Guinevere wants to give up the job of being queen at anytime, I will be happy to take it over. I’ve been accused of being a queen once or twice in my life anyway, and this way I’d get the throne and tiaras that come along with it. Percival, to his credit, isn’t necessarily buying what Guinevere is selling, but then she plays the dead brother card and he pretty much lets her have anything she wants. Yes, she really uses the dead brother gambit to play Percival like a one-stringed violin.
Guinevere sneaks off into the woods to see Morgana, and the two plot their latest plot (something about a route the knights are taking to collect levies.) More interesting is who is watching all of this—none other than Merlin and King Arthur himself. Busted! Now Arthur knows for sure Guinevere is in Morgana’s evil clutches, and he looks positively ill over it. Give the boy some Milk of Magnesia and a backrub, Merlin, and maybe he’ll feel better. But no, Merlin offers words of comfort instead, saying, “We’ll bring her back…promise.”
Ahh, but how? That’s the rub for our young sorcerer. Gaius, being a bit more helpful than usual, initially says there is no way to bring Guinevere back at all, that she is a slave to the High Priestess forever. Bummer. Gaius then finally proffers that if there is a way to free Guinevere, the only two people who would know would be Morgana herself and the powerful sorceress The Dochraid. Merlin plans to visit The Dochraid, but Gaius warns she cannot be trusted.
Meanwhile, Arthur has to pretend that everything is a-okay and that his wife isn’t actively trying to murder him. Soon we discover that acting is not amongst Arthur Pendragon’s many talents. As the two enjoy breakfast, Guinevere keeps asking Arthur if he would like to go for a ride, and Arthur keeps squirmingly replying, “Nooo…” I’m starting to think from the way Guinevere keeps repeating herself that “going for a ride” might be a euphemism for a medieval version of “afternoon delight,” but trust me when I tell you that for Arthur, that skyrocket is going nowhere.
Arthur does his best to wriggle out of the Queen’s company. He meets secretly—in a closet, cough, cough, metaphor, metaphor—with a couple of knights (including Mordred) about a new route for collecting the levies. Mordred’s suspicions are raised, but Arthur tells him to leave well enough alone. And then brushes an eyelash off of his porcelain cheek, just for good measure.
Merlin visits The Dochraid, who is an eyeless old hag and also the spitting image of my kindergarten teacher (which explains the bed-wetting until age seven.) The Dochraid is not feeling particularly helpful to Merlin, even if he is wearing his old man Emrys guise and doing his best to give The Dochraid a winning, flirty smile. (Hint to Merlin: eye contact works better when someone actually has eyes.) Merlin tries another tack and gets all flinty and demanding, and I find this take-charge persona very exciting, even if Merlin’s beard appears as if a baby sloth is sleeping in it.
When The Dochraid needs a little extra persuasion, Merlin uses Excalibur to “motivate” her. Dang, boy! Talk about showing some cojones! The Dochraid tells Merlin that Guinevere is an empty vessel under Morgana’s control, just like the Kardashian sisters with their mother Kris Jenner. She adds that he needs to take Guinevere to a magic cauldron and summon the White Goddess, as only she can cure the Queen. And Guinevere must enter the cauldron willingly. And that even with all that, the odds are stacked against him, as Morgana’s evil magic will fight to regain control of Guinevere, and she may be lost in the abyss forever. (I think Kris Humphries knows how that feels.)
Merlin thanks The Dochraid respectfully, but when she sends a sword flying through the air at him he deflects it and then attacks her with Excalibur. Double dang skippy! Bad ass Merlin rules!
In Camelot, with boytoy number one out of the way, boytoy number two—a.k.a. Mordred—makes chummy with Arthur, telling him, “I’m always at your service.” Okay, Mordred, just pack your bags and take your boycrush elsewhere, the king is spoken for! (Percival, however, is not, and I’d love to see that!) No, seriously, Arthur needs to really put an end to this Middle Ages Bachelor parody and just give someone a rose already.
Gaius and Merlin discuss a plan for saving the Queen, and Gaius says that only Arthur can reach the real Guinevere still inside. When Merlin is not so sure, Gaius adds, “You underestimate the power of love, Merlin.” Oh, Gaius. Your words do wound. The two share the plan with Arthur, which includes slipping Guinevere a medieval roofie. Hmm. Gaius sounds as if he has had some practice with this already. But Gaius is optimistic that the plan will work out fine—I guess he’s finally seen the DVDs of the previous four seasons and realizes that, after 43 minutes, everything tends to work out for Merlin and Arthur. They just need to hang on for 34 more.
Arthur is worried about breaking his own laws, and reminds Gaius that the last time he turned to magic to save a loved one, it didn’t turn out so good. Gaius improvises and states that it will be different this time because the sorcerer will be a sorceress. Merlin looks constipated and I imagine everywhere the shippers are going nuts. This totally opens up a whole new world of fanfic for them.
Merlin, taking perhaps too eagerly to his new role as an old lady sorceress, starts picking out appropriate gear—in other words, he starts buying dresses. Unfortunately, Merlin’s taste runs less Givenchy and more Target. Well, we’re not all fashionistas. The trio slip Guinevere the mickey and watch with anticipation as they wait for her to drink it. Is that what Saturday nights are like in many American frat houses? I hope not. Regardless, Guinevere is out like a light, falling face first onto a loaf of bread. Good thing the bread was fresh.
Merlin and Arthur load Guinevere onto a wheelbarrow, Merlin grousing that Guinevere is heavier than she looks and Gaius warning that such statements are grounds for treason. The two are to take her to the woods. They run into Gwaine and Mordred along the way, whose suspicions are again roused, especially when he sees the Queen’s arm slip out from underneath the tarp that covers her. Hmm. In the woods, Merlin and Arthur take off with Guinevere, riding to the magic cauldron.
Elsewhere, we see that The Dochraid is still very much alive and not very happy. She summons a raven to send a warning to Morgana that Emrys is intervening in her Guinevere-zombie plot. When Morgana receives the message, she turns to her white dragon puppy for assistance. Seriously, get that poor thing some Milkbones or something. It is as pale and emaciated as Calista Flockhart circa 1999.
Riding to the mountains, Merlin tells Arthur that he thinks someone is following them. They proceed more cautiously on foot. Suddenly, while walking, Merlin falls. Arthur drops Guinevere and spies him down a cliff. He tries going after him but the rocks give way and he falls as well. When he comes to, his arm is trapped underneath a boulder. Shades of 127 Hours! I half expect James Franco to come by and make a movie with Arthur about gay porn while attending eight Ph.D. programs simultaneously. With Merlin out cold, Arthur is left to his own devices and looks as if he might be getting ready to re-enact the famous arm-sawing scene (it might help if he removed his chain mail first) when who should pop up but Mordred, who has been following the group the whole time.
Mordred saves the duo and tells Arthur he followed him because he had a “funny feeling” about what the two were up to. Arthur is very impressed by Mordred’s “funny feeling,” which leaves Merlin to sulk, since he’s been having “funny feelings” with Arthur forever and Arthur never really noticed. Oh, Merlin, it’s not that he hasn’t noticed. It’s just that Mordred is new and young and exciting and Arthur’s been hearing about your funny feelings for years. Let’s face facts: Arthur is what—25, 26, 27? Considering life expectancy in the Middle Ages was about 39 for a male, he is clearly overdue for a mid-life crisis. Let him test drive his convertible with the pretty eyelashes, Merlin. He’ll come back to his faithful, reliable old rambler when he gets it out of his system.
Actually, Mordred tries to make nice with Merlin, saying that he knows Merlin does not trust him but hoping that they can “be friends” someday soon. Merlin replies, “I could wish for nothing more,” but I think he is wishing Mordred would suddenly get a disfiguring disease instead.
Morgana is watching the trio from afar. (Hey, where are all your funny feelings now, wizard boys?) She sends the white dragon to attack! The group is pinned down but Merlin sends Arthur and Guinevere to safety and then uses his dragon dictation to send the beast away. If Merlin can control the dragon, why not just send it to go eat Morgana?
Instead, Morgana attacks Merlin and Mordred. Merlin manages to get away, leaving Mordred behind. Geez! The contestants on these love-themed reality shows sure can be vicious. Morgana doesn’t kill Mordred, but only asks him where Emrys is. He says he does not know, and instead gives a big preachy speech about how Morgana is filled with hate and spite and her hair has split ends, blah blah blah. For a moment Morgana’s brow furrows and Mordred uses the distraction to make with his magic fu and send her flying. Yeah, I’m sure that will suddenly clear her heart of hate. Good work, Mordred.
Arthur, Guinevere, and Merlin reach the cauldron, which is really just a pond, but there is no sorceress to be found. Merlin offers to find her but when he picks up the bag, the dress falls out. Arthur cocks an eyebrow but Merlin hastily explains that the sorceress likes to be paid in clothes. Arthur wonders why a sorceress who lives so far out in the wilds needs nice clothes, and Merlin stamps his foot and replies, “A girl always wants to look her best, you big meanie!” before stomping off.
Now Arthur looks constipated. Seriously, if someone doesn’t get some kind of release soon, I’m afraid all of Camelot will be backed up, causing a massive fiber shortage.
Merlin re-enters the scene, looking like a reject from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The dress is lacey and black and somehow, with his crazy hair and odd, “baby doll” voice and clothes, all I can see when I look at Merlin is Betsy Johnson. Merlin seems to enjoy the liberation of playing the role of The Dolma and gets all flirty with Arthur. I am seriously weirded out. The Dolma claims to be keeping Merlin (who she calls “the gangly boy”) as collateral, to ensure Arthur doesn’t harm her. Arthur hardly seems to miss Merlin. Sigh.
The Dolma/Merlin repeats what The Dochraid and Gaius have already said: the spell may not work, Guinevere has to enter the cauldron of her own volition, and even then, the battle of good and evil inside her will be horrific. She may be lost forever.
Arthur steels himself and tells The Dolma to proceed. She—he—I’m not sure what pronoun is accurate here—s/he wakes Guinevere, who looks very unhappy about the whole situation. Arthur talks to her calmly, reminds her of their wedding, and repeats the phrase he uttered to her then: “With all my heart.” He keeps repeating the words over and over and strides into the cauldron, hoping the Queen will follow. Heck, at this point I think Mordred and Merlin might follow as well, but finally Guinevere walks into the waters. Now comes the part we’ve all been waiting for: the summoning of the White Goddess and the climactic, epic battle between good and evil over the soul of Guinevere Pendragon…
…which takes all of 3 seconds. Seriously. There’s a few garbled words and a wan flash of light and that’s it. Wow. The whole thing was a bigger anti-climax than when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault. (Yes, I am old enough to remember watching that.)
Merlin looks genuinely relieved (maybe having lady parts changes how he feels about things?) and Arthur, with his bride restored and his new favorite boy wonder Mordred at his side, prepares to head for home. He asks The Dolma if he can repay her, and s/he says to him, “Remember it was magic that restored your Queen to you.”
Arthur rightly points out that it was magic that took her away in the first place, and Merlin is all, “Don’t bother me with details.” The trio turn to leave and Merlin clears his throat and says, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Arthur just looks confused until Merlin reminds him that he is, in fact, forgetting Merlin. Arthur does not seem to care and shippers everywhere feel their hearts sink. Oh, Arthur. You just don’t get it.
On the way home, Mordred says to Merlin than he recognized his magic, and that Arthur is lucky to have him. You know, Merlin, if Arthur is going to treat you like a day-old strudel from the town bakery, you could do worse than hitching yourself to Mordred. He is a knight now, after all. The two of you could make beautiful magic together. Yes, yes, Arthur is your destiny. But haven’t you noticed Mordred has really pretty eyelashes? I’m just saying…