This week sees the return of Arthur’s one-time fiancé Mithian (Janet Montgomery) as Morgana and Odin hold her father Rodor (James Fox – patriarch of the Fox acting dynasty which also spawned Emilia ‘Morgause’ Fox) hostage, forcing Mithian to lure Arthur into a trap. This episode requires as much suspension of disbelief as an episode of Homeland. Morgana’s disguise as Mithian’s aged maid was laughably transparent and Mithian’s behaviour throughout the episode had ‘TRAP!’ written all over it, but Arthur rode off to Rodor’s rescue anyway. We were asked to believe that Arthur was blinded by his desire for revenge on Odin, but for a man blinded by revenge he seemed remarkably calm and rational.
Much of this episode was predictable, even down to Arthur rising above his ‘desire’ for revenge and seeking a truce with Odin instead. (You mean no more episodes in which a knight stands on a ridge and ominously says “we’re entering Odin’s land”?!) The best parts were the ones that diverged from the standard knights-on-a-quest formula. Having Gaius along (presumably so he can help the ‘injured’ Rodor) shook things up a bit, and proved handy when Merlin was nearly killed by Morgana (again). It’s always nice to see Gaius dabble in magic. Similarly, it’s good to see Merlin and Gwaine share the screen, this time to launch a rescue mission. The grin between Gwaine and Elyan when Gwaine tore into battle was a nod to the nice camaraderie the knights are developing, and which never really gets enough screen time.
This episode also highlighted just how much the writers struggle to find something for Gwen to do. After a solid showing in the opening double bill, Gwen has spent the last couple of episodes lurking in the background, being as insightful or as dumb as each individual scene requires. I was hoping for a bit of tension between her and Mithian, who Arthur planned to marry when Gwen broke his heart, but they only exchanged pleasantries. Arthur’s chief relationship in the show has to be with Merlin, so Gwen is sidelined. Clueing her into Merlin’s big secret would really help to bring her into the drama more, and invigorate the show.
Janet Montgomery was great again as Mithian (and distractingly beautiful, even for this straight, female reviewer) but she felt a bit relegated from last series’ tough, crossbow-wielding princess, instead trapped in the role of a damsel in distress, unable to even sit in a chair without Merlin helping her.
This episode felt like it was treading water. Morgana coming up against Arthur or Merlin usually guarantees great drama, but it felt unremarkable here (possibly because they had a much better confrontation two episodes ago). This was also another episode in which Mordred, the intriguing cuckoo in the nest, was overlooked. It looks like he’ll be coming to the fore next week. I can’t help but think that the showrunners would have been better off giving this episode over to some comedy shenanigans, before launching back into the drama with Mordred next week.