The newly evil Queen Guinevere gets to planning Arthur’s assassination, but not to worry – Merlin, the Sherlock Holmes of Camelot, is onto her.
His reasons for suspecting her are sketchy at best (“She doesn’t seem quite herself...”) but, of course, he’s right. Merlin’s always right. We can put that down to some sort of magical intuition, or perhaps just lazy writing. But it allows the episode to move quicker than it would otherwise, so we can forgive it.
The episode begins with a nice comical bit with Merlin tagging along on Arthur and Gwen’s anniversary picnic, before introducing us to the sadly short-lived Tyr Seward, played by Game of Thrones’ John Bradley. If you need the audience to feel intense sympathy and trust for a character they’ve never seen before, better cast the ever-loveable Samwell Tarly. I felt instantly sorry for him, and Merlin’s uncanny suspicions were this time easy to believe. No way is that poor little sad sack a traitor. Bless ‘im.
Tyr’s unfortunate death brought about one of the best scenes of the episode, as Gwen murdered him in cold blood. It seems that whatever Morgana did to Gwen, it really worked. Angel Coulby is excellent in this scene, smiling coldly and sticking the knife in without blinking. Coulby is clearly relishing the chance to play a baddie, but the scenes of her turning away and looking smug reminded me a little too much of Morgana’s series three Knowing Smirk of Evil. Please not more of that, I couldn’t take it.
Gwen and Morgana’s unnecessarily complex plan to poison Arthur might not be as simple as, say, Gwen bashing his brains out as he sleeps, but it does let us see Gwen plotting a coup while Arthur is unconscious, pointing the finger of blame at the one person who seems to distrust her and slinging Merlin in the cells. It also allows Merlin and his magic to be Arthur’s only hope. Old Merlin gets wheeled out for Merlin’s escape in an amusing little skit which didn’t really sit with the tone of the episode, or the urgency of Merlin’s mission. It’s nice to see the bad-tempered cook again, but I’d have been happy with her brief “Get your grubby mitts off my dumplings!” appearance without having to add on the confrontation between her and Old Merlin.
But this moment of ridiculous slapstick led into a genuinely effecting moment, as Merlin called upon his deepest reserves of magic to cure Arthur. Colin Morgan was as moving as he always is when he gets an emotional scene to work with, and his reaction when he thought he couldn’t save Arthur almost set me off too. The fact that he flitted back to comedy before the tears had even dried on his face was particularly impressive.
In the past when there was a traitor in Camelot, Merlin could tell Arthur and trust that he would believe him. But with Arthur stuck in the middle between Merlin and Gwen, there’s no telling whose side he’ll take. Merlin could find himself back in those cells sooner than expected. Should make for an interesting few episodes.