This episode is a time for love and bringing back the ex-boyfriend to stir up trouble just as a happy couple gets together, finally. In the States, we call this phenomenon “Sweeps,” but since Merlin is a British show, I think it’s called melodrama. The ex-boyfriend is question is the ever-dreamy Lancelot du Lac, and boy, am I happy to see Santiago Cabrera again.
Arthur tells Agravaine and Merlin that he plans to make Gwen his queen. Merlin cutely drops a plate, but Agravaine’s a little less pleased. He hies off immediately to tell Morgana of this development and she pulls out yet another
MacGuffin magical artifact left to her by her dear sister. Since she can’t work it, she enlists the help of that Old Crone that disappears on Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (it’s really nice when shows acknowledge their source material). It turns out that to work the not-Triskelion-designed coin, you simply throw it in a lake. It kind of looks like the place where Merlin threw Excalibur, so I was expecting my namesake, who spells her name Freya and not the proper way, to show up.
Something much, much better happens: Lancelot du Lac and all of his gorgeous muscles and even gorgeous-er face walks up to her naked in a lake and declares himself her servant. How does she immediately not hit that? Seriously? Morgana, forget Camelot. It’s a silly place. Look at what’s in front of you woman, and seize the day!
But no, while Arthur and Merlin et al are celebrating, Morgana is prepping the now (depressingly enough) dressed Lancelot to infiltrate Camelot and keep Gwen from her throne. She’s more worried about Gwen ruling than Arthur, it appears, which means she realizes that women truly do rule the earth and. Back at Camelot, Merlin teases Arthur about getting Gwen an unconventional wedding present. Some men, he points out, go for flowers and chocolates (how delightfully anachronistic). Arthur has chosen two days of sweaty men vying for Gwen’s favor. Arthur points out that it’s tradition just as a mysterious new knight shows up, easily nabbing the decorated ring in the jousting tournament and presenting to Gwen.
Egads, it’s Lancelot! Everybody is in shock!
Cut to the feast, where Lancelot is regaling everybody with the tale of being taken in by some desert gypsies and making money by his sword for months before he returned to Camelot. Everybody’s thrilled to see him, including Merlin, who offers Lance his room for the evening. Merlin offers a genuine apology, claiming that if he could have used magic to save Sir Lancelot, he would have. Lance makes a flippant remark that makes it very clear he has no idea that Merlin is actually magical. Whoops. Gaius points out that he’s seen that look on Merlin’s face before, and indeed, we all have. Merlin voices what I’m sure we all feel: why can’t things just be normal and Lancelot just be back and happy? It’s not meant to be, Merlin. It’s just not meant to be.
Gwen visits Lancelot, who is the very model of a gallant gentleman as he wishes her the best of luck and gifts her a token from his travels. Several lingering shots in this episode let us know this bracelet is Eeeeevil.
Merlin asks Gaius (I first typed Giles. This whole “Merlin is Buffy!” is really going too far for me) about necromancy. He then paints the same design we saw on Morgana’s medallion on the ground and enchants it. When Lancelot walks over it, not noticing the odd painting on the ground, we get a glimpse of his true nature: his skeleton! Even as a skeleton, he’s rather handsome. Though the stubble, I should point out, is gone.
And indeed, it appears to be. As the tournament goes on, Gwen sneaks into Lancelot’s tent, getting inappropriately close to him on every occasion possible. Gaius and Merlin fret that Lancelot is out to kill Arthur, and their worst nightmares are realized when Arthur and Lancelot are set to face off in the finals. My beloved Percival gets the best meta comment in: “The people will enjoy that.” Arthur and Lancelot square off, Lance winning a ringing blow that knocks Arthur’s arm out of commission. Arthur still decides to tilt at Lancelot, even though he can’t even hold the lance aloft. Merlin’s prepping to go Yellow Eyes of Magic on him, but Lance pulls up at the last second, sparing Arthur’s life. In the winner’s circle, Arthur thanks him, and claims him to be the noblest of the knights, which we know from experience will come back to bite him in the end.
And of course they do. Gwen, inspired by the bracelet of Eeeevil, agrees to meet Lancelot for a moonlight tryst. Merlin spies Lancelot being given his marching orders by Agravaine and does his best to stop the tryst from happening, but Lancelot knocks him out. Agravaine helpfully brings Arthur right to the crime scene just as Gwen and Lancelot are consumed by passion, leading to the once and future king catching them in the act. Oh dear. Lancelot and Gwen are thrown in lockup.
Agravaine pushes for Merlin to kill Lancelot and Gwen, reminding the king that in his father’s day, adultery was punished by death. Arthur sends everybody away and speaks to Gwen himself, ultimately kicking her out of Camelot. She pleads with him: she wanted nothing more to be his queen, she doesn’t understand her feelings for Lancelot since she’d made her choice in Arthur years before (the bracelet of Eeeevil would be a great thing to bring up right then, but neither of them know about it). Arthur, though, is hurt and wants Gwen gone so that she won’t be there to remind him.
She leaves before dawn. Merlin, who kept up a vigil all night, watches her go. He pleads with Arthur to take her back, even though what she did was wrong. Arthur points out Agravaine’s arguments, that he will be considered weak. Merlin prefers the term merciful.
Morgana sends Lancelot a letter. It does not “escape from the joke that is Camelot’s dungeons and come back and be my love slave,” though her signature is very nice. No, she encourages him to kill himself, which he does. It is at this point that I truly do not understand Morgana, dear readers. No, I just don’t understand at all.
Merlin takes the body to the lake and uses magic to wake Lancelot one final time. Lancelot genuinely thanks his friend, and it’s a touching moment before he dies again, and Merlin pushes the barge out and sets it aflame with magic. So now Gwen is gone, Morgana clearly doesn’t have a pulse, and I am sad. I can’t wait for next week.