“What if he’s not safe here, what if Camelot is the most dangerous place where he could be.”
Last time on Merlin, Morgana kidnapped Guinevere and held her in the Dark Tower – an ominous tower known for its terror inducing effects. After days of torture, Arthur, Merlin, Elyan and the other knights arrived at the tower to save Guinevere. Elyan rushed ahead to find Guinevere in a room with an enchanted sword protecting her. After a short battle, Elyan bests the sword, but not before the sword gets in a fatal blow. Elyan dies in Guinevere’s arms just as Arthur and the others reach them. After Elyan’s funeral back in Camelot, Guinevere sneaks off to meet Morgana, who has successfully brainwashed Guinevere to work with her to defeat Arthur.
A Lesson in Vengeance opens with Arthur and Guinevere heading out for a romantic picnic to celebrate their wedding anniversary when suddenly a flare explodes on the ground, frightening Arthur’s horse and knocking him from his saddle as bandits attack. Arthur, however, manages to fend off the bandits (along with Merlin’s help) much to Guinevere’s disappointment.
When they return to Camelot it is soon discovered that the attack was a setup and Arthur’s saddle had been sabotaged to easily break. Following the evidence, they suspect the king’s groom, Tyr Seward (John Bradley-West) but despite his pleas of innocence, sentence him to death for treason. Merlin, however, isn’t convinced of Tyr’s guilt, so when Merlin takes some food to Tyr he talks to him and Tyr eventually admits that he saw someone tampering with the saddle a few nights before, but when he confronted that person, his mother’s life was threatened. Merlin asks for more, but worried about his mother’s safety, Tyr refuses to say anything more. Merlin immediately takes this information to Arthur and Gwen, but Gwen manages to convince Arthur to let Tyr wait another night to think things over. That night, Gwen sneaks down to the dungeons and assures Tyr of his mother’s safety. When he gets close enough, she stabs him with a large dagger and leaves him to die. The next morning after Tyr is discovered dead, Merlin points out that whoever killed him knew the castle well enough to know where to place a sleep inducing herb to knock the guards out, get into the dungeon unnoticed and kill Tyr.
Meanwhile, Guinevere meets Morgana to update her on their plot to kill Arthur. Morgana points out that someone must take the blame for Tyr’s death and the attack on Arthur so Gwen can remain beyond suspicion and tells Gwen she’ll come up with something. Just then, some knights on patrol interrupt them and both split up as they flee into the forest. Morgana uses magic on Gwaine to get away, but Gwen accidentally rips her cloak as she runs. When Gwaine returns to Camelot, he informs everyone of his encounter with Morgana. As Gwen secretly listens in while Gaius dresses Gwaine’s wounds, Merlin warns Gwaine to stay close to Arthur worried that the threat to his life is someone close to him.
Later, Gaius and Merlin search for clues in the woods and find a scrap of cloth. When Gaius identifies it as rare, expensive embroidered silk, Merlin’s suspicions about Gwen grow so he searches Gwen’s closet for the matching cloth. Arthur, however, enters and interrupts Merlin’s search sending him out of the room to wash his clothes. When Merlin heads down to the kitchens with the laundry, he comes across Gwen’s ripped cloak and quickly realizes she is definitely the one working with Morgana.
Merlin quickly rushes back to Arthur’s chambers where he finds Arthur half-dead. After examining Arthur, Gaius confirms that he has been poisoned and Gwen is quick to accuse Merlin. The knights immediately throw Merlin in the dungeons where Gaius visits him and they both realize that Morgana is clearly controlling Guinevere. Then Gaius tells Merlin that his magic is the only thing that can save Arthur and devices a plan to get Merlin to Arthur. All the while, back in Arthur’s chambers, Gwen is laying on the grief in front of Sir Leon who promises that he and the other knights will stand behind her if Arthur should die…much to Gwen’s delight.
Later that night, Gaius lowers a potion into Merlin’s cell through a grate. After taking the potion, old Merlin (Dragoon) emerges from the cell, talks his way pass the confused guards and through the kitchen. After transforming back into his young self to distract some soldiers standing watch at Arthur’s door, Gwaine and some other knights round the corner and chase him into the courtyard where he is forced to hide. When he notices a light coming from Arthur’s chamber, he uses magic to knock out the lights in the courtyard and then scales the wall and gets into the chambers through the window where Gaius is waiting. Gaius talks Gwen into leaving and Merlin quickly uses his magic to bring Arthur back to life.
The next morning Merlin is released from prison and Arthur tells him that he knows Merlin could never have tried to attempt to take his life, but just as Merlin is about to tell him about Gwen, Arthur leaves to attend a council meeting because, of course, Gwen has conveniently found some more evidence. After finding and bringing the apothecary who sold Morgana the poisons, in front of the court, he confesses that Morgana bought them, but that he was unaware of her intentions. With the mystery of the attack on Arthur’s life “solved” thanks to Gwen, Arthur presents Gwen to the court and says he owes her his life. Everyone cheers for Gwen except for Merlin who locks in a death glare with the Queen; now fully aware of the threat she poses to Arthur and Camelot.
This was another episode showing the overall darkness of the season, while maintaining a little humor. I was disappointed to see such a guest star as John Bradley-West (Game of Thrones) so underutilized, but it was still fun to see him on the show. I was also disappointed to see how quickly the knights turned on Merlin. So Guinevere, their queen, was the one to accuse him, but they were awfully quick to throw him in the dungeons and rally behind her. What happened to all the years of service Merlin has put in? What about all the times he’s risked his life to save Arthur? Did they really think Merlin would try to kill Arthur after all of that? Why didn’t anyone question it? Merlin shouldn’t have been accused of trying to kill Arthur, because of his loyalty, which is as strong, or perhaps stronger, than any knight’s loyalty. I wonder if they’d have turned on a fellow knight as quickly as they had on Merlin…. I’m guessing they’d lock the accused knight up, following orders, but they’d at least try to find the truth and not accept the queen’s accusations as the final word. The knights certainly have a knack for making it seem like they think of Merlin as nothing more than a throwaway servant, like any of the other nameless servants in the castle.
Aside from that, A Lesson In Vengeance delved into the puppet queen and just how evil she really has become as she killed Tyr, almost killed Arthur and framed anyone who got in her way. Morgana has clearly done quite a number on her psyche. And Guinevere has become quite the manipulator herself easily winning over the entire court as well as Arthur, never causing any suspicion to fall on her. It should be interesting to see how Merlin will convince Arthur of Gwen’s intentions (if that’s even possible). I am glad, however, that the puppet Queen hasn’t been wrapped up in one episode. It may be bad, but I kind of like evil Gwen. Angel Coulby certainly seems to be having fun with the part!
It was also fun to see Merlin’s escape from the dungeons as Dragoon. Befuddling the guards with his answers, “I am who I am and I am who was and I am who I will always be.” His exchange with Gaius after scaling the wall to get into the chamber was amusing as well. Also Arthur’s chiding Merlin about being too stupid to pull off such a clever attack on the king was amusing albeit I often find that annoying as Merlin is clearly far more clever than most men. Sometimes I wish they’d give Merlin the credit for that. Obviously they don’t know about how much Merlin has done, but of what they do know, I wish they’d give him credit for that.
At any rate, this was a great episode and I can’t wait to see what our beloved puppet queen has in store for Merlin and Arthur in The Hollow Queen.
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Merlin airs Friday on SyFy at 10/9c.