I’d liked to say that over the previous nine weeks we’ve seen Arthur shimmy flawlessly from chinless wonder to Kingly material. Sadly, he’s a pompous idiot, shamed only in his intellect by the gormless Merlin. In this respect, you can see they’re destined to get on, given that they both share the common single digit IQ.
As if to underline his stupidity, the first thing that Arthur does this week is kill a unicorn, because, as we all know, they’re excellent between two slices of malted loaf.
This act has predictably negative results, as all the people of the Kingdom (which doesn’t appear to have a name, I’ve noticed) end up with no water or food, except deep fried unicorn.
They’re told this by the magical Frank Finlay, going by the name of Anhora this Panto season. He doesn’t say much, but his appearance entirely knocks John Hurt’s Dragon off the budget, who doesn’t even get to show off his flying-while-connected-to–a-chain footage. Poor old Dragon, he was almost missed.
Anhora tells Arthur he’ll be tested, and a pass-mark of less than 100% isn’t acceptable. The people of Camelot are lucky, really, because if it had been loopy Uther they’d all be dead within a day or so. Arthur passes the first test, but fluffs the second one. So the residents get running water back, but are put on a strict rodent-only diet. Magic doesn’t suffer fools well, it seems.
Merlin goes to the forest to ask for another chance, explaining how dim Arthur is, and that he deserves the best of three!
The final test leads us to the amazingly modern looking Labyrinth of Gedref, complete with perfect and obviously electrically pruned hedges. Arthur goes in first, but fails to find even that over ambitious couple who think they can get some privacy in the maze. In fact, he finds nobody. Merlin follows him in, and almost immediately runs smack into Anhora. Merlin thinks the maze is to catch Arthur, but Anhora explains it was actually to catch him, bozo…
Arthur emerges from the other side of the maze, where Anhora and Merlin are waiting for him on a beach with a table and drinks, but no beach volleyball or ‘babes’, unfortunately.
This scene appears to have been designed as a curious nod to the Seventh Seal. You know, the one where Max von Sydow plays chess against Death on the beach. Or is it Electronic Battleships, or Kerplunk!, or Twister? I can never remember.
Anyway, Anhora poses them both a conundrum which most six year olds could work out easily, although it obviously taxes the both of them. They have two cups of wine. one of which is poisoned. They can only drink from one cup each and must empty both cups.
Eventually, Merlin works out that by putting the contents into one cup, that you now know which is poisoned, allowing one of them to make a brave sacrifice. Arthur consumes the wine, being the chivalrous and dumbest one, and duly passes out. Then the production team forgets the rules of the game, because when he falls over he knocks over the cup, which obviously still has wine in it! Anyway it’s not poison, if you didn’t guess. Arthur wins 2-1 on away goals and everyone in Camelot is miraculously tucking into Chinese takeaway by the time they get back there. Arthur and Merlin bury the unicorn horn by way of apologising, as the rest of it’s been turned into magical creature pate or glue. The End.
Overall, a very duff story this week, that was entirely premised on how stupid our two ‘heroes’ are. Is the basic idea that they bond because they’re not bright enough to have other friends? It seems so, and an odd choice, I might add.
Next week in the penultimate (or is that Pendragonimate?) episode, Merlin gets Dragon-orders to kill Uther, as he’s foaming at the mouth. A week isn’t long enough, is it?
Read Mark’s review of last week’s episode here.