Merlin season 4 episode 9 review: Lancelot Du Lac

There’s much plotting and enchanted jewellery in this week’s episode of Merlin. Here’s Dave’s review of Lancelot Du Lac...

This review contains spoilers.

4.9 Lancelot Du Lac

Our titular hero isn’t given much to do this episode, which focuses on the relationship between Arthur and Gwen, her love of Arthur and the lust that she felt toward Lancelot. The story lies in the hands of Angel Coulby as Gwen who has shown that she is an actress of substance with every passing week. Torn between the action man that is Lancelot (played, once more, by Santiago Cabrera) and the rather reserved yet equally macho Arthur, her emotions are laid bare, especially when confronted with her deception. It’s a wonderfully emotional scene, with Bradley James being genuinely intimidating with his fury. The scene is made more effective by his calm, reserved disappointment.

Elsewhere, Agravaine is summoned to Arthur’s room to hear the latest news from the King of Camelot. Arthur, it seems, is going to marry Gwen; a decision that is bound to annoy Agravaine and cause Merlin to drop the silverware that he is polishing.

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So, what does the faithful uncle do with such information? He rushes to Morgana’s shack in order to break the momentous news. She realises that this is yet another threat to her plans to seize Arthur’s throne and immediately puts into action a plot to halt the wedding plans by revealing Gwen’s darkest secret… her love for another man.

Travelling to a nearby cave, Morgana speaks to yet another shady looking character. This week it’s an elderly, and quite hideous looking woman called Dochraid, who remembers the old religion and helps Morgana recover a lost soul.

Following the Dochraid’s instructions, Morgana walks into a lake that acts as a gateway between worlds and brings back someone from Gwen’s past. Lancelot. What will she do with a naked man who’s stepped out of the lake as if he were part of a shampoo commercial? Well, she’ll talk to him; he’s a blank slate who only knows his name and is indebted to Morgana, more than willing to carry out her plan, even though he can’t remember who Gwen is and what she meant to him.

With Morgana filling in Lancelot on his past with Gwen, Arthur proposes to Gwen. They may have spent a lot of time hiding their love, but now it’s on show and she’s more than happy to accept. It’s a moment of true happiness in the ever depressing world of Arthur and the land of Camelot.

The next day, a tournament sees Arthur participating in a jousting tournament, his present to Gwen. Little do they know that the knight who offers a gift to Gwen is Lancelot, until he removes his helmet, leaving them all somewhat stunned. As far as they’re concerned, he’s dead having sacrificed himself to save Arthur. Merlin is naturally suspicious of the newly resurrected Lancelot and isn’t taken by his stories of bravery and struggles as he fought to return to Camelot.

Returning to Morgana, Agravaine reports that Arthur and the others are drawn in by Lancelot’s story. He’s also convinced that Gwen loves Arthur, leaving Morgana with no choice but to enchant yet another trinket to awaken Gwen’s true feelings.

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With Arthur and Lancelot set to have a jousting showdown, Gwen’s convictions are truly tested, even with the enchanted bracelet that Lancelot gave her. Arthur isn’t at his best, and it appears that Lancelot may be victorious, but the reborn knight chooses to yield, winning the applause of the audience, the appreciation of Arthur and Gwen (in their own very different ways).

Realising that the target isn’t Arthur, Merlin spies on Lancelot finding him meeting with Agravaine and hearing mention of Gwen and Morgana. He’s not happy and plans to find out more, but Lancelot is able to put up a fight, knocking the wizard out and leaving Arthur to discover Gwen and Lancelot kissing in the courtroom.

Outraged, Arthur draws his sword and attacks Lancelot, a vicious fight ensuing, with Gwen on the sidelines and Merlin hidden, once again, in the shadows. A moment of magic sees Arthur get the upper hand and a distressed Gwen split up the two men before they can murder each other. This act of desperation results in both Gwen and Lancelot being thrown in the dungeons. Agravaine chooses this moment to remind Arthur that, under Uther’s rule, such treachery can only be met with the death penalty.

Of course, Arthur isn’t going just chop off people’s heads whenever Agravaine says he should. He wants to know why Gwen would betray him and dismisses his court in order to hear her excuses. She’s a broken woman and bears the brunt of Arthur’s anger, who decides to stay her execution and exile her from the kingdom, a far greater humiliation made worse by Arthur’s pity towards the woman he loved.

As Gwen struggles to drag her barrow of possessions out of the village, the castle staff dismantle the wedding paraphernalia. Merlin tries to convince Arthur that Gwen is a good person and it’s not too late. The king isn’t to be convinced, feeling he could never trust the woman that he truly loves.

Lancelot is given one last task by Morgana and is discovered, dead. Arthur ordains that Lancelot should get a proper burial, destroying all the evidence of Morgana’s wrongdoing along with any chance for happiness for Arthur, Gwen or, it seems, Merlin.

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Morgana enchanting jewellery from afar seems a bit of an overused theme this season. For someone who is embittered and evil, she does seem to like doing very small, rather annoying things in order to defeat Arthur. She also seems to rely on help a bit too much. It’s not helped by the return of the duplicitous Agravaine who was under suspicion only a couple of weeks ago, played it down last week, and now seems to be back to his evil ways without a care in the world. Is she saving up her truly evil evilness for the end of the series?

Merlin’s suspicion of Lancelot lies in the flimsiest of reasoning – the amnesiac Lancelot may forget everything about his past, but surely he wouldn’t forget that Merlin is a wizard. Bit big-headed of the wizard, that. Looking over such plot holes, Lancelot Du Lac is a successful story about love and loss.

It doesn’t spend too long re-establishing the love of Gwen and Arthur, or the desire of Gwen and Lancelot, instead choosing to drop the viewer into the final days of their relationship, showing how quickly love can turn to heartache and how destructive this one emotion can be. Where will this story lead? Surely Gwen can’t be gone forever?

Read our review of the last episode here.

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