Back when I started writing reviews for the show I created a ‘Merlin-script-o-matic’ in which I tried to guess what the series would be like and what plots they would use each and every week. Now, as we near the end of the season, I think that my top ten predictions using the ‘generator-o-matic’ came true, as this episode is pretty generic, with the usual ingredients making another run of the mill, predictable episode.
Initially, the idea of this episode could have been great, with the notion of the five kingdoms of Britain congregating on Camelot to form a peace treaty. This seemed quite intriguing as potentially it would have shown us the other king and royal families from around the country, and then delve deeper into the relationship Uther has with them and how the ‘world’ of Merlin outside the confines of Camelot looks.
Alas, this wasn’t the case. All we get to see is two kingdoms and, for the life of me, I cannot remember which ones. But to make it easy, one kingdom is ruled by a ‘evil’ king whose confidant/jester/magician Trickler is played with malevolent glee by the actor Kevin Eldon, and one is ruled by a strict, possibly Norse, King Olaf, an aggressive leader from the north of Britain whose daughter Vivienne is to him the most important thing in the world.
Can you guess the plot yet? Yes, indeed, it’s another ‘magic-love’ one with the bad guy king creating a plot that has been done only a few episodes ago and, as far as cunning plans go, is pretty lame. His plan, which I think he got from watching other episodes of the show, is to use the cliché of a love potion to get Arthur to fall for Vivienne, who is a haughty yet beautiful princess (played by Georgina Moffett), who the king is over protective of. Then, to get Olaf to make war on Camelot, as it seems the more wars the kingdoms have, the bigger the profits.
Wooing, false proclamations of love, and such, is something that has been done so many times before this season that it’s tiresome. When a bad guy has an evil plan , why don’t they just kill somebody outright or turn them into a toad at the very least? All these ‘PG’ rated baddies just makes it seem that all they do is create besotted teenagers or love-struck kings. Not the sort of plan that, say, Dr Doom or Ming the Merciless would be proud of, I am sure.
With all the loving and the confusing and enchantments going on and trying to follow who Arthur loves, (Gwen or Vivienne), Merlin thinks that finally Arthur is going to make a ‘move’ on Gwen. But he instead is intending to court Vivienne, who isn’t in love, but then is, and so on and so forth. It all gets a little too much like a farce about mistaken identities, miscommunication and the usual running around with people with pants around their ankles, ‘he’s behind you’ moments and hiding in wardrobes. All of which would be fine, of course, if the show was put on by an amateur dramatics troupe. Instead, it’s the plot of a prime time television show on BBC.
With an enchantment on Arthur and then on Vivienne, it’s a case of farce and general light fluffy silly nonsense. And even when Merlin eventually finds the right potion and comes just in the nick of time to try and stop an embarrassing situation in Vivienne and Arthur’s bedroom, the finale of Olaf’s fight by ‘Knights Rules’ with Arthur for the honour of his daughter lacks a sense of drama. The whole event looks and feels like a quick skim over to get the episode done with as little budget spent as possible.
Still, there are some fun moments with Gaius and Merlin discussing that there are over 600 love spells, some of which will turn people into toads if done wrong and others that make people lose their hair. This banter and the progressively deeper relationship with Gwen and Arthur, and Merlin’s friendship, is the episode highpoint, with Merlin and Arthur’s budding bro-mance quite fun.
The only thing that moves the plot forward is that, with Arthur and Gwen’s relationship taking another step forward, jealously, heartbreak and real emotions are shown. With Merlin’s magic not working he goes back to the Dragon (again), who says that to stop the love spells Arthur must be kissed by his true love and Gwen (finally) makes her feelings known. But apart from this. the episode again falls flat.
What the show needs is really bloodthirsty bad guys who can do some damage or a plot not revolving around enchantments and love potions. Still, at least next week we get the return of Modred.
Read our review of episode 9 here.