Welcome back to another snarky recap of the BBC's teatime Saturday show, Merlin. It's the fifth in the series and this week we have a guest star from none other than Heroes, Santiago Cabrera. Let's get straight to the action...
The episode starts with Merlin out in the forest picking mushrooms. Whether this is for Gaius, Arthur or his own private party, is sadly never revealed. Unfortunately Merlin seems to have chosen a mushroom patch guarded by a griffin. Luckily for Merlin a passing stranger leaps to his defence and waves his sword unconvincingly at the CGI creation.
Sadly the budget can't extend to a realistic fight against the mythical creature so Lancelot (for it is he) waves his sword a bit and it shatters when it gets slightly near the creature. Merlin and Lancelot run away and hide behind a log, which is enough to shake off the griffin. Lancelot then reveals that he has a wound, it doesn't look like a claw mark, it looks like a gunshot. I guess the griffin is packing heat.
Merlin takes Lancelot back to Camelot to receive medical attention from Gaius Meldrew but it turns out that the wound is superficial even though it was enough to KNOCK LANCELOT OUT. Lancelot's going to have to toughen up if he is going to become a Knight of the Round Table.
Uther and Arthur survey the damage done to a local village by the griffin. Uther wants Arthur and his men to be ready for an attack by the beast.
Now that Lancelot has awoken from his superficial injury, Merlin decides to play the "I know Arthur" card and says that he can get Lancelot an audience with him so that Lancelot can join the Knights of Camelot. We then get a scene of Arthur beating up a potential applicant and then moaning about the lack of quality from the applicants. Maybe he should give them some training first rather than beating the crap out of them and then deciding that they're no good. Merlin puts in a word for Lancelot and Arthur agrees to meet him, just so long as Lancelot brings his papers to prove his nobility.
Merlin explains the situation to Lancelot but there's a problem, Lancelot isn't a noble. Gaius then pops up to give some exposition about Camelot's First Code and Merlin reacts like he's a visitor from the 21st century again. "It's not fair!" he whines, despite the fact that he really should know the basic fundamentals of the feudal system.
Merlin travels to the library to use his magic to photocopy and forge a seal of nobility. He uses words but doesn't have glowing eyes for this one, magic fans. Lancelot isn't keen on using forged papers to gain entry to the Knights of Camelot but Merlin convinces him.
The show establishes another point in the love oblong/pentagon as Lancelot meets Gwen. Then there's what I presume to be a botched line (believe me, I listened to it several times to be sure):
Lancelot: "Thank you Guinevere."
Gwen: "Don't thank me, thank Merlin. Merlin would do anything to anyone."
What?! He'd do anything TO anyone? Animal, vegetable or mineral? That seems rather rude and would suggest that Merlin has paid Gwen some nocturnal visits. The mushrooms must have been for one of Merlin's debauched parties.
Lancelot asks Merlin about Gwen's availability but Merlin says that they're just friends. FORESHADOWING!
Lancelot meets Arthur and Arthur greets him by sucker punching him. Arthur then tells Lancelot to muck out the stables. Ooooh that Arthur, he's such a card.
Gaius learns that Merlin forged nobility papers and lectures him on his irresponsibility and warns him that it'll all end in tears. Later, Arthur visits Lancelot again and commands him to fight him with a broom handle. Lancelot doesn't win the fight but he does get to join basic training.
Refugees come flooding into Camelot to escape the griffin's marauding. They look like they've been beaten up or escaped a war zone rather than been mauled by a large mythical creature. The griffin could still be packing heat from earlier and maybe he assaulted the village in a fly-by.
Arthur is training his men with none speaking roles when Lancelot volunteers to help fight the griffin. Arthur says that Lancelot isn't ready yet so he decides to skip training Lancelot and schedules his final exam for the next day. So far Lancelot has arrived at Camelot, swept a stable, had a fight using a stick and now has a final exam - in the space of about 48 hours. Talk about fast tracking your way into knighthood.
Arthur and Lancelot meet on the training ground the next day and fight. Arthur appears to win but Lancelot cheats and plays possum. He manages to overcome Arthur through trickery and earns a place in the Knights of Camelot. I thought Lancelot was supposed to be the perfect knight? That means no dishonesty and a strict adherence to chivalry at all times, including combat. Maybe he can learn all that stuff later.
There's also a moment where Gwen, whilst watching the fight, grabs Merlin's jacket in excitement. Merlin gives her a Howard Moon look as if to say, "Don't touch me. Don't ever touch me."
Morgana makes her token appearance of the episode (please give her SOMETHING to do script writers) and sizes up Lancelot. That's it. Bye Morgana, thanks for visiting the episode.
Uther is suspicious of Lancelot though and orders the librarian to research Lancelot's ancestry. Seems that Merlin picked a lord that Uther knows personally. Oops.
The love pentagon is furthered as Merlin suggests that Lancelot fancies Gwen. He then suggests, in a moment of comedy obliviousness, that Gwen wouldn't know who she likes if he was standing right next to her. Guess he forgot all about that kiss from last week then.
The next morning Lancelot is arrested for faking his credentials. Lancelot is stripped of his title and thrown into the dungeon. Merlin visits Lancelot and apologises for forcing him to go along with his lies. Lancelot does the noble thing and encourages Merlin to forget about it.
Gaius finally discovers what the monster is long after the audience - it's a griffin! Well, duh.
The griffin attacks Camelot and Arthur and his men (minus Lancelot who is sitting in the dungeon yelling, "What's happening?") attack the griffin. Well, I say Arthur and his men but only Arthur actually hits the griffin. The others stand around hiding behind their shields while Arthur does all the stunts and fight choreography. Arthur's spear is no use against the griffin but a flaming torch scares it off. Uther insists that Arthur track down the griffin and finish it off. Gaius warns Uther that the griffin is magic and can only be killed by magic. Uther flips into 'angry and unreasonable ruler' mode and decides not to listen to his physician (who is always right) and wants his only son to go out and be killed by the unkillable monster. Last week Uther wouldn't let Arthur leave Camelot for fear he would die on a quest, this week he's happy to throw Arthur at a monster like a disposable red shirt.
Gaius tells Merlin that he'll have to deal with the griffin. Merlin moans for a bit about destiny and then decides to get on with it and find a spell to kill the griffin.
Arthur visits Lancelot in his prison cell and decides to let him go free. He offers Lancelot a horse and tells him to leave and never return. Lancelot is sad because he wants to fight the unkillable griffin too. Awwww.
Merlin learns 'Enchant Weapon' but can't seem to cast it. Just like when he tried to enchant a dog statue but came through in the nick of time. I wonder what will happen this time?
Lancelot says goodbye to Gwen and says that he will help to kill the griffin. Gwen tells Merlin this so he meets up with Lancelot and together they ride to battle. Meanwhile Arthur is leading his band of red shirts into a griffin size ass-whooping. They charge but no one yells "Run away!" so they all get beaten up by the gun toting mythical beast.
Merlin and Lancelot find the aftermath of the failed assault on the griffin. Luckily Arthur is still alive but unconscious. Lancelot prepares to charge the griffin with his lance as Merlin casts Enchant Weapon.
The magic lance crashes into the griffin and kills it. Hurrah! Arthur recovers just in time to realise that Lancelot had killed it and gives him credit. A bit later Uther and Arthur argue about Lancelot and his suitability, Uther offers to pardon Lancelot but Arthur is pushing for knighthood.
Lancelot reveals to Merlin that he heard him cast a magic spell (although the huge glowing lance was perhaps a bigger give away?) but tells him that his secret is safe. Lancelot then tells Arthur and Uther that he is leaving Camelot to prevent further arguments between the two. He rides off into guest star land...
This was yet another inoffensive episode, it was lacking in logic in places due to the pacing of the episode; events happened so quickly that it seemed to take place over 24 hours rather than a few days. I thought the performances from the majority of the cast were stiff this week. I think Santiago Cabrera's take on Lancelot was pretty underwhelming and lacking in charisma. The script didn't give him a lot to work with but there was a distinct lack of energy to his performance. It certainly didn't suggest that Lancelot would become the embodiment of the perfect knight.
The series really, really needs to make use of Morgana too, episode three aside she's had very little to do. If they do decide to turn her to the dark side of magic during this first series then they need to establish at least a vague interest in magic or Merlin's activities. All we've had so far is a suggestion that she's a tomboy and wants to get involved in the fighting. I hope she doesn't start wearing armour and a sword because Robin Hood already did that with laughable results.