Merlin “The Castle of Fyrien”

So, once again, Gwen finds herself kidnapped.  Last time this happened, it was because someone stupidly thought she was Morgana.

This time, it looks like Morgana is responsible given her self-satisfied smirk as Gwen gets carried off.

But, I have to admit I only half-watched this episode, and the reason for it is as the show goes on, Merlin does not work for me as well as it used to.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with Merlin.  The characters are fun, the acting is generally good, there’s some good humor tossed into most episodes (like this one where Arthur breathes too deeply into the rag the kidnappers dosed with medieval chloroform to knock Gwen out), and overall it’s a nice, generally-family friendly fantasy show in the tradition of something like Xena: Warrior Princess.  You don’t watch a show like Merlin and expect something that is faithful either to actual medieval times or to Arthurian legend.  There may not be enough well-known Arthurian legend to cover 13 episodes over five series, and at this point, Uther is still alive.

The problem for me at this point is the show’s writing.  It’s often predictable.  Yes, I know Merlin, Arthur, and Gwen will probably get out of this scrape OK.  Yes, I know Uther will not be the slightest bit helpful when it comes to finding Gwen.  Yes, I know Arthur will do his own thing anyway, and that now that she’s evil and only Merlin seems to know it, Morgana will walk around scheming, and that’s a nice development because actress Katie McGrath is just so much better at playing a secretly evil character than she was before as…someone who sometimes does stuff to help out.

Plus, she looks damn good in that chain mail outfit she wore for much of this episode.  There, I said it.

At any rate, it does mean that many episodes in the middle of a given series of Merlin will be simple monster-of-the-week (or, more accurately, quest-of-the-week) stories where Problem A appears at the beginning of the show and is resolved at the end with Solution B that is generally Arthur swinging a sword that may or may not work while Merlin secretly does some magic that is a lot more effective at saving the day.  And then this series seems to be about building up the love between Arthur and Gwen which is nice, but obviously won’t go anywhere until Uther the Child-Killer is finally dead.

I ain’t lettin’ that child-killin’ go.

So, here we have this episode where Gwen is kidnapped by Morgause and Cenred (some evil king rival guy) to reveal that Gwen’s never-mentioned-before brother Elyan is still alive and being held by Cenred, and the only acceptable ransom is for Gwen to bring Arthur back to get him.  Morgana just knows Arthur is far too noble to let Gwen’s brother sit in the pokey, and everyone whose name isn’t Uther seems to know who Arthur is in love with.

So, Arthur goes out with a party.  Gwen knows where the castle is.  Merlin always goes with Arthur.  And Morgana goes because Arthur figures he can use the back-up from someone who knows how to swing a sword, meaning Merlin and Morgana glare at each other when no one else is looking and Merlin does stuff like make her horse throw her to keep her from coming along.  The group gets captured, escapes, they rescue Gwen’s brother, Merlin even swings a sword correctly during the escape, and everyone goes back to Camelot which Arthur insists stands for loyalty and chivalry because he doesn’t know about Morgana and apparently doesn’t know Uther very well either.

Oh, and he tells Gwen he loves her, so that was sweet.

All in all, it isn’t a bad episode or a bad show, but it certainly isn’t anything beyond fun.  Fun is enough, but I just know what to expect from Merlin by now.

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