Well…this episode was a bit on the dark side. Still family friendly, but dark.
A sickness is hitting some of the people of what turns out to be Gwen’s home village. A woman comes to see Gwen, and Gwen in turn takes the woman to Arthur for help. Arthur wants to send Gaius, but Gaius has a bit of an epidemic to deal with in Camelot itself. He suggests sending Merlin instead. After a bit of Arthur’s usual questioning of Merlin’s capabilities, Arthur agrees. So Merlin, Gwen, and the Knights of Camelot ride off to help the villagers.
As it is, Merlin can’t seem to cure any of the stricken villagers, even serendipitously using magic, so he suggests they go see if they can bring Gaius back instead. The old doctor might know a bit more, and Merlin can secretly consult his spellbook. En route to Camelot, the party comes across some slavers accosting a young girl named Lamia. The knights rush in to save her, and then…things get a little weird.
See, the Knights all suddenly get a lot more aggressive and nasty towards Merlin, especially when Merlin keeps pointing out that they are deliberately going the wrong way.
Yes, Lamia asked them to move away from Camelot. And whenever Merlin or Gwen points this out, some knight snaps at them. Heck, Percival is really nasty in his sneers, and I bring this up because Percival rarely says anything. That actor mostly just stands in the background looking big. He gets a lot more to actually say on The Umbrella Academy. Heck, he probably had more lines on Game of Thrones, and he only did like three episodes of that show.
As it is, Merlin quickly realizes this Lamia has somehow enchanted the Knights. Gwen, he figures, is immune due to her gender. And why is Merlin immune, Gwen asks. He makes an excuse.
Fortunately, Gaius has finished up what he had to do back in Camelot, and he and Arthur realize Merlin and the others should have been back a long time ago. Plus, someone brings the slavers in, or more accurately, the only one still alive. Gaius recognizes the disease, combined with the surviving slaver’s story. A Lamia, a mystical being that is part woman and part snake, enchants men with a magical disease. As if to hammer that home, Lamia-the-not-quite-woman bites Gwen’s brother first, and still the other knights follow this woman, even as Merlin points out how obviously enchanted they are, causing them to only threaten him with grievous physical harm.
As such, Arthur sets off to find his missing knights, servant, and girlfriend. He takes some men as well as Agravaine, and that guy tries to cover the Knight’s trail because…well, possibly because he’s just a dick at this point. No one asked him to do it, but I guess we need a reminder that he isn’t there to help.
By the by, how deep is this enchantment? Well, when Lamia leads the party to a deserted castle full of skeletons…none of the knights see anything wrong with this. They just worry when she disappears. Merlin once again points out how screwy this is. All he really gets is more threats from Percival. Mostly because Lamia disappeared shortly after everyone came in. Now the Knights are all worried about her…except for Elyan since he’s just unconscious.
After that, she starts taking down the Knights one by one until it’s only Merlin and Gwen left. Confronting Merlin alone, she says she could have taken him at any time and his magic isn’t that scary to her. He gets smacked around a bit. Gwen runs in to skewer her in a snake form. That helps, but Gwen also gets smacked around. And just as Merlin is about to start chucking fireballs or something…Arthur shows up and takes out the monster from behind because he is the best tracker in Camelot and even he can save the day once in a while.
So, yeah, Gauis can cure the Knights and the villagers, no problems aside from Agravaine just being a dick, but I did say this was a really dark episode for this show. That comes mostly from how well the episode played the Knights’ going bad. I mentioned how little Percival generally has to say in any given episode, but when he does do things, he’s saving children and whatnot. Having him, at his size, threaten Merlin is an obvious change that can’t be ignored, and nothing that happens causes the Knights to ever question just how wrong Lamia is in everything she does. Seeing friendly faces turn the way they did on Merlin and Gwen was very effective.
It’s stuff like that that makes me think Merlin in its fourth season/series is getting much darker and more mature in a good way, making for a much more promising show as it heads into its own home stretch of another series and a half at this point. Good for them.