Merlin: A Lesson in Vengeance

“May it be long that I believe not at all
That Mordred my kinsman ever
Would betray me, for all my riches,
Nor Guinevere my queen weaken in her affection;
She could not do it.”

Layamon

The above quotation comes from Layamon’s Brut, the first ever Arthurian legend written in English. (Or, at least, a version of English. It’s been translated.) From which happy fact we can see that this series of Merlin is indeed finally following the old legends. A bit. Not really, in fact, because the Arthur of the Brut is emphatically not the just, merciful Arthur of Merlin. But we do have Treacherous Guinevere, although she’s not run off with Mordred. Yet.

Following the events of The Dark Tower (the episode, not the heptology), Morgana has convinced Gwen to kill Arthur. Cue much consternation within Camelot as everyone tries to work out who is behind the various assassination attempts.

To be honest, Gwen is not the most efficient of assassins. Her first attempt involves a massively convoluted plan involving gunpowder, a sabotaged saddle and an ambush of armed men. The ambush alone would probably have worked just as well had Merlin not been there.

Then she tries poison. Ah, good old poison. Hard to go wrong there. But for some reason Morgana provides two potions: one to knock out Arthur (this goes in his wine) and one to kill him (this goes in his ear). Quite why this is necessary is hard to fathom. Possibly the scriptwriter, one Jake Michie, just wanted to provide a sort of fictional precedent for Hamlet. I don’t know. It would have made much more sense, as well as being less risky, just to put poison in his wine in the first place. Or if you really wanted to faff about with ear-poison, why not wait until he was asleep?

Merlin, too, turns out to be suicidally stupid. Being chased through the corridors of the castle, he hears his pursuer shout “There! This way!” and stops in the middle of the corridor to listen. I know I’ve said it before, but if Albion’s fate is to lie in the hands of this man, then God help Albion.

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