This article contains MODERATE spoilers.
In a land of magic and a time of myth, there lived a young boy named Merlin …
Those majestic words are but the enticing introduction. For, from the first moment we see Excalibur glistening in the murky waters and hear the shearing sound of swords clashing, our senses are tantalized. We have been invited to peek into a world where magic is real and a young teenage boy is striving to become a legendary sorcerer.
The first scene unfolds with Merlin kneeling in the sunlight forest searching for roots and herbs, while behind him rises a large, snarling beast with golden wings — a griffin. Unsure what to do, Merlin stands frozen in fear, while out of nowhere comes a valiant hero who saves Merlin by engaging the griffin until they both escape to safety.
And this is how we meet Lancelot, a commoner who seeks only to serve the king as a knight. Lancelot is dashing, fearless and single-mindedly intent on achieving the one thing denied to him: knighthood. For being a commoner, not of noble-blood, he is not allowed to serve as a knight. Wishing to repay his new friend, Merlin is undeterred and casts a spell to provide Lancelot with the papers he needs to show he is of noble lineage.
Alas, this ruse is quickly discovered and Lancelot is cast in the dungeon. Thinking it is unfair to punish a man who only seeks to serve and protect, Arthur defies his father, King Uther Pendragon, and releases Lancelot. He deems it justified before leaving to face the unstoppable monster in what must surely be a suicidal battle, for the griffin appears invincible. It is surely fool heartedly, as Arthur goes to face the griffin knowing full well that he is ill-equipped to fight such a mystical beast who is impervious to metal.
Unable to allow his prince to fight without him, Lancelot rushes to his side on the battlefield — with Merlin insisting on tagging along. Seeing Arthur and his knights strewn across the battlefield, Lancelot does not hesitate to challenge the griffin. Finally, in the last second, Merlin is finally able to render the incantation needed to strengthen Lancelots sword and make it strong enough to defeat the beast — and the griffin falls heavily under the force of Lancelots magic-infused blow.
It was a risky choice for Lancelot saw Merlin cast the spell, but out of gratitude for saving his and Arthurs life, Lancelot vows to keep Merlins secret safe. Then, with one last grandiose proclamation that he is not yet worthy of knighthood, Lancelot sets off in a quest to prove himself worthy of the honor of one day being a knight for Camelot.
In this episode, we were finally introduced to the long-awaited knight in shining armor, Lancelot. With dark handsome looks, Lancelot epitomizes what we would expect as he is ferocious and fearless. He is regarded as savior by Merlin, after subduing the angry griffin intent on making Merlin a tasty meal; as a comrade in arms by Arthur, who is impressed by Lancelots fighting skills; and intriguing by Morgana, who is drawn to him despite his mysterious background. Even our faithful Gwen, who worships Merlin, is caught under Lancelots spell. For truly Lancelot is everything we have ever heard of in the adventures of Merlin and Arthur.
It was a pivotal introduction of the character of Lancelot, who seemed to throw such a juicy wrench into the tentative romance of Gwen and Merlin. For from the moment his lays eyes on Gwen, Lancelot seems entranced by Gwens grace and beauty. He addresses her as my lady and even kisses her hand upon their first meeting. And, later in the ballroom, he only has eyes for her as Arthur comments on the troublesome beauty of Morgana and Gwenivere.
And by far, the best line of the episode was Merlins chance remark to Gwen after he asked her whether Arthur or Lancelot was more her type and she steadfastly would not choose, flippantly remarked: Sometimes, Gwen, I wonder if you would know what your type was if he were standing right next to you. It is Merlins blatant obliviousness to Gwens feelings for him that makes this observation so particularly humorous.
Truly, it is the comedic quips and chemistry among the characters that elevates this episode out of the creature-feature storyline.
What Didn’t Work
The emphasis on heavy battle sequences seems unbalanced. Was it truly necessary to have six fight scenes in one episode? This reliance on sword-fighting leaves the episode feeling a bit lopsided. It leads to viewer-fatigue was we wish for the fighting to be done and to move on with the story.
Also, being only episode five, it felt rushed to introduce a yet another major character out of the mythology, when the primary characters have barely had a chance to be established.
However, despite the rushed timing, I am still very intrigued to see where our heroes will venture next and look forward to the next chapter of this delightful tale. Until the next time, Sir Lancelot are fitting words to conclude this tale in the journey of Merlin.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Lancelot” was written by Jake Michie and directed by Ed Fraiman.
Merlin” stars Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Santiago Cabrera, Richard Wilson and Anthony Head.
“Merlin” airs Sundays on NBC.