This article may contain spoilers
It is only through adversity that we learn the true measure of ones worth. It is also through struggle and tribulation that ones true feelings are revealed. For what matters most is the only thing worth fighting for.
In this case, it was not just self-survival, but fighting for the life of another, which was admirably demonstrated first by Gwen (Angel Coulby) who fought to save Morgana (Katie McGrath), and later by Lancelot (Santiago Cabera) and Arthur (Bradley James) who fought to save Gwen. Gwen and Morganas relationship is akin to sisters and they have grown so close that they will do just about anything to save each other. In Lancelot and Arthurs case, they have fallen in love with the same woman. It is an age old dilemma: how does one choose between two lovers?
In Gwens case, it is not a choice. Arthur is out of her league and unattainable. He is also not willing to stand up and declare his affections for her no matter what the consequences. So in her mind, Lancelot is her only choice. He is there and he openly declares his feelings for her to the whole world to know. He will fight for her and die for her and, better yet, make his feelings known. Whereas Arthur will fight and die for her, but will not come forward and declare his feelings to the world. So the choice is easy for Gwen.
She allows herself to fall in love with the one man she can have. It is thus more heart-breaking for her when, Lancelot seeing Arthurs affections, chooses to leave. She has now been rejected by both men: one because he will not stand in the way of a princes affections and perhaps a better life for Gwen, and one because he is not willing to challenge his fathers outdated rules of propriety.
It was an episode that challenged us to assess which is the better man — and, unfortunately, Arthur is not yet the man he will one day be. He conceals his feelings for Gwen; where Lancelot was willing to step up and declare himself. In Lancelots case, he only gracefully steps aside when he realizes that he has put himself between Gwen and Arthur. Lancelot is the true hero because he is willing to give up what he wants most so that Gwen will have a better life.
It is a shame that they live in such times where everyone must hide who they are and how they feel. The era of peace, joy, prosperity, and happiness that will one day prevail in Camelot has not yet been attained — and they are all suffering for it.
This weeks episode showcased the innumerable talents of both Katie McGrath and Angel Coulby. Both were given tough scenes of deep emotion and they both carried it off easily. Morgana looked genuinely distraught over Gwens capture and the fact that no one was willing to rescue her; and Gwen appeared willing to do whatever was necessary to keep Morgana safe. The strength of both was tested and revealed to be as strong as any mans. They fought to the death when necessary and never stopped trying to help one another. Their friendship felt real and vital to both. It is hard to imagine that if Merlin were captured that Arthur would be as distraught as Morgana was over Gwens captivity. When Uther (Anthony Head) asked, “How much men would you have me sacrifice to save a servant?” Morgana angrily replied, “As many as it takes!” To her, Gwens life is worth fighting for no matter what her status.
In a brief moment of levity before all hell broke loose, Morgana curiously noted, “You look troubled, Gwen … you’re very secretive these days. I’m beginning to think there’s a man involved.” To which Gwen airily replied, “When do I get to meet any decent men?” Little does Morgana know that Gwen has two rival suitors for her affections!
But it is Arthur who is the one who must learn the value of those he cares about. When Morgana noticed he was packing to rescue Gwen, she said, “You’re going after her?” But Arthur could only admit, “Of course, I am. What do you take me for? I couldn’t disagree with father in public.” He is still unwilling to say what he feels.
While Merlin (Colin Morgan) was not the primary focus of this weeks episode, he was still instrumental in getting Arthur to confess the depth of his feelings for Gwen. Arthur cannot just be a mere prince who acts on his fathers orders and with only thoughts of maintaining security in the kingdom. It is good to see that Arthur is a person with feelings that compel him to not only care for others, but to come to their aid when needed. He is still a bit too guarded about why he does what he does, but as he saw, that protectiveness will only cost him what he really truly desires. By not stepping forward and declaring himself to Gwen and pursuing a relationship with her, he has allowed her to look for a man that will.
It is Arthurs loss. And Bradley Jamesportrayal of loss and longing for a forbidden love was beautifully nuanced. One never forgot that he genuinely cares for Gwen, whether it be worrying about her as she rode out of Camelot on a day trip, or when he first heard that she was missing or later when his worst fears were confirmed and saw Morgana standing without her clothes alone in the forest.
Thus, when Merlin noted with bewilderment, “I’ve never seen you like this — about anyone.” To which Arthur testily replied, “What are you talking about?” And Merlin noted with amazement, “Gwen. You really care about her. Don’t you? It was only later after he had time to think about it, that Merlin curiously remarked, “They do say that love makes you do strange things Arthur tried to brush him off by saying, “What are you talking about?” But not willing to be dissuaded, Merlin asked, “Why can’t you just admit your feelings for Gwen? . . . It’s so obvious. A blind man could see it. Is it really so hard to admit you like her? Just say it.” Finally, fed up, Arthur raged, “I can’t! How can I admit that I think about her all the time? Or that I care about her more than I care about anyone? How can I admit I don’t know what I’ll do if any harm comes to her?” Merlin naively asked, “Why can’t you?” In frustration, Arthur said, “Because nothing could ever happen between us! To admit my feelings knowing that … hurts too much.”
With Arthurs heart now revealed, Merlin pressed, “Who is to say nothing can happen?” Incredulously, Arthur replied, “My father will not let me rescue a servant. Do you honestly believe he’d let me marry one? . . . It’s all talk and that’s all it can ever be.” Then Merlin reminded him, “When you’re king, you can change that.” But Arthur just hung his head and morosely said, “I cannot expect Guinevere to wait for me.” Merlin, just beginning to understand the depths of Arthurs feelings, wisely reminded Arthur, “If she feels as you do, she’ll wait for you.”
In the meantime, while Arthur is trying to work out his feelings and what to do about them, Lancelot does not even hesitate to grasp what he wants. Unable to believe that fate has delivered Gwen to him and that she needs his help, Lancelot springs into action. When he came to her in the dungeon, he was quick to seize the opportunity to tell her, “I have thought of you often. Have you thought of me at all? — all the while touching her fingers gently through the grate. When Gwen later tells him, “You are everything that is right with this world!” Lancelot was surprised by this admission and said, “I did not know you felt that way.” It gave him hope that there was something worth living for. Gwen then responded, “I didn’t either – I did not know that I could feel this way about someone.” But Lancelot mistook Gwens generous heart for a loving heart.
Separated by an iron grate, imprisoned by fate. Star-crossed for eternity. Fingers barely touching. Gwen did not believe Arthur would come for her. She thus clung to the one friendly face she knew and allowed herself to feel love for another man because she wrongly believed that she was not loved in return by Arthur — or, better yet, not loved enough by Arthur. In her mind, Arthur is not willing to risk anything for her. Yet Lancelot was willing to risk everything for her. Thus, she allowed herself to fall in love with Lancelot.
Her blossoming affections inspired Lancelot to valiantly declare, “I would die for you one hundred times over. Live for me, or everything I am has been for nothing.” She then bequeathed him his greatest desire: a kiss for the dying knight, as she said, “As long as I live, my feelings for you will never fade.” Her knight protector was willing to give everything for her and sacrifice all he had for her. He was not ashamed to profess his love. Even when mocked by their captors, “A servant girl? And you really believe she’s worth dying for?” Lancelot readily declared, “She’s worth more to me than you will ever understand.” He boldly told the entire world that Gwen meant everything to him and he did not care who knew.
Yet, after Arthur and Merlin arrived to rescue Gwen, Lancelot took note of the unspoken exchanges between Gwen and Arthur. He then asked Merlin the one question he truly did not want to know the answer to, “He has feelings for her, doesn’t he?” To which Merlin did not answer but instead asked, “What about you? Do you have feelings for Gwen?” and Lancelot sorrowfully responded, “My feelings do not matter. I will not come between them. . . Tell Gwen that she has changed me forever. But some things cannot be.”
Later, once Gwen heard that Lancelot had left, she cried her silent tears over for the love she lost; all the while Arthur watched from afar, grieving for her and for himself. The star-crossed romances of both Gwen and Lancelot and Gwen and Arthur are the stuff that legends are made of — and watching it play out is agonizing ecstasy.
What Didn’t Work
Now that Morgana knows that she has magical abilities, it seemed like this would have been the perfect opportunity to put them to good use. It would be nice to see her utilize all of her assets when they are needed. Hopefully the series will explore that in the future rather than have her solely depend upon her physical prowess when in a deadly fight.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
Merlin” stars Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson and Anthony Head. “Lancelot and Guinevere” was written by Howard Overman and directed by David Moore.
“Merlin” airs Fridays at 10 pm on Syfy.