Merlin Season 5, Episode 7 Review- “A Lesson In Vengeance”
Arthur’s life is in peril again, but this time the conspirator is someone closest to his own heart… Guinevere! Spoilers ahead!
As Gaius and Merlin suspect, something has been not quite right about Gwen ever since she was rescued from Morgana’s clutches in the Dark Tower. From what we could see in the last episode, Gwen did her utmost to resist Morgana’s cloyingly sugar-coated entreaties while being held in that nightmare of a tower. It’s not clear at what point Morgana asserted enough power over her to make her turn on her nearest and dearest, and that’s what makes Gwen’s betrayal sting that much more. Morgana surely knows how clever Gwen is, and how much Arthur trusts her judgment. She takes these positive aspects of Gwen’s personality and twists them to her advantage.
Gwen attempts a series of tricks to off her king throughout the episode. She begins by tampering with Arthur’s saddle so that he falls off when his horse is spooked by a planted explosive, throwing him into combat with an assailant. Luckily Arthur fights off the attacker and gets away. Arthur may have escaped with his life but the one who takes the blame is his poor stable groom, Tyr (John Bradley who plays Samwell Tarley in “Game of Thrones”).
Gwen has become very uncharacteristically nasty, doing her best to silence Tyr and move on to the next evil plan. Angel Coulby does an excellent job of playing outside type. “I think everything that has happened to Gwen has been working toward this point,” Coulby says. “People warned me, ‘You’re going to be quite different in this season.’ But actually, given her level of confidence, I think it matches me a bit more. I’ve always been more confident than Gwen, so it comes quite naturally for me to play Gwen this way.”As a show, “Merlin” does tend to reuse tropes and tricks they’ve done in previous episodes. This can make some episodes seem a little too familiar or like the “same old, same old”. I feel like we’ve seen either Arthur or his father poisoned in episodes past, teetering on the verge of death, to be magically snatched from its clutches at the last second. I’m not certain how, even with Morgana’s confidence in Gwen as her puppet, she could trust that her plan to poison the King would go off without a hitch, especially given past experience.What can’t be ignored here is the parallel between Evil-Puppet-Queen Gwen and Morgana, and Morgana and Morgause. Now in a position of power, Gwen takes on the exact same sneakiness and deception as Morgana. She sneaks around at night wearing a cloak, running off for clandestine meetings with her “sister”. Even Gwen’s facial expressions, the musical cues, and the way the shots cut to her at key moments are reminiscent of Morgana on her path to betrayal from within the castle walls. Rather than being more of the same as we’ve seen before, I feel the show’s creators are really taking this somewhere.Merlin aids in averting crisis yet again, with Gaius’ encouragement. The most hilarious scene of the episode is when he slips into his elderly Emrys disguise to escape prison after being blamed for the poisoning, and to make his way to Arthur’s side to cure him. Colin Morgan is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny with the persona and voice he adopts as old Emrys. He has brilliant comic timing. Then a couple minutes later, he turns around and tears at the heartstrings when he’s unsure whether his magic will save Arthur or not. He is better than ever this season and when the show’s run is over on SyFy, I hope we see him in other projects very soon!
Even though Gwen fails twice in her mission, she is cunning (which I’m sure Morgana counts on). In bringing the apothecary who procured the poison and having him implicate Morgana (no surprise there), Gwen looks better than ever, inciting Arthur and the entire court to chant, “Long live the Queen!” The entire court… except Merlin.
Next week on “Merlin” on the SyFy Channel: “The Hollow Queen”: Merlin helps another Druid boy and goes on a dangerous mission.