This pic/gifspam got way out of control, and for that I apologize. I'm not TRYING to kill anyone's browser, but it might happen ok.
(Gifs herein are a collective effort by myself and the ever-awesome peopleareshapes. ♥♥♥)
+ So to begin with, the first scene happened and I admit I had a little bit of trouble moving on with my life due to rewinding it back and back and back again.
I'M FINE REALLY IT'S JUST RAINING ON MY FACE OK
Just. GOD. She's SO PRETTY with her hair and that dress, and kneeling there washed in sunlight, and Arthur looks so proud and so in love. He places that crown so gently on her head.
YOUR KING AND QUEEN, LADIES AND GENTS.
Merlin, I love your face. ♥ He's overcome with joy and he beams at Gwen and they both beam at him and then they look at each other AND I HOPE THERE'S ROOM FOR THREE IN THE ROYAL CHAMBERS
NEVER MIND THE BURGER KING CROWN OKAY BECAUSE THIS IS LIKE. LIKE. Like that scene in Mulan when she turns around to find the whole kingdom cheering for her. I AM STILL A LITTLE VERKLEMPT TBH~
...and then Morgana wakes up.
And I have to take a moment to come to grips with the fact that I live in a world where not everyone would be OVERFLOWING WITH JOY at this. It's a litle jarring because the scene is so not a nightmare but Morgana reacts to it as if it were.
However, she and Morgause? Still doin' it:
That's good at least. Also, I need Morgeezy to explain why stopping Gwen from being Queen would stop Arthur from being King. It leaves me at the implicit conclusion that Arthur literally cannot become king without Gwen by his side. AND that this isn't really about Arthur/Gwen being married; it's specifically about Gwen being Queen. Morgana knows Gwen isn't ~just a love interest~.
I'm fine w/that. :D :D
Before I get to the next scene, let's pause and appreciate Gwen's new corset.
So after her quickie with Morgause, Morgana finds Gwen tidying up for the morning and they proceed to have this really tense scene. The state of Gwen/Morgana breaks my heart, but I have to say, I really appreciate how meaty their scenes have been lately. For ages and ages, their interactions have felt so cursory to me; they're around each other but not really playing off each other: Morgana makes some fake small talk or snaps at Gwen, Gwen might look briefly hurt or confused but just bobs a curtsey and walks away. Stictly mistress/servant with absolutely NOTHING to sink my teeth into. And that's usually it, because the scenes are typically there to highlight some change in Morgana's behaviour. So yeah, I have to say it's nice to see some give and take in their interactions, with proper tension, dealing with BOTH their feelings.
I like this one because Morgana is sort of sizing Gwen up, while Gwen's in no mood to talk about her feelings for Arthur and seems almost actively distrustful of Morgana's intentions for even bringing this up. Gwen's always been the most perceptive of the bunch, and she must FEEL something's up. We know this ep was originally scheduled to air before The Eye of the Phoenix. But strangely, it doesn't feel as incongruous as I feared, because there was this seed of mistrust there even then.
Liked when Morgana took her hand, and Gwen tacitly dropped the subject by pulling it back. OH GIRLS. It annoys me that proper emphasis wasn't given to their friendship as it used to be. It breaks my heart that Morgana would even THINK of hurting Gwen, of having her banished or killed. That said, I don't actually mind seeing them have antagonistic or fake interactions: not only is it better than Morgana being fake/Gwen being oblivious, but I have always wanted more for them as a ship than the bubblegum sweetness that glosses over how different and COMPLICATED the two of them really are, and would be together.
obvs that last sentence moves me into fanon territory but I...still ship it. XD
One last thing about Gwen/Morgana. Morgana's almost completely unable to play Gwen directly. She can still go to Arthur and Uther to manipulate situations around Gwen, but she can't get into Gwen's head, the scripts keep having her try and fail because it's a mixture of the class difference and the mistrust that stops Gwen from opening up to her the way Arthur and Uther still do. idk, I think it's fascinating. Gwen is the smartest person in Camelot.
+ The next scene, you guys. Arthur has also noticed Gwen's new corset.
THEIR HANDS BRUSH. I have such a hand kink so this kind of thing gets me every time. Accidental brushes flustering them both. Meanwhile everyone in the room is aware but Uther, lmao. I loved Merlin's bemused face throughout.
+ Morgana witnesses this and takes the opportunity to do a little matchmaking.
Augh, how adorable would this all be if she weren't being all ~nefarious in her intentions? I think I've even read fic where Morgana sets Arthur and Gwen up because they're too noble to go ahead and jump each other. Sigh, I miss happier days sometimes. The tragic thing about it is these scenes really COULD have happened when Morgana wasn't evil. Bradley and Katie still have that sibling banter down.
One thing: Arthur being surprised to hear that Gwen has feelings for him. wat? Though perhaps he's just surprised to hear Morgana say Gwen talks about him all the time. Even HE knows that's uncharacteristic of her.
+ LOL AND THEN ARTHUR SENDS MERLIN TO ASK GWEN OUT FOR HIM. I CAN'T EVEN. I didn't expect there to be so much Gwen/Merlin in this ep, but... I guess I have to get used to the idea that apparently where Gwen has stuff to do, she'll have BFF times with Merls? because... apparently that's how the show rolls these days? WHAT EVEN <3
I love how sweet and close and tactile they are with each other. They GET each other, always have - the show's always kind of picked up on the natural kinship and understanding between them as fellow servants, and it's dovetailed into a deeper closeness. And Gwen opening up about her insecurities is always big! As is Merlin knowing just what to say to her.
Merlin: you like him.
Merlin: And he likes you.
I particularly liked that snippet because Gwen doesn't demure - she knows Arthur likes her. She's never once fretted over how ~a prince would never love her~ or find her beautiful. She's always been too self-possessed for that. Even back when she was shy! In 1x01 when Merlin brings him up, she didn't say "he'd never marry me"; she said "who'd want to marry Arthur". THIS IS WHY I LOVE HER, AND THEM.
Merlin's little "calm down buddy" gesture. ♥
And her little dizzy twirl. Gwen being nervously hopeful is the most beautiful thing.
+ Gwen begging off work the next day was lol. SUCH A BAD LIAR.
+ So Merlin picks Gwen up for her date with Arthur.
...I'll repeat that. Merlin picks Gwen up for her date with Arthur.
oh kids, oh KIDS <33333
"You look lovely." <33333
+ When they arrive at ~the spot~, Arthur is checking his eyebrows in a silver plate. He is PRECIOUS, you guys.
Made even more so by the fact Merlin and Gwen watch him when he isn't looking and start gigglefacing. I wish Arthur hadn't sent Merls away. They were so OT3 in this moment.
Because here is the thing you guys: Arthur is a dweeb. ♥ The entire picnic scene is all about his dweebery and how Gwen finds it hilar and adorable.
hnnnng I love Arthur being struck dumb by how pretty Gwen looks. That's another thing I've been wanting for them and I'll never be sick of it. And they look so painfully young and nervous and in love. ♥
So the date happens. It's so delightful watching them try for a normal date, a normal relationship they already know they can't have. Arthur talks about how he wishes he weren't a prince sometimes, and Gwen is indulgent and sweet about it, and he wants to be a FARMER (dweeb!). Then they both have a laugh at his dweebery which I found incredibly charming, and I love that even in his fantasies about a life away from Camelot with Gwen, Merls is there. Oh tee three.
THEIR BEAUTY, YOU GUYS.
A lot of elements in this episode call back to 2x09 when Merlin was similarly sick of his destiny and ready to chuck it all for a chance at happiness with the girl he loves. In both cases, I think it counts as a step in their development because by the end of the episodes, they recommit themselves to their futures.
Back to the date.
Because Arthur decides to inch himself closer to Gwen by swatting an imaginary wasp behind her, and you begin to see what I mean by DWEEB. SMOOTH, ARTHUR, SMOOTH.
Gwen thinks he's ridiculous and does the natural thing: laughs, rolls her eyes, and proceeds to make out with him.
FOREVER, APPARENTLY. *________*
I start feeling funny in my belly when Gwen puts her hand across his chest, not even gonna lie.
Meanwhile, in the COCKBLOCK OF THE CENTURY, Uther and Morgana show up in the clearing.
How much do I love that A and G were so focused on their makeout that they didn't even hear anyone racing toward them on loud-ass horses? I LOVE IT A LOT. Also, their faces when they come up. Arthur's punch-drunk and Gwen's MORTIFIED.
The next scene was really unexpected, I definitely expected Uther to come in furious, but then this happened.
"LOL THOSE SERVING GIRLS, AMIRITE. MY BOY'S GROWIN' UP. ISN'T BEING ROYAL AWESOME?"
It highlights two things: a) Uther is an asshole and b) Arthur is very naive. And if I can go back to the Arthur/Morgana scene for a second - Morgana's not nearly so naive when she says "if it's Gwen you desire, why do you deny yourself?" I can't decide if the writers are, in lieu of delving more into Morgana's motivations, simply trying to make Morgana as much like her father as possible.
Anyway, this scene leads to Gwen's banishment. Arthur's already freaking out in his scene with Merlin. He promised Gwen a long time ago that this would never happen, and now it is, and he can't deal. I like that when Morgana came in and he resolved to go with Gwen, it was with every intention to return, to NOT actually abandon his kingdom for good. Of course, this is when Morgana realises she's done nothing to stop her vision coming true. It's a twisted parallel to 3x05, when Merlin was also trying to stop the future.
She decides to get Gwen killed, which... I don't even know. :( Don't wanna talk about it.
So then, there are Gwentears, which I find super-difficult to handle. She is such a brave little toaster y'all. It's heartbreaking and so in-character to watch her pack and bustle around and try not to deal with the fact that she's being tossed out into the cold. Merlin telling her to stop just about broke me. This is the second time she's broken down in front of him. OH KIDS. :(
That said, Elyan should've had this scene, or at least been there for it.
So the plot moves along at breakneck speed and Gwen ends up in the throne room again. This. Entire. Sequence. GUYS.
Gwen's been accused of witchcraft before, but this time it gets very real. Uther creeped me the hell out when he leant down to question her, looking at her with so much contempt. BUT SHE STOOD UP TO HIM. LOVE LOVE LOVE. There's so much steel in her spine.
Uther hitting her, him with so much power and her helpless, was extremely hard to watch. Even Gaius was like "WHOA, UTHER." I kind of couldn't believe the show went there considering they took a slap out of the script back in series 1 (Uther was meant to slap Morgana when she helped Mordred escape in 1x08) because they thought it would be too much. Just... man.
Things only escalate from there, because then Arthur comes in demanding an explanation, and Tom comes up for the second time this season. !!!!!! Not only that, Gwen actually got to speak her mind to Uther about what happened to him. HUGE, HUGE. This girl is fucking fearless. And Arthur's pleading desperation was so intense. This time, he literally relinquishes his entitlement to the throne. You can see that it's a desperate move, but that he means it. I like that they cut to Gwen's shocked face when he says it too. It's CRAZY and even she knows it, but losing her is IMPOSSIBLE for him. You can't help but feel for him.
And it's so tragic the way this all goes down. Everything Arthur and Gwen say or do in this scene only convinces Uther more that sorcery is afoot. It's actually a REALLY well-written scene by this show's standards. Heartbreaking and chilling all at once.
As if THAT wasn't enough to deal with, there's THIS:
I've rewatched it I don't know how many times. It's STAGGERING, you guys. It's melodramatic and OTT and PERFECT. The physicality of it, the way it was shot, their desperation and the way he grabs her FLOORS me every time -- and how they both throw themselves into it, and ajklfjklhsklhfkshkjshkjs KIDS. Bradley and Angel NAILED IT.
Plus, to top it all off, Gwen notices Morgana's smile as she's being dragged away? SOMEONE ACTUALLY NOTICES THE SMIRKING??
I NEED A MOMENT.
I'm geekily crazy about the bit of score they used for that bit, too.
The Merlin/Arthur scene afterward is similarly gorgeous. All they can do is stand there helpless and look at each other.
"I can't watch her die, Merlin."
The way his voice breaks. Their faces! They love her so much!
+ Merlin and Gwen in the cell. This is where the main continuity error happens. Because this was supposed to be before Gwen discovers Morgana's magic, and you can kind of tell. But it's not as jarring as I was expecting, because the scene holds a couple of new things: Gwen telling Merlin her suspicions, and Merlin not lying to her. Pretty major, even though he didn't get a chance to actually tell her anything.
+ LOL at the Gaius/Merlin scene. It was kind of unnecessary, mostly because they couldn't possibly be surprised that Morgana's behind it, or that Uther would never believe she was. But for setting up the plan, it was nice.
+ so then Merlin's like "oh HELL no, I did NOT leave the South side for this" and resolves to do whatever it takes to save Gwen because he is amazing. This all leads to a truly surprising amount of crack for an episode that just got so heavy. I so appreciate Howard Overman for writing this episode; his eps tend to capture what the show is best at: epic OTT period drama and crack. And he balances both really well.
Old!Merls is THE ACTUAL BEST. ♥ It's clear how much fun Colin had with it, too. I liked his voice, his aches and pains, DRAGOON THE GREAT, and his face in his scenes with Arthur.
A+ for ~Dragoon~ lashing out at Uther, too.
+ After all this goes down and Gwen's released, there's more fakery between Gwen and Morgana:
Shallowly though, they both look RIDIC gorgeous.
+ I think it's a little weird that Arthur never questioned that some wizard faked a spell and then fessed up to it. What would've really helped is perhaps a line or two about how Arthur figured the spell HAD been real but unnecessary given what was already there between them. For fanwank purposes I'll just say that did happen off camera. XP
+ The last scene between Arthur and Gwen brought the whole episode, and their whole arc, full circle in a way, and I loved it.
It highlighted exactly who they are as people, and why they work for me as a couple. Gwen's pragmatism contrasted with Arthur's starry eyes was perfectly done, as was the difference in their maturity level. From 3x02 it was clear to me that the Arthur still has a long way to go - frustratingly so. As romantic as it was, this scene was part of that. He's not in a position to haul off and do whatever he likes, and he can do much more good, both for the kingdom AND for the two of them, by becoming king. I loved that Gwen was like "it's not just about us". It only proves why she will be the perfect queen.
So yeah, Gwen brings Arthur down to earth a bit, and it's with Arthur Gwen's slowly started to open herself up and be more vulnerable, emotionally. This time last season Gwen was telling him to back off because she could never be his queen. This week she all but promised herself to him. There's a world of difference there. This process of them meeting in the middle is just delightful.
PLUS, we got some of them being playful in the beginning, which I love.
Annnnnd that's all I have to say! Anyone even still reading this monster? *g* If so, lurker!Arthur thanks you for your time.
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