Merlin Series 5 Review “A Lesson in Vengeance” — There’s a Traitor in Arthur’s Midst…

In this week’s Merlin the characters get ‘A Lesson in Vengeance’. Morgana continues her attempts to assassinate Arthur by having Gwen set up two different scenarios.

The first scenario involved spooking Arthur’s horse, thereby throwing Arthur from the saddle, and having some mercenaries take him out when he was caught unawares. This failed. In the second scenario, Morgana slipped Gwen some poisons for her to use on Arthur. She did so, and it was only thanks to Merlin’s magic that Arthur survived.

The latter was when Gwen (whom Merlin suspected of being the traitor by this point) accused Merlin of trying to kill Arthur and had him thrown in the cells. This lead to Merlin using his Dragoon disguise in order to get out to go and save Arthur. It was hilarious — though the second scene with the cook dragged Dragoon’s caustic wit out a little too long — and made Merlin being tossed in the cells worthwhile.

But it was the first scenario that was the most upsetting. Poor Tyr the stableboy seemed lovely, but died because Gwen feared he would reveal her identity as the traitor. This made Gwen look even colder and crueller than she did initially, and the show really missed a trick by not emphasising that she’s being compelled to do this, if indeed she is. Instead Gwen seemed completely cognizant of her actions, which means that the audience would be justified in disliking her intensely at this point. I really don’t want to, but we need to know that it’s not the Gwen we know and like who is trying to murder Arthur.

(Sidenote: It could be argued that if Merlin had revealed his magic to Tyr and promised to use it to protect Tyr’s mother, he may have gotten the traitor’s name earlier. Of course, Tyr could then have reported him for sorcery. Finally, an episode where I can’t complain about Merlin not revealing his magic!)

For some reason Morgana thinks it’s a great idea to kill Arthur and install Gwen as queen. Problem is, Morgana clearly wants power for herself in order to make a point. Are we supposed to assume that she’d be fine being the silent leader, the controller of puppet!queen Gwen? Because I don’t buy it — I’ve watched the last four series, Merlin.

The only explanation I can come up with is that she wants to install Gwen as queen and then slip in and take over after everyone has already gotten used to the situation. Which is fine and all, but the knights wouldn’t stay loyal to the queen when the identity of said queen switches from Gwen to Morgana, would they? Which would take Morgana right back to the issues she faced the last time she became queen of Camelot.

It seems like a much better idea to have Gwen kill Arthur in his sleep or something, then kill Gwen, and then take over when the kingdom is thrown into chaos. There might be worries about other kingdoms and their armies, but Morgana’s sided with the leader of another kingdom more than once. She could do so again.

The biggest upside to this episode was Merlin apparently preparing himself to reveal his magic to Arthur (yay!). (Okay, he was probably going to tell Arthur about Gwen, but let me have my delusions.) Of course, Arthur didn’t have time to listen because he was busy telling everyone how awesome Gwen is. This would usually be a fair point, but is no one — except Merlin and Gaius — questioning Gwen’s actions at this point*? Morgana purchases poisons, Gwen is the only person in the room with Arthur when the poisoning occurs (the servant could attest to this), and Gwen has recently been held by/been the subject of mind games by Morgana.

Surely this should warrant some suspicion falling on Gwen, especially after she tossed Merlin in the cells after ‘accidentally’ casting suspicion on him. Why isn’t someone thinking ‘hmm, could the queen be enchanted somehow?’ Why did Gwen even point the finger at Merlin, anyway? Unless Morgana’s told her about Merlin’s magic, it would make more sense to have Gaius locked up so that he couldn’t even attempt to save Arthur’s life.

(*I know Gwen was the one who tracked down the maker of the poisons and so that gives her a little leeway, but doesn’t Arthur have people to do this sort of detective work for him? Besides Gwen has far too much free reign as queen. Her traitorousness aside, surely this is terrible from a security point of view, no? Someone’s trying to kill the king but the queen can sneak out and ‘walk around’ in the ‘meadow’ unaccompanied?)

Despite everything, I enjoyed this episode, dear reader. I really did. It was entertaining, and there was some great acting going on — Angel Coulby absolutely knocked it out of the park in the scene where Gwen kills Tyr. But I really wish that there was a better plan than ‘let’s kill Arthur’ because the way this show has to stretch and contort the plots to ensure Arthur isn’t killed just makes all the characters look like complete idiots. Sigh.

What did you think of ‘A Lesson in Vengeance’, dear reader? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!