Recap: Merlin S 02 E 04 Lancelot And Guinevere

Lancelot and Guinevere

In the courtyard outside the castle a party of guards and their horses are preparing to leave the city. Arthur assists Morgana onto her saddle and exchanges a meaningful glance with Guinevere as she prepares to mount her own horse. Merlin comes down the front steps with supplies needed for target practice and asks where the girls are going; Arthur replies that it’s a pilgrimage to Morgana’s father’s grave.

With their escort surrounding them, Morgana and Guinevere ride through the woods and Morgana comments on Gwen’s recent secretive behaviour. Gwen denies such a thing, but their conversation is interrupted when a band of renegades attacks the party. As the knights attempt to fight them off Gwen and Morgana are pulled off their horses. A knight kills the men that are holding them and the girls manage to escape – but not far. They try to run into the forest, but waiting at the top of the slope is the leader of the men: Kendrick. Morgana warns him that she is King Uther’s ward. This is precisely what Kendrick wants to hear, as he plans to hold her to ransom.

With all the knights dead, Gwen and Morgana are being detained in a small tent in the midst of their captors’ encampment. Between the two of them, they’ve come up with a plan for escape. When Kendrick approaches, Morgana demands that she be allowed to bathe. After a lewd comment and a leer, Kendrick assents.

Back in Camelot, Arthur and Uther are aware of Morgana’s prolonged absence and Uther sends every guard and sentry out to find her.

Beside a stream, Morgana slowly begin to remove her outer garment in front of Kendrick and another guard. He holds Gwen’s arm, but as Morgana continues to disrobe, his attention leaves her. In a flash, Gwen pulls Kendrick’s sword from its scabbard and throws it to Morgana. Morgana strikes out at them as Gwen rushes to join her, and the girls make a run for it. With the men in close pursuit, Morgana and Gwen run through the forest, only for Gwen to trip over and twist her ankle. She urges Morgana to go on without her to get help, and Morgana gives her the sword to defend herself with. As she flees, Gwen hobbles behind a tree and readies the sword. As the men approach, she lashes out with the blade, buying Morgana enough time to escape. Hearing the man’s scream of pain, Morgana stops and gasps in surprise before she runs on.

Meanwhile, Arthur, Merlin and a company of knights arrive at the site of the first attack and check over the dead bodies. Arthur recognises the weaponry as Mercian craftsmanship and orders his men to spread out at the sound of someone approaching. He leaps out from behind a tree with a loaded crossbow, only to see a terrified Morgana, and no sign of Gwen anywhere.

Gwen is currently surrounded by the bandits and a furious Kendrick. He grabs her face to look her over and shoves Morgana’s dress and cloak into her arms, demanding that she put them on. Since Hengist the warlord has never seen the Lady Morgana, Kendrick plans to present Gwen to him instead. If Gwen refuses to impersonate her, she’ll be killed.

Back in Camelot a newly-dressed but still bloodied Morgana storms into the Council Chamber and demands that Uther send out a new team of knights to rescue Gwen. Arthur voices his opinion that it is Hengist who is responsible for the attack, and Uther points out that in that case, it would take a small army to retrieve a mere servant-girl.

Morgana: We can't abandon her!
Uther: How many men would you have me sacrifice to save a servant?
Morgana: As many as it takes! Gwen gave herself up so that I might escape. I owe her my life.
Uther: She did so willingly, and she will be honoured for it.
Morgana: I don't want her honoured, I want her rescued! She is more than just my maid. She's my friend.
Uther: A servant is of no value to these bandits. I fear she's dead already.
Morgana: No! We cannot give up hope! Arthur? I'm begging you. You have to do something.
Arthur: My father's right. I'm afraid there's nothing we can do.

Hysterical, Morgana shrugs off Gaius’s attempt to calm her, and storms out of the room.

In Morgana’s purple dress and red cloak, Gwen looks up at Hengist’s fortress with trepidation as she and the bandits approach on horseback. She’s forcibly escorted through the gate and across the courtyard, surrounded by large, cruel-looking men until she’s brought into a large central room that contains a huge cage. She’s pushed against its bars and approached by the intimidating Hengist, who yanks down the hood of her cloak and looks her over. Explaining to her that she’ll only go free when Uther pays the ransom money, Gwen puts on a good impersonation of a hoity-toity noblewoman before being taken to her cell.

Morgana bursts into Arthur’s chambers to give him a tongue-lashing about his conduct in the council chamber and to plead for Gwen’s safe return, completely missing that Arthur is packing his things to go after her. After he points this out to her (telling her that he couldn’t afford to disagree with his father in public) she quietens and only asks that he bring Gwen home.

Down in the physician’s chambers Merlin is packing his own belongings.

Gaius: I suppose you and Arthur are going after Gwen.
Merlin: Gaius, don't even think about telling me not to go. There's nothing you can say that will stop me.
Gaius: I wasn't going to try and stop you, Merlin. All I ask is you make sure you come back safely, too.

Night has fallen and Arthur and Merlin peek around the side of a barrel at the guards at the gate. Arthur tells Merlin to create a distraction while he fetches the horses. As soon as he’s gone Merlin enchants the barrels to slowly roll toward the guards before standing itself upright. As the guards approach it in trepidation, Merlin sends a dozen or so hurtling toward them, successfully knocking them out – not that Arthur is too impressed by this result as he returns.

In Hengist’s main room there is a rowdy feast going on, with plenty of drunken shouting. Gwen sits at Hengist’s side, silently enduring as she catches a sight of Kendrick’s warning look. Hengist stands to announce ‘Morgana’s’ boredom and cries out for the night’s entertainment. A gate within the cage that leads to an underground passage opens up and a burly gladiator emerges as the crowd cheers. Hengist calls out to the challenger, and a familiar face emerges from the gloom. Gwen’s mouth falls opens slightly at the sight of Lancelot he in turn notices her presence. For the briefest of moments the two stare at each other, the sound of the other men falling away into silence at the impact each has on the other.

Hengist announces that only one will exit the cage alive and the cage match ensues. The two fight fiercely, but it is Lancelot who is triumphant. On the verge of killing his opponent, Lancelot glances up at Guinevere’s face and spares him. He exits the cage and stands before Hengist, receiving a small bag of coins. Gwen notes this quietly and Lancelot seems ashamed at her reaction, introducing himself at Hengist’s request. In return, Hengist introduces Gwen as ‘the Lady Morgana’ and Lancelot wisely does not give the game away.

Hengists commends him on his fighting prowess, but tells him not to expect any mercy next time he fights. He demands the release of the Wilderin, and a giant blind rat crawls up into the cage in order to devour the screaming gladiator. Both Lancelot and Guinevere react with horror.

As Merlin and Arthur gallop through the woods Merlin manages to fall asleep in the saddle and topples off onto the forest floor. Arthur empties his canteen onto his face and demands that they keep riding.

Arthur: Guinevere's life is at stake. We cannot afford to waste a second.

Guinevere sits curled up on the bed in her prison cell when she hears a noise at the grating in the wall that looks out into the corridor. Standing on the bed, she’s able to peer through at Lancelot. Explaining the switcheroo with Morgana, Gwen tells him that when the ruse is discovered, she’ll be thrown to the Wilderen.

Lancelot: I will not allow that to happen.
Gwen: What are you doing here? Are you one of Hengist's men?
Lancelot: No.
Gwen: What became of you after you left Camelot?
Lancelot: There are few opportunities for men like me. So I've been earning a living the only way that I know: with a sword in my hand. It seems it is my destiny to entertain men like Hengist.
Gwen: I don't believe that of you. You were so full of hope.
Lancelot: I was wrong. The world is not like that.
Gwen: I still see the hope in you. I do not accept it is gone.

She reaches out for his hand and Lancelot gently touches her fingers, admitting that he often thought of her. Before the conversation can deepen, they hear the sound of the cell door being unlocked. Lancelot promises to free her, no matter what it takes.

Back in the forest Merlin is sleeping under a tree when Arthur once more wakes him up by pouring water over his head. Learning that Arthur wasn’t able to get sleep, Merlin begins to realise the reason behind Arthur’s odd behaviour…

Gwen sits very stiffly on the bed and stands up quickly on Hengist’s arrival, come to tell her that there’s no word from Uther and that if he doesn’t hear from him by tomorrow, her life is forfeit. As soon as the door slams shut, Gwen’s strength leaves her and she sits down heavily on the bed.

Arthur and Merlin look over a map, pinpointing where the ransom was meant to be delivered. Arthur comes up with a shortcut through the tunnels of Andor, but Merlin realizes from his face that there’s a catch. Arthur reluctantly tells him that the tunnels are infested with Wilderen.

Merlin: What are Wilderin?
Arthur: Well, they're like giant...
[Arthur holds his hands a good few feet apart, but then sees Merlin's face, and brings them much closer together]
Arthur: ...baby rats.
Merlin: Baby rats? They don't sound so bad.
Arthur: They feast on human flesh.
Merlin: Maybe we should go over the mountains.

But Arthur has a plan: because Wilderen are blind and hunt by sense of smell, they’ll smear themselves with gaia berries to hide their scent. The two of them begin to rub the stinky berries over their skin. With a lit torch they begin to creep through the tunnels, only to hear the approach of Wilderen. Arthur throws the torch aside and the two take cover. A Wilderen approaches and sniffs Merlin with interest, getting plenty of mucus on him in the process, but leaves without causing any harm.

Lancelot peers through the grate into Gwen’s cell and is relieved to see her still there. He promises that he won’t allow her to die here, only to say that he himself has little to live for.

Gwen: Do not say that.
Lancelot: It's the truth. For all my words, for all that I believed, I have come to nothing.
Gwen: You are everything that is right with this world.
Lancelot: I did not know you felt that way.
Gwen: I didn't even know I could feel this way about someone.
Lancelot: Then you have given me a reason to live. Be ready. I will come for you before nightfall.

Arthur and Merlin wash the gaia berries off by a stream and Arthur casually remarks that he was surprised they worked. Merlin is not at all impressed by this.

Merlin: You trying to get us both killed?
Arthur: I'm sorry. I shouldn't've risked your life like that.
Merlin: Well, they do say love makes you do strange things.
Arthur: What are you talking about?
Merlin: Why can't you just admit your feelings for Gwen? It's so obvious. A blind man could see it. Is it really that hard to admit you like her? Just say it.
Arthur: I can't! How can I admit that I think about her all the time. Or that...I care about her more than anyone. How can I admit that...I don't know what I'll do if any harm comes to her?
Merlin: Why can't you?
Arthur: Because nothing can ever happen between us! To admit my feelings knowing that...hurts too much.
Merlin: Who's to say nothing can happen?
Arthur: My father won't let me rescue a servant. Do you honestly believe he'd let me marry one?
Merlin: You want to marry Gwen?!
Arthur: No! No...I...I don't know...It's all talk, and that's all it can ever be.
Merlin: When you're King, you can change that.
Arthur: I can't expect Guinevere to wait for me.
Merlin: If she feels as you do, she'll wait for you.

Having successfully gotten this admittance out of Arthur, Merlin assures him that they’ll find her alive, and Arthur threatens him with plenty of pain and misery should he breathe a word of their conversation to anyone.

In Hengist’s keep Gwen is shoved into the cage where Hengist is waiting, demanding to know why Uther doesn’t pay the ransom for his beloved ward. He backs her up against the bars of her cage and grabs one of her hands.

Hengist: It must be very upsetting to know that Uther has abandoned you. It seems like no one in the world cares for you.

He orders her to be taken back to her cell and calls for Kendrick, having noticed that Lady Morgana has the hands of a serving girl. Back in her cell, Gwen finally breaks down in tears as she curls up on the bed and covers herself in Morgana’s cloak, unaware that at this moment Lancelot is drugging the guards by dripping a sleeping draught from a grate in the roof down into their stew-pot. Once they’re knocked out, Lancelot collects the key to the dungeons.

Kendrick is thrown into the cage and hysterically admits to Hengist that the Lady Morgana managed to escape them, and that the girl in the dungeon is only a maid. Hengist thanks him for his honesty and orders that the Wilderin be released despite Kendrick’s pleas for mercy.

Guinevere hears the cell to her door open and sits up in alarm – but it’s only Lancelot who reaches out for her. With a wide smile, Gwen takes his hand and he whisks her from the room. Together they run down a dark tunnel as Hengist bursts through the cell and realizes that she’s escaped. With the fortress on alert, Lancelot guides Gwen to an escape tunnel and orders her to follow it until she reaches the forest; telling her that he’ll buy as much time for her as he can.

Gwen: I am not leaving you.
Lancelot: You must.
Gwen: No. I will not leave you here to die.
Lancelot: I would die for you one hundred times over. Live for me, or everything that I am has been for nothing.
Gwen: As long as I live, my feelings for you will never fade.

She leans forward and kisses him; he’s momentarily stunned but shakes himself out of it to tell her to run. She hesitates and then obeys as Lancelot turns back to their pursuers and fights them off one by one (to his own theme music, no less). In the tunnel Gwen hears a scream of pain, stops, and then keeps on running.

From the woods, Arthur and Merlin survey the fortress and Arthur decides the only way in is to scale the wall. Inside, Lancelot awakens from unconsciousness to find himself tied up in the cage, surrounded on all sides by laughing and jeering bandits.

Hengist: Before you die, I can promise you the most unimaginable pain.
Lancelot: You can do what you will with me. I do not care. You can do no harm to Guinevere.
Hengist: Oh, was that her name, huh? The serving girl? And you really believe she's worth dying for?
Lancelot: She is worth more to me that you will ever understand.

He looks remarkably serene, but the gate is opened and a recaptured Gwen is dragged into the cage to join him.

Having climbed the wall, Arthur and Merlin prowl about the castle and run across two guards. Merlin is shoved into the room to cause a distraction, jabbering mindlessly as Arthur creeps up behind the men and simultaneously knocks them out with one punch. Having changed into the bandits’ clothing, the two drag them into the corner.

Facing death in the cage, Gwen apologies for not escaping, and Lancelot reassures her:

Lancelot: You have nothing to be sorry for. You reminded me of who I am. I will die with faith in my heart. That is worth more than anything.
Hengist: Release the Wilderin!

As the giant rat approaches, Lancelot and Gwen link their fingers together. Arthur and Merlin enter the room, struggling to see what’s going on. Catching side of Guinevere inside the cage, Arthur vaults over the top of it, uses his sword to slice through the ropes that bind Guinevere and Lancelot’s hands, pulls Gwen behind him, and throws Lancelot a spare sword as they struggle to their feet.

As the men struggle to fend off the Wilderin, Hengist grabs a crossbow from another man and takes aim at someone in the cage. Merlin quickly mutters a spell, causing an overhead chandelier to fall. Hengist manages to dodge it, but the noise catches Arthur’s attention and he shouts out for Merlin to join them. Merlin vaults over the side of the cage and the four of them inch toward the tunnel.

As Hengist bursts through the cage door, Lancelot tells Arthur to get Guinevere while he holds them off. Gwen protests, but Arthur has already dragged her away. With a quick spell Merlin causes the gate to fall shut, trapping Hengist inside with the Wilderin who soon finishes him off.

Lancelot and Merlin join Arthur and Guinevere at a grating at the end of the tunnel. Guinevere collapses in exhaustion as Arthur tries to pry open the grate and Lancelot is astonished to hear that the rescue party consists of just Arthur and Merlin. He offers a hand to Guinevere who gratefully takes it and gets to her feet. The two smile at each other, hand in hand, and having opened the grate, Arthur turns just in time to see the moment between them.

It lasts only a second, but suddenly all four of them feel the tension in the air. Guinevere hurriedly takes back her hand as Arthur forcibly tries to rein in his shock. Gwen and Merlin slip through the tunnel into the forest and Lancelot holds Arthur back for a moment, thanking him for the rescue. Arthur can’t bring himself to answer.

Around a campfire in the forest, Arthur’s mood has turned sour as he stares sullenly at Gwen and then quickly looks away as she looks back at him. When Lancelot questions why the rescue mission consists of only the two of them, and learns that Uther forbade the knights of Camelot to rescue a mere serving girl, Arthur casually states that he only came himself because Morgana begged him. Not impressed, Gwen excuses herself and goes to get some sleep.

Lancelot stands guard and Merlin joins him as Arthur and Guinevere sleep in the background.

Lancelot: He has feelings for her, doesn't he?
Merlin: What about you? Do you have feelings for Gwen?
Lancelot: My feelings do not matter. I will not come between them. Tell Gwen...tell Gwen that she has changed me forever, but some things cannot be.

The following morning Merlin kicks out the fire and faces Gwen as she wakes up. Looking around, she immediately notices that Lancelot is missing, and Merlin sadly relays his message to her. Fighting back tears, she manages to compose herself as Arthur approaches and states that there’s still a long walk ahead of them.

As the sun rises, the trio return home – Arthur and Gwen on horses as Merlin walks alongside Gwen.

Morgana is standing on the landing, gazing out the window as Arthur approaches her, telling her that there’s someone here to see her. He stands aside and Gwen runs into Morgana’s arms. The two girls hug each other in joy, but Gwen’s smile fades as she sees Arthur watching her. Looking defeated, he turns and descends the staircase.

Merlin and Arthur head down the castle steps together, noting an older couple walking arm in arm.

Merlin: Look on the bright side, you've still got me.
Arthur: Is that supposed to cheer me up?
Merlin: Thought it might.
Arthur: You really are a complete idiot, aren't you, Merlin?

Tropes

  • Adipose Rex: Hengist (granted he's not technically a king, but close enough).
  • Always Save the Girl
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Arthur, to Merlin, about Guinevere.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Downplayed with Morgana, who escapes from the bandits without a scratch on her, yet is discovered by Arthur with several cuts artfully strewn across her face. Did she walk into a tree or something?
  • Call Back: On meeting again, Lancelot calls Guinevere “my lady,” as he did in his first episode, to which she replied: “I’m not a lady.”
  • Continuity Nod: Merlin performs magic in front of Lancelot, recalling the fact that he knows about Merlin's abilities. This becomes even more important in season three.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Lancelot's theme.
  • Defiant Captive: Guinevere successfully pulls off a Morgana impersonation and remains calm throughout her captivity.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Part of Morgana's plan to escape the bandits: she disrobes whilst Guinevere grabs a sword.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Merlin and Arthur when they sneak into Hengist's fortress.
  • Entitled to Have You: There is a smidgeon of this with Arthur's reaction to Guinevere. Despite telling Merlin that he can't expect Guinevere to wait for him, his sulky reaction to evidence that she was willing to seek happiness elsewhere indicates that he was expecting some sort of Rescue Romance to take place between them.
  • Genre Savvy: Lancelot is completely aware of what a Love Triangle can do, and breaks off the relationship before Guinevere can get in too deep. It's almost like he's read the Arthurian legends.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Lancelot almost manages this:
    "You can do what you want with me. You can do no harm to Guinevere."
  • Held Gaze: Lancelot and Guinevere when they first see each other in Hengist's lair. It's even in Slow Motion.
  • Holding Hands: A frequent motif between Lancelot and Gwen, perhaps most Tear Jerkingly when they link their fingers together on facing certain death. It's also what tips Arthur off to their attraction to each other.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: After twisting her ankle, Gwen urges Morgana to go on without her.
  • Just in Time: Arthur and Merlin arrive just as Lancelot and Guinevere are being attacked by the Wildereen.
  • Kick the Dog: Guinevere endures hell in this episode, having been kidnapped by bandits, forced to impersonate Morgana, spending two days in captivity, and continually threatened with death should the ransom money she knows isn't coming not be delivered. By the time of her rescue she's emotionally and physically exhausted, only for Arthur to protect his wounded pride by making a callous remark about why he came to save her. On the DVD Commentary, even Colin and Bradley admit that it's pretty harsh.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Both Arthur and Lancelot want to be this to Guinevere. When they realize this, things take a turn for the awkward.
  • Love Triangle
  • Men Act, Women Are: A frequent criticism of Guinevere's role in this episode, who acts as the Damsel in Distress that must be rescued by Arthur and Lancelot. However, it fails to take into account that both rescue attempts would have been for nothing had Gwen not successfully pulled off a Morgana-impersonation over the duration of her imprisonment.
  • Name and Name
  • Out-of-Character Moment: It’s natural for Arthur to be worried about Guinevere, but on coming across his terrified, bloodied, and half-naked foster sister in the forest, the fact that his first reaction is to ask where Guinevere is... is a bit jarring.
  • Princess for a Day: A dark variation considering Gwen has to pretend to be Morgana or else be killed.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size
  • Shout-Out: No doubt the Wilderin were inspired by the R.O.U.S. in The Princess Bride.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Gwen.
    "When do I get a chance to meet any decent men?"
  • Twisted Ankle: Gwen, by way of a Dramatic Slip.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Hengist
  • We Need a Distraction: Arthur orders Merlin to divert the guards' attention as they leave Camelot. Merlin magically uses two barrels to knock them out.
  • Wham Line: Not so much a line as a scene; when Arthur sees Gwen and Lancelot Holding Hands and their rather intense Held Gaze.
  • Window Love: Lancelot and Gwen talk through the barred window of her cell.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Both Lancelot and Arthur think that they're Gwen's sole Knight In Shining Armour. As it turns out, they're both right and wrong, and neither walks away happy. Though Arthur ends up saving them both, Lancelot is the one that gets the Last Kiss and the meaningful Held Gaze.
  • You Shall Not Pass: Implied. While Morgana's escaping, Guinevere hurts her ankle. Morgana hands her a sword and keeps running at Gwen's insistence. Gwen hides behind a tree as the bandits approach, then lunges out. We cut to Morgana, who looks back as a man screams.
    • Alternative Character Interpretation: Did she really twist her ankle, or did she fake it so that Morgana would have time to escape? There's no sign of a limp on Guinevere in the very next scene.