Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer DVR Dump: Merlin 5.06: "The Dark Tower"

“I made you a promise, remember? We will bring her home.”
- Merlin

Just a warning but the next three episodes are probably my least favorite of the season. I’m not sure exactly what they’re meant to prove other than Morgana is vindictive and relentless but we already knew that. The episode begins innocent enough. Elyan and Gwen are visiting their father’s grave and then head back to the city accompanied by Gwaine, Leon and Percival (the gang). They’re joking about Gwaine being in love with himself when Morgana sets a trap. She enchants the grass to be full of snakes when the party approaches and Leon and Percival get bitten. Elyan tells Gwen to ride for the trees but Morgana nabs her (not surprising).

Arthur is visibly distraught over the fact Gwen is missing. Merlin promises they’ll find her and it seems perhaps Morgana’s intent to torture both her brother and sister-in-law. When Gwen wakes Morgana tells her they’re going to play a game to see just how much Arthur loves Gwen. The knights ride out from Camelot at first light. How they know where to go is beyond me. They find Gwen’s horse and Percival spots some tracks heading east (why Gaius okay’d he and Leon for the mission is also beyond me. They know that dark magic is at work and will likely backfire on them). Ahead of them, Morgana drags Gwen behind her and taunts her with some water. They arrive at a monstrosity called the Dark Tower and Morgana leaves her there for the night in a room full of screams. Nice to know people in medieval times had psychological torture, too.

The knights are losing the trail as light fades but Arthur is determined to continue on. He feels guilty about losing Gwen. And he’s not the only one. After Merlin convinces Arthur they should make camp and start fresh in the morning, Arthur tries to perk up Elyan. Or at least not allow him to share in the pity parade. It doesn’t work. Sure, he saved Percival and Leon but he couldn’t protect his big sister. Seeing how this episode began, I can only speculate that it’s going to be a not very good outcome for poor Elyan. As night wears on it becomes clear why Leon and Percival came along. To be the giant info dump since Gaius isn’t along. They ramble on about a shared dream about a tower. Arthur’s not thrilled that it is their final destination seeing as all knights are taught to fear it and many have lost their lives because of it. Gwaine, not happy about being woken from his dream about apple pie-flavored cheese, grumbles that they’re all missing out and goes back to sleep.

As light dawns it becomes clear that Gwen is being subjected to mandrake roots (it accounts for all the awful screaming). And as she cowers by a pillar, the visual torture begins. She starts seeing people she knows and cares about. First she spots Elyan and he just laughs at her and then Merlin appears and sort of roars at her to freak her out. Then of course, Morgana comes in and ushers her down to have something to eat. This really is a mixture of plain old Stockholm syndrome and magical mind rape. I really dislike it. Morgana is manipulative at all costs, telling Gwen about being locked up in a pit for two years without any kind of kindness (light, being able to eat or see).

Arthur announces he’s going to the Dark Tower alone but all of his knights agree to accompany him because Gwen is their friend (and in Elyan’s case she’s blood). In order to get to the Dark Tower, the boys must get through the Impenetrable Forest. Which, given its name, is really difficult to do. They spend an entire day cutting through vines and ivy only to find they’ve gone in a huge circle. Arthur is furious but Merlin reiterates his promise to find her. That night, Merlin has a chat with Queen Mab who reveals that everything is opposite in the forest and that Merlin, using his magic, can get them out of the forest. She also explains that the Tower isn’t real. It’s more a metaphorical torture device. Which explains a hell of a lot. Mab also warns that one of their number won’t return from the trip. I also have to say it may have been the hairdo or prosthetics or something but Mab had an enormous forehead.

So we have quite a bit of Merlin leading the knights through the forest, back the way they’ve come and out into the desert. So at least they’re closer to Gwen now. Not that she’s going to be okay or anything given the mandrake. And you know I’m a little surprised Morgana even used them since if I recall correctly, ages ago, she was tortured with it herself. Maybe she forgot or just decided to use her pain to hurt someone else. I guess it wouldn’t be the first time. Gwen’s torture continues as the boys trek across the barren (and skeleton strewn) desert. Gwen tries to keep herself calm but it doesn’t work. Morgana comes in and offers food but Gwen refuses. And ten, Arthur appears. It’s an apparition of course and Gwen is totally freaking out until Morgana comes in again and wraps her in a protective hug. She explains the mandrake root is cruel but that it was necessary to show Gwen who she can really trust. It appears Gwen is going to fall for Morgana’s bullshit but she pulls away.

The boys finally reach the tower and charge ahead. Elyan races past Arthur only to find a room full of pressure-sensitive flagstones. Elyan, being a little ahead of the gang, presses on and finds Gwen. There’s a magical sword protecting her and despite her warning that it’s been enchanted to fight to the death, Elyan charges it. Not surprising, it gets a fatal blow in and he dies in his sister’s arms, professing their father would be proud of her. She weeps over his lifeless body as Arthur and the others burst in. And apparently knights of Camelot get Viking funerals because they light Elyan on fire in a boat. Gwen watches, unblinking as Arthur stands at her side. Merlin laments to Gaius about the fact he was warned one of them wouldn’t return. Gaius tells Merlin to see it as a win since both Arthur and Gwen made it back safe (the sword was clearly meant for Arthur). That night, Gwen sneaks out of the castle and meets Morgana in the forest. It would seem our Queen Wannabe was able to sway Gwen to her cause (at least temporarily). Like I said at the start of this post, not one of my favorite episodes or plot developments. And while I think Gwen’s tears in the Tower were genuine overly losing Elyan, I think she is firmly under Morgana’s thrall.

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