0 6 mins 13 yrs

Episode five is a big improvement on last week’s episode; a more ensemble piece in which all the characters get something of substance to do. This episode in my opinion probably would have been better and more effective shown after the death of Uther in episode three, as we explore Arthur’s (Bradley James) new-found role as King of Camelot and what kind of King he is to be.

Agravaine (Nathaniel Parker) comes to the fore as he tries his best to manipulate the new King into making poor decisions that he hopes will lead to the demise of the new King, and the appointment of Morgana (Katie McGrath) in his place. Arthur and the knights catch King Carleon, a rival trespassing on the land of Camelot. Arthur with the influence of Agravaine and the disapproval of Merlin (Colin Morgan), reluctantly is coerced into killing the King in a bid to prove his worth to his uncle and the people of Camelot; that he is a fearless leader like his father before him.

After his success at weakening Arthur’s power and with his own control growing, Agravaine goes on to suggest that the “delicate” matter of a king being in a relationship with a blacksmith’s daughter and maid is inappropriate and not a sign he thinks Arthur should be displaying to his people; that a good King rules with his head and not his heart. Feeling duty-bound and burdened with the weight of the kingdom, off he goes to break the heart of poor Gwen after being influenced into believing their relationship is “inappropriate.” (this is the first proper appearance of Gwen this series, in fact any female character) It’s a sweet scene with Gwen (Angel Coulby) the Queen-to-be. Arthur, although kind, is seemingly easily led and weak. I did spend a lot of the episode wondering why as King he didn’t stand up to his uncle and tell him where to go. You would think Agravaine was King.

Meanwhile, the formidable Queen Annis (guest star Lindsay Duncan) vows to avenge
 the death of her husband and travels with her army ready to attack Camelot. Morgana, sensing an opportunity for the throne, offers her help to defeat Arthur, professing that the Pendragons were the cause of her father’s death and for which she wants revenge. (We were not privy to how Morgana found out about the attack or knew of Annis’s husband’s death; we are to assume that the information was passed by Agravaine as he has done in previous weeks). Never being much of a fan of Lindsay Duncan I was fully expecting not to like her character; in general I was fairly indifferent to the character although her part was well acted.

Wracked with guilt and the looming possibility that his men are to die in a war that he has brought upon them, Arthur has a change of heart and proposes to Queen Annis that they instead have a single combat battle. He will hand over half of his land if he loses and she will agree to retreat her army if she is the losing party. Merlin being the dutiful servant of course, follows Arthur concerned, but instead has to be the idiot again to stop the Queen from killing him. Morgana vows to the queen that Arthur will lose the battle, and with the help of Agravaine she enchants his sword.

Imagine the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk or a mythological character in Jason and the Argonauts and you get Arthur’s opponent in the battle; twice the size and looking like he could easily crush the new King, it’s a little hard to think Arthur would have any chance of beating him, but of course this is Merlin! There’s a nice moment when Arthur gives Merlin his ring if he is to die in battle to give to Gwen, and the usual banter and bromance between them when he thinks Merlin is going to cry.

With the predictable help needed from his trusty servant and his magic touch, Arthur yet again is saved. To further prove what a fair guy he is he lets his opponent live, which causes the Queen to grow a new-found respect and admiration for Arthur. This leads her to think that he holds hope for them all, and that Morgana misled her using her grief. Her realisation that Morgana is consumed with bitterness towards Arthur and Uther prompts her “You are more like Uther than you realise” jibe at a seething Morgana. I was surprised that Annis let Morgana off so easily at her failure to deliver on her promise, though. Surely with no battle won and no land gained she would expect Morgana to explain or repay her humiliation?

I’m still unsure what Agravaine gains out of Morgana being Queen; I assume that he has a plan of his own. He certainly seems quite capable of manipulation, and appeared disgruntled that his plan hadn’t worked. Arthur meanwhile returns to a hero’s welcome and waits for his opportunity to make it up to Gwen; to show that he now knows what type of King he wants to be, and no matter how inappropriate, that he wants those he cares about by his side; and kisses her to prove his feelings. Will they get their happy ever after, or will Morgana succeed in taking the throne, and bring darkness upon Camelot?