TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 4, Episode 11 – The Hunter’s Heart

Tonight was the setup episode for the 2-part finale coming in the next couple of weeks. It was nice to see Arthur excited and nervous about someone but still turning to Merlin for advice; enjoyed Janet Montgomery’s Princess Mithian and wished they had brought her on board ages ago.

Mostly, we see the alliance form between Morgana and warlord Helios (Terence Maynard), the latter has the hots for Guinevere, meanwhile Arthur is trying to move on by making a strategic partnership to avoid war even if his heart isn’t sure about it. There’s not a lot of action outside the hunt but it’s an enjoyable episode nevertheless.

On one hand, you’ve got Gwen who’s been living and working in some no-name village for months after being banished. Shoveling muck and hay, we see her playing with the ring on her necklace as bandits appear. She hides and tries to escape but gets caught by the warlord, Helios. He chillingly states that there’s still pleasure to be had there as he stares at Gwen.

We later see Gwen dressed like a courtesan as Helios makes small-talk. We know what he really wants from her and it’s not conversation. While he’s trying to get Gwen to open up, a guard interrupts with news that Morgana is waiting to speak with him and a shocked Gwen hides her face as the former friends pass each other in the hall. Morgana and Helios argue about how ready his army is to take over Camelot. He implies that she could stay the night and she implies that he can indulge all he wants when she’s queen. Cue my raised eyebrow – isn’t this a family show?

Gwen is not good at being sneaky while eavesdropping as she makes some noise and has to run. Morgana discovers that the servant is Gwen by her old clothes. Helios & Morgana try to hunt her down but she hides in the river so they lose her trail until she snaps a twig while running. The witch catches up to her prey and decides to play with her food. She renders her former maidservant unconscious, tosses her necklace aside and transforms Gwen into a deer. Wished that their confrontation would’ve been more dramatic as it was a bit of a let down.

On the other, Merlin is blabbering non-stop to Arthur before they enter the council chambers, where the king announces he’s been in secret negotiations with a neighboring kingdom over the disputed lands of Gedref – home of labyrinths and daggers. They have reached an agreement to avoid war and part of the deal is that he’s getting hitched to the Princess Mithian, ruler of Nemeth. Cue a surprised and unhappy Merlin who needs to have Gaius remind him to smile and clap as to not give his true feelings away. When Merlin confronts Arthur about why he didn’t confide in him and implies that he still loves Gwen, Arthur threatens Merlin with exile.

Princess Mithian finally arrives with her knights and anticipating the worst, Arthur (adorned with the Burger King crown) is gobsmacked by her beauty when she lifts the veil from her face. She gives him a back-handed compliment by saying he’s much more handsome in person than she’s heard. Slightly speechless and unsure of how to react, the King stutters out that feast will be held in honor of their neighboring friends.

Meanwhile, Agravaine is on another mission to do something nefarious for Morgana to regain control of Camelot. This time, he kills an innocent boy who refuses to help him. When he arrives at Morgana’s hut, she threatens him with death for not bringing her the maps of Camelot’s siege tunnels and forces him to do the deed himself. He plants the body of the boy outside the gates with a faked note, ensuring that he causes a distraction and that Arthur thinks another kingdom is at fault. Agravaine is able to steal the maps and with Morgana’s handy photocopying spell, she has what she needs to infiltrate the citadel.

Merlin tries a few times to embarrass Arthur in front of Mithian but she finds his “faults” cute. Arthur becomes flustered and just a bit smitten when he finds that the princess loves hunting as much as he does. He’s also not a smooth operator and awkwardly asks her to breakfast, a picnic – it’s adorable to see Arthur like this! It’s also refreshing to see that Mithian honestly tries to befriend Merlin and recognizes his importance in Arthur’s life. Makes it harder for Merlin not to like her out of loyalty to Gwen.

All of this leads up to the hunt. Morgana is betting that Arthur will kill Guinedeer without knowing it’s really his former fiancé. Merlin is the only one who sees that it’s Gwen trapped in the deer’s body and seeing her reflection confirms it. He makes Arthur’s crossbow miss her but Mithian’s arrow strikes true. The hurt Guinedeer stumbles off and while searching for her trail, Arthur finds the ring he gave Gwen – which completely throws him for a loop. Mithian doesn’t know what’s going on as she tries to get his attention and appears confused when Arthur abruptly calls off the search for the deer.

At nightfall, Merlin searches for Gwen, calling her name over and over. She’s unconscious as Merlin uses magic to heal her. In the morning, Merlin and Gwen hug and she tells him of Morgana’s plans but refuses to go with him to tell Arthur after her betrayal. A short while later, Merlin bursts into Arthur’s room, telling the brooding king that his sneaky uncle is the one who stole the plans but we know they were returned so Merlin will be proved wrong once more. At least Arthur is willing to check! Merlin tries to explain himself but Arthur will hear none of it, threatening to exile Merlin again. It seems that when Merlin hits on something Arthur knows is the truth, he doesn’t want to hear it so he threatens Merlin to get away.

In his chambers, Arthur is forlorn, asking Merlin what he needs to do with a lost, pained expression on his face. Bradley has been spot on these past few episodes and this scene is brilliantly played by Colin Morgan as well. Merlin says he doesn’t know but knows that Gwen would do anything for him and Camelot and that in his heart, he knows what he needs to do. This scene made me realize how often Merlin has called Arthur “sire” and “my lord” throughout the episode; its meant to create distance in this instance but it still jarred me. For once, Arthur thanks Merlin as he walks away.

Princess Mithian prepares to leave for home, insulted that Arthur is ending their arrangement. But to ensure they do not go to war, he gives up Camelot’s ancient claims on Gedref explaining that he his kingship and kingdom are worth nothing without the one he loves most. Again, the writers are inconsistent with Arthur’s dedication to Camelot; we know he wouldn’t give up his kingdom for anyone yet every now and then, he flip-flops to say that he’d essentially give up his kingdom for love.

Arthur asks Merlin if he’s a fool for loving someone who’s betrayed him but Merlin assures him the he and Gwen will find each other once more – he’s the once and future king after all. When Arthur wonders if Merlin was always this wise or if he’s a fool, Merlin kicks over a chamberpot, confirming to Arthur that he never had any doubt about Merlin being well, a clumsy idiot, even when he doesn’t really mean it.

The preview for the Part 1 of “The Sword in the Stone” looks action-packed and I hope it lives up to what has been an incredible series thus far.

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  1. godannotook /

    A very good episode – hard not to totally love it ….but there was that inconsistency in the way the writers change Arthur’s duty to Camelot and “the people” – all those nameless faceless ones who actually totally depend on him for their lives. I agree with you about all those “sires” and “my lords” from Merlin jarring indeed and inconsistent with their past shared history, but wonderful that Merlin was able to reach Arthur, and that he did it simply by talking to him then letting Arthur reach his own decision, clearly indicating Merlin’s future wise advisor role.

    And it was a wonderful set up for the series finale – I’ve a feeling that this year is going to be extra special

  2. SnazzyO /

    I loved the episode. Arthur’s pain was so evident and I’m glad he’s started to trust his own heart.

  3. chimex d excellent /

    that was a nice one

  4. I totally loved the scene of Merlin in the woods recognizing the deer as being Gwen. That was beautiful filmed focusing on Merlin’s face and eye and Colin did a fantastic work portraying Merlin’s surprise and choc when he saw her. Colin Morgan prooves again and again what an amazing actor he is. This episode was great.

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