TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 4, Episode 9 – Lancelot du Lac

Excalibur, the Crystal Cave, the Round Table – all are well-known parts of Arthurian legend. But there’s another infamous element that hasn’t been explored yet until now: Guinevere and Lancelot’s betrayal of Arthur’s trust.

If you don’t focus too closely on certain aspects of the story, this is one of the most emotional performances given by Bradley James, Angel Coulby and Colin Morgan to date.

When Lancelot is brought back from beyond the veil thanks to a gift from Morgause, Gwen must fight the temptation to give in to old feelings before she commits an unspeakable act of betrayal that would destroy Camelot, and Arthur’s heart for good.

Summoned to the King’s chambers, Agravaine is told some news that he’s really not going to like: Arthur has decided to marry Gwen! Surprised as well, Merlin drops everything he’s holding. As is par for the course, Agravaine objects as it’s just not done, that he’s Arthur’s council! Arthur jokes that his uncle has too much stubble, which makes Merlin laugh and anticipates the rest of his uncle’s concerns. Essentially, he tells him that he’s going through with the proposal whether Agravaine likes it or not.

Lo and behold, what does Agravaine do when things aren’t happening according to his and Morgana’s evil plan of evil? He sneaks up on Morgana and almost gets stabbed for his trouble. Her hearing has to be on the fritz because you’d think she would have heard a door creak or his footsteps. But I digress. He tells her of Arthur’s proposal plans – which makes her both fearful and furious as she had a vision of this happening last series.

Infuriated, she states that she will not see her former friend upon the throne that should be hers and begins to plot. The witch wasn’t completely unobservant from her days in Camelot – she remembers that there is only one person that could ruin Arthur’s upcoming nuptials…Lancelot, who’s quite dead on the other side of the veil. Or is he?

Using yet another medallion from Morgause (just how many of these did she leave behind?), Morgana sets out a cave that is home to the Dochraid, a repulsive being who is a creature of the Old Religion. She has a powerful knowledge of the old ways and wishes to see them restored so to keep this newest gift, she tells Morgana where to go and what to do to raise a soul from the dead. The witch sets off to follow instructions and in a pure fanservice moment, Lancelot emerges from the depths of the lake, soaking wet and ready to serve his lady.

We soon find out that “Lancelot” doesn’t remember anything of where he’s been. In fact, Morgana has to “refresh” his memory and tells him of his mission to find and seduce Gwen, making sure she betrays Arthur and thus takes the wedding off the table. I don’t know if Morgana feels true sadness but she feels for what Lancelot used to be.

Meanwhile, Arthur surprises Gwen by blindfolding and taking her to her home, which is covered in candles (fire hazard!). It’s a very romantic setting for what is a pretty unromantic proposal, but that’s Arthur for you – straight to the point! The future Queen is so flabbergasted by the question that she just throws herself into his arms and only says “yes” outright when Arthur is confused on her response. It’s quite cute and Merlin agrees – as he’s eavesdropping from the other room.

A two-day tournament is put on to celebrate the engagement and this is where Lancelot reveals himself, to the shock of Arthur, Gwen and Merlin. The knight returned from the dead regales his King, fellow knights and friends with a concocted story fed to him by Morgana. Everyone believes him but Merlin is suspicious and tests his old friend. Harkening back to when Merlin first met Lancelot, the former offers the knight his bed and goes on to explain that he felt so guilty about what happened on the Isle of the Blessed, that he would have used magic to save him. Lancelot says that life would be easier if they all had magic which confirms Merlin’s suspicions that something is not right with this “Lancelot”.

Gwen, while shocked that Lancelot is back, is not easily moved to act upon her old feelings and is helped along by an enchanted bracelet. It does not create new feels but awakens old ones and prompts the wearer to act upon them regardless of the consequences. Agravaine and Shade-Lancelot set up Gwen to be in the council chambers kissing Lancelot so Arthur will happen upon them. It goes exactly as planned and the rage Arthur has when he sees his fiance and best friend cavorting in secret is scary but you can see his heart breaking into pieces at every clang of his sword.

Only Gwen throwing herself in the way saves Lancelot from death by Arthur’s sword. Her defense of Lancelot only prompts them to be thrown into the dungeons. Agravaine, in a bid to help Morgana get rid of Gwen permanently, focuses on Arthur’s bruised ego and the potential ramifications to his reputation as well as emphasizes that in Uther’s day the punishment for adultery was death. We see the heartbroken King contemplate his decision while Merlin stands watching in silence.

Let me just say that Bradley James and Angel Coulby do an incredible job in the sentencing scene. The heartbreak, confusion, anger and resignation that plays across both their faces is hard to watch (but that’s a good thing in this instance.) We know that as in legend, Arthur does not want to see Gwen dead. But in an effort to both save face and save her life, he banishes her from the kingdom – returning upon pain of death. Interesting to note is that no one except Morgana, Agravaine and Shade-Lancelot know about the bracelet and Gwen did not remember or mention it in her distress. Wonder if that will come back into play somehow later on.

In the following scene where Merlin tries to change his friend’s mind, you can see how much it kills Arthur to do it for he still loves Gwen, but his trust in her has been destroyed. Where this will leave Merlin when it’s his turn to reveal his own secret remains to be seen.

The most disturbing part of this was Morgana’s last directive to Shade-Lancelot; having him commit suicide so she wouldn’t have to deal with him any longer. A sad death (again) for the most noble knight of them all. Arthur doesn’t seem to believe that it is something that Lancelot would do and indeed, the actual Lancelot would have never taken his own life. But regardless, he orders that Lancelot be given an honorable burial.

Merlin is always the one to send people off into the great beyond and in the same tradition as he did with Freya, Lancelot is placed in a funeral ship. But before he’s sent off, Merlin puts his hand on Lancelot’s forehead and whispers a spell; the knight cracks open his eyes and breathes one last breath to say “Thank you” to his friend. Colin Morgan plays this beautifully, as the warlock was able to bring back the real Lancelot for only a moment before he dies again and pushes the boat out, setting it alight.

Overall, the episode was fairly easy to figure out, however the ramifications for the future are what makes this a stand-out. What did you think of the episode? Vote below:

GS Reporter:


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  1. Marion /

    I put ‘I hated it’ because although I thought this episode was pretty well written (within the context of the narrative), acted and directed, I hated the choices that they made in this episode with the plot.

    I hated that Lancelot died, and never to return this time (I hated that he was a shade/Gwen was controlled by a bracelet too, rather than it being a story of a Gwen genuinely torn between two loves.)
    I hate that Gwen was banished, as this show is becoming more and more of a sausage-fest – Gwen is the only well-intentioned female character in this show – the rest are all evil or monsters of the week!

    And I still don’t buy the ‘chemistry’ between Arthur and Gwen. I caught a glimpse of it last week with Gwen saving the day and Arthur being proud – it was the first time I’ve seen some mutual respect between them. Finally some evidence for their love rather than it being shoved in my face that it’s ‘true love’ just because they kiss and flutter their eyes at each other a lot with no actual basis. But it’s still not enough to convince me.

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      Completely agree (and realized my stars were off — meant to give this a 3/5 rather than 4/5!) – the only interesting part of twisting the plot this way is that there may be more of a surprise as to where the story goes. I wish that it was the REAL Lancelot and un-enchanted Guinevere giving into their feelings – not “pod” people as it were. Cheapened their emotions.

      I don’t mind that Gwen was banished – it serves the story but the writers have struggled to write the character as a strong feminine role since Series 1, so maybe they’ll come back with a better written character if/when she returns.

      • Marion /

        Oh that’s true – if Gwen finding her way in the world on her own means she comes back (because she will come back) a stronger, more independent badass character I’m all for it! I hadn’t thought about it like that.

      • Sharlene Mousfar /

        I’ve been very disappointed in how she’s been written thus far; mainly as a love interest and not much else, so here’s hoping Gwen comes back better than before!

  2. kimzyy /

    i loved and at the same time loved this episode……. i hated that ending for gwen and arthur i wished that he would have found out about the spell and he would have forgiven her………… i loved the proposal scene so sweet i just wish that they have lasted……..does anyone know if she is gone for good or is she returning??

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      I found it interesting that no one knows about the enchanted bracelet — we’ll see what happens if/when she returns.

  3. Zane /

    What Marion said. The episode could have been powerful and emotionally impacting if Lancelot and Gwen were acting on their own conflicting feelings, NOT on enchantments. This was it was just a fake replica of the epic love story of the legends AND the previous seasons without holding any real tension but for Arthur.

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      Definitely could have been more impactful if it was the true Gwen & Lancelot acting of their own volition – agree with you 100% there.

  4. Sarah /

    I don’t understand how the basic outline of the legend is supposed to play out now, if Lancelot is dead for good.

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      I hope Lancelot’s not dead for good – but it seems like it for now unless Merlin somehow manages to master the art of necromancy properly.

      I guess the point of this particular “twist” to the legend is that we don’t really know how this will play out later on in this series or the next, if they revisit it at all.

      • Marion /

        Well, he did manage to bring the real Lancelot back, if only momentarily so the possibility has been raised. It doubt it though – I think this episode is the be all and end all of how they’re incorporating that part of the legend into the show.

      • Sharlene Mousfar /

        Exactly – I wonder if he had managed to figure out the spell after Gwen & Lancelot got caught and before he could use it to bring Lancelot back fully, he’d already committed suicide.

  5. archaeologistD /

    Pretty much hated it. To cheapen Gwen and Lance like that just ticked me off no end. I loved Bradley’s acting in this one, especially the scene when he sends her away but still, ugh. It would have been much better if Gwen hadn’t been enchanted but had a real quandry about her feelings. I don’t know why the cast and crew seemed to like it so much. Definitely one I’m not likely to watch again.

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      I think it was beautifully shot and the cast/crew have different perspectives than we do as the viewer, so it’s possible their own experience in creating the episode has an effect on how much they liked it.

      Like I’ve said above, wish Gwen & Lance were in their right minds when this happened – would’ve been even more gut-wrenching to watch.

      • archaeologistD /

        Having put a little time and distance between my initial reaction and a re-watch (because I couldn’t believe it was that bad), I’ve calmed down quite a bit and appreciated even more the great acting by Bradley, Angel and Colin. Really stellar work. I still think the past love between Gwen and Lancelot was cheapened by the enchantment, real emotions would have been even better and as you said gut-wrenching, but within the context of the plot, it did work well, and made a kind of sense.

        I wish that they hadn’t had Merlin reawaken Lancelot at the end (that would have given them wiggle room to say that it wasn’t Lance at all but a shadow of the real Lance and bring the real one back later on) but if they aren’t bringing Lance back, then it was good that Merlin had a chance to say goodbye.

        Anyway, I liked it a lot better the second time I watched it.

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  7. adrienne /

    I agree with Marion and ArchaeologistD. There could have been so much more depth if this story arc had been done well.

    The acting by Bradley James and Angel Colby in the sentencing scene was outstanding.

    In the scene with Merlin and Arthur, where Arthur is explaining to Merlin that he can never trust Gwen again harkens back to the overall theme of this series so far…..Trust. How will Arthur react at the reveal. I believe that is one story line they’ve done very well this series.

    Thanks for the review. As always, enjoy your comments.

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      They’ve definitely built up the issues of betrayal and trust when it comes to the people closest to Arthur. It will be an explosive episode – one that I eagerly anticipate as Bradley has only gotten better and better this series.

  8. Marla /

    So, during the engagement scene, no one else was waiting for the cottage to just go up in flames?

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      HA! You weren’t the only one waiting – I was!

  9. chimex d excellent /

    what a breath taking episode

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      It was really those last few scenes that made it.

  10. godannotook /

    Oh yes, may I agree with your review completely, and with the comments by Marion, ArchaeologistD, Adrienne, Zane – I did love the sheer brilliance of this episode the acting was wonderful, especially the Arthur /Gwen banishment scene, this whole episode was so beautiful, it was captivating and devastating and you could drown in it ……..But……..

    But – the story twist of -“it’s not really Lancelot and it’s not really Gwen – Morgana made them do it”
    trivialises the complexity and depth of the Love Triangle, and that is a shameful loss, as it should have been about their real emotions, not just yet another layer of Morgana’s cruelty and spite.

    The all pervading sadness of the ending – and that significant scene with Merlin and Arthur about Trust is surely paving the way for the Magic Reveal and it’s aftermath, and I wonder if series 4 will end on that devastating blow to Merlin and Arthur’s friendship ?

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      I’m definitely with you there and the last scene between Arthur & Merlin is definitely paving the way for the reveal when it happens. It’s going to be explosive.

  11. anyusa0030 /

    i hated it ,i hated it,can i say that enough.this ep would have been briliant,if they only took out the magic made them do it angle.all obstacles to this couple are always manufactured this was a chance for them to face something real and deal with and overcome it,what better way to convice me of the strength of their love than doing that.the first time lancelot/gwen and arthur thing was dealt with ,lancelot left did not even say good bye,he just made the discision for gwen,’arthur as feelings for you i will not stand in the way be with him’gwen ability to make her choice was taken from her because the choice was made for her, this time around her free will is taken from her again .why is a character with such potential as gwen always being used as a puppet.yess there was lots of tears but i feel nothing because i know its all based on alie.

    • ladyleslie /

      I totally agree with your summation. The latter episodes have characterized Gwen as weak and very excepting of whatever is thrown her way, especially where Arthur is concerned. It was her very strength and determination that drew his attention to her in the first place. This episode has totally thrown her to the Wolves. I find it odd that Merlin did not discern some sort of magic at work here. He certainly came to that conclusion rather rapidly when Arthur was enchanted with those feelings of love for Vivian in “Sweet Dreams”. Once Gwen understood what was at stake, per Merlin, she took things very aggressively into her own hands, and as a result delivered Arthur from what potentially could have been a death sentence. She never had a problem putting words to how she felt about any crappy situation she was presented with. I pray the writers will allow her to return totally rejuvenated and able to tell Arthur what he can do with his apology when he comes to the conclusion, he has made a terrible mistake in judging her so quickly. His love and appreciation for who she really is should have warned him immediately that something was totally amiss. I suppose in the end they had to deal with the Lancelot situation, but why why oh why this way. I truly hated this episode.

  12. I’m actually going to disagree with most of the people here, the fact that gwen and lancelot betrayed atrhur but they didn’t really because they where enchanted I found to be a clever plot twist. Because all the way through the other series so far I’ve been thinking why would gwen EVER have an affair with lancelot after all this love she’s shown arthur for years. and no one knowing that the two of them were enchanted explains how the legend that gwen betrayed athur came to be told in that way…
    But I am sick of the way the writers on merlin take such baby steps with each episode (this one excluded)- I’d always thought that someone by this point in merlin series 4 would know he had magic. and also merlin knows where morgana’s cottage thing is now since the episode where he destroyed that snake thing so why doesn’t he just tell arthur go down there with some knights of something- I mean they all know morganas evil now. seriously this whole series has been filled with plot holes to the point where I don’t even feel like watching it that much.

  13. Auria /

    For the first in the whole Merlin series I hated an episode. Not because it was badly done or anything, quite the contrary, and I loved the final scene between Arthur and Gwen. The reason hated it is because since Merlin began I was so looking forward to the whole Gwen-Arthur-Lancelot love triangle plot. To squeeze the whole climaz of this story into one episode is such a disappointment. Also, I cannot understand why the writers decided to kill off one of the major characters of the Arthurian legend – i.e. Lancelot. This whole ‘zombie’ plot just crushed the anticipation of the story, cheapened the emotion between Gwen and Lancelot, and wasted the countless opportunities to work along this theme over the series, which the writers could have played across at least two or three episodes. Shame.

  14. dis /

    I’m sad to say I found this was one of the weakest episodes of Merlin to date. The directing was good and so were the acting and editing, but the writing behind it was so very simplistic. Real feelings or moral dilemmas were never involved. And I suppose real emotions and doubts would be things people could relate to as opposed to magical tricks that pave the way for a complete absence of conflict in the show’s main couple.

    Gwen never has doubts, never second guesses herself, never makes mistakes ever. She’s not even allowed to feel relieved Lancelot didn’t die after all. (She said something to the effect of thanks to your death I’m getting married.) All the main characters seemed angry he’d come back. And we know they don’t know, but for Merlin later, that Lancelot was literally a dead man walking.

    In short, very shallow story-telling. When they used the same device in series 1, it felt much more light-hearted and the show itself wasn’t taking itself too serioulsy. Now it sells itself as much more adult and mature but all I saw in this episode was the semblance of depth, but no moral issue.

    Also what a horrible exit for Lancelot. I still remember fondly the character from series 1. What they did to him here was truly too much. Killing him twice and depriving him of all his honour!

  15. Pnina Lee /

    I actually agree with the ones who hated it and the ones (one who loved it – mixed feelings. But now I worry that after they killed Lancelot for good (probably) the whe next will be Gwen!

  16. annmarie /

    The best Merlin episode by far, so I disagree with most on here. Yes, it was depressing but the actors were totally brilliant, especially Bradley and Angel. Their scene at the end was so heartbreaking. I also LOVED the fact that the writers DID not follow alot of the other re tellings of the legend and chose to use the twist of enchantment. There are so many re tellings yet I haven’t watched one using them under a spell, so well done! This had to be one of the most talked about episodes of series 4 and the highest rated too. I understand when people said they hated it because I hated being so upset but could appreciate how emotional it made me feel.

  17. Jeff Hill /

    I’ve read all the original King Author tales and I like the way the Author/Gwen/Lancelot was handled. To me the series has already addressed the love triangle way more than the books did and I agree with Beck in that with all the love her and Author have been showing each other it didn’t make much sense to have her willingly betraying Author on her own. She had pretty much already acknowledged ealier that she would always have feelings for Lancelot but it was Author who she truly loved. I do hope they address next season the fact that she was actualy enchanted and Lancelot wasn’t truly himself(surprised that Merlin hasn’t made that known yet).

  18. I was dissapointed with this episode, and some of the previous episodes before it; The season is not leading up to the important points of the story, like Arthur learning Merlin has magic, or permitting magic to be used in Camelot. The episodes in this season have been so random, like the one about some girl turning into a serpent monster and preying on a village (far away from Camelot) and the knights and Merlin trying to fight it off; it didn’t prolong the story of how Merlin and Arthur allow magic into the kingdom and everything is more peaceful for it.

    If anything the episodes are constantly reinforcing why magic should not be allowed in the kingdom. Arthur hasn’t seen many instances of good magic so no wonder Merlin might not be revealing his powers to Arthur anytime soon. As for this episode, it was a complete cop out. I hated the zombie lancelot who couldn’t remember anything about his former life. It was stupid to bring this storyline up on a love triangle that has since been done away with: Guinevere had feelings for him, but decided for Arthur when Arthur began to show interest and commitment in her, then Lancelot dies. End of story.

    The episode’s contrivance (zombie Lancelot, enchanted Gwen) made the Guinevere and Lancelot aspect of the love triangle bloodless (and passionless), that is if anyone was rooting for it. The “affair” was intiated solely on the part of an enchanted Guinevere. Lancelot felt nothing, only doing what Morgana asked him to do. If viewers wanted the arthurian love triangle, why would they want it like this? I personally liked how it was hinted at, but not executed. Its true, the real arthurian love triangle didn’t exist until later versions, and it wasn’t as beautiful and epic as people believe. When Guinevere slept with Lancelot, she felt awful, realizing she didn’t care she oenough for the man like she thought she had, because nly passioned and lusted for him (not loved), passion that she didn’t feel with Arthur.

    After the affair she felt so guilty that she joined a nunnery. In the arthurian legend also, Although Lancelot was noble as a knight and everything that had to do with chivalry, Lancelot was known for sleeping around; he slept with the Lady of Shallot, if anyone remembers that part of the legend. So I don’t know why they would choose to go this route. Another thing that bothered me about this episode is that when Merlin is not in his right mind or is acting out of the ordinary, he is vindicated because Gauis amd Gwen just know that he MUST be under an enchantment.

    The same thing happend with other characters before, but when Guinvere was acting out of the ordinanry, no one gives her the same consideration? They backed themselves in a corner as far as the repairment of Arthur and Gwen’s relationship. It’s going to be hard for Arthur to trust Guinevere again since he said he doesn’t see himself in the position to do that. They might make up another plot contrivance to get them back together.

  19. Brianna /

    This is one of my favorite Merlin episodes; although, I can’t watch it often because the confrontation between Arthur and Guinevere after the ‘betrayal’ always punches me in the gut. There are easily a dozen creative takes (if not more) on the Arthurian legend. I am not sure why people can’t seem to enjoy this one without dragging in other works. The basic elements are here, and it is refreshing to see a new spin on this old story. It has been obvious from the beginning that Arthur and Guinevere’s love was going to be epic. Lancelot was merely a passing fancy, and I never had the impression that Guinevere was deeply in love with him nor did I want her to be. I think Arthur fell in love with Guinevere the first time he kissed her. Guinevere knew she was in love with Arthur by Sweet Dreams and she never wavered in her affection for him. Her character would have been cheapened if she had taken up with Lancelot without an enchantment. I am very pleased with ‘Merlin’s’ treatment of the legend, especially were Arthur and Gwen are concerned. As a fan of the Arthurian legend since I was a kid, I can truthfully say this is outcome I’ve always wanted for King Arthur and his beloved Guinevere.

  20. yuta /

    Does Gwen come back in later episodes in season 4?

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      She does indeed 🙂

      • yuta /

        Thanks! I just tarted watching! On season4 now! Addicted!! Like anything!

      • Sharlene Mousfar /

        That’s so great! And it really is completely addicting 🙂 At the rate you seem to be going, you should be all caught up by the time series 5 premieres in the fall!

  21. yuta /

    Lol! I wouldn’t have been at this rate unless i had hols! My company joining is not till December! I am watching everything i can! 🙂 About the series, I really feel Arthur should start trusting Merlin every time he has something concrete to say! Its like so annoying at times! I mean Merlin has saved him so many times!

    • Sharlene Mousfar /

      Yeah – that’s one of the big issues a lot of folks have with the series, not enough recognition for all Merlin does which then trickles down to Arthur not trusting Merlin enough because he doesn’t know what he does for him! Vicious cycle. Glad you are enjoying the series regardless.

      • yuta /

        🙂 Thanks a lot for replying! 🙂

      • Sharlene Mousfar /

        No thanks necessary – happy to chat about one of my favorite shows 🙂

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