So, I pretty much agree with lolafeist in that Merlin being menaced = awesome fanfic id button being pushed (everyone is MEAN to your favourite character who is so misunderstood! followed by comfort, which would be in this case ORGIES).
I like that they had a consistent if sometimes-subtle thread throughout of Merlin having total imposter syndrome. Like:
- Arthur's like, "seriously? Merlin is totally incompetent!"
- The Merlin's like, "no really, Gaius, I'm incompetent."
- Then the villagers are like "who the fuck are you? you can't possibly be competent."
- Then Merlin is actually incompetent (unable to help villagers, who are then disappointed)
- Then he can't help strange trauma!girl in the woods
- Then the knights all tell him just how incompetent/useless he is
- Then the Monster of the Week (MOTW) tells him how incompetent he is
- Then he's actually incompetent at saving anyone/himself/killing the monster
THE END. In summary: this whole episode was like being in Merlin's head for one of those anxiety dreams you have where everyone's disappointed in you and you're completely helpless and useless at achieving anything.
Another thing I like: that since Gaius' whole interrogation/prophesising thing, he actually seems to be taking his handling of Merlin's destiny thing to the next level - yes, he's totally resistant to change to the point of making things WORSE, but at least now he's opening his mouth a bit more and indirectly saying a few things to both Merlin and Arthur that kind of acknowledge obliquely the prophesised future and how things are going to change(/how those two will have to adapt to it).
Thing I didn't like: Terrible plot-of-the-week writing. Like, gaping plotholes around the tentacle monster. It freaks out when sorcerers touch it, can't mind control magic users, and easily dies when stabbed in the back (but not the front), can be captured and bound by slavers and bandits (and, like, was that before or after terrorising the villagers??) but OH NOES THOSE WHO CREATED IT CREATED A MONSTER WHO CANNOT BE SUBDUED!
Thing I really did like: that for once, FOR ONCE, someone commented on The Weird Stuff That Happens In Relation To Merlin. i.e. all the times that Merlin miraculously heals, or goes missing, or etc etc etc that is NEVER REFLECTED ON OR ACKNOWLEDGED BY OTHER CHARACTERS, was amazingly in this episode reflected upon and challenged by Gwen. I LOVED that it was her. I want to have more episodes about Gwen and Merlin fighting monsters and rescuing each other and being a dynamic duo, and Gwen being all perceptive and figuring Merlin out and then being all pragmatic about it.
Also I want Gwen's belted poncho thing.
AND HOW CLOSE WERE WE TO A REVEAL? Holy crap, I wanted it so bad. I wanted Arthur to be a moment later, so Merlin uses magic AND BOTH GWEN AND ARTHUR SEE and so Gwen and Arthur form this little conspiracy band of "Merlin's too incompetent to take care of this secret himself" and then there's lots of threesome action and they all become life partners the end.
In the grander scheme of things, I am annoyed by the big character plot holes in Arthur and Merlin's relationship, namely the trust issues. The Agravaine thing is just not working for me, and it's not just that he's a giant skeeve that I get annoyed every time he comes on screen.
It's that in THE SECOND EPISODE OF THE ENTIRE SERIES Merlin, who at that point Arthur doesn't really know or have any respect for, comes to Arthur and says, "hey, this guy is deceiving you and using magic and trying to kill you!" and Arthur says, "Are you telling the truth? Okay then, I trust you" AND, LIKE, WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT?? Why are we still (or back?) at this place where Merlin doesn't even consider the option of confronting Arthur about things/bringing any suspicions/information to Arthur because there's some ephemeral idea that Merlin's word is worth nothing to Arthur? Even when there are episodes where Arthur literally says things like, "I should always listen to you" and "you're the only one I can really trust"? What?
It's along the same vein as why the "I like to hope we would have been friends" line in the pilot episode. Seriously? How many times have they said that already, and how many times have they actually acknowledged that they are friends? This is not still a thing, writers. Please to be progressing based on those foundations, instead of treating them like they're issues that are under question.
Anyway, I complain, but I'm freaking loving the shit out of this season. A lot.
And now that I've finished my merlin_holidays fic, I totally want to get onto all the orgy fics I've been dying to write :D