Love potions can never conquer true love, yet a crown can crush it with its cruel weight
With royal emissaries visiting Camelot for a momentous peace conference, meddlesome trickery was afoot to ensure that the peace talks failed and war would result. Fortunately for all, trickery is but an illusion that can be pierced by true love. King Alined’s (David Schofield) evil plot to have Prince Arthur (Bradley James) and Lady Vivian (Georgia Moffett) fall in love to invoke her father King Olaf’s (Mark Lewis Jones) deadly wrath was for naught. Arthur was able to withstand both King Olaf’s attack during the tourney and the magical effects of the love potion after Gwen (Angel Coulby) came to his rescue and kissed him. For true love’s kiss reminded him of who he was and who he truly loved.
Yet for all the humorous shenanigans and misunderstandings that were portrayed, underneath it all, two hearts were toyed with, tortured and broken all over again. While King Alined and the Trickler (Kevin Eldon) had no idea that Arthur’s heart already belonged to another, they certainly unleashed undue pain on Arthur and Gwen. But perhaps it was for the best. Both Arthur and Gwen were fooling themselves by trying to deny their feelings for each other. It was time for them to acknowledge the depths of their love and face the reality of the impossibility of it. Camelot will one day be a glorious kingdom of freedom, peace and equality, but only once Arthur assumes the mantle of king and strikes down the law and rules restraining the kingdom. Only then will he and Gwen be free to declare their love openly and become the beloved rulers of lore.
With a delightful performance provided by Georgia Moffett as Lady Vivian, this episode glistened with more humor and emotion than expected. Her radiant beauty made it believable that Arthur could fall in love with her, despite her outrageous remarks and barbed insults. But the glint in her eye made one suspect that Georgia was having entirely too much fun and was laughing the entire time as she played the deliciously silly Lady Vivian. Aided by a fine performance by Mark Lewis Jones playing King Olaf, her over-protective father, they made a great pair. They brought a level of humanity to two characters that may have simply been portrayed as sad and laughable. Instead, we empathized with them and wished that they would return at a future date.
Turning away from evil subplots and charming guest-stars, at the core of this episode was the agony suffered by Arthur and Guinevere. Both Bradley James and Angel Coulby rose to the occasion and mesmerized us with their star-crossed love affair. Building upon the tenuous foundation of forbidden love, we were allowed to see the next level of their relationship evolve. Previously only Gwen and Arthur dared to acknowledge their budding romance, but were quick to deny it. Merlin (Colin Morgan) had tripped across it when Arthur dared to rescue Gwen when she was captured, only to find her half in love with another man. Yet with Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) long-gone, only Arthur’s impending title stands between them. This was clearly demonstrated when Arthur and Gwen shared a moment outside Lady Vivian’s chamber after she had just insulted Gwen. As Arthur took the time to wish Gwen good luck, the look between them spoke of longing and forbidden love — so much so that it was nearly palpable. Their faces reflected a deep sadness at the reality they found themselves trapped in: in love, yet unable to be together.
So imagine Gwen’s surprise and delight to return home and find flowers and a note awaiting her, which read, “The barriers that keep us apart are nothing compared to the power of true love.” Astounded at this bold declaration, Gwen later told Merlin, “I’m having a very surprising day . . . you know how there’s occasions when you’ve lost all hope and then out of the blue something happens to restore your faith? . . . Well, that’s what happened to me today.” While Merlin may have not known at that time that Arthur was enchanted, he knew Arthur’s heart and mistakenly delivered flowers and the note to Gwen. Yet it was this simple gesture that restored Gwen’s faith in her love for Arthur.
Thus, later when Gwen runs into Arthur and he morosely said, “I made a fool of myself… I have made a gesture that was not well received,” Gwen merely smiled and replied, “Then you are wrong. . . Your token was much appreciated. But the situation is delicate and it is not always easy to express what is really in one’s heart.” Scarcely daring to believe Arthur asked, “You think there’s hope?” and Gwen reassured him, “There is always hope.” While Arthur was enchanted and not speaking of his feelings for Gwen at that time, they may have just as easily been speaking of themselves.
However, because Arthur was enchanted, he found himself in an awful predicament, challenged to a fight to the death by Lady Vivian’s father. Naively under the love potion’s spell, he boldly declared, “Nothing can hurt me today. Love really can conquer all!” But after two brutal rounds and fearing that Arthur was about to be killed, Merlin turned to the Dragon (John Hurt) to find out how to nullify the potion. It was the Dragon who informed him, “The spell has captured his heart. . . There is no magic that can break this enchantment. . . You must find the person Arthur truly loves. . . One kiss from her will break the enchantment.”
Thus, in a frenzied rush to save Arthur, Merlin beseeched Gwen, “None of [Arthur's] feelings for Vivian are real, but if you do not break the spell his death will be. Search your heart. You know who he loves.” With not a moment to lose, Gwen risked everything to rush into Arthur’s tent and kiss him. Awaked from his enchantment, Arthur nearly buckled under the pain of his injuries. Startled to find Gwen there, he cautiously asked, “What am I doing?” and Gwen breathlessly replied, “You’re in a fight to the death. You’re losing. . . There’s no time to explain. Just live for me, Arthur. That’s all I ask right now.”
So as Arthur took the field to resume the tourney, he understood only one thing, he was fighting to the death and he loved Gwen. So when he told Merlin, “If anything should happen to me, look after Gwen. The world may think of her as just a servant, dispensable – but she’s not dispensable to me,” it was a brave and bold declaration of his feelings. He was no longer denying to himself or to Merlin his love for Gwen. If he were to face death, his last thoughts would be of her.
Yet, luck was with Arthur and when he gained the strategic advantage, he chose diplomacy over death and offered his hand to King Olaf. As the crowd cheered, it was only Gwen’s look of love and approval that Arthur needed. As Arthur nodded his head silently acknowledging his love in return it was the first open gesture of his feelings and admiration for Gwen. Arthur has indeed become a man worthy of the crown of Camelot.
Yet the barriers to their love still remain. When Arthur chose to deliver a note declaring his love to Gwen in person this time, he apologized to her saying, “I’m sorry for what I put you through.” Gwen hastened to assure him, “No, you have nothing to apologize for. I too have caused my fair share of hurt.” It was a nice gesture on her part acknowledging the pain that she put Arthur through when she allowed herself to fall in love with Lancelot. Arthur still tried to reassure her, “You must believe my feelings for Vivian were not real. I never loved another.” Yet still exhibiting wisdom beyond her years, Gwen sadly replied, “One day you will. One day you will find your real princess. One day you will be king of Camelot. I cannot be your queen.” Shaking his head trying to deny this harsh reality, Arthur said, “You don’t know that” and Gwen whispered in return, “I am as sure of that as you are.” Arthur still wishing for a future of his own making said, “Things may change.” But Gwen, not swayed by his delusions of a future that is not yet possible, replied, “Well, until they do” and curtsied good-bye. As she kept her head bowed and eyes lowered, Arthur resignedly left and only then did Gwen raise her head with the pain of acceptance of a love that cannot be etched across her face.
It was an episode of love and folly, yet in the end, we only felt the pain of love lost. Is it fair that fate toys with the affections of lovers star-crossed for all time? Or is it fate testing the strength of that love and daring lovers to rise up and declare their love no matter what the consequences? Until Arthur and Gwen make that choice, they will continue to suffer in their silence. Only love worth dying for is worth living for. They must choose to embrace their love, declare it and defy fate. That is when they will get their happily ever after....