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Hee! Thanks! My reviews are always willing to marry for comment-love and recs! (Seriously, it is thrilling to know anyone is reading these when I post them weeks after the episode airs!)

And there are so many things to squee about in this episode. I do adore Gwaine, and the way he deals with his class privilege is part of it. I also adored all his interactions with the OT3.

Re the mystery, watch the boot-cleaning scene again. When Gwaine says his father treated his servants well, there's a moment where Merlin reacts, because based on their conversation the night before Gwaine didn't know his father. Gwaine's response is pretty clearly a dodge, and he quickly changes the subject to Merlin's father. I think there's more to the story.

I also think costuming Gwaine with just a pendant, or just a ring on a chain, could have been purely visual, but giving him both implies that there's a story attached to at the very least the ring. And I think the camera works hard to draw attention to those props--that's the reason for Gwaine's many shirtless and open-collar scenes.

(Well, okay, that's part of the reason. But beefcake and plot can go together!)

Did you know that in many versions Gawain is Morgause's son? Not that I think Merlin will go that route, but I couldn't help thinking how awesome it would be!

YAY! Gawain is my FAVORITE Round Table knight, so I love the backstory you've included that gives me more insight into him as a meta character. I was so pleased with how he was presented on the show and I basically love him forever. <3

I really appreciate what you said about Arthur v Gwaine and their approaches to standing up for people. It speaks to Arthur's sense of noblesse oblige that you keep mentioning and how that isn't so much about treating people equally as patronizing them. I don't really fault him for that because he's shown himself to be genuinely open to the viewpoints and opinions of the less privileged characters in a way characters like Morgana haven't (which has helped to facilitate the the progression of his relationships with Merlin and Gwen when both of them started out more comfortable opening up to each other than to him). So... he's still a standup dude, is what I'm trying to say, but his approach is so steeped in the system that privileges him.

ALSO, omg I love how self-possessed Gwen's become, more than I can possibly say. I watched that flirting scene so many times and I love the easy friendship they settled into - and Merlin/Gwaine as well, was just delightful. I have to say, despite the clunky parallels you brought up, I prefer Gwaine to Lancelot in pretty much all the relationships and situations involved. XP

Yes, Gawain is also my favorite, as is probably obvious from this (though I often have a soft spot for Kay, depending on the version), and I do love it when he's characterized in positive or complex-yet-positive ways. And of course I LOVE to talk about the different versions!

So... he's still a standup dude, is what I'm trying to say, but his approach is so steeped in the system that privileges him.

This is exactly what I was trying to say, more succinctly! I love Arthur's noble moments, and I completely understand all the advantages it gives story-telling structure; I just want us to remember this is a problematic approach in the real world.

To be fair, the problems with Arthur's approach are intrinsic to his role--he's a future king, not a future democratically-elected leader, and he'll eventually do the right thing by giving the right orders to the people, rather than giving them power themselves. But the conservative and unsatisfying "change the leader, not the system" approach made me surprised and excited to see Gwaine espouse a different way of dealing with one's privilege.

Re Gwen, I KNOW! The way she traps Gwaine into having to give up by saying that she likes that he knows when to give up is just perfect! (I too have re-watched that scene, almost as many times as the one when Gwen wakes up in her nightgown ready to get medieval on someone's ass.)

And I completely agree about Gwaine v. Lancelot--but then, I often dislike/am bored by Lancelot, so some of that is my prejudice. It takes a really compelling actor (and often a name-change and very specific characterization) to keep Lancelot from being dull. Here's hoping having Gwaine in the group will change dynamics when Lance returns--if what we've seen is anything to go on, Gwaine should pick up on Lance's feelings for Gwen (and maybe even that he knows something about Merlin) pretty quickly.

Yes, eee, I agree with this!

Gwaine, in contrast, forever won my heart when he interrupts the two fake knights’ attack on Merlin and asks Merlin if he’s alright. A genuinely terrified Merlin clearly answers “No.” In his moment of intervention, Gwaine, by asking for Merlin’s read of the situation and permission to intervene, is re-establishing the idea that has been violated—that Merlin’s basic worth as a human being is equal to those of his tormenters.

Yes, absolutely - for quite a small scene I found it really affecting.

Me too! It totally gave me a lump in my throat. Partly because of Colin's acting--he plays Merlin so scared and so convinced he won't be listened to, that he can only hoarsely whisper no--but it's just a knock-out scene. YAY Gwaine!

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Yes, I know! He would make a good friend. Of course, you'd always get stuck with the bar tab, but hey....

Glad you enjoyed the background. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is actually a lot more fun when you can see how the poet is teasing the audience with all the things they know about the different versions of Gawain--hey, he'd the perfect knight! he'll do x! no, he's a total player! he'll do y!--and it really works well with its themes of moral ambiguity.

Just loving your reviews – loving the knowledge you bring to them and the insights you have.

*rolls around in this post*

I am at my sister's, but I will probably have moar to say later because I am the giantest Orkney fangirl.

I will very much look forward to hearing what you have to say!

well to be perfectly honest most of it is "SQUEEEEEE".

But yes, Gawain is awesome because he's just been in the folkloric stewpot so long that he's acquired all sorts of interesting flavors. (Lancelot still tastes strongly of Mary Sue.)

Also God help me, this sounds like the episode that might make me actually watch this damn show (which so far even Alexander Siddig being hilariously ev0l has not achieved), because WHY HELLO THERE all my narrative kinks!

Well, except for the one about Family Ties of Steel, which is the one that made me a giant Orkney fangirl in the first place. But, you know.

*wavyhands* GAWAIN ANALOGUE. Being ACTUALLY AWESOME AND GAWAIN-LIKE. And GWEN. omg.

Gawain is awesome because he's just been in the folkloric stewpot so long that he's acquired all sorts of interesting flavors.

Very well put! I do adore Gawain. (Re Lancelot, I'm not quite sure what the problem is, because he seems like a character who's actually gotten less interesting over the ages.)

Re Merlin, there is actually a fair amount of Family Ties of Steel, in an odd way. On the one hand, they have made far fewer characters related to each other (and made the except nature of those relations mysterious until recently; hence the roundup of theories I did a while back). On the other, from the very beginning, there's been a lot of extreme familial devotion, usually parent/child, but also sibling/sibling. Even some of the cheesiest one-dimensional villains in the first season were motivated by filial or family love, and all of the main cast have strong family bonds.

(I am still holding out hope that Gwaine might be related to someone we know, though it seems unlikely.)

Oh how did I miss this? :D

But I'm glad I found it. As usual, I love your thoughtful reviews and I love how Gwaine is being written in the show.

His actions help spare Gwaine’s life in the moment, but do nothing to erode the larger system of social inequity which has put it at risk in the first place.

This is so true. Arthur, at the end of the day, as lovely as he can be to Gwen and to Merlin (sometimes), is still hung up on his father's ideals. But then again, Arthur is going to be king in a autocratic system.

I loved how Gwen stopped Gwaine's flirting when it was obvious just ignoring him wasn't going to do it and I loved their little chat at the end. As you said, it's nice to see others acknowledge her attractiveness.

This is another good post. Out of curiosity, which version/edition of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' would you recommend? I've toyed with the idea of getting it before, but I never did get around to it, mainly because of an unwillingness to spend money on such a small piece. It's fairly cheap though, so I guess it's not too big a deal.

Also, what are your thoughts on the recent appearance of Gawain in the latest episode, and how does it figure into your sentiments here? I suppose there isn't much 'meat' to analyse, but I found it interesting to note the completely different dynamic between Merlin - Gawain and Merlin - Arthur. Gawain really does treat Merlin as a genuine friend, with great warmth, but Arthur is still doing the sort of 'arms length' routine that he did throughout season one and season two. A bit disappointing, that...although Arthur's sarcasm and bullying has its own distinctive appeal, I suppose.

I am a big fan of the Casey Finch facing-page translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but offer the caveat that I'd only recommend it if you really want the Middle English. I think Finch has a great ear for the poetry, but he also has a gender bias, and in spots his take on the nameless lady's conversations with Gawain are easier on Gawain than the original medieval poet, who plays up the moral ambiguity.

Finch's translation occurs in The Complete Works of the Pearl Poet, so it has the other four works by the same anonymous poet (the argument that one man wrote all five is really strong) and an excellent Middle English glossary. Pearl, of course, is another masterpiece, like SGGK one of the greatest works of Middle English, and well worth reading. The other three not so much. (Seriously, St Erkenwald is not the finest piece of poetry the Middle Ages produced.)

If you don't want to read the Middle English (or at least use it as a check on the translation), then definitely get the Marie Boroff version. She's a more accurate translator than Finch, and her take on the poetry is great. It's actually an amazing work, and most scholars I've known who had to teach SGGK swear by it. (I haven't read the Tolkien one, which is also popular.)

I haven't had a chance to write up my thoughts on the latest yet, but I will definitely post them--I always have something to say, meaty or not! But I would agree that it extended the contrast between Gwaine and Arthur, and Gwaine came off much better--and in fact made Arthur's attitudes toward Merlin harder to take. Bullying doesn't appeal to me.

Also, the latest episode reinforced my idea that there's something mysterious about Gwaine's background and history. It does seem like he's been to the Perilous Lands before...

Apologies for the delay in replying -- I just finished SGGK. (I read the Armitage translation, but I'll definitely check out the Boroff version too, as it looks good.)

The language is quite lovely in places, with the alliteration, bob and wheel and all, and I enjoyed the tale as a whole. One thing I will say, however, is that I'm not sure if I saw a great deal of moral ambiguity -- it may have been due to the translation, but a lot of the exchanges with the lady were very one-sided, with her doing all the flirting and seducing, and Gawain trying to politely fob her off, despite the fact that he supposedly found her more beautiful than Guinevere. The only real moral lapse I could detect was when he accepted her present and then hid it from his host (I really enjoyed that moment). I can't help but be dubious of his continual rejections of her advances, though -- it's true that he obviously has a great deal of self-discipline and a staunch belief in chivalry, but I think it should have shown him being a -lot- more conflicted and emotionally torn when it came to her requests. He is, after all, a man at the end of the day -- that sounds horribly cynical, but I think I like seeing more flawed, human touches, rather than perfect Knights. (Thankfully he avoided falling into this bland category due to the aforementioned way he accepted her gift and deceived the husband, and the fact that he recognised this and wore the sash/girdle as a reminder to himself was a great little detail.) I can't help but wonder how he would have atoned if he really had slept with her, though...although I suppose if that had happened, he would have been decapitated anyway. The fact that his only flaw was his fear of death is a bit too kind to the character, in my opinion -- it's too easily forgiveable by the reader or listener. Who doesn't fear death?

I may be looking at it from too modern a perspective, however. It seemed like a morally didactic work, and to be fair, it wasn't just focusing on any old human -- it was focusing on a Knight, someone who had devoted their life to self-discipline and honour. I'll always prefer the cowards and weaklings in fiction, though, just because I find them more interesting and human. I'll also add that I liked the lady's skill with rhetoric, the way she manipulated him with her words and lulled him into being kissed each time. Thanks for the recommendation, either way. It was a good read, which I'll revisit soon. I'm also curious about this 'Pearl' poem, so I may seek that out too. Hell, I haven't even read 'Le Morte d'Arthur', so that has to be on the list too. I unfortunately have no real grasp of Medieval language, so I'll have to resort to a translation...any recommendations? I've seen editions of it, and it looks rather intimidating, a bit brick-like.

I stumbled on to this review via Google and I am so glad I did. It was an absolutely lovely read and not only did I learn a lot about Arthurian legends but I also really admired the way you contrasted Arthur and Gawain's actions and the mindset behind them.

I hope you don't feel it's too weird if I add you as a friend on LJ? I really want to keep track of further entries regarding this show. Thanks.

Thank you so much for commenting! Wow--Google, really?

I'm so glad you enjoyed and felt you learned from this piece. Feel free to add away--I will continue to post quite a bit on this show!

yep ^_^ You are the 2nd result when I searched for "gawain merlin" :)

Thanks, and looking forward to them!


My sister just linked me to one of your reviews, and I just wanted to say thank you for writing these amazing reviews. I love reading thoughtful, well-written, informative reviews by people who know what they're talking about. :) Please keep up the good work!

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