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So for several months now, I've been meaning to do a meta-study of Gwen, but it wasn't until the Thursday before the season 2 finale aired that I was inexplicably galvanised into action. I somehow got the insane notion into my head that I could cover all of Gwen's journey through season 1 and season 2 up to 2.12, and get my predictions down for season 3 onwards, before the finale aired.

Clearly, as it's February 2nd, I vastly underestimated the task I set out for myself.



As it is now, I am several versions, hundreds of edits, and six weeks later, but I'm sitting on something I'm fairly proud of. I've decided to split the meta into two parts, however, just due to how much material there is to cover.

In this part, I strive to chronicle Gwen's journey through the series thus far. Through this character study, I hope to demonstrate how events around and involving her affected her; how they caused her to grow and in which directions.

If I'm successful, part 2 (to be posted soon) will follow logically, presenting what I feel would be the most organic next steps to set up Gwen as queen. More blatantly, part 2 will pretty much be a detailed list of my predictions (or hopes; maybe, more accurately, demands) for Gwen in season 3 and beyond.

Before diving in, my declaration of bias, thanks and requests/guidelines for discussion.

- It's no secret that I love Gwen and am an Arthur/Gwen shipper. This is not an Arthur/Gwen meta. This is absolutely a Gwen-centric study. However, in season 2, I've dedicated a lot of time to the analysis of her forming relationship with Arthur. It is primarily limited to Gwen's perspectives and its affects on her. So in accordance with the purpose of this essay, I've tried to remain fair of my analysis of the canon.

- Discussion on Gwen's character that is not favourable is fine, as long as the observation/criticism is founded on a sound base. But haters are unwelcome here. Any Gwen bashing comments will be dealt with strictly with threads frozen immediately, or deleted entirely.

- I can't possibly have covered all angles. There are certain things I took for granted as "shared accepted canon" (ie: Gwen's compassion, and her closeness with Morgana, and that, at some point, it becomes established that Gwen's M.O. is to move forward) and ask only for patience for any oversights, and openmindedness for any interpretations you hadn't previously considered. With those things in mind, I really would love discussion on the things I outline here, and other thoughts and observations about Gwen in general.

- Many, many thanks to mancalahour for the lovely banner, and for holding my hand through the (sometimes painful) process of writing this meta; to and_i for giving this a final read-thru, making sure everything made sense, and lending me her insights for claims that lacked weight; and finally to my amazing flist for their cheerleading and support. I love you all like crazy ♥



I'm sitting down chilling on gunpowder


One of my favourite things about Merlin is that we get to witness a humble young woman turn into a queen to whom any leader worth their salt could aspire. At least, that's the potential I see in Gwen.

Series 1

That hadn't always been the case. When Gwen the maidservant first appeared on my screen, I was endeared, certainly. How could I not be? First she looks on in disappointment as some idiot (Arthur) bullies some random boy (servant-before-Merlin) and then she goes up to our series lead and introduces herself before praising his bravery and subsequently accidentally insulting him. All of it in possibly the sweetest way possible.

From there on, Gwen really only became sweeter. I saw her as one looking for a companion, and a champion, and didn't yet see her as the future queen. She encouraged Merlin on the steps in Valiant, expecting the hero she'd seen stand up to Arthur the first time around to have all the answers this time as well. Other than displaying what would later become something of her M.O. in her supportive nature, Gwen showed a definite lack of agency in trying to formulate a plan herself.

But I believe that was due to not having had opportunity previously (or, perhaps more accurately, cause), therefore not having developed a sense of confidence in her abilities. That part, satisfyingly, came later.

She was a character predisposed to being thoughtful and observant, and I believe she must have had the opportunity under Morgana's service and protection to look around her world and observe it in ways others in her same position never could. She witnessed strength in her peers and questionable leadership in her superiors, and had the chance to ruminate upon her forming thoughts, probably even discuss things with (a veritable force to be reckoned with in her own right:) Morgana.

But for all Gwen's burgeoning opinions and feelings on how things should be, I don't think she ever really thought that she could be responsible for any sort of implementation of them, let alone that she could ever voice her views to anyone who could.

Gwen stayed tucked safely under Morgana's wing, supporting her new champion - Merlin - when she had opportunity to, and thus, felt thoroughly ill-equipped when her own world went sideways and she was thought to be a witch in episode 3.

This is the first time I got to see vulnerable Gwen. Previously she'd been sweet Gwen, infatuated Gwen, faithful/encouraging Gwen.

Here was a Gwen who shrieked for help while being dragged down the corridor. She fell before the court gracelessly and begged for mercy. She lost hope in her friends abilities, and hesitantly asked them not to forget her. (This last something to bear in mind later, as that fear is brought into the fold in season 2.)

My heart went out to her - amiable Gwen who I could hardly imagine hurting a fly (at this point, I would more easily have envisioned her capturing it carefully beneath a cup and setting it free in a patch of flowers) was set to burn for a "crime" she hadn't committed. And she also very obviously had no understanding of why it was happening to her.

But her champion and her protector came through for her. And through the ordeal she had grown up a little bit; her foundations were shaken and some of the wool had fallen from her eyes.

And so, when Gwen was next given opportunity to participate in the heroics in Poisoned Chalice, she did. She owed Merlin, she obviously cared for him greatly and he had gone to such great lengths that her loyalty had been earned and firmly placed with him, but I think it also was the chance to prove to herself that she was not as weak as she was made to feel in the castle dungeons. That she was, in fact, good and that the faith her friend had now earned was something she could stalwartly reciprocate.

After all, it was at her own instigation that she returned to the dungeons after spending days at Merlin's side. It can't have been easy to return to the place she had so recently inhabited herself. Particularly when considering she had been held there for unjust reasons, similar to her sovereign now, and his imprisonment would potentially cost her the life of someone she cared for dearly.

Gwen succeeded. She no longer sat in the sidelines as circumstances became dire; she saw the need, and stepped in to fill the gap. Without her assistance, Arthur's quest would have proven pointless, Merlin would not have survived and the story would have ended.

Gwen, who had previously only watched as her friends behaved heroically, or relied upon them to save the day, had now proven herself just as capable.

And then along came Lancelot. I think that what her experiences with him showed her was that Merlin was not the exception. He was not the only peasant who could rise to challenges and meet them head on, not the only one who could demonstrate bravery and loyalty and make a difference.

Lancelot came, with his shy demeanour and enormous heart, with his eyes bright for a future in which he would serve a land and better it, and I think he inspired Gwen (Lancelot: "... I must do what I can to protect [Arthur]. It's my duty. Knight or not." Gwen: "You really believe that, don't you?" Lancelot: "Yes, my lady." Gwen: "Lancelot, I don't think I have ever met your like before."). He resonated with her in ways she hadn't felt before: instead of Merlin's somewhat accidental and bumbling heroic nature, here was a person who had chosen to make a difference, and choice is very important to Gwen. Lancelot encompassed a lot of what Gwen wanted to believe was possible in the world. He came along just at the right time to strengthen her foundations.

One of my favourite Gwen scenes is her brief conversation with Gaius in A Remedy to Cure All Ills, when Gaius is leaving Camelot and they speak about Edwin. She asks for his help, and absolutely does not stand for his rubbish about having no choice when he offers it as an excuse ("In life you always have a choice. Sometimes it's easier to think that you don't."). That's the first time Gwen had stood up to anyone about anything, but it follows organically as one of the lessons she had taken from recent experiences. And I've felt that her mentality on choice quickly became one of the foundations for her growth and of her personality.

This episode also showed us Gwen demonstrating further agency by trying to step into the role of protector in Morgana's stead. She does her best to stand up to Edwin, to enforce what little power she had in all ways she could before having to admit defeat in the face of his passive-aggressive threat against Morgana's life.

Unfortunately in this she was at a two-fold disadvantage. First of all, she had little knowledge about medical problems to formulate any proof to insist Edwin was behaving suspiciously; she only had her instinct. And secondly, any power she had to enforce her stance was lost with Morgana being unconscious.

Therefore I think it's unsurprising that in Ealdor, where, for all intents and purposes, hierarchical position meant little, Gwen mostly shed her maidservant demeanour, and voila: the future queen first appeared.

There are about three hundred different reasons I love The Moment of Truth and at least half of them pertain to Gwen. She and Morgana concoct a plan to ride with Merlin to aid his hometown, against the orders of the king, because of feelings of camaraderie and loyalty. Then, in the midst of increasing hopelessness, Gwen becomes determined that the women should be able to fight alongside the men in order to defend the village.

And it is she who first voices these thoughts to Arthur - the first direct words she's ever spoken to him in a conversational way - just to be shut down. And yet, this Gwen I've been watching grow slowly all season won't be deterred; she goes and stands up for her idea (and for the women she has now championed - see this, no longer requiring a champion, but becoming one herself) in front of the entire gathered village.

And she succeeded. Again.

Not only did she take the cause into her keeping, but she managed to rally the women behind her as well. She demonstrated leadership, the ability to think clearly in problematic times, formulate a solution, and she even grew the backbone to stand up to Arthur before ultimately swaying him to her point of view. These things were likely partially strengthened from Gwen's recognition that in Ealdor, what little status she had that still mattered placed her slightly above the townspeople, and that made them her responsibility. Especially the women who were receiving little or no attention from Arthur.

And, after all that, Gwen was still fundamentally the modest girl who endeared me to her in the first place. She had taken issue with Arthur's snobbery towards the Ealdorean food and grasped the opportunity to tell him so (not unlike her behaviour in The Witchfinder in series 2). I liked that this scene showed us that her success was only a revelation of the potential she had been sitting on. None of her actions were random or underdeveloped; on the contrary, she had been moving steadily towards them all season, only needing opportunity to act upon them, while still retaining what it meant to be Gwen.

Moment of Truth was a fantastic episode for Gwen. My girl kicked ass all over the place that episode.

But some of the most interesting developments for Gwen's character occurred, understandably, in To Kill the King. There's a definite shift from pre-To Kill the King Gwen who virtually wore her heart on her sleeve, to post-episode Gwen, who learned to keep her emotions closer to herself.

Understandably, 1x12 marked the most profound, lasting shift in Gwen's perspectives in the entire series thus far. None of the individuals she had been learning to place her trust in had been able to help her father, and after an increasingly long list of successes for herself, she failed as well.

Gwen was less stuttery after episode 12; for all she maintained her warmth, a slight edge developed that hadn't been there before; more than ever, I think she started to recognise how insidious Camelot's need for change and improvement was. At the same time, I don't believe it discouraged her, but rather propelled her into more critical thought, enabling her to seize opportunity for action when it arose later on.

This episode was also the first that Merlin asked her for an opinion and acted to remind me of how thoughtful and pragmatic a character Gwen is. Her family was just decimated, she just truly saw her sovereign for the tyrant he could be (in that, I mean that Uther's tyranny became a reality for her, where previously it may have been an inconvenience or somewhat abstract), and yet she still maintained her solidarity to her core beliefs.

There were still lines drawn in the world; definitive sides of right and wrong, and no matter the circumstance, murder is on the wrong side.

I think, too, for the first time Merlin and Gwen were on even standing. That was also a fairly big deal, as up until that point, Gwen had sort of viewed Merlin as someone to be looked up to. But here was proof that he could be just as lost as she.

This episode also marks the point where Gwen placed her faith and hope in Arthur. This isn't only important from a future Arthur/Gwen stand point (although her faith in him is arguably the first and most solid foundation for them to date), but also in terms of how and why Gwen will continue to develop her views on leadership, politics, and the future: this shift is vital.

There had been little love lost from Gwen's perspective between she and Arthur prior to the events in Ealdor; there, he earned her respect, and her faith in his leadership. His actions towards her in response to her father's death demonstrated to her what measures he was willing to take for one of the lowest (and, from her perspective anyway, relatively unknown to him) members of his kingdom, and his innate nobility: he recognised a wrong, and sought to make it right - in so far as he knew how to. These are qualities Gwen had already both demonstrated herself, and shown herself prone to admiring.

(Sidenote: I want to clarify that I absolutely don't believe that this is the point that Gwen starts to fall in love with Arthur; he becomes the centre point for her hope certainly, but that is not the same as love, not by a long shot.)

The finale really put this into perspective. She had lost her father, and had only just found someone within whose reign the future seemed like it could be bright. She was not about to sit back and let Arthur up and die without getting a word in edgewise about it. Not this time.

She went to some lengths to accomplish that. She sacrificed her whole night, which is presumably the only guaranteed time she gets to herself (possibly not even this; we've seen her take care of Morgana after a nightmare), and she bared her heart, probably for the first time since her father's death. At the time, I thought her relief at finding Arthur awake merely gave us an excuse for a first flirty scene between them, but upon reflection, it's a meaningful and poignant response on her part. Her faith is secure again; she doesn't have to move on or let go of this too.

Not only that, it's the first time Gwen held herself back. This is where I believe the fallout from her father's death is first really shown: where once Arthur probably could have cajoled her into telling him what she said while he was unconscious - or, as with her frustration with him in Ealdor, followed by her encouragement, she would have been incapable of preventing herself from repeating it - she was no longer willing to reveal her thoughts and emotions so readily. And she was certainly not going to reveal herself to a man apparently intent on teasing her about them. Figuratively, she stood her ground for herself.



Series 2

Right from the start of the season, it was clear that the edge and confidence just beginning to show at the end of season 1 had nearly solidified. Where she was still as soft, loyal and caring towards Morgana (demonstrating that her the base of her personality had not changed), Gwen risked her life to save Arthur from the gargoyle attack and was not overly swayed by his bumbling adoration of that deed after the fact.

Further to that, in episode two, I really liked seeing the multiple sides of Gwen standing off against Arthur. The episode brought with it the reappearance of honest Gwen (in their conversation about Arthur's reasons for being ~undercover~), and a new subtlety in her attempt to make Arthur realise his own hypocrisy at then immediately asking her to draw him a bath ("I'll just walk all the way down to the well and get it for you, shall I?") She did not overstep her bounds with the prince, but she did push at them.

I can't decide if I think she somewhat orchestrated Arthur's discovery of her sleeping on the floor, or if it really was happenstance. Either way, when she chastised him for his behaviour as her guest, she was no longer the stumbling, accidentally scolding Gwen with a chip on her shoulder of the Ealdorean woods. She did not snap, or stumble, or apologise, even in the face of Arthur's initial challenge/intimidation. She spoke her piece, logically and passionately, and made her case successfully.

That said, I think it was clear that it was something of a struggle for her afterwards; if Gwen has ever before actually spoken out in her anger over something so personal to her, I'd be surprised. And particularly given she was doing so towards the prince, it's understandable she would be somewhat uncomfortable.

But there is this: she had placed her faith in the future Arthur would bring, and I think she had decided that she would do whatever she could to help secure and bring that future into being. In this case, if it meant a scolding and a lesson in manners, then so be it. The wider upshot of such a lesson, if heeded, would be evident in his future treatment towards those lesser in status, and the appreciation of what those same people had to offer. They are the ones who will be under his care, after all.

And further to Gwen having strengthened her backbone since season 1, and regardless of feeling uncomfortable with her anger, it was only when Arthur agreed that she was right that she gave a little bit of ground and was willing to meet him halfway, accepting his act of contrition/appeasement, and letting him take care of dinner.

It's important, though, that she was still unrelenting, even in the face of kindness. Where Arthur found satisfaction merely in sharing the meal, Gwen had expected more from him: the upholding of a promise, the humbling of doing menial work, and the broadening of perspectives through doing those things, and then spending an extended time conversing and dining with someone beneath him in status.

While contemplating season 2 for this meta, I really struggled with the title of this episode: naming it The Once and Future Queen when all of Gwen's significant interactions are with Arthur alone seemed too limiting. However, when I realised that the events were not only meant to be forwarding Arthur's perspectives on Gwen and therefore their romantic storyline, but also showing the audience more of what Gwen was capable of, it clicked into place.

And so for this one section of analysis, I'm going to jump into Arthur's perspective, and what I think was also meant to reflect our own revelations/confirmations. These are the attributes of Guinevere we were meant to see: the reassertion that Gwen is a woman strong in her convictions, with moral values and behavioural standards central to her character; the recognition that she has spent a significant amount of time reflecting on Camelot, its leadership and the state of it presently, from there contemplating where she wants Camelot to go, and how she thinks it may get there; the reassertion that Gwen believes in Arthur's future (else why would she be upset that he was not upholding the standards she expected from him?) and would presumably from there attempt to push him to better things; the recognition that the combination of all these things makes Gwen a woman who can more than simply challenge him from the sidelines, but who can probably, given the opportunity, equal Arthur and be capable of a partnership with him in leading Camelot.

Season 1 was difficult for Gwen because she was forced through a fast and painful growth spurt: emotionally and in terms of dramatically broadening her perspectives. Season 2 presented Gwen with new challenges: namely that of facing where she could fit into the equation, and whether she could rise to the potential she was beginning to show and recognise in herself.

In terms of the romantic, almost accidental advances on Arthur's side of things, I'm not sure that Gwen entirely knew what to make of them, and before she could come to any conclusions, he had told her nothing was possible.

But she responded to that with grace and hope - no matter what was between them, she still saw Camelot bright and better under Arthur. She placed Camelot and her sovereign ahead of herself, as always.

Which brings me to the episode I most dreaded analysing: Guinevere and Lancelot. To be clear, I didn't dread it for any other reason than that the wealth of material in regards to Gwen made it difficult to know where to start. But I've decided to begin with the triangle, if only to somewhat get it out of the way and clear the path for what the episode meant for Gwen without the boys.

Even as a broken man Lancelot represented many of the things Gwen sought from the world; they're cut from the same cloth, and I think she believed that no matter how far he had strayed, he would always find his way back. I think that's also the way she views herself; she takes experiences as they come, makes them part of who she is, and she carries on.

There was also a natural balance between them in the crisis situation. Gwen helped Lancelot restore his hope, and showed him what it meant to live again; Lancelot restored Gwen her freedom, and strove to give her the chance to keep living; shared between them there was an unspoken promise of a possible future with one another. There was unfettered give and take; with the risk so high, there was no need to hold anything back, and that served to keep them equal, hopefully stronger, but at least wiser.

In regards to Lancelot versus Arthur, while the above points have applications too, I get into it in greater detail with later episodes, and so will focus the comparison thus: Lancelot is the Commoner to Arthur's Royalty, this also makes Lancelot the Possibility to Arthur's Impossibility.With Lancelot there were no restraints and no barriers. If something was starting to grow between them, there was nothing to stop it from reaching fruition. From Gwen's perspective, whatever may have been growing between she and Arthur was impossible; logic told her that, and so had he.

Much can be said about how this episode affected Arthur's views on what he thought could happen between he and Gwen. But that is not what this essay is about. From Gwen's perspective, I think Arthur's role is actually relatively minimal. For all that she shone as being able to hold her own, her fears of being left behind, forgotten and alone came to the forefront in this situation; Arthur's comments about Uther not allowing a rescue mission for a servant followed by saying he was only there because of Morgana's begging did not at all help allay Gwen's fears, or her views on the impossibility of things between she and Arthur.

Admittedly, when the initial sting of events wore off; when normalcy started to reassert itself; and particularly when the air between she and Arthur started clearing, I think it likely that his going after her gave Gwen more reason to pause. The broader implications of that action, especially in light of her fears and later acts and responses on Arthur's part, would be of greater importance to her. But I believe that the immediate repercussions of Arthur's involvement in the Heingist fiasco is limited to the above.

Putting the men aside, this episode meant a plethora of other things for Gwen, as well. High among them, we got to see her cunning. Almost every insult or threat Heingist threw her way, Gwen was able to counter quickly and sharply, with almost no holes in her net. She demonstrated her understanding of the court, and Morgana's role within it nearly flawlessly. And she also showed the audience how well she would be able to hold her own against the most derisive of courtiers in the future.

I can't really summarise how brave Gwen was time and again. Just - from helping with Morgana's escape plan, to trying to say no when the bandits wanted her to impersonate Morgana, to almost every scene with Heingist, and even in the moments she thought she was going to die... She was amazing, and I'm going to take it for granted that y'all agree with me on this, if nothing else.

All that said, I mentioned above that her weakness and greatest fear surfaced viciously. Gwen clearly thought that she would be forgotten, that she was replaceable and that no one would care enough to come after her. And I don't blame her: I expect she saw servants come and go all the time in the castle, dismissed without a second thought; she lost her father (he, himself, is not the contributing factor to her fear, but the way in which his death occurred); Arthur walked away from her (and it doesn't matter if she understood and possibly agreed with his reasons. It would still hurt); hell, even though Gwen told her to, Morgana left her in the forest; and then Heingist literally bellowed it in her face several times. All that, and she knew Uther now; I doubt she held any illusions about his thoughts on the matter of saving a servant. Even if she believed that Morgana would put up a fierce fight for her (and I do think Gwen believed Morgana would) but she had also learned previously that Morgana's influence over Uther was more limited than either woman seemed keen on admitting.

And, even after rescue, much of that fear was then confirmed by Arthur's remarks and Lancelot's departure. I strongly believe her broken, "No," when Merlin relayed Lancelot's message was not solely tied into the loss of Lancelot, but more so a response to the constant taking of things away from her. Love and companionship high among them.

Ironically though, in some ways this fear and lack of recognising her self-worth is one of my favourite attributes of Gwen's character: it makes her human and fallible. It gives her something to grow through, and so, makes those moments when she behaves bravely or stands up for her beliefs all the more satisfying.

Which brings me neatly into Gwen's brief moments in Beauty and the Beast part 2. Regardless of the discomfort that was very likely between them (if her shy entrance and initial hesitation is anything to go by), Gwen will, at the end of the day, do what is right. In her world of moral beliefs, credit should be given where it is due, and recognising what Arthur did for the town's people fit into that category.

Not only that, but the scene stood to show more: she didn't simply say her piece and leave. Gwen stayed and acted as confidante, proving that she does still care a great deal for Arthur on a personal level, and has not simply reverted to the time when he was the sovereign in whom she placed her faith for the future. If evidence of this is required, I only point out that she went so far as to counter Arthur's doubts about Uther's love for him. Quite fervently, by Gwen's quiet standards.

2.07 offered a bit of a reprieve from the arc she shared with Arthur. The episode reconfirmed her friendships with both Merlin (in her going to him, and the two working together to vindicate Gaius) and Morgana (in that the catalyst spurring Gwen to go to Merlin is Morgana's distress under Aredian's relentless probing).

I think one of the most important aspects of this episode is that Gwen had the opportunity to re-do everything that went wrong when her father was killed. Memories of the incident obviously sat right at the forefront of her mind throughout, and the instant Morgana was in danger, Gwen was not going to take any chances.

One thing which surprised me, though, was Gwen's repetition of sentiments like, "It's hopeless, Merlin," and the like as they searched for the belladonna flower. But I came to reason it out in the following way: for all that Gwen is the character associated with hope for the future, and with constantly looking forwards, I don't think she felt she could afford herself that indulgence with regards to Gaius. She went to Merlin, not with the intention of vindicating Gaius or stopping his execution, but because she wanted to protect Morgana. To let herself hope that they could save Gaius, when she had let herself believe there had been hope for her father... I don't think she could let herself re-live that.

But, that is where the Gwen and Merlin friendship plays in beautifully. Gwen galvanised Merlin into action; Merlin kept Gwen motivated, kept her going; together they came to resolution, each lending their skills to solve the problem, and therefore ultimately contributing equally.

Along those lines, there was one scene in particular that gave me a sense of victory. I had long held it as personal canon that Gwen was known and respected amongst her peers in the peasantry. And her scenes with (who I assume is) the apothecary canonised that.

I maintain that the apothecary was meant to represent most of the people in Gwen's socioeconomic peer group, and their interactions therefore showed us several important things. Gwen is active amongst her peers, and adored by them as equally as she cares for them. The apothecary's willingness to admit Merlin and Gwen, and answer their questions regardless of the late hour, was upon his recognition of Gwen, not Merlin. This indicates that Gwen has a reputation amongst the people; that she is trusted and respected.

These things are all important for obvious reasons in the future. Their trust in and respect for her will be great support whenever she becomes queen, and particularly in the time leading up to it (ie: during the period when Gwen and Arthur fight for her to be granted that right, however that fight may unfold). Where other nobles may not lend much credence to the opinions of the lower classes, Gwen always will, and Arthur is beginning to (evidenced by his words to Uther in 2.06: "I said you're wrong. Without the people there is no Camelot. We're as much their servants as they are ours." And his deference to Merlin and Gwen respectively.)

Gwen was always going to be a queen of the people, but with the interaction shown between she and the apothecary, it was finally made clear how deeply her influence runs, and therefore how far their support of her will go.

Coming back to how Gwen had to have been revisiting the events of Tom's death, I feel the following quote really showcases the edge Gwen developed from it:
Merlin. We've only got one chance at this. We've got to give Uther something he cannot deny. Something not even Aredian can talk his way out of.
There was no room for error or negotiation; Uther would show no lenience. Having learned that lesson with her father's death, Gwen was not about to repeat it now that she had decided to believe that they could save Gaius.

And for Gwen, the episode nicely culminated with a brief, poignant confrontation with Arthur.
This scene shows how affected she was by Arthur's words in the forest - demonstrated by her interpretation of his expression as having to do with her status (I go into this in further detail later on). But ultimately, I believe its importance lies in the reasons for the confrontation. It was result of Gwen recognising that she had reached through to Arthur in previous circumstance, but more powerfully, it happened because Gwen had evidently been carrying a chip on her shoulder about his handling of the situation with her father, and she saw opportunity to deal with that.

I do appreciate that this wasn't the first reason she cited for Arthur to stop Gaius' execution - she gave him the chance to prevent it based on other things, trust in Merlin among them. And I think it very likely that if she didn't have to mention her father, she wasn't going to. But, for them to move forward with clear air between them, I think it was vitally important that Gwen raised that hurt when given the chance. And she did it with a measure of grace: there was simply the reminder of what his inaction had cost the last time a similar situation arose.

Arthur came through. I argued with myself for a long time about finishing that sentence with "for her," because I don't believe that's true. Gwen's words presented the push Arthur needed, but he didn't do it for Gwen. And that's the important part; particularly from Gwen's perspective. His willingness to act somewhat made amends for his lack of action in her father's case, but further proved that her faith in him was well placed: he ultimately stopped the execution because it was what was right. To paraphrase her own words, he was steadily becoming the man she had seen inside.

One thing I want to add before moving onto Sweet Dreams: Merlin's trust in Gwen here was also a huge point. I don't think I really need to expand on this much further than to note the depth of Merlin's friendship with Arthur.

Oh, episode after my own heart. Finally something that openly dealt with how Gwen felt about Arthur, the situation between them, and what the future may hold.

When discussing Lancelot and Gwen's interactions from 2.04, I mentioned how there was a balance inherent between them. That balance is something that the Arthur/Gwen relationship lacked. There was some give and take, certainly, but the majority had been Gwen giving and Arthur taking - until this episode.

Upon receiving Arthur's first note, Gwen said it to Merlin exactly: where she had thought hope was lost, it was suddenly found. Arthur hadn't forgotten her, she had not been a passing interest or a flash-in-the-pan style infatuation. Maybe she was important. Maybe there was a future for them. Gwen doesn't let herself want much, and she asks for even less. That she admits to herself - later to Merlin, and then Arthur - that she wants this shows how deeply her desire for Arthur and a relationship with him goes.

It puts into light how very deep of a betrayal it was when Gwen thought Arthur had abandoned her for Vivian, and accentuates her disappointment and hurt that he apparently didn't have the decency to tell her. Previously, Arthur had always afforded her some kind of consolatory visit or explanation, and she held those actions in high regard. All that followed by the fervour behind her line, "let me make amends," coupled with such a determined kiss was demonstrative of the depth of her relief that Arthur did still love her and the strength of that feeling was palpable.

All that said, the intervening fiasco of the Arthur and Vivian "romance" made her powerfully aware of the pitfalls of loving Arthur, and also served to cause Gwen to re-evaluate possibilities between them. Gwen said, "Live for me, Arthur. That's all I ask right now." That latter is a vital part of what she said. They weren't ready for more than those mutual admissions yet; she did not believe Arthur would fight for her, and she was too raw from seeing/feeling the consequences of not having something solid between them to fight for it herself.

But, as the parallels between Lancelot telling Gwen to live for him in 2.04, and Gwen repeating the line to Arthur then are too obvious to ignore, here is my take on that connection. The connotation of Lancelot's saying it and Gwen saying it are entirely different. Lancelot fully intended to die, for Gwen and, in some ways, by Gwen; Gwen expected both she and Arthur would continue living. I believe that is the key in this repetition: the promise behind those words was entirely different in the two situations, and I believe that actually represents the moment when Gwen lets go of whatever feelings she could have still held for Lancelot. She embraced that she wanted her future with Arthur, and for that, Arthur needed to live.

Their final scene together is what I feel reveals all this. Gwen deflects Arthur's advances not because she didn't reciprocate (and it is vitally important that she, at no point, denies her feelings for him) but because there were too many possible barriers between them, and she needed to regain control after being - essentially - forced into revealing how deeply her feelings went.

Gwen was making a point: they could not simply be together because they wanted to be. There was still the possibility that someone more hierarchically fit for the throne than Gwen could enter his life; there was still that enormous status leap between them; as king, he had to set an example, and as it stood, there was no room for a peasant queen. I believe Gwen was asking for a commitment from him, in her own way; or perhaps more accurately, telling him what it was she's looking for. It would be too painful to ask for it forthright, and, between the two of them, Gwen had always been the more aware of the consequences and nuances of their actions. She didn't think they were ready for a blatant demand for commitment. Additionally, she was no doubt fearful that thought she had come to a realisation, Arthur had come to decide otherwise - declaration of love notwithstanding.

So she told him her concerns, and put the challenge to him (Gwen: "... And I cannot be your queen." Arthur: "You don't know that." Gwen: "I'm as sure of that as you are." Arthur: "Things may change." Gwen: "Well, until they do.") and essentially told him she would be waiting for the time when things do change - that it was now up to him to make that happen, if he so chose.

There's another aspect of this interaction though that is important with regards to Gwen's fears and low sense of self-importance. Arthur always goes to her afterwards. He apologises, or explains the situation; he at least acknowledges her part in what occurs between them, even if he doesn't necessarily feel powerful enough to make something happen for them. And that, I believe, also goes a long way to asserting a balance and equality between them.

Where Gwen bolsters Arthur, supports and challenges him morally; Arthur will and is starting to provide Gwen with safety and a firm foundation, stability. Two things that Morgana provided to a lesser extent in the past, and that Gwen has always wanted.

Along the same lines, Arthur trying to protect her from the Dragon in the finale reconfirmed these things.

Aside from being a nice sort-of reverse throw back to the premiere when Gwen saved Arthur, the scene of him literally chasing her down to try and protect her is huge for Gwen.

Once again, Arthur found enough value in her life to risk coming after her. But it's important to note that Gwen didn't recognise this aspect of their interaction until after Arthur said he wouldn't let anything happen to her. Until that point, I interpret Gwen's anger for Arthur saving her as being representational of her thoughts of her place in the food chain: she is, essentially, no one, there's no reason for anyone, especially not Arthur, to try and protect her. Especially not with Morgana gone.

Arthur's matter-of-fact way of countering her cut through that nonsense. I think Gwen needs that - she needs the reinforcement that she's of worth, but more importantly, she needs a person who understands her. And that means, accepting that Gwen doesn't need anyone else, but that she wants someone beside her. Regardless of how she believes the world values her, Gwen knows that, in the least, she can look after herself and others. So, if she chooses to let someone in, it's a great placement of faith on her part, so she needs - at least, right now - frequent re-affirmation of being cared about.

Which is why her meeting Arthur at the end of 2.13 stands as more than a romantic trope. She was choosing to accept him and his advances; willing to place her trust in him, not only for her kingdom but for herself; lets him claim her, and equally embraces her claim on him. In that moment, Gwen gives up whatever normalcy she could have cobbled together in the wake of Morgana's presumed kidnap and the destruction of the city, and chooses to set herself on a course which will either make her queen, or cause her to potentially lose the little she does have.

Neither of those options are safe or easy. But I believe that in the scene with Gwen looking out over Camelot, in its state of destruction, Gwen thought of all those she had lost (namely, Morgana) and was watching her peers try to retrieve something from the rubble. And she wanted to do something more than ever before, and more widely influential than tending to wounds and collecting water.

In the subsequent scene where she discusses Morgana with Gaius, that's why Gwen asks so quickly after Arthur. She was slowly starting to admit that she could do something, that she could be important, that maybe those she was looking upon could be her responsibility. On a personal level, she wanted her beacon of hope, love and security back (Arthur), and she wanted to come to a decision about her future.

In an episode with primary focus on Merlin, things of great importance were also occurring for Guinevere. Ultimately, after a season of uncertainty, she took her future, very firmly, back into her own hands. Someone somewhere wrote that by Gwen saying, "I thought I'd lost you" to Arthur, she was admitting that he was hers to lose (if it's you, tell me! That line is brilliant). She staked her claim upon him, placed her trust in him, and decided upon which future she wanted for herself.

All of those things are difficult choices to make, none of them precipitate easy paths, but she chose them anyway.

That's the reason I adore Gwen and her journey so far. Regardless of her fears, of her perceived insignificance, and regardless of the fact that she often stands with the most to lose, she acknowledges those dangers, considers the consequences and chooses to stand tall anyway. She's a hero - they don't all need swords and glowing eyes.

But there's so far left for Gwen to go. I want to see this hero tested, I want to see her challenged further, and I want to see her fight - for what she believes in, for her principles without having to go through others, hell, maybe even for Arthur. I want to see her embrace a sense of independence, and trust enough to let her guard down again. I want her to screw up - royally - and have to dig herself out of it. I want her to come face to face with a moral challenge where what is right isn't so easily deciphered. And I think all of these things are plausible, and I'll discuss each one in part 2 :]

If you've read this far, thank you! I love you a little already. And I really hope you'll take the time to share your thoughts with me in turn.

Comments

( 88 comments — Leave a comment )
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alas_agnes
Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
gah, i'm SO glad i logged onto LJ this morning. will be printing this and reading it on the way to school. looks awesome, can't wait to read your (no doubt very insightful) thoughts.
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
I hope it lived up to expectation, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it when you get a chance ♥
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(Anonymous)
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:33 am (UTC)
Guinevere character study & analysis
First i have two say: WOW! i think it's impressive that you have so much information about Gwen. And how you go "in character". I have to say, thank you for doing this. I believe that i know much and much more about Guinevere because of you ( and no i am not exaggerating :P). and i have two agree with you. She's a Hero. Reading this reminds me why Guinevere is my favourite character of the whole show. Personally i think she is the most complex character of the series. The other's are sometimes a bit predictable. I seriously can't wait for her two grow more so that whe can't see the "Inner Queen" emerging. GWEN IS THE BEST!!!!!!
saint4u
Feb. 2nd, 2010 12:03 pm (UTC)
I have never hated Gwen in the series but her as she is written in season two was for me at least rather jarring and not of the woman I fell in love with in season one, and perhaps that is of my own personal tastes on who or what I want Gwen to be for not only the character but also of the future Queen she is supposed to become. To me her standing up to those of a higher rank speaks of her stubborn nature in some things and perhaps even a liking to push her luck where it is tested, but it is perhaps something that also hints at that she is willing to fight for what she believes in and risks everything herself to see it through.

It is an admirable trait and a strong one for a Queen but it is also one that needs to be taught some restraint, otherwise if she perhaps oversteps the mark with a noble who is not Arthur or indeed from another kingdom that does not allow to be talked back to and challenged, Gwen may find herself in more trouble than being the love of Arthur or indeed a Queen can protect her from.

kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
First of all, thank you for this comment :]

To me her standing up to those of a higher rank speaks of her stubborn nature in some things and perhaps even a liking to push her luck where it is tested, but it is perhaps something that also hints at that she is willing to fight for what she believes in and risks everything herself to see it through.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this, as I've stressed in the meta that I believe her willingness to stand up to those of higher status a sign of strength, not belligerence. I will add, though, that when faced with the likes of Arthur and Morgana, both of whom have strong personalities, Gwen would have to be willing to respectfully stand up to them when she feels it necessary. I've never felt that what she's said, or how she's said it, was done in a way that wasn't anything but persuasive, earnest and respectful of the fact that they are her "betters".

Another point, to counter your worry that she may act belligerently in the face of a visiting noble who would not be open to such things: Gwen has never demonstrated this before. When she has spoken up - primarily to Arthur - it has been in places of privacy, and the one time it was in public view (I'm thinking of Gaius' near execution) it was desperate times, and she didn't cause a big scene, just spoke intently with her sovereign. And, from another perspective, I don't think that just because she's speaking with a noble who isn't Arthur or who doesn't want to be faced with a different point of view, that Gwen should hold herself back: the strength of her willingness to speak out comes from the fact that her motivations are ethically sound. She's not demanding higher pay, or a better horse. She's taking a stand for what is right.
saint4u
Feb. 2nd, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
In saying that though, given that Lancelot is only in one episode per season so far, in your honest opinion how do you think he will be made to be a real rival for Arthur for Gwen if his screen time is so small ? Do you think it is because we will never see this part of the legend come true in this incarnation on the show, or perhaps it will happen a different way then we are lead to believe ? Personally I always felt her to have better chemistry with Lancelot than Arthur but that is of my own tastes and nothing against those who prefer her with Arthur, but since you obviously love her and her pairing with Arthur your perspective on Lancelot would be interesting to hear.

On that note, how do you feel she will react once Merlin reveals his true self ? Do you think she will be shocked and angry that Merlin kept so much from her, or more hurt by how much Merlin's lies and deceit hurt Arthur in turn, as Arthur thinks Merlin as a friend yet obviously they are not on equal footing as much as Arthur and Gwen are at least on a personally emotional level. Merlin to me in Arthur's eyes is still a servant and not a friend although he is now trying to test this out I feel by trying to get Merlin to open up to him when before he would just tell him to shut up, but I think that now Merlin is too closed off and secretive to ever be a close friend and his other side of the coin as he was in season one. Plus, Merlin himself as gotten a lot darker and malicious imo than anyone of the good guys and I for one would love to see how shocked Gwen and Arthur would be once they find out how dark and far gone Merlin is from the person they thought they knew all along.
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
WRT Lancelot, my honest opinion is that the triangle storyline is pretty much done. Partially because this is a family show, partially because I believe they want to paint Arthur & Gwen as the portrait of morality and goodness, and particularly because these incarnations of both Guinevere and Lancelot are not in any way disloyal or prone to behaving in any ways immorally - which adultery would absolutely be seen as, regardless of era, the betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. I think they already succeeded in making Lancelot a "real rival" for Arthur, in that Gwen was fully willing to try and find a future with Lancelot instead of Arthur. It just didn't play out the way people are expecting from the more well-known versions of the legend.

Realistically, Lancelot would be the simpler and more realistic choice in this telling of the legend. Aside from his sort-of banishment, there aren't really any hurdles between Gwen and Lance, were Lance to return and were they to try anything. But in my opinion, this is what would make their story less satisfying than that of Gwen and Arthur. There are many reasons I love the Arthur/Gwen pairing, and one of them is that they'll have to fight - very hard - to be together. There's no such challenge for Gwen and Lancelot.

I hope that answers your question!

WRT Merlin's reveal... Honestly, I haven't come to a decision on that yet, and it's something I've thought about a lot. I think it really depends on how much Merlin reveals, in all honesty. If he simply tells Gwen (or Gwen finds out somehow) that he has magic, but the details are shady, or he picks and chooses which stories to tell, then I think she would most likely be more sympathetic and supportive of his suffering in secret. However, if she finds out certain details - in particular, I'm thinking of his poisoning Morgana - I'm positive she'll be aghast, and feel betrayed. In some respects, I want the latter to happen: Merlin has taken a lot of morally questionable turns this past season, and if it's one thing Gwen stands firm on, it's the line between right and wrong. It would be interesting to see how their dynamic would shift, in lieu of such a reveal.

Oh, and in terms of how his reveal would affect Arthur and Gwen's view on that: much the same, I think. If Merlin tells them/they find out in a fairly innocuous way, and he can decide how much he shares with them, I think Gwen would primarily be sympathetic, and probably a bit hurt that he hadn't told her sooner (but she absolutely understands the necessity of keeping something like that secret, between her father's execution and her experiences with Morgana). And many of Merlin's actions served to save Arthur's life, so... how can she complain too much about that, if those are the only things he tells her? However, if Gwen finds out, say, that Merlin deceived Arthur WRT Morgause & Igraine, I think she would be torn: understanding why he did it, but also recognising the hurt that was done to Arthur, and in particular, take issue with the idea that Merlin had any right to make a decision for Arthur.

So, in short, I believe her reaction will depend on the circumstance surrounding Merlin's reveal, and how much she learns from it.

Thank you for the thoughtful comments, and I hope I answered your questions fully. Feel free to prod me again for clarification where needed, and I'd be interested in your thoughts on what I've said here :]

Edited at 2010-02-02 10:48 pm (UTC)
sophielou21
Feb. 2nd, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
I confess Gwen is one of my favourites - in fact she is equal favourite with Arthur and Merlin - and I have often seen her as the more complex of the characters. Not really through virtue of the writers or creators but through the way she is portrayed.

This was an interesting analysis and one I will expand on when I have more time (Unfortunately I don't due to RL and so on). I think some of your points regarding her development throughout S1 and S2 are interesting. I will admit that their are a few points you make that I read differently and/or disagree with but ultimately this was a good little essay explaining the complexity of Gwen's character.
kepp0xy
Feb. 3rd, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)
I think that while the writers don't deserve much credit, they do deserve some. That said, much of the credit definitely goes to Angel, for fleshing out Gwen by virtue of giving her performance soul.

I look forward to your counterpoints, then, when you have the chance :)
themadpoker
Feb. 2nd, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is excellent. I want to think over some of your points a bit, I think I mostly agree but I'm not sure. I've never tried to lay down all my ideas of Gwen chronologically like this, mostly I've just had lots of collected impressions of her character from the episodes. This is really interesting!
kepp0xy
Feb. 3rd, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts once you've had the chance to ruminate a bit ♥
rubberglue
Feb. 2nd, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
This was great to read. I love reading meta about Gwen since she is my favourite character in Merlin so thank you for this.
kepp0xy
Feb. 3rd, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
♥ I'm glad you enjoyed it. You obviously have excellent taste in fave characters ;D!
imigination
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
WOW
Just finished. I've got to let all these magnificent ideas ruminate for a while so that I can come back with a coherent and intelligent response, but I just want to applaud you on the mammoth effort ... and tell you that I await Part II with bated breath. ♥

Edited at 2010-02-02 04:19 pm (UTC)
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Re: WOW
You know I can't wait to hear more from you! Totally looking forward to when you have a moment to comment further ♥
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heather
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
♥♥ Thanks so much for all the effort you put into this, K. It's fantastic, so much love. I think I have a bulletproof kink for long-ass posts about Gwen, so bring on part two. *g*

I have more to say later - many things I agree with wholeheartedly, and others I'd love to discuss more! I'll be back.

Edited at 2010-02-02 02:21 pm (UTC)
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
TYVM, bb <333 I'm looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts, H!
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robinmarian
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
First of all I think you need to give yourself a few pats on the back because of the time, effort and dedication that you've put into this meta.

Secondly, can I just say that this is the longest piece of work on the internet that I've read in one go and I LOVED every bit of it. I had to pause a few times and reread some of the lines because they were so poignantly written that I found myself tearing up.

You have totally succedeed in chronicling Gwen's journey. With this meta, I was able to understand more about Gwen's struggles, fears and most importantly her constant need to aide Arthur in his journey to becoming a King. She knows Arthur has a good heart and she tells him so which I think is what makes her the more endearing to me because she makes people realize how special they are and see their worth.

You also showed us that she's not one to give up so easily, that despite her lowly status in life she knows that she has the voice to make people listen and make a difference in her own little way and that even afterall the heartbreak she's been through (what with her dad being killed, Arthur walking away, Lancelot leaving her, and Morgana disappearing) she has this wonderful ability to pick herself up and continue to live life because she knows that dwelling on things is not only fruitless but also hopeless. Our Gwen, she's a fighter, a survivor and one whose hope never falters.

Thirdly, I LOVE YOU so much for writing this. And like you, I can't wait to see more of our future Queen. I can't wait to see more of her love, friendship, loyalty, kindness, strength, fierceness and her unshakeable faith in the one man she truly loves.

K, I hope my feedback made sense to you and I know I said I will try to write a proper feedback but I'm hopeless. (Plus the fact that I am sitting in the dark and there's a lightning storm just outside and it's hot and my batteries are going flat soon...lololol)

So, to make it up to you, have a song. I think it fits your wonderful Gwen meta.

Half the world is sleeping,
half the world's awake
half can hear their hearts beat
half just hear them break

I am but a traveler, in most every way
Ask me what you want...to know

What a journey it has been
And the end is not in sight
But the stars are out tonight
and they're bound to guide my way

When they're shining on my life
I can see a better day
I won't let the darkness in,
what a journey it has been.

I have been to sorrow
I have been to bliss
Where I'll be tomorrow,
I can only guess

Through the darkest desert
Through the deepest snow,
Forward always forward, I go..
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
BB! Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment ♥!

can I just say that this is the longest piece of work on the internet that I've read in one go

LOL it's the longest piece of non-fanfic work I've ever written, and I'm sure I got rambly so I am so grateful you took the time to read, and enjoyed it as well.

I love your entire following paragraph, but this: Our Gwen, she's a fighter, a survivor and one whose hope never falters. stood out in particular because you hit it! In some ways, it's arguable that she's the internally strongest of the bunch, at least when it truly matters. And she grounds each of them (Morgana, not any longer D: ) in ways I don't think they could ground themselves or each other otherwise.

I have no idea what you mean about not having written proper feedback - this was wonderful, J! I appreciated every single word. And the song! You're right that it's absolutely perfect! Who is it by? (And bb! Maybe you've found a song for your picspam!) ♥!
crayford
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
kePPy doing the thinking so you don't have too.
I have so many thoughts about 'Merlin' but have yet to sit down and consolidate them so it's great to see this.

It both confirms and adds to my understanding of Gwen.

I may add a link to this on my journal (if that is okay?) though no-one reads it.

I'll have to come back after work and comment on some of you points.
kepp0xy
Feb. 3rd, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Re: kePPy doing the thinking so you don't have too.
It was sort of relieving to get all my Merlin and Gwen thoughts specifically out of my head and onto the page :D

And feel free to add a link anywhere, I'm very flattered <3 And I look forward to hearing your further thoughts!
_autumncolours
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for all the time and effort you must have put into this! I really enjoyed reading it :) I have lots of thoughts - particularly about Gwen's role at Ealdor - but I'm currently supposed to be reading Shakespeare so I may have to re-visit this post later!

The one thing I did want to say was that this whole post really highlighted Gwen's loyalty to Camelot. She's got plenty of reasons not to be: besides Uther's responsibility for her father's death, she's worked as Morgana's maid for long enough to have had insight into pretty much everything that goes on in court, and to hear all of Morgana's thoughts on Uther. Not to mention that as a servant, she wouldn't have been treated well by everyone, and especially not by Uther and other members of court. I think it would have really been quite easy for Gwen to become bitter at what she's seen, and - even if she wouldn't explicity stand against him - not to hinder Uther/Camelot's enemies.

The fact that Gwen doesn't go down this route - that, instead, she tells Merlin she would not want Uther dead - shows how good her heart really is. She tells Arthur that he needs to survive for Camelot, and I think that a lot of her love for Arthur (not the only reason by any means, but definitely part of it) is that she sees hope for Camelot under his reign, and that - almost above anything else - Gwen is loyal to Camelot, even if she doesn't agree with a lot of what currently goes on there. And it's one of the main reasons she'll be an amazing queen.

(This is a huge part of the reason why I don't think the show's going to go (much further) down the Arthur/Gwen/Lancelot route: becauase even if somehow Gwen could cheat on Arthur, despite all the obstacles she will have to overcome to marry him, I cannot see Gwen betraying Camelot by doing so.)
kepp0xy
Feb. 3rd, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
The one thing I did want to say was that this whole post really highlighted Gwen's loyalty to Camelot. She's got plenty of reasons not to be...

You very nicely put words to all this. However, I think something the show only manages to show us in snippets, is all the reasons Gwen would be loyal to Camelot-the-kingdom, as opposed to Camelot-under-Uther. The people of Camelot generally appear to be good and strong folk, and I think that's enough to garter Gwen's loyalty; she wants them looked after, more than she wants to spite Uther. As it stands, I think Gwen has a clear understanding of the idea that Arthur isn't ready to be king, and that means dealing with Uther as their present leader.

Gwen is loyal to Camelot, even if she doesn't agree with a lot of what currently goes on there. And it's one of the main reasons she'll be an amazing queen.

^^ exactly this.

(This is a huge part of the reason why I don't think the show's going to go (much further) down the Arthur/Gwen/Lancelot route: becauase even if somehow Gwen could cheat on Arthur, despite all the obstacles she will have to overcome to marry him, I cannot see Gwen betraying Camelot by doing so.)

Interesting take! And one that I now totally subscribe to. You're right, because to Gwen, Camelot will = Arthur, so therefore, a betrayal of Arthur is a betrayal to the kingdom. Interesting! I like it >XD

I hope you'll have the chance to revisit later, as I'd love to hear your thoughts on Gwen's role at Ealdor!
keenan24
Feb. 2nd, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
First of all wow you really went the whole nine yards with your Gwen meta. More power to you since it's very thorough and follows the show and Gwen's "development" every step of the way.
I don't agree with everything but I'll get back to it later as right now my head cannot compute.
thanks for the meta though, it was an interesting read.
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
I look forward to hearing your alternate thoughts :]! Thanks for reading it!
dreamon_dreamer
Feb. 2nd, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
THAT WAS AMAZING.

there's not one part i didn't like. you wrapped up my viewpoints neatly and concisely, and made me think about/realize things i hadn't previously.

"well, until they do." is one of my FAVE lines from her bc like you said, she put the ball in his court. it takes a lot for a woman like gwen to do that. esp after losing her father.

and then, even after saying that, i don't think she expected him to really do anything. i'm not even sure she knew what she was expecting. which is why i think arthur saving her from the dragon and his reasoning shocked her. shocked her and melted a bit of her hardened shell. and from then on it was just constant momentum leading up to that final hug. and i hadn't thought of it that way before, but you're right, she did all of a sudden realize she had as much to lose as anyone else and that she could be more of an active participant in trying to dissuade that from happening. so i'm hoping in s3 we see her continuing to throw herself full force in what she still has that she loves and cares for. i like seeing gwen not worry about the future so much and enjoy the present.

again, great great job on this.
kepp0xy
Feb. 4th, 2010 05:57 am (UTC)
i'm not even sure she knew what she was expecting.

I think you're right about that, and I think that has a lot to do with Gwen not wanting to let herself hope for things out of her reach.

so i'm hoping in s3 we see her continuing to throw herself full force in what she still has that she loves and cares for.

This. So much this. Please & thanks. The way things stood at the end of 2.13 allow Gwen to shape her own life in ways she hadn't been able to previously. It will be interesting to see how she chooses to do that.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and I'm glad you enjoyed this :]!
hmsharmony
Feb. 2nd, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, God. When I saw you had written this up I was devastated that I had to go to class because I knew it was going to be absolutely brilliant - and it was. I've been an enormous fan of Gwen's since I started watching the series, but I've always had trouble grasping on to the notion that she had had character development over the past two series. I wanted to believe it, and I always claimed that she had great potential and that she was more than a cardboard romantic interest cut-out, but I still struggled with the notion that she had experienced significant development. This meta-study absolutely convinced me that she had.

I thought your analysis was incredibly well thought out and showed a great understanding of the show and, of course, of Gwen's character (though I can't help but wonder if the writers have thought this out as well as you have). I especially loved how you took what most of us considered to be tiny changes in Gwen's development and demonstrated why these moments were actually much more significant than we realized, such as in your description of 2x13. It never occurred to me that Gwen looking out at the destruction was a significant point in her life when she realized that she wanted and could do more. Now that you've shed light on that her actions at the end of 2x13 make much more sense.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this up. Of the four main characters I feel Gwen gets the least love in the fandom and, as a result, many ignore her and don't bother to understand her and see that she isn't just some fickle girl who gets all the guys. This was a fantastic essay - well thought out and incredibly well written, and it reaffirmed my faith in the future of Gwen's development.

I'm excited to read part two!
kepp0xy
Feb. 4th, 2010 06:01 am (UTC)
Of the four main characters I feel Gwen gets the least love in the fandom and, as a result, many ignore her and don't bother to understand her and see that she isn't just some fickle girl who gets all the guys.

D: so much this, unfortunately. It's absolutely the case, and it's very sad. Partly, it is the fault of TPTB for leaving Gwen in the background for so much of s1, so that when she came to the forefront in s2, she seemed like a shock. There's much more to it than than, in many ways, but this isn't the meta to discuss it XD

Thanks for your lovely words, and I'm glad you found value in this <3
trude
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Bookmarking this, but I have episodes to re-watch and things to mull over before I can come up with any kind of thoughtful response.

She was amazing, and I'm going to take it for granted that y'all agree with me on this, if nothing else.
I certainly agree, but oh how nice it is too see stuff like this in writing.
kepp0xy
Feb. 4th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
♥! One of the most satisfying parts of this meta was giving Gwen her due. I hope you hav ethe chance to re-watch and mull, as I'd love to hear your further thoughts :]
purely_distel
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
*stares* oh my ...

this is wonderful. obviously, for someone like me, who has always regarded Gwen as one of the characters showing the most potential for development and being the one of the most interesting and loveable, I mostly nodded along to what you wrote because I feel the same.

Still, seeing it put to paper just makes it more tangible which is something I like a lot. I think it is amazing to see someone who was basically a no-one in the beginning (both in the sense that she was "just a servant" to basically everyone higher than her except Morgana AND in the way she regarded herself and lived her life) show how much she really has to give to everyone. It being friends, peers, superiors or unknown entities - with each passing episode Gwen develops, unknown to her, into the Queen that both Arthur AND Camelot want and need.

Though, I have to say in one point I don't entirely share your opinion. You said at one point that, up until 1x13, there was basically no love lost between Arthur and she. I think the initial beginning of her regarding Arthur as more than a snobby Prince is earlier though not really voiced or used.

Gwen already observes Arthur's willingness to go against his father and help someone lower than him in Poisoned Chalice. Obviously, it is not something she really lets herself be confronted with for what I believe are several reason. One being that she was simply really worried about Merlin and secondly there is just a lot of history between Arthur and she where he does NOT act like this (at least she has never been able to witness it before then). But I am pretty sure that, in retrospective, she would remember it (she DID see to which lengths he would go) and that is why, by the time the happenings at the end of the season come about, she more easily adjusts her view from "Arthur, Prat!Prince" to "Arthur, Future King!". But, uhm, that is just me ^^

Now I feel like I did nothing but complain though that really is not my intention with this. I really, really love what you have written here and cannot wait to see how your demands go together with what I have in mind.

Thank you for this!
kepp0xy
Feb. 2nd, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
No complaining at all, in fact I'm pleased for the discussion!

One thing I want to say right away, though, is that I actually said that there was little love lost between them prior to Ealdor, so episode 10, not episode 13. I absolutely agree that the things Arthur did leading up to Ealdor played a part in Gwen's shifting view of him and her lending him her allegiance but even in The Moment of Truth, Gwen said to Morgana, "Why is he even here?" or something along those lines, and her tone was not a happy one.

Essentially what I'm saying is, events in Ealdor were what really propelled Gwen into reconsidering Arthur, but the incidents before it - such as how he strove to save Merlin in 1.04 - added extra weight to her shift in view.

That's my opinion on things though, obviously :] Thank you for reading and for the thoughtful feedback ♥!
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kepp0xy
Feb. 4th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
I also feel she must be the most difficult one to write for them, because you have to play to a current audience who want to see strong women and yet you're writing for a time where women were viewed so differently.

NGL, I thought a lot about this comment, trying to evaluate it and find my opinion on the statement. I haven't yet come to a decision on this (partly because there's a lot of gender!fail in Merlin, but I don't think it's really due to their wanting to keep it accurate to a time where women were viewed as lesser, because they don't keep much else historically accurate in the first place) but I do appreciate the point you've made.

Thanks for your comment, and I'm glad you enjoyed this :]!
glassbomb
Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
I REALLY KIND OF LOVE YOU FOR THIS. Gwen is my favorite and there is so much here to consider. This is a really wonderful, thoughtful post. My brain is kind of fried right now from other things, but I will be back soon with extended thoughts.
kepp0xy
Feb. 4th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
Looking forward to the time you can come back and give more thoughts! ♥!
cammie87
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
I would say that was a real page turner, but its le web so 'that was a real mouse clicker!'

Reading this really reminded me why I have always admired her and found her the most interesting and compelling character to watch. Some points had me nodding along and others made me stop and think. You pointed out things I hadn't noticed before and were right on the mark throughout(especially with her motivation and behaviour in 2x07 and 2x04) I'm really looking forward to reading part 2.

btw I have never read an essay on a tv show in my life. Normally the phrase 'come read my 12 page analysis' has me running for the hills, but I'm glad I read this it was really interesting!
kepp0xy
Feb. 17th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry it took me this long to respond to you! I've been buried under ship_manifesto things for the last couple of weeks.

Thanks so much for the kind words! I really appreciate that sentiment, particularly that you felt it compelling enough to read entirely ♥
thedreamygirl
Feb. 2nd, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
I wish this was on paper so I could doodle flowers and hearts all over it or something; it is wonderful! I love Gwen so very much, and it's really interesting to see this kind of exploration of her character all written out because it's nice to see both things I wholeheartedly believe of her (and it pleases me to know there are other people who feel the same) and other things/readings of her character that I hadn't considered.

I want to clarify that I absolutely don't believe that this is the point that Gwen starts to fall in love with Arthur; he becomes the centre point for her hope certainly, but that is not the same as love, not by a long shot.
Thank you for this. When I was in a bookshop recently I noticed "The Complete Guide" to Merlin book (although it was just about series 1) and had a quick flick through and discovered a spread in it about Gwen's relationships with Merlin, Lancelot and Arthur respectively. Although I enjoyed the intro that said something along the lines of "it's no surprise that pretty, kind Gwen would have admirers" and some of the points it made about her relationships with them, esp Gwen & Merlin, when it talked about Gwen & Arthur it said how she starts to see him in a different light in 1.10 and 1.12, and that by 1.13 she is "devoted" to him, which instantly made me go "Noooo" (mentally anyway; I didn't really want to draw attention to myself, skulking in the children's section reading a Merlin book). I don't think the idea of loving Arthur and that kind of devotion is anywhere near Gwen's mind at this point; it is very much about her hope for a better Camelot, and faith in the king Arthur will be. (Gwen's mainly absent from 1.11 but I think that episode also shows how post-Ealdor she's starting to put her faith in Arthur. In a general situation, when things go wrong, you'd expect people of her station to think the king would fix it, but Gwen says "Arthur will think of something", even before she sees just how unjust Uther can be in 1.12.)

Not commenting on all the rest because it's a lot to take in and well most of it would be OMGYESTHIS anyway (particularly in regards to the apothercary guy in 2.07; him knowing and trusting Gwen fulfilled hopes that I hadn't realised how much I'd wanted until it happened). - Thank you for writing and sharing this! I'm very much looking forward to reading your part 2. :)
kepp0xy
Feb. 17th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry it took me this long to respond to you! I've been buried under ship_manifesto things for the last couple of weeks. But I am stoked to get to your thoughtful comments now!

Although I enjoyed the intro that said something along the lines of "it's no surprise that pretty, kind Gwen would have admirers" and some of the points it made about her relationships with them, esp Gwen & Merlin, when it talked about Gwen & Arthur it said how she starts to see him in a different light in 1.10 and 1.12, and that by 1.13 she is "devoted" to him, which instantly made me go "Noooo"

*headdesk* Those companion books are always interesting in a general way, and then have these little moments of fail where you just want to prod the authors and ask them what the crap is up. My only excuse for them is that perhaps they meant devoted not in a romantic way. But I doubt it :P

I don't think the idea of loving Arthur and that kind of devotion is anywhere near Gwen's mind at this point; it is very much about her hope for a better Camelot, and faith in the king Arthur will be. (Gwen's mainly absent from 1.11 but I think that episode also shows how post-Ealdor she's starting to put her faith in Arthur. In a general situation, when things go wrong, you'd expect people of her station to think the king would fix it, but Gwen says "Arthur will think of something", even before she sees just how unjust Uther can be in 1.12.)

THIS THIS THIS. And thank you for bringing up 1.11! If this were a detailed essay about A/G, I'd have totally mentioned that because it's tiny, but really important, and you're absolutely right in your analysis.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!!
nyaza
Feb. 2nd, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
[post!finished the comment note: this is the kind of comment were I say I have nothing to add and then go and write so much that I have to use TWO comments because it's TOO long. FAIL!SELF. and it probably doesn't make sense anyway!]

I think I'm going to add myself on those "wow" exclamations. First, I'm amazed by how you constructed this, how easy to read and how well paced it was. I know it might be a silly thing to say, but as much as I love meta, I always find myself wanting to get to the point and sometimes end skipping through the big ideas on texts. This, however, it was a pleasure to read and gave a lot of insight to Gwen's character, and because of it I adore you ♥

I wish there was something I could really add but you have said it all. Sometimes I feel that with the show, we must feel and base actions rather on our interpretations of evens than on canon itself, but I believe your take on most of Gwen's action are just what we can see there, that never gets to shine because it's fairly obscured by the rest of what's going on.

There were two or three things in particular that I really liked and made me thought a lot about them. One was, the use of how episode 13 was not focused on Gwen but meant a lot for her (yes, I know, I'm starting by the end). It kind of reminded me a lot of episode 1x12, which was a poignant episode for Gwen as you stated, and yet, is was mostly focused on Morgana and Morgana's action, as well as her relationship with Uther. I think the most important thing about the things you have mentioned from episodes like it's how Gwen develops in the shadows, she is there, constantly, going further and further, but it's little things that keep showing her changes, and I find it amazing that even in that context, we (you specially) can gather so much about her development. I'm glad you pointed all these things, things I've been struggling to explain, especially because they weren't clear in my mind, all those gaps that are not exactly gaps but are just there in the little notions. ♥

I also found fascinating the little distinction between Lancelot and Gwen's "Live for me". The interpretation you made of them is actually one of the best things I have heard about the matter and the significance it has on both relationships is wonderful ♥

It got me thinking on what means Gwen living on for Lancelot, in the ways of, putting their values into worth, the sacrifice not into nothing, rather than in terms of they romantic relationship. The idea that they'll always remember each other of what's good, the way he chooses to be "a hero" (showing that to her when they first met) and the way she'll always will make him remember of the good in him (the second time they met) turns they relation ship in something that even if not fulfilled, of great importance for each other, because, it feels like they'll give all they can to live the best lives they can even if they are apart. (I'm not really sure if I'm making sense).

On the other hand, the implication that Arthur must live for her, because they are both alive, and therefore can share the satisfaction of life together (romantically speaking or not) implies for me a support that puts each other in the other life. Whatever the position, I interpret it now as the affirmation that Arthur has to live to be there for her, as well as she will be there for him. This shared knowledge of being together (yet again, I'm not trying in any of these cases to point towards one ship or the other, but trying to explain what this interpretation makes me think in terms of both relation ships). In the end, it feel like Lancelot & Gwen's lives are shared by a bond rather worn of moments and trust that will last in each other and keep them going forward even if they are apart, while on Arthur, it implies a bond that needs to be nurtured and shared in live and present and space and contact, rather than in thought.
nyaza
Feb. 2nd, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC)
part two, because I obviously can't shut up when I start

I can't remember what other thing I wanted to point out now, but I really liked hearing about Gwen getting more closed on her feelings after the death of his father, and the way she puts her faith in Arthur about the future Camelot she wants. I think those are two points that most time just get forgotten when talking about Gwen and I think are fundamental to her development in season 2, which you cleared showed here and erased any doubt I had about it.

Oh, I remembered, I loved reading about Gwen being acknowledged by people of her own status from the scene with the apothecary, as being something I had really paid no attention to. Really interesting info.

Oh look, I said I had nothing to say and then I wrote this long thing that I’m pretty sure doesn’t make sense and is of course nothing compared to how well and interesting your post was. Anyway, really thanks for such and incredible piece I’ll be sure to be passing on to other, because it makes an amazing portrait on Gwen and makes me love her even more.

Excellent work. ♥ Really ♥
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kepp0xy
Feb. 5th, 2010 07:24 am (UTC)
though I'll admit that it makes me really want to write something like this about Arthur.

Oh my goodness, please do!!! I would lap up every single word of it *_*!

And thank you so much for the kind words, I'm so relieved you felt it worked and that it shed some light on things for you ♥
misplacedmoony
Feb. 3rd, 2010 12:29 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing this. I very much enjoyed reading it and it's helping me pin down my own thoughts about Gwen and how her character development has been handled thus far (and alleviate some of my fears that the Arthur/Gwen development went too fast). I think Gwen (and Morgana) has (had) the most potential for a very interesting and original storyline, getting from servant to queen (and friend to enemy), much more so than Merlin or Arthur, but of course the ladies get pushed to the backgound in favour of destiny. Hopefully, they'll remedy that a bit in season 3 and challenge Gwen more on many different levels. I can't wait to read your demands, I think some will be the same as mine.

And after all that, a random question: You said that you don't believe 1.12 is the moment Gwen started to fall for Arthur (and I definitely agree with that) so I was wondering what moment you thought she did start to fall in love with him and Arthur with her (not necessarily the same moment).
kepp0xy
Feb. 5th, 2010 07:37 am (UTC)
Hopefully, they'll remedy that a bit in season 3 and challenge Gwen more on many different levels.

Oooooh, I have such high hopes. I think they absolutely have set things up to pave a way for much more character development and interesting stories for Gwen, it's just a matter of them having the foresight and interest to take them.

In answer to your question, I'll tackle my thoughts on Arthur first. Honestly, I think he had started to fall for Gwen in around Ealdor, though I don't think those feelings registered at all. I think that, if anything, it was more of a slight crush, more born of surprise and intrigue than anything particularly real. Then, being greeted after his coma in 1.13 with her enormous, warm smile, I think he began to fall in earnest, though still without recognising those feelings. I say all this because, quite frankly, I don't think it's possible for 2.02 to have moved so quickly if those feelings hadn't already been forming on his end. And I suggest that he didn't recognise them for what they were, because he clearly kissed her on impulse, and looked surprised with the result.

As for Gwen, it's so tricky to say. We're told that by 2.10, she's in love with him, that she's been secretly, hopelessly (in the true sense of the word; not the general, cliched associated with love ;), interested in him for some time. My personal opinion is that his admitted care for her in 2.02 piqued her interest and got her thinking a bit, and I don't think it's a stretch to think that the respect as leader he had earned from her and the softer sides he had shown her as man (forgive the corn of that last!) could elicite some affections. I would suggest, however, that love began somewhere around the time of 206, in further witnessing the kind of king he would be, and how deferent he was willing to be with her. I think, perhaps, that Gwen falling for him was something of a personal, hard-fought-against, internal slowburn. More a case of his undeniable affection for her, and how much she had come to care for and respect him in the time she'd really begun to know him. Gwen doesn't allow herself to want much, and I don't think she wanted to want Arthur, but I think she, quite frankly, couldn't help herself in the end.

Ahh, I hope that answered your question! What are your thoughts on the topic :]?
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threemeows
Feb. 3rd, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
First, this was amazing. Incredibly articulate and precise, and I agree with probably all these points whole-heartedly. I can't imagine what time and effort you put into this.

Two points ...

But there's so far left for Gwen to go. I want to see this hero tested, I want to see her challenged further, and I want to see her fight - for what she believes in, for her principles without having to go through others, hell, maybe even for Arthur. I want to see her embrace a sense of independence, and trust enough to let her guard down again. I want her to screw up - royally - and have to dig herself out of it. I want her to come face to face with a moral challenge where what is right isn't so easily deciphered. And I think all of these things are plausible, and I'll discuss each one in part 2 :]

This, so much. There's a part of me that fears, really fears, the idea of Gwen "screwing up" - because I can imagine what sort of eruption that will cause amongst the haters. But it's a necessary and vital thing to happen for her character development.

Having said that, I know you pointed out earlier that the scene with the apothecary was great because it showcased how well-respected Gwen is among her peers and her class - something that I adored when it came on screen, as well. But I think another additional wish that I have is that there's this idea in fandom that the commoners will love her, and the nobles hate her. These aren't unreasonable assumptions, and I think, would probably hold true for the most part. But it would be interesting, as well, if we saw something on the show that would indicate that not all of the commoners would be happy about it, either.

Their final scene together is what I feel reveals all this. Gwen deflects Arthur's advances not because she didn't reciprocate (and it is vitally important that she, at no point, denies her feelings for him) but because there were too many possible barriers between them, and she needed to regain control after being - essentially - forced into revealing how deeply her feelings went.

Gwen was making a point: they could not simply be together because they wanted to be. There was still the possibility that someone more hierarchically fit for the throne than Gwen could enter his life; there was still that enormous status leap between them; as king, he had to set an example, and as it stood, there was no room for a peasant queen. I believe Gwen was asking for a commitment from him, in her own way; or perhaps more accurately, telling him what it was she's looking for. It would be too painful to ask for it forthright, and, between the two of them, Gwen had always been the more aware of the consequences and nuances of their actions. She didn't think they were ready for a blatant demand for commitment. Additionally, she was no doubt fearful that thought she had come to a realisation, Arthur had come to decide otherwise - declaration of love notwithstanding.

So she told him her concerns, and put the challenge to him (Gwen: "... And I cannot be your queen." Arthur: "You don't know that." Gwen: "I'm as sure of that as you are." Arthur: "Things may change." Gwen: "Well, until they do.") and essentially told him she would be waiting for the time when things do change - that it was now up to him to make that happen, if he so chose.


This is just my POV on this scene ... but ...

This scene bothered me in many ways, much like the Lancelot-leaves scene, and I think it was because of the stilted dialogue (not what Bradley or Angel were trying to convey). I'm not exactly sure Gwen's saying she'll wait for him to make the move. I'm positive she's saying that he has to be the one to stand up and make that move, but I'm unsure that she'll be waiting (given what she said about him meeting a princess one day, and what was left said/unsaid wrt Lancelot). Especially since, given what occurred in Sweet Dreams, she saw that he's simply not capable of standing up to Daddy to do that (he had to be enchanted and basically high as a kite to do so wrt Vivian). That episode, to me, solidified in her head that she's "not enough."

But YMMV, obviously. :)

Inarticulate reply was inarticulate, sorry. D=
rubberglue
Feb. 3rd, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
These aren't unreasonable assumptions, and I think, would probably hold true for the most part. But it would be interesting, as well, if we saw something on the show that would indicate that not all of the commoners would be happy about it, either.

I think that would be quite interesting to see. Plus I would love to see how she reacts to the commoners who aren't happy with it.

I'm not exactly sure Gwen's saying she'll wait for him to make the move. I'm positive she's saying that he has to be the one to stand up and make that move, but I'm unsure that she'll be waiting (given what she said about him meeting a princess one day, and what was left said/unsaid wrt Lancelot).

I agree with this. When I first watched it, I felt that Gwen was "giving up" on the relationship because of the hurt that happened in the episode and the fact that when she spoke about some princess Arthur would eventually marry, he responded quite half-heartedly. To me, I felt she thought that Arthur did not see her as important enough to stand up to Uther for their relationship. And so, I don't think that she was committed to waiting for him. She did put the ball in his court though - if he wanted something to happen, he would need to make change happen. In the light of 2.13 though, I am not so sure about how she feels about waiting for Arthur. And I do wonder how she would react to Lancelot's return in S3.

Edited at 2010-02-03 02:08 am (UTC)
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