No, I have feelings about this scene, okay. Partially because of the role reversal—Arthur being the one to help Merlin get ready—but also because of the dynamic right here between them.
Arthur’s glance is not of the exasperated “this idiot can’t even dress himself” kind. It’s one that says: “Merlin is nervous before a battle that might cost his life and the lives of all the villagers, including his mom, and I really shouldn’t think about helping him get ready, but we’ve come this far, and he needs all the support I can give him.” And so Arthur is compelled to help Merlin, because he feels he can and must give him support—as the one who’s his senior, more experienced in battle, and the one who insisted on having a battle in the first place.
It might be the only time in the whole series when it’s not Merlin cheering Arthur on before some trial, but Arthur doing something similar to Merlin. For once, it’s not all about Arthur’s burdens, and Arthur can see that. Arthur catches Merlin at a vulnerable moment, and tries to help.
The gauntlet’s more or less by the by; Arthur doesn’t even look at it. His eyes are trained on Merlin’s face the whole time, even as Merlin avoids looking at Arthur. It’s an emotionally charged situation for both of them, but, in a twist on their usual dynamic, it’s Arthur reaching out and trying to make it better for Merlin.
It’s not necessarily a great romantic moment, or anything like that. But it’s a rare instance of reciprocity between them, and support that goes both ways. They are true equals here. I could have done with more moments of Arthur acknowledging Merlin like that.