BBC1 - 6th December 2008 - 7.25pm
I think I'm in love with Morgana. Wasn't she magnificent standing up to Uther like she did! Katie McGrath really rose to the occasion in this episode with a cartload of motivation driving her character development. Pity, I can't say the same about Gwen. Yes, the two women were centre stage here but certainly Morgana got the lion's share of the episode. Poor Gwen, poor Angel Coulby. She gets a juicy bit of motivation when her dad gets killed by Uther's men but just tends to go off sobbing in the corner and then gets sent to bed about 7 minutes into this. She should have joined up with Morgana and kicked Uther's ass.
Has Uther got a built in sorcery sniffer-out in his nose...So, Gwen's dad gets mixed up in 'The Alchemy Affair' with the obviously very evil Tauran (hooded fella with a beard y'see) and finds out the hard way that turning lead into gold is a massive no-no in Camelot. Tauran uses this big glowing stone that must radiate waves of sorcery because Merlin's built in detector starts up. Unless he was getting up in the middle of the night for a wee. Lead into Gold! Are they mad...they'd be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. And how can they tell the gold's been obtained by using the 's' word (pay attention, that's sorcery)? Has Uther got a built in sorcery sniffer-out in his nose too? Mind you if he did have, then Merlin must stink to high heaven. Tom gets thrown in the dungeons on a charge of treason and Uther executes him. It's really quite shocking how uncompromising Uther is in this and I would guess that most of the audience is rooting for Morgana to get back at him for his ruthlessness.
Katie McGrath is great in this and is as hard as nails with Uther. The episode hinges on that moment where she watches poor Gwen trailing after her dead father's body on a cart. You can see her boiling up with anger at Uther. Her confrontation with him is visually a treat too, with sunlight streaming through the window as she tears him off a strip. Stuart Orme, the director, has been a shot in the arm for this series and visually he's delivered some beautifully shot work and seems to have figured out how to pace the slowest scenes and not induce boredom into the audience. Uther's reaction to her gobbiness is to hurl her into a dungeon too. God knows what his foreign policy is like. However, Tauran's lost his alchemy stone and goes after Gwen, thinking her father took it from him. Do you get the impression that Gwen is reduced to the status of victim throughout this series? She was good in the fight with Julian Bashir last week so why can't we have more of that?
Merlin rushing to the rescue with the light sabre of Aulfric
The long and the short of it is that Morgana has the stone and starts plotting with Tauran to bump Uther off. Merlin gets wind of this and seeks advice from John Hurt about what he should do. The dragon's bloody useless and just bangs on about 'destiny' and then flies off to leave Merlin with a whopping great moral dilemma - does he stop Morgana from killing Uther? Morgana plays on Uther's heartstrings about her own father and cons him into visiting his grave where Tauran's men will assassinate him. For me the whole scene at the graveside, where Morgana is presented with an Uther who realises he's done the wrong thing and is clearly contrite about the death of Tom, is one of the best dramatic moments of the series. Yes, perhaps it is rather heavily telegraphed that Morgana isn't going to kill Uther but it still works emotionally and dovetails nicely with Merlin rushing to the rescue with the light sabre of Aulfric. Good action scenes, tense moral dilemmas, fine performances from Katie McGrath and Anthony Head, and an Uther welcoming Morgana's upbraiding of his every decision. Great stuff from writer Jake Michie.
However, the Gwen problem hasn't yet been solved. They must give her more to do than washing and crying. They also can't keep this whole love/hate Uther thing going. At some point someone has got to really hate him enough to bloody well kill him so that Arthur can become king and all that destiny whatnot can be fulfilled. Uther, your time is running out. I suspect that the death of Uther would make a particularly good series finale...
Cathode Ray Tube Merlin To Kill The King
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
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- from the north...
BBC1 - 6th December 2008 - 7.25pm
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