Merlin episode 12 review

Uther’s obsession with magic has serious consequences in "To Kill the King".

Meet Merlin...

It’s been pretty obvious from the outset that King Uther is a couple of knights short of a Round Table. But this week he really goes over the top in his attempt to keep Camelot an entirely magic-free zone.

It all starts with Gwen’s father doing a bit of lead smelting on the side for a dodgy looking character, Tauren. What he doesn’t know is that this man is a sorcerer, and that glowing stone he’s got is a means to perform alchemy! Duly, Tauren turns the molten lead into molten gold. That’s a neat trick, but almost as impressive is the one that Tom performs seconds later when he picks up the now solid gold with his bare hands after quenching it. Gold conducts heat well, but it has a melting point of 1064.18 °C! Then again, all those years in the forge, he probably picks up things at a thousand degrees or hotter on a daily basis.

Rather predictably at this point, Arthur and the king’s guard turns up and arrests Tom. They don’t get Tauren because he’s a bit quicker than the fire-resistant old blacksmith.

Uther looks determined to kill Tom, much to the upset of many people, including Morgana. Arthur’s not happy either, but he plays along at this point rather disappointingly. The use of magic in Camelot was sensed by Merlin, but he doesn’t do anything either! Is it Uther that has a spell on them?

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Gwen goes to talk to jailed Tom and gets what happened from him, so Gaius and Merlin can debate ‘alchemy’, rather than do anything useful. It’s actually Morgana who feels strongly enough that she does something, although, strangely. she doesn’t foresee the consequences despite this being one of her magical powers. She gives Tom a key to escape the dungeon. He’s got all the stealth of a Mardi Gras, so it’s not a big surprise that he’s caught, except Uther’s specified ‘kill on sight’ and the knights follow their orders to the letter.

I’d mused in episode three when Uther locked up Gwen about the conversations she and Arthur might have later in the chronology, but now remembering the ‘good ol’days’ when his father killed hers – how they might laugh then!

If Morgana was previously upset, she’s incandescent now. She goes to Uther and tells him what she really thinks. She was going to be annoyed; overnight the cost of horse shooing just doubled! Uther’s not big on criticism, so she ends up in the dungeon for her troubles.

His biggest mistake, however, is that he lets her out. While she was in there, Gwen is attacked by Tauren who rather clumsily dropped the magical stone in the forge. He needs it back, but Gwen hasn’t got it – it’s in Morgana’s possession. Tauren threatens Gwen and demands she brings him the stone, which she doesn’t have. Luckily, she tells Morgana, which is good for her but potentially bad for Uther.

Morgana goes to Tauren and tells him that she wants Uther dead and she helps get him outside Camelot so that he and his men can kill the King.

Merlin’s remarkably large ears pick this up from behind the tree where he’s hiding. He also hears the utter tosh that Tauren comes out with to explain his master plan to get rid of Uther by corrupting everyone with gold. Eh? I had no idea that ancient sorcerers were also economists. But have they factored in the redistribution of wealth, how it might impact on Camelot’s inflation rate and cause a marked decline in the spot value of gold but an increase in the exchangeable cost of lead? I don’t think so.

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Morgana’s plan is to get Uther to come with her to the grave of her father on a hill outside Camelot, and kill him. Merlin’s inactivity in this episode finally comes to an end when he goes to see the Dragon for more words of ‘wisdom’. The Dragon says for him to do nothing and let Uther die so that Arthur can become king, which seems pretty logical. At the end we get the same effect of the Dragon flying upwards that we’ve now seen every single bloody time he’s on. I’m utterly bored with it, so much that I’d be happy if they just put the worlds ‘Dragon flies up’ on the screen instead of showing it.

As usual, Merlin goes and talks to the Dragon to then ignore him, which is exactly what he does now. It’s all a bit pointless going to the beast, unless he’s one of those people that need negative reinforcement to make their choices.

Merlin tools up with the magic staff he acquired in the ‘Gates of Avalon’ story, and goes to do magical battle with Tauren, to save mad old Uther’s life. He dispatches Tauren’s two cohorts with the staff, but Tauren uses the magic stone to deflect his shot at him back, knocking Merlin out. Curiously, when Morgana met them in the woods he had more men, and Gaius later says at least three or four men, so I can only assume some of them thought it wasn’t very difficult to kill a king and stayed home to polish their chain mail, or something. Smart move, possibly.

While this is going on, Tauren is creeping up on Morgana and Uther at the grave, while they’re having a cosy chat about the past and the regrets they have in common. Uther saves his own life indirectly by telling her it was wrong to kill Tom, at which point she flip-flops into killing Tauren when he attacks. Merlin turns up too late to be useful in this respect, which is one of his special abilities it seems.

So to summarise this episode; Arthur does nothing, Merlin does little, the Dragon does exactly what he does every episode and Uther is bonkers, yet again.

It’s with a great sense of relief we reach the final episode next week, and I can spend my Sundays writing about something else from next week onwards.

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In the season’s conclusion we get the return of the lovely Michelle Ryan as Nimueh. The trailer reveals that Arthur is mortally wounded by a badly rendered CGI creature, and Merlin must take him to Avalon to have the poisonous pixels extracted for him to live. I’d like to think it might be worth the wait, but it hasn’t been so far.

Read Mark’s review of last week’s episode here.