It’s taken three episodes, but Merlin at last gets a nemesis when Michelle Ryan, her of East Enders and the defunct Bionic Women, is introduced as the Witch Nimueh. It’s suggested that she’s been tweaking King Uther’s tale for some time, and continues this good work by releasing a type of Gollum into the Camelot water supply.
People start to become ill and then die from the unsanitary nature of having magical creatures mixed with drinking water. They then jump to the obvious conclusion: Gwen is a witch and they better burn her!
Actually they search the city looking for anyone with the word ‘magic’ tattooed on their forehead. And find nobody. But then Gwen’s father becomes ill, Merlin saves him using his skills and Gwen gets the blame.
Seeing Gwen thrown in jail made me chuckle. Just the idea of her ultimately marrying Arthur and them having a conversation about the ‘good old days’, when ‘your father nearly had me burned as a witch’. You know, the typical conversations married people have. But let’s be honest, this show’s not got the legs to get to that conversation, has it?
Anyway, feeling responsible for Gwen’s predicament, Merlin must act!
Enter the part – which they’re been pushing all week in the trailer – where Merlin announces to King Uther that he’s a sorcerer, which they take seriously until Arthur tell them he’s an incantation short of a spell. This is one of the dumbest scenes yet, because if they don’t believe Merlin, obviously any example of magic would have convinced them. Instead Merlin just argues that he’s a warlock without attempting to prove it once. Doh!
As that didn’t work, Merlin goes off to talk to the entirely unhelpful Dragon, for whom it’s now transpiring they could afford very little CGI. Apart from some oddly lip-synced close-ups, we’re being presented with same footage of the Dragon each week, and I’m getting bored of if rapidly.
The Dragon gives his usual cryptic messages, which Merlin is actually able to decipher this time. The resolution is a murder-in-the-dark where Merlin, Arthur and Morgana go monster hunting. It’s a difficult hunt because the effects department don’t really want to show you the monster, so it stays in the shadows. The lovely Miss Ryan curses Merlin and declares she’ll get revenge!
Although I’m still entirely unconvinced by Merlin, there are actually a few improvements this week, notably in the character of Arthur, who seemed less like a twit. This was also possibly a much better-paced adventure than the first two, but we are still talking degrees of rubbish here.
The trailer indicates that Nimueh comes back next week and gets her way by killing Merlin. I’d love to think that the BBC has come to their senses and made this an entirely alternative take on the Arthurian legend, but alas I spell a very obvious plot twist in the wind, and another eight episodes after that one.
Read Mark’s review of last week’s episode here.