I might be jumping the gun, but Merlin is looking decidedly like it’s turned some kind of corner. Following last week’s magical episode, this week there isn’t much sorcery, but they still manage to throw a reasonably well plotted story and even chucked some real Arthurian lore into “The Beginning of the End”.
A Druid and his son come to Camelot, which is a very big mistake since the place is run by mad Uther, who doesn’t like magical people, even kids.
The father is caught but the boy escapes, and his telepathic calls for help are heard by Merlin, who takes the injured boy to Morgana. This involves a dangerous plot to keep the silent boy safe, with Merlin, Morgana and Guinevere the conspirators.
Meanwhile, Uther is doing his irrational best to find the child, so he can give him the same haircut as his father. Anthony Head is obviously having scream playing the fruit-loop Uther, though I don’t find his version of insane quite as convincing as the one John Noble is parading in Fringe. But the bizarre twist this week is that on this particular occasion, he’s actually right for once.
Merlin is concerned for the magical child and heads down to see the Dragon. Usually he gets a cryptic message from the scale-head, but he’s refreshingly direct this week, ‘let the boy die’. If he wasn’t confused before he went, he was afterwards.
Morgana decides to take the boy out of Camelot through a secret door, but is caught by Arthur, much to Uther’s rage. Then Arthur decides to do the same, except he’s got another secret tunnel to the outside. With all these ways in and out, this Camelot has got more holes than pre-drilled Emmental.
The Dragon convinces Merlin not to help, but eventually against his better judgement he does, and Arthur takes the boy back to his Druid buddies. And if you hadn’t already guessed the name he gives when asked at the end is Mordred. Yes, the very person that will kill Arthur ultimately. When Mordred uses his telepathy trick he calls Merlin ‘Emrys’, which is a reference to the earliest Arthurian welsh tales where the wizard was called Myrddin Emrys.
I did enjoy this Merlin outing even if the Mordred reveal was telegraphed like bad news in a western. The episode avoided people being stupid, including Merlin for once.
My only complaint is the ‘destiny’ argument that the Dragon and Merlin keep having. Merlin doesn’t believe in it, while the Dragon keeps saying it can’t be escaped. But surely if the Dragon really thought that, why tell Merlin to let Mordred die? He knew all along he wouldn’t, because he’s destined to kill Arthur. He either believes in destiny or he doesn’t, there isn’t a ‘destiny-ish’ position as such is there?
Next week they stop messing obtusely with the lore, and introduce Excalibur. About bloody time.
There is also a black knight, who’s already dead but doesn’t let it slow him down, and the lovely Michelle Ryan as Nimueh is also back.
This show works when they avoid poor comedy routines and use some of the legendary events and characters we associate with Merlin. Hopefully we’ll get more magic, and a less crazy Uther from here going forwards.
Read Mark’s review of last week’s episode here.