2.7 The Witchfinder
After the cracking two part episode where finally (and successfully) it embraced its fun side, Merlin this week takes a darker tone as we are introduced to Uthers ‘Witch-Smeller’, in the form of Charles Dance’s character Aredian. And for the course of the show he’s really channelling Vincent Price’s classic ‘Matthew Hopkins’ as he skulks around Camelot accusing all and sundry of being a witch, sorcerer or in league with the devil and all his little minions.
Pantomime bad guys always work well in shows like this and seeing Charles Dance (Darnce as it seems to be pronounced) as a scenery chewing bad guy chomping his way through the action as if it was made of Hob-nobs makes me think back to his role in Last Action Hero and even more so of his superb role as the shape changing monster in The Golden Child. And while he is not the epitome of evil he is in that classic 80s movie, he sure does get all the best lines and seems to be having a bit of a laugh along the way as a cruel, cunning and vicious bad guy.
Bringing in the best man for the job to get rid of all magic in Camelot is all understandable, of course , as Uther, who came a little too close for comfort last week sharing intimate moments (not to mention other things) with a Troll, is even more paranoid about magic and its dark effects on Camelot.
With the appearance of Aredian Gaius, who it seems has a past history with the vindictive witch finder, it emphasises to Merlin just how important it is not to get found out and to keep his magic at an even lower profile. However, it is not the already cautious Merlin who has to worry as Morgana, whose growing uncontrollable magical powers are beginning to become difficult to hide, is worried that the prying eyes of Aredian will see that she is a magic user.
However, it is not Morgana that Aredian has his beady eye on but rather Gaius, whom he quite convincingly, to use the technical term, ‘stitches him up good and proper’, proving to Uther that it is Gaius who is the magic user who has infiltrated Camelot.
With a canny skill in the art of ‘spin’ that would give our MPs a run for their money and a little help with handy evidence, Aredian provides the already paranoid Uther with all the circumstantial evidence required to get a ‘conviction’. He, in turn, locks up his trusty physician with the promise he will see him burned as a witch.
Once again, it is up to Merlin to come to the rescue, this time using cunning rather than magic to dispose of his foe and using Morgana and Gwen’s help. Using Aredian’s own spin, tricks, and guile and as little magic as possible, Merlin sets a trap for Aredian, adding a little magical flourish in the end for good measure with the help of a toad. And like all good bad guys, Aredian’s fate is sealed in a spectacular (and well put together) Wile E. Coyote-like fall.
While not as fun as the previous two episodes, the show is finally on form, with a little growth in character. Arthur, it seems, is becoming a little wiser, more level headed and growing into his role of leader of Camelot, while Uther is slowly but surely losing his grip.
Merlin, too, is not being as reliant on the Dragon and using his brain as much as his magical ability. Gaius is also growing. Once a complete loyalist to Uther, his bad treatment makes him begin to question his current king’s leadership and, from the promotions shown at the end of the show, the friction between the current and future king will come to a head with the idea that soon the main characters will have to begin to choose sides in this growing tension.
Read our review of episode 6 here.