Merlin series 3 episode 11 review: The Sorcerer’s Shadow

Merlin reaches its penultimate episode, before the two-part finale, but can the series finally deliver on its early promise? Here’s Alan’s catch-up…

This review contains spoilers.

3.11 The Sorcerer’s Shadow

Merlin‘s latest episode is a wasted opportunity, with yet another tournament and moral dilemma easily resolved for the boy wizard, which proves that this series is running low on fumes creatively.

As a viewer, you can forgive a show for cannibalizing a storyline from another season, but when an episode not only treads familiar territory in the same run, but cobbles together an episode which feels like a copy and paste of two earlier episodes of that year, you begin to wonder how the show was re-commissioned at all?

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Gilli (Harry Potter‘s Harry Melling) arrives for a tournament in Camelot. The tournament is one without any rules, which is the first glaring inconsistency in this instalment. If there are no rules, then surely the ban on magic would be lifted?

Gilli is accompanied by a multitude of dangerous warriors who bully and laugh at the demure young man. But Gilli has a secret weapon, a magic ring bestowed to him by his father, which, when used, can conjure up any number of magical tricks, including defeating the most ruthless warriors in the competition.

Morgana uses the opportunity to encourage Uther to take part in the fighting, once Arthur is out of earshot, and revels in the beheadings and general anarchy as she oversees one bloodbath after another. Merlin is reduced to a slave by two one-dimensional villains, the same villains who are later despatched by Gilli.

Shortly afterwards Gilli is wounded and cauterizes the wound with magic, in broad daylight, in the castle, which draws the attention of Uther’s guards, who can’t remember what he looked like because they where blinded by the light.

Gaius takes the ring back to Merlin, who confronts Gilli and this was when the episode had the potential to be much better. Gilli’s argument echoes Morgana’s earlier in the year in The Tears Of Uther Pendragon, but peters out and is replaced by shoddy camerawork with dull wide angle shots in the fight sequences that we’ve seen a dozen times before!

The storyline plays out like a watered down Gwaine and Love In The Time Of Dargons. It isn’t like the writers don’t have a lot of source material to draw on. The Arthurian legends offer a million possibilities.

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As the season nears its end, the creators will really need to up their game. This series got off to a fantastic start and the forthcoming two-parter looks promising. And as I pointed out before, Merlin works best at its darkest, and the show hasn’t fully delivered on the promise made by The Tears Of Uther Pendragon. Let’s hope the finale lives up to it.

Read our review of episode 10, Queen Of Hearts, here.

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