Merlin series 3 episode 2 review: The Tears of Uther Pendragon Part 2

Episode two of the latest series of Merlin had the feeling of a season finale to it. Alan explains why...

3.2 The Tears Of Uther Pendragon Part 2The second half of The Tears Of Uther Pendragon was really quite something, akin to a season finale. The episode had a cinematic quality rarely seen in other genre television shows so early in their run, and the show’s creators really raised their game with this particular slice of sword and sorcery. The unholy trinity that is Morgause, Kind Cenred and Morgana step up their game here, to take Camelot by whatever means necessary. And woe betide anybody who dares to even try and thwart them, as we discovered across the rest of the episode.

While Morgana sadistically tortures Uther in his chambers by unleashing the mandrake scream, Morgause and Cenred’s massive army prepares to launch a full-scale attack on the city. Arthur is, we discover, completely unaware of the siege, and Merlin, last seen poisoned by the serket and carried away when he called the dragon, is the only person who knows of Morgana’s plans. Can he reach Camelot in time to stop the witch? Fortunately, help is at hand. The Dragon gives Merlin an enchantment to counteract the poison running through his veins. He also warns Merlin that always seeking the good in others may very well prove to be his undoing (something I will return to later). The Dragon tells Merlin that his own destiny is linked to Morgana, and she is ‘the darkness to his light..’ Helpful advice.

And there’s more narrative work, too. The dragon carries Merlin back to Camelot. He tells Gaius that Morgana is in league with Morgause, and they both rush to Uther’s chambers, where Merlin destroys the mandrake root and breaks the enchantment. Afterwards Merlin suggests that they tell the King about his dishonest ward, only for Gaius to inform him that to do so would be seen as treason. Uther is ultimately blind to Morgana’s deception. Morgana, after discovering Merlin is safe and well, catches up with the boy wizard, first threatening him viciously, and finally blackmailing him about attempting to murder her. Things soon take a grim turn, and it seems it’s all downhill for The Kingdom of Camelot.

But before the battle does begin, there are some genuinely sweet moments. Arthur and Guinevere share a scene, and the ‘will they/won’t they’ kiss nearly happens. It’s a sweet few seconds in an episode which barely slows down to catch its breath. Arthur’s awkward confession about what he really thinks of Merlin is oddly touching too. One minute he is demeaning and belittling him, the next telling him he possesses great wisdom. The battle sequences that followed were quite breathtaking, considering this is a television fantasy drama. If there were budgetary constraints at work here, they hid them well. The skeleton army was simultaneously creepy and funny for starters, while the fight scene between Merlin and Morgana was brilliantly choreographed. And the interaction between the two, with Morgana saying she will continue to try and bring Uther down and asking Merlin about how he would feel if he was born different, and questioning whether she deserved to die because of her powers, really gave the character a sympathetic dimension.

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It also justified her reasoning, however insane it may may seem. Even if she is beyond the point of no return and has gone over completely to the dark side, we still had glimpses of the decent person she once was.

Just how much has Morgause corrupted her? Would Merlin confessing his own wizard powers have made a difference and will we get to see exactly what happened during the year Morgana was missing? And will Merlin’s belief that Morgana can be saved really be his undoing?  This episode raised a lot of questions and I am eager to see where this year is heading.

And I have to say, I never saw that ending coming. Roll on next week…!

Read our review of last week’s episode, The Tears of Uther Pendragon Part 1, here.