Merlin series 4 episode 4 review: Aithusa

The fourth season of Merlin continues along more family-friendly lines. Here’s Dave’s review episode four, Aithusa...

This review contains spoilers.

4.4. Aithusa

Bordin (James Callis from the acclaimed Battlestar Galactica) unites the two pieces of the Triskelion and sets about finding the third part which, for convenience’s sake, happens to be in Camelot. He’s set upon by some druids, who warn him that the Triskelion isn’t something with which he should be meddling.

Gaius (not of the Baltar variety) knows Julius Bordin, and keeps his eyebrow firmly raised in the presence of the man, even going so far as to warn Bordin that the Triskelion isn’t safe. Together, they explain that the Triskelion will lead to a tomb in which a dragon’s egg is interred. All Bordin needs is the final part from the vaults of Camelot. Gaius doesn’t want any part of this, preferring to leave the old ways where they belong, and sends Bordin on his way.

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Merlin, having overheard the whole exchange, wants answers and, realising the importance of another dragon egg, doesn’t want to let this opportunity to go amiss. He’s all for reuniting the artefact in order to give the dragon the opportunity to gain a friend, even though Gaius warns him that Bordin probably won’t be freeing the dragon. Merlin leaves his mentor, ignoring his advice, and heads off to visit the dragon. A quick, impassioned conversation with said dragon reminds him that he is a dragon lord and, as such, should go ahead and rescue the egg, despite what Gaius may say.

Sneaking in on a sleeping Arthur, Merlin awakes the King and has to think on his feet, claiming to be looking for woodworm. The King isn’t impressed, of course, and dismisses Merlin and gives him some more washing to do. More foolishness ensues, as Merlin attempts to secure the key to the vault, which he manages to do before he does too much damage to the reputation of the recently crowned King.

You’d imagine the vault in Camelot being quite a large area, but Bordin is able to find the third piece of the artefact in a couple of minutes, escaping and putting the young wizard’s life in jeopardy by leaving him at the scene of the crime. It turns out, however, that Merlin isn’t found at the scene; instead, Merlin throws himself across the sleeping Arthur just before the alarm is raised. The missing artefact is promptly identified and a quest to capture the thief is undertaken.

So, Arthur, his retinue of knights and Merlin head into the forest to stop Bordin from unlocking the tomb of Ashkanar and retrieving the dragon egg, which could still hatch, even after a thousand years. Thankfully, Bordin hasn’t managed to get very far (or Ashkanar is quite close by), and tracking him proves incredibly easy, especially considering the King appears to be doing all the work, while Merlin is making all the food or talking to mysterious druids, and the other knights do… stuff.

As the knights enter the valley of Ashkanar, they are attacked, leaving Percival injured but still bravely soldiering on. Despite their best efforts, the knights, King and Merlin are unable to capture Bordin, who successfully deposits poison in the soap that Merlin is making, rendering the knights unconscious. Thankfully, Merlin is sent to get firewood and doesn’t fall foul of the poison.

It’s left to Merlin to prevent Bordin from stealing the egg. He knows what he is going to do with the dragon egg, and with the promise that it is a good thing for Albion, things are finally looking up for Merlin.

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More silliness is creeping back into Merlin, and the two scenes of him sneaking in on the sleeping Arthur raise a smile for their sheer ludicrousness. Julian Jones has turned in a script that continues to develop the story for this season, but sees the whole affair dealt with in a much more family-friendly way.

There’s the requisite trek through the forest, though the trail from Camelot to Ashkanar shows of some wonderful scenery, including a rather impressive waterfall. It’s a bit of a shame that more time couldn’t be spent there instead of among the trees. Oddly, there’s a moment where Arthur steps through a waterfall that should be rather artistic, but looks like came from a low-budget shampoo advert.

The new knights get a bit more to do this episode, though it does amount to riding for a while, eating and mocking Merlin before being knocked out. It’s even worse for Morgana, as she doesn’t even get a look-in on proceedings; she’s probably tidying up her woodland shack or practising her evil smirk.

Generally speaking, it’s another good outing for the actors. Callis is a great actor, but he doesn’t get enough screen time, and occasionally hams it up with a character that doesn’t exactly scream of character development. Colin Morgan manages to continue his strong performance as Merlin, managing to ride the gamut of emotions through the episode, while Bradley James retains his dignified standing despite some rather silly moments. John Hurt, as the voice of the dragon, gets a few moments to shine. This must be the easiest job of all time for a renowned actor.

Aithusa is a fun little story that doesn’t tread too far from the established formula of many earlier episodes of Merlin, introduces a cute little creature at the end and has some humorous moments. The fourth episode is a lighter affair, that manages to escape any form of slapstick (save for Arthur’s trousers falling down), and sets up another interesting plot thread that hints at more intrigue for the future.

Read our review of episode three, The Wicked Day, here.

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