This review contains spoilers.
5.4: Another’s Sorrow
Another’s Sorrow brings us an episode that spans the seasons of Merlin, giving us the return of Princess Mithian, first seen in the Series 4 episode The Hunter’s Heart, and a return for the Season 2 character, King Odin, an oft mentioned, though mostly unseen character who has been seeking revenge against Arthur for the death of Odin’s son.
Having captured King Rodor and his daughter, Princess Mithian, Odin and Morgana have teamed up together and plan to take the throne of Camelot and get revenge upon King Arthur. They plan to use Princess Mithian, forced to lie to Arthur about her ‘escape’, to wheedle their way into the kingdom before luring Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table into a trap.
As Arthur and Guinevere listen to Mithian’s tale of escape, they are convinced of her story and seek to rescue her father from the clutches of Odin, barely batting an eyelid when Merlin speaks of his reservations and completely oblivious to the fact that Morgana is disguised as the old maid, Hilda. She is keeping Mithian close, preventing her from revealing the truth.
Whilst Arthur leads his men to rescue King Rodor, they don’t realise the dangers that lay ahead on their quest into Nemeth. With Merlin the victim of Morgana’s attack, the knights are separated from the wizard and Sir Gawaine, carrying on with their mission and walking straight into the trap.
Thankfully, Merlin knows the truth, racing the rescue Arthur and the Knights, whilst defeating Morgana once again.
Jake Michie’s script ties up loose ends with the threat of King Odin upon Camelot. It’s an effective way of handling a feud, except that this feud is probably all but forgotten by most casual fans. Much is made of the hatred that Odin holds for Arthur, however little is made of the brief engagement between Arthur and Mithian – Gwen mentions it at one point, but it’s cast aside in exchange for a story of revenge.
Katie McGrath is on top form when Morgana disguises herself as the old maid, Hilda. Much more convincing than Colin Morgan’s Old Merlin, McGrath gives a subtle performance that becomes quite chilling as she stalks Mithian with cruel delight and deceives our heroes.
When they’re being deceived once again, a lot of time is spent on Merlin trying to convince Arthur that rescuing King Rodor is the wrong thing to do. It allows Colin Morgan and Bradley James ample screen time to explore aspects of the two key characters; Merlin’s thoughtful approach versus Arthur’s headstrong attitude. In the end, it’s Merlin’s moral belief that prevents Arthur from bringing more attacks upon his kingdom and Arthur, once more, discovers that Merlin isn’t a coward. There’s nothing wrong with these interplays, but there is a sense that, by now, we should know what each character stands for; perhaps it’s time to lessen these exchanges in favour of more character development. Replaying the same motif over and over will eventually become tiresome.
Guinevere is, once more, relegated to the background, as are most of the knights. Mordred doesn’t make an appearance, despite now being a knight, whilst Gawaine plays second string to Merlin. Percival is shown as the man-mountain knight in the big fight scene, though gets very little dialogue, whilst the other knights are seen but not heard. It’s a strange state of affairs to have such a large principle cast, most of whom say very little.
On the topic of fighting, Colin Morgan wields a sword and some powerful magic, whilst the knights get to duke it out against the enemy in a sword battle that is woefully too short. The fight choreography has improved over the years and it’s about time the directors and script writers showed it off more often! The final confrontation between Odin and Arthur really shows what they can do and allows Bradley James to demonstrate a sense of brutality.
For the first time in quite some time, it feels like the bad guys could get the upper hand. With Arthur in the hands of Odin and Morgana, there’s a moment that leaves you feeling that Arthur could be executed (as ridiculous as that may sound!) as we get to navigate the bloody politics of Albion. The episode doesn’t end with Odin and Morgana betraying each other, but with an uneasy truce between kingdoms. As the old saying goes, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
This sense of danger is a good thing for the series and will hopefully keep viewers gripped to see what happens as Series 5 progresses. Once again, children may not appreciate what is on screen as the script is light on humour and heavy on a sense of foreboding. For everyone else, Another’s Sorrow is Merlin at its most tense.
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