Having sat through 45 of the most spellbinding (Pun very much intended) minutes that the Merlin series has managed to conjure up, (Again, we’re here all week) we were left with just one thought entertaining the mind: If only someone proof-read the scripts.
There’s one key element that’s saving the better episodes of this series from reaching that of the show it wants to be, Doctor Who, and that’s the plot holes that litter every episode. Merlin feels thrown together. It feels strange to be so negative towards what was really a very good episode, (By Merlin standard or otherwise) but the excellent drama and overhanging sadness that fills the instalment only helps to highlight the less well-thoughtout parts of the programme. If the bandits where such crack shots with a bow, why didn’t they take out Merlin, instead opting to pretend both him and their wounded pray wasn’t there to finish off? How did the guards not notice Morgana in her bright red cloak and clompy-clompy high heels? We could go on.
However, we won’t. As stated, it was actually a wonderfully worked episode. Made up of many cogs, all of which slotted together perfectly, creating a serial of many layers, albeit ones that you can easily fall between thanks to the many holes. Without spoiling too much, some of the scenes featuring Merlin, Arthur, Uther and the regular cast are genuinely sad, as we see their reaction to a mistake Merlin has made. All of the regular cast give great performances, although the Great Dragon is predictably predictable in both his actions and John Hursts’ way of portraying them.
Extra credit must go for Alice Troughton’s excellent direction: The episode flowed seamlessly, with action scenes that felt far less forced than last week’s mumbo-jumbo. The way she handled the more solemn, downbeat scenes during the episode’s centrepiece was also of note- Never before has Merlin purposefully made us this close to emotional. Julian Jones did his best writing, although really his script could have been dull as Merlin’s supper at the start of the story and Troughton would have managed to bring it to life all the same, though we should be glad he delivered some great moments rather than the toss we got last time.
Complete with a big twist mid-episode, this is the kind of story Merlin fans have been waiting for and while the hitting of the Reset Button at the end was another disappointment, it shows that when they’re prepared to do so, the Merlin team can really drum up a decent piece of drama. All it needs is to be polished before it’s put out on public display- One factor that ruins most episodes, witch is a shame really. We’ll get our coats.