Contributor: Gregg Wright
This episode could have easily been extremely average. The whole thing still feels a bit unnecessary and something of a retread of what we already know, but the effort put into tying the episode in with Merlin’s ongoing moral dilemmas makes it a worthwhile episode overall.
I liked that Merlin and Gaius caught on to Gilli’s usage of magic so quickly. There were a number of small, unexpected elements that helped distance the episode from being as boring as it could have been. This is most prominently represented by the handling of Gilli’s character. He’s complex, a bit unpredictable on the surface, but ultimately consistent. “Merlin” has done an effective job of portraying the evils Uther has committed due to his anti-magic stance. I think Gilli is intended to be a kind of mirror image of Merlin; an example of what Merlin could have become without Gaius’s guidance.
I usually have a hard time telling whether the fight scenes in “Merlin” are actually good, due to the overly fast and shaky camera-work, and the jitteriness caused by recording it in a high frame rate. But I’d have to say that Arthur’s fight with that super-fast Mongol-like swordsman was one of the best and most believable-looking fight scenes I’ve seen in the show so far. In fact I’d say that the fight scenes in this episode were better, on-average, than most of what I’ve seen on the show so far.
Once again, Merlin is forced to make an impossible decision. The choice he makes is consistent with his character so far. Merlin is willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. Thankfully for him, his choice doesn’t result in as dire of consequences as they have in the past, which actually lessens the overall impact of the episode. Gilli seemed to accept what Merlin did and learn his lesson just a bit too easily. It’s not hugely out of character, though, since it was previously established that Gilli sensed that what he was doing was wrong.
All in all, one of the better episodes of the season. But even so, it’s very indicative of the “holding pattern” this show has found itself in since the very beginning. And unfortunately, it makes no real attempt to set-up the two-part finale. Hopefully the finale will finally bring some real change to the world of “Merlin”.