Merlin is based on a legend we’re all familiar with. We know that Merlin will become Arthur’s trusted advisor and not just his servant boy, but for this to happen we also know that Merlin has to reveal his magical powers and come out of the closet, so to speak. Before this can happen the writers are going to have to start setting up the road towards Arthur’s acceptance that magic ain’t all that bad.
This week’s episode of Merlin shows the first tentative steps, from Arthur, towards a reconciliation with magic, as hinted at in the episode’s title, “A Herald of the New Age”.
The episode begins with Arthur and Merlin, accompanied by their usual gang of knights, stumbling across a ghostly shrine deep in the forest, which looked a lot like an old tramp’s washing line to me. Merlin warns the others of the evil atmosphere that he believes is a signal they should scarper without touching anything before it’s too late. They don’t, of course, but what kind of adventure story would it be if everyone did what they were advised by someone who knows better?
Elyan, Guinevere’s brother, ignores Merlin’s warning and has a little drink from a well at the shrine. Whilst drinking the wind stirs and he sees the vision of a young boy in the reflection of the water.
It’s an evil spirit, duh.
The episodes has borrowed heavily from Japanese horror The Ring, with a damp young child appearing at random to try and frighten us. It didn’t do a great job of frightening me, but I imagine this would have had me trying to crawl inside the couch as a child.
To cut a long story short, through a few tricks and turns it is revealed that the spirit is the ghost of a young boy who was killed in attack on a druid settlement led by the forces of Camelot. The ghost is after revenge, and assumes control of Elyan’s body in an attempt to kill Arthur.
Merlin obviously figures it all out tout suite and tells the story of the young spirit’s fate to Arthur, presuming it was Uther Pendragon that led the attack on the druid settlement. On hearing this story, Arthur makes his way back to the shrine in the forest. He drops to his knees and reveals that it was him who led the attack on the settlement and not his father – hands on cheeks – then apologises for his actions, saying that he was wrong and is even prepared to sacrifice his life as an apology. The spirit accepts his apology and Arthur and Merlin make their way back to the castle for the start of the next episode.
Obviously what’s most important about this episode is the very obvious declaration from Arthur that the killing of druids, magical people, is wrong. So Merlin may be able to come out of the closet one day after all.
Of course, admitting that those that use magic should not be killed is quite far off saying that they are accepted. So we can quite safely say Merlin will be sneaking about for quite some time to come.
The episode had over 5 million viewers on Saturday night, which is not quite as well as it was doing this time last year, but given that it’s up against X-Factor, Strictly and Get Me Out of Here, it’s pretty good going.
This week’s episode was pretty darn good and Merlin is still proving to be one of the best dramas the BBC has.
If you haven’t been watching it then perhaps this trailer will whet your appetite.
What are your thoughts on Merlin, is it as good as last year? Should more people be tuning in? Let us know in the comments below.