Not for me to accuse the Merlin
writers of running out of ideas, but Julian Jones' "The Sorcerer's Shadow" (what does that title even have to do with anything?) features as its McGuffin of the Week a deadly tournament which has no rules but must
be held as it's a Camelot tradition. Yeesh, they have a lot of deadly tournaments in Camelot, how do they find the time to get any work done? They couldn't even be arsed to come up with a name for this one, it's just The Tournament. Meanwhile Harry Melling is the guest star of the week, possibly to make up for the fact that Dudley's biggest scene in the entire Harry Potter
series was reduced to a quick shot of the back of his head in the current film. Let's face it, he probably has twice as much screen time in this episode as he has in all the films put together.
It's a weird one, this week's episode, all things told. It's very much a game of two halves, with the Merlin/Gilli scenes working pretty well, largely due to Colin Morgan and Harry Melling's chemistry. Given he's playing a rather gormless character, if the latter was
cast on the strength of an earlier role, it's more likely to have been his comic turn in Women Beware Women
than the bully he's better-known for. Melling also seemed to be channeling Iwan Rheon a bit in his performance. Anyway it's also nice to have a slightly different exchange between Merlin and the Slash Dragon for a change. For one thing, they actually sort of agree, for another the Dragon manages for once to contain his lust for Uther's blood and accepts that maybe having him murdered by magic in front of his son isn't the way to make Arthur more sympathetic to SOSSERORS. Do I even need to mention that the decision to let Gilli die doesn't for one second seem likely to happen? Obviously a likeable guest star's not going to cark it the way the series has gone lately. The rather abrupt editing away from the scene of Gilli killing his opponent just confirms my suspicion that the show's had "notes" from above about the darker tone it used to have.
The Uther/Arthur subplot on the other hand is a bit of a mess. Big fight ending in reconciliation and respect between father and son; followed the next day by Uther taking the piss out of Arthur for losing? And then swinging right the other way again as Uther admits he knows Arthur threw the fight which (a) he wouldn't admit to and (b) he certainly wouldn't admit to in front of EvilSmirk!Morgana, let alone the servants. Still, having the two duelling is a nicely literal way of Uther trying to kill his sole son and heir, given he metaphorically tries to do it most weeks, by sending him on non-stop suicide missions "because that's just the way it's always been done in Camelot." Incidentally, Uther reveals this week that he conquered, rather than inheriting the throne of Camelot, which makes you wonder why he gives so much of a shit about the traditions of a royal family he deposed.
Also, once again Uther, a man prone to executing people for SOSSERY because a friend of a friend said they looked a bit funny, manages to miss it when it's right in front of his face, as Gilli not only hasn't bothered with any armour like all the other competitors - he's forgot his kit so has to do it in his vest and pants (really though, nobody
watching thinks this is suspiciously overconfident of him?) but also does Magic EyesTM
right in front of King Dingbat's face. Probably just a trick of the light. Oh and during the Tournament the writer nicks a joke from Raiders of the Lost Ark
. Maybe the cut-down to 10 episodes next year is all for the best.SOSSERY! count
nil. Gaius' special guest word of the week is "COTTERIZE!" (Cauterise.)GAYWATCH!
It's all about the geek-on-geek action this week, as Merlin tells Gilli he's "special," there's a lot of meaningful looks and eyebrow-raising between them and they have a tearful farewell at the end that once again seriously looks like a big snog's about to happen.