Overall Rating: 6.7
Lots to report - none of it conclusive. Overall, a solid episode but, considering the events within, you would think I would be more emotionally impacted by it than I was.
During Arthur's birthday celebration, Uther struggles his way to the throne room to enjoy the festivities, but, thanks to a plot by Agravaine and his minions, this will be the last fun he has. Arthur is drugged by a trick apple and attacked in Uther's chamber. Uther, in a rare moment of vigor, defends his son and kills the attacker, but is mortally stabbed. In desperation, Arthur turns to magic to save his father. Merlin, unwittingly playing into Morgana's hands, poses as an aged sorcerer, and promises to cure the king in exchange for freedom for doers of magic. But Agravaine reports this plan and Morgana forges a locket that reverses healing spells. Needless to say, Merlin's spell backfires and Uther dies, leaving Arthur embittered with magic and at the helm of Camelot a bit sooner than anyone but Morgana would have preferred.
I think there are two reasons that this episode bounces off of me like flubber off of a basketball court. Read the above description - doesn't that sound EPIC? And yet, I certainly didn't come away from the viewing blown away. So why did it disappoint (relative to expectations)? Firstly, I think Bradley James whiffed on this one (Arthur) - I know he's supposed to be carrying himself as a king at this point, but he was way...way too stoic in this episode. I mean jeez - his father is mortally wounded defending him, he tries to save him...the magic backfires...and he sits quietly looking at best uncomfortable? Colin Morgan was more credible, but even his portrayal of Merlin's reaction to his plan going horribly HORRIBLY wrong doesn't sit right with me. Morgana destroyed his hopes of a more normal life at great cost to herself and her kind...shouldn't Merlin have been...I don't know...angry??
Apart from what I believe to be inferior acting as compared to normal for this cast, I think the plot was too well telegraphed. They should never have shown Morgana commanding Agravaine to plant the necklace and telling him what it would do. That gave us a touch of suspense, but I think we all knew immediately that Merlin wasn't going to have his coming out party today...it's too soon for the legend to make sense. The way this is done, though, we get no shock...we know what will happen when Uther awakes for that brief moment...we can't feel the horror that Merlin should feel over the failure of his spell and Arthur's angry turn. We also got very little from Gaius in this one - which somehow feels...um...wrong? I mean, this is Merlin's life or death / make or break decision here...where was Gaius to put up more than just a token protest? How on Earth does a Merlin-centered episode include no real council for Merlin? So, structurally, this story undoes its own gravitas. Which is a shame. This is a deeply important part of the Arthurian legend and...it feels like a normal episode of Merlin. What a waste.
The script suffers from structural problems, but the plot moves well and there are a number of enjoyable bits of interplay.
Unfortunately, I don't think the actors hit their standards this week. There was nothing terrible about it...but nothing that made a lasting impact either.
I suppose I could have taken a positive message home regarding playing God and deciding life and death in unnatural ways...or about the importance of loyalty and friendship...but I think the only thing that really sticks this week is the important point that Morgana is no longer fighting for "her people" of magical inclination - her selfishness and anger have taken her so far from her original motivation that she is left only with selfish, hollow pursuits of power and ultimately, she's now shooting herself in the foot once weekly. This week, she managed to destroy any hope of Arthur freeing magical peoples when he reached the throne. Well done, you harpy!