The Secret Sharer
Another week, another night of raised and then dashed hopes as I put on an episode of Merlin...
The first I’ve noticed is that in the opening bit, the dragon now says that the fate of the country rests in the hands of a “young man” named Merlin rather than a “young boy”. Has Merlin reached “man” status, now? Or has it been “man” for a while and I’ve just missed it?
Anyway. This episode was enjoyable enough, but not great. There are yet more plot holes to infuriate the hell out of me.
Right at the start, Morgana and Agravaine decide randomly that because Emrys knows all their plans, someone must be telling him what they’re doing. They plump for Gaius because Gaius is the only person in Camelot that would recognise the weird magical beastie from the last episode. Even though Emrys is (supposed to be) a mighty sorcerer who could probably use magic to find out what they were doing and would probably recognise obscure magic. But no, it’s Gaius! Ridiculous.
And again, why doesn’t someone just kill Morgana? Merlin had another opportunity that he missed this week. I know he’s a nice guy, but he must be getting very ticked off that Morgana keeps trying to kill him and keeps capturing his friends. But this episode we had Alator, who admits he would lay down his life to help Merlin’s plans and is quite clearly not adverse to a bit of morally dubious action because he spends most of his screen time mentally torturing an old man. So why doesn’t he kill Morgana, who he knows is trying to screw things up?
I still don’t truly understand why Merlin, Gaius and Gwen don’t just calmly tell Arthur the facts about Agravaine without saying anything about whether or not he is a bad guy. Arthur will figure it out. He’s not stupid and Gaius is a quite, quite terrible bad guy. He’s even more transparent than smirking Morgana, so slimy he’s been offered a role in the new live-action Ghostbusters stage show. That’s a Slimer joke, by the way. It is funny, I promise.
Also, if a servant talked to a king the way Merlin talked to Arthur at the start of this episode, or indulged in the homoerotic wrestling that’s happened a couple of times this series, that servant would be deaded. I’ll let them off the hook with this one and say they’re just trying to show that Merlin and Arthur have a good friendship or that Arthur is a really good bloke, but it’s a little bit dodgy.
But it is very good that we finally got to see someone using magic a bit more inventively, with Mr. Torturer Man (Alator) using flames to hurt Gaius rather than just blasting him back off his feet over and over again.
Morgana is turning into the Jack Bauer of the fantasy world. Last week she had Merlin hanging by his wrists, throwing water at him and sticking nasty things in his neck. Now she’s torturing an old man on the off chance he might have some information. Sure, it’s PG torture (The torturer says scary sounding words in a slightly threatening manner, Gaius lies down and rocks his head from side to side in pain) but it’s still torture. Certainly a step up from just smirking and making evil vague plans that never quite come to fruition.
Merlin is still enjoyable, but they need to shake things up a bit and stop relying on such implausible ideas as plot mechanisms — I’m not talking about the fantasy premise, I’m talking about the plot holes listed above. Arthur being made King has seemingly provided enough material for one interesting episode (His Father’s Son) but now all we’re getting is odd mentions of how busy Arthur is. I just have everything crossed that this series finale is Arthur finding out who Emrys ready for the fifth series. That’s what Merlin needs.
You can see this episode of Merlin on the iPlayer, or find more about the series on the Merlin section of the BBC website.