Bearing in mind that the very first episode of Merlin began with someone being executed for using magic, it’s a little surprising that this darker season hasn’t explored the ramifications of Uther’s hatred of magic more.
This episode includes some tender moments for Richard Wilson and guest star Pauline Collins, but the threat of death hangs over them both palpably throughout. Colin Morgan’s Merlin faces up to further difficult choices. Where once he might have let his heart rule his head, this time he makes the harder, but probably correct, choice. It’s a shame that the producers don’t allow events to run their course fully, particularly in light of Wilson and Collins’s final scene together, but perhaps had they done so, a situation might be created between Gaius and Merlin that would be difficult to maintain.
Inevitably other characters suffer from a lack of attention. Morgana, Gwen and even Arthur are peripheral to the action to a large extent, and the Dragon is once again conspicuous by his absence, but the change of pace works well. 7/10