There are a lot of spoilers out there regarding these final two episodes of Merlin, and all that I’ll say on the subject of them in this review is that “context is everything”. Brief glimpses can give an entirely wrong impression (look at the fuss over the first of the Star Trek Into Darkness trailers which sent reviewers barking up the wrong tree completely).
If you’ve stuck with Merlin this far – and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re doing it rejoicing at the updated version, or with clenched fists at the wasted potential – then you will want to see this episode. There’s more humour than I anticipated, given the subject matter, and there’s one particular scene between Arthur and Merlin which you really expect to go one way, and then takes a severe left turn.
Colin Morgan has to show a very different side to Merlin in this story: he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been before, and even some of the skills that Merlin has acquired at his lord’s side seem to desert him just when he may need them most. But he can also rely on the stupidity of others to assist him – one of his enemies makes an incredibly fundamental mistake (think Scott Evil’s complaint in the first Austin Powers movie).
There’s a nice contrast between Bradley James’ Arthur and Katie McGrath’s Morgana: one becomes more regal, more like a monarch as the episode unfolds; the other… not so much.
One major complaint has been thrown at this series ever since the concept was first revealed; maybe – just maybe – that is going to be remedied in the final episode. Personally, I’m more hopeful about that now than I was before seeing this…
Verdict: A good set-up, but everything now rides on the finale. Quite appropriate it airs on Christmas Eve: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…” 8/10