At one point during this episode, I muttered a mild expletive as it struck me that this tense race against time was on the same show that last year was doing episodes based around fart jokes and stupid goblins. Whether it’s the influence of Game of Thrones, or just the natural progression of the characters and the story doesn’t really matter: this is much more adult drama than we’ve seen before (even this season).
That doesn’t mean the episode is a comedy-free zone: there’s an almost-slapstick sequence for Colin Morgan which might have been funnier had it come a little earlier in the story, and the banter between Merlin and Arthur, while subdued because of what’s going on, still raises a smile.
I’ve commented before that Arthur is beginning to acknowledge the advice he’s getting from Merlin, and this time, as well as some minor public recognition, there’s also a tacit acceptance that had he followed Merlin’s suggestion, major problems might have been avoided. Arthur’s listened to Gwen more than Merlin – a dangerous situation given her change of allegiance.
There is a danger that we’re retreading old ground, of course: Merlin and Gaius know/suspect that someone is acting against the best interests of Camelot, but Arthur’s too blind to see (Morgana/Agravaine). Given the death last episode, and the threat of Arthur’s bane that hangs over the whole season, the stakes have been raised. It really is time for Merlin to step up and become the great wizard he’s destined to be…
Verdict: Tense, grim, and at times wandering towards nasty, this is solid entertainment. 8/10