Merlin – The Eye Of The Phoenix – Episode review

It’s been a two-week hiatus from watching [[Merlin (TV Series)|Merlin]] for me, but I caught up during the week and have been kind of looking forward to our bat-eared wizard’s next adventure.

The Eye Of The Phoenix turned out to be a superior episode of Merlin, moving the story along nicely and making Gwen aware that Morgana may not be all she seems. The first we see of this, Morgana is approached by an old lady in the market, it’s Morgause taking a lead from the Disney textbook by disguising herself as an old hag. Morgause passes Morgana an enchanted bracelet for mischief-making purposes (i.e. to kill Arthur), but makes a fatal error when Gwen sees her true face in a mirror.

This works out nicely, since the noble Arthur is heading off on a quest to find a mythical trident. Alone. Uh-oh!

However, with Morgana’s enchanted jewellery, Arthur’s life force will be drained and he’ll die. Merlin spots the trinket just as Arthur’s leaving and has to follow him in secret to save his ass. He picks up Gwaine along the way though, just for kicks. Medieval road trip!

Back in Camelot, Gwen stumbles in on Morgana while she’s in the middle of burning an effigy of Arthur. Morgana screams at her to get out, which is uncharacteristic enough to raise Gwen’s suspicions. Unlike her peers who are too afraid to even raise the possibility of Morgana being an evil harpy, Gwen hides out in Morgana’s room and spies on her doing magic. Thus armed with evidence, she goes immediately to Gauis to tell him what she saw. Well played, Gwen. You achieved what the male cast have been fluffing around for months with. Unfortunately, Gwen’s not allowed to tell anybody…dammit.

Over in the Perilous Plains or Dangerous Territories or whatever, Merlin and Gwaine follow Arthur. There they get to meet a short person who says vaguely symbolic things about strength and courage and stuff. They continue into the lands and arrive at the castle to be chased by dragon alike beasties. Merlin saves Arthur (again) and takes the naughty bracelet that was causing all his trouble.

But the best bit comes next – Merlin becomes separated from Arthur and Gwaine and trapped in a throne room. But sitting in the throne is the crusty, cobwebby Fisher King who reveals that the quest was never Arthur’s, but Merlin’s. He gives Merlin a vial as a gift in exchange for the bracelet which he uses to end his long life. But it’s the exchange between the pair that’s exceptional. It’s great when Merlin meets another magical being and can have open conversation with them – we get a fantastic reveal of information.

And as with every such exchange, it’s fleeting. The Fisher King is consumed by a whirlwind moments later, presumably how ancient wizards die.

If there’s one minor complaint with this episode, it’s that many elements felt borrowed, mostly from Lord Of The Rings. Big tower? Check. Crusty old dude on a throne? Check. Magical jewellery? Check. Etc… But funnily enough, the story came together much better than anything else this series. There was story development in Camelot and beyond. Morgana is on the verge of being discovered as a traitor. Gwen is in on the secret – how long before she discovers Merlin is their most potent weapon against evil magic. 

A marked improvement for Merlin this week. More of this, please.

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