Merlin – The Tears Of Uther Pendragon, Part 1 (S03E01) – Episode review

She’s back, she’s bad, she’s got a plan to drive Uther mad! That’s right, [[Merlin (TV Series)|Merlin]]‘s returned for a long over due third series, and Morgana’s playing bad girl this series.

A bit like Nina Dobrev in Vampire Diaries, Katie McGrath finally gets to turn to the dark side. And it makes Merlin ten times better than last series (yeah, early days, I know). I checked, and we’ve been waiting for Morgana to turn bad in this show since November 2008!

Seriously though, it feels like Merlin’s been gone for too long, so tonight’s return felt like seeing old friends again. And to that end, there were some gently comic scenes between Arthur (Bradley James) and Merlin (Colin Morgan) and their slightly old-married-couple dynamic.

When we caught up with them, they were searching for Morgana. After a minor skirmish, they found the bedraggled Lady and brought her home to Camelot. No sooner was she back within the castle walls than she’s giving secret evil smirks when the others aren’t looking and planting Mandrake roots under Uncle Uther’s bed.

Predictably, Uther (Anthony Head) starts to freak out. He has a genuinely frightening moment when a hand clasps him from inside a well – and looks in to discover his dead wife hanging there. So he drops her, because she’s dead. Later, he’ll see the ghost of a child sorcerer that was put to death during his purges of the old religion. And because it’s Uther, it’s hard to feel sorry for him.

Morgana cements her new bad girl credentials when she stabs a guard and pitches him off the battlements. But the guard refuses to play along and survives the stabbing and the fall. So she just poisons him instead.

Merlin, suspecting something (maybe he caught Morgana’s unsubtle wicked grinning at the banquet?), follows Morgana to a forest where she’s meeting her sister Morgause. Except it’s a bit of a trap. What’s surprising is that Merlin flees rather than

a) asking why Morgana is betraying Uther/trying to appeal to her reasonable side, or

b) battling Morgause with magic

I suppose it was the heat of the moment or something. The bad girls bind him with magic chains and leave him there for the giant man-eating forest scorpions to kill him. That scene had a bit of a Harry Potter feel to it. Try as he might, Merlin couldn’t spell away the chains, but he could hold off the scorpions. Finally he lets out a raging yell and summons the dragon. Yes, the Great Dragon.

It’s an explosive start to the series, and there’s no way of telling whether Merlin’s still in danger – this time at the claws of the dragon. And Morgana’s still at large – I like the fact that she’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing, though that can’t last forever. Though what she’s done has propelled Arthur into the position of temporary monarch, even if he doesn’t want to recognise that fact. So more responsibility for Arthur might nudge him closer to being the legendary king.

As for Merlin – for the moment he seems outmatched by stronger magic. I wonder how he’ll deal with that or if he’ll work on making his magic more powerful throughout the series?

What did you guys think of tonight’s episode?

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  1. jefft

    Long overdue indeed. And launched without much fuss on BBC, did you notice?

    Anyway, although the episode looked great and gave us a push into slightly new territory, I wasnt really convinced by the banter between Arthur and Merlin.

    Bradley James with his top off is apparently going to be something of a regular feature, too.


    First 3 minutes? ‘Morgana is missing, search the kingdom, I will not rest until my ward is returned to me!’   ‘There she is!’   Ah. OK then.

    I liked how nearly everything Morgana had to say in the first third of the episode would have taken on an entirely different meaning if it had been succeeded by a mwah-ha-ha!  (‘you will see how much I care’ , and little barbed comments about making sure Uther is treated in the way he deserves)

    But then it starts to unravel a bit for me, probably because Im trying to watch it as an adult.

    Merlin deals with an assailant by making the sword magnetic, so the soldier.. falls over- Oh no!.. thats him out of the picture, then.

    And the scorpions? Oooh, here come the scorpions..

    Nope, here they come now. Nope, they still can’t walk that last 10 feet. And now it’s got dark. One of them stings Merlin (I think?) And then they’re still 10 feet away.  The dragon arrives after a while. He fries half of them and wordlessly transports Merlin home without anyone seeing him land. I wonder if the remaining scorpions have worked out he’s gone yet?


    Nicely shot and directed, liked the spooky bits with Uther (how did Gaius know Uther had been looking at a drowned child?), but a plodding script that had the potential to be better.


    1. Gerard McGarry

      “You will see how much I care” – yes, I had that in my notes, but failed to mention it in the review. Morgana was borderline panto villain anyway with her secret smirking. But it was all good fun.

      I take what you’re saying about watching the show as an adult. I tend to gloss over the plot details with a show like Merlin, because it’s fairly light fodder primarily intended for children. If we wanted grown-up adventure, we’d be tuning into Legend Of The Seeker or Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

      Funny that no-one else noticed an enormous tree being felled as Merlin evaded the axe-guy, either. On another show, that would annoy me, but on Merlin it’s par for the course. Am I being complacent about the quality of the series? Most likely, yes. In places, Merlin doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s more of a medieval romp for me than a serious drama anyway.

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