Merlin, The Witch’s Quickening (S02E11), episode review

Arthur confronts Alvarr in The Witch's Quickening

Morgana moves closer to the dark side in tonight’s episode of [[Merlin (TV Series)|Merlin]], The Witch’s Quickening. The pint-sized warlock Mordred returns with a band of angry magic folk who’ve been persecuted by Uther Pendragon for years and now want revenge on him.

Mordred and his associate Alvarr sneak into Camelot and make their way to Morgana’s chambers (well, we’ve all thought about it, haven’t we?). The convince her to steal the Crystal of Neahtid for them. Naturally the crystal isn’t just some cheap trinket: it has formidable magical powers. Merlin senses the presence of intruders in the castle and goes to investigate. He tips Arthur off that the intruders are in Morgana’s chamber, but looks stupid when the room is empty.

Naturally, the folloy of this situation is that if Merlin could speak openly about his powers, he could tell how he knows certain things. As a viewer though, this makes it frustrating, because you wonder why he can’t gain Arthur’s confidence and keep the secret from Uther. Arthur’s been a bit of an ass this series though, hasn’t he?

Morgana steals the crystal – transitioning into an accomplice of Mordred and Alvarr without any complicated moral dilemmas. She takes it to them, but is followed by Merlin, who confides in Gaius what he’s seen. Gaius passes this information on to Uther, citing patient confidentiality as the reason for not naming his source – a good few centuries before the Data Protection Act came into force.

Well, Arthur takes a squadron of soldiers to the site of the encampment, but the group are ambushed (Morgana went ahead and forewarned them). In the end, they take Alvarr prisoner, but a blast of magic from Merlin alerts Mordred to his presence and possibly sows the seeds for a later war between the wizards.

Without going into any further spoilers, it was good to see the criminally-underused [[Katie McGrath]] as Morgana getting a meaty storyline for once. My biggest criticism is that the writers didn’t spend enough time leading up to Morgana’s alliance with the warlocks. I predicted last year that Morgana was due to change sides, but they’ve had difficulty convincingly moving her from one of the young castle-posse to a spy on the inside.

However, the scenes between Katie and [[Anthony Head]] were appropriately tense – and I was waiting for her to reveal her magical powers and do something horrible to him before fleeing to be with the outsiders.

One more thing, for a show that’s supposedly about magic, most of the uses of magic are utterly trivial. For a start, I haven’t seen much that convinces me magic is sufficiently dangerous to be outlawed. I’d like to see Morgana in a rage reduce someone to cinders, or Merlin properly take care of an adversary by transforming them or enchanting them somehow.

However, a much stronger episode in a series that’s been more pantomime quality than I’m comfortable with. Here’s hoping that the real drama is going to intensify for the last couple of episodes.

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