‘Merlin’: ‘Another’s Sorrow’ spoiler-free review

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After last week’s spooks and scares, the Witch is back with another suitably high-concept plan to ensnare her brother. Seemingly unscathed from her stabbing at the hands of Mordred, Morgana is at her unhinged best and intent on turning the political to personal as she meddles in the relationship of not one but three kingdoms; firstly she brings the neighbouring Kingdom of Nemeth to its knees, then contrives to use its royal family to ensnare Arthur.

Though the players may familiar to longer term viewers, little prior knowledge is required. Odin (Fintan McKeown), the brutish King of neighbouring lands, carries a long-standing grudge for Arthur regarding the death of his son. Morgana plays on this enmity in order to secure his army for her cause.

Princess Mithian (Janet Montgomery), the potential bride for Arthur in the wake of the Lancelot incident, is the most credible regal love interest the show has presented. Their marriage would have cemented the relationship between Nemeth and Camelot and despite Arthur ultimately sending her packing as he still had feelings for Guinevere; the two kingdoms have remained allies.

The episode hits the ground running, with a pre-credits sequence that smartly sets up Nemeth’s misfortune and introduces Mithian’s father, King Rodor (Edward Fox). Despite his presence being little more than a cameo role here, Fox is well cast as the elder statesman and he brings a welcome touch of gravitas to proceedings.

With Rodor in Odin’s clutches, Mithian is deployed as a reluctant honey-trap for Arthur’s chivalry, knowing that he will feel compelled to aid her. With the princess a hostage to the Morgana’s scheme, there are plenty of multi-layered scenes and some wonderful moments between Janet Montgomery and Katie McGrath as Mithian struggles to communicate the truth to both Arthur and Merlin.

Sadly, for another week, Gwen feels ill-used here. Despite plenty of potential for an exploration of the Queen’s feelings, as her husband prepares to take up his sword for this royal damsel-in-distress, that particular road is not taken. Instead, she gets to challenge Arthur’s motivations from another angle and there are some strong, believable moments with the pair together. Conversely, the Gaius gets plenty of chance to use his talents in a rare excursion from the castle. This provides for some heartfelt interaction between Richard Wilson and Colin Morgan.

Out in the wilds of Gedref with the Knights, time is made for a further fireside discussion between Arthur and Merlin, as the latter also challenges the young King on his desires. You would think that after all these years Arthur would learn to trust Merlin’s ‘funny feelings’, but instead it is he who tackles Merlin’s fears in this instance.

Notching up his twelfth writing credit, Merlin co-creator Jake Michie’s tale achieves a good level of rising tension as the Arthur walks towards the trap and the story pays off well, culminating in a grudge match which allows Merlin’s ideas to take centre stage as he enjoys a properly heroic role for once.

With some well-handled action, courtesy of returning Series 3 and Doctor Who/SJA director Ashley Way, ‘Another’s Sorrow’ provides both another solid step on the road to Albion and an enjoyable romp for the regulars, with a superb guest cast to boot.

Airs at 8.20pm on Saturday 27 October 2012 on BBC One.

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