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‘Merlin’: Series 4 Episode 6 review

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In a series that has so far veered more towards the dramatic, woodworm not withstanding, it was inevitable that a lighter episode was due.

A dramatic start found the Knights ambushed and Merlin wounded, bringing forth some refreshing honesty from Arthur that betrayed the seriousness of his friend’s condition. With his magic employed to ensure Arthur’s safety, we were presented with a long-awaited confrontation between our hero and Morgana.

It was welcome to see that the events of Series 3’s finale addressed, as she questioned Merlin’s motives and his loyalty to the young King. Katie McGrath seems to relish Morgana’s open villainy and it was an engaging performance, now mercifully free of the pantomime smirks that were her previous stock in trade. With dark magic called into play, the multi-headed, Hydra like Farmorrah was well realised in CGI, squirming beneath the skin in an unsettling but not gruesome manner.

Morgana’s strategy was sound; who better to get close enough to the King than his loyal manservant? Amusingly the flaw in her plan was Merlin’s utter ineptitude as a murderer. The comedy business of his attempts was well judged, just enough to raise a laugh or two before discovery, and we thoroughly enjoyed his lack of manners too; a telling change for the sometimes over-earnest young warlock.

One might question that Arthur had forgotten the seriousness of Merlin’s wounds, but let us presume he was rather more concerned with routing out a traitor as there was another more puzzling flaw. Why does Merlin fail to use the most obvious weapon at his disposal? He makes little or no attempt to conceal his motives, or indeed create himself an alibi, but fails to employ magic. Was he unable to utilise his hidden talents for some reason?

That Gwen became the catalyst for the discovery of Merlin’s possession was, frankly, a relief. Poor Angel Coulby has been criminally underused this year and appears to have no formal role any longer, other than that of the worried girlfriend. Given that her brother is a Knight and Arthur now King, can she not be elevated to something more useful?

Meanwhile, the insidious Agravaine came under threat as the focus of Arthur’s suspicions. Fingering Gaius as traitor was a clever move, but we’re sure we’ve had that plot before.

With Merlin temporarily restored and tasked to destroy the Famorrah, we were treated to a further return of ‘old Merlin’ – cue plenty of flying backwards, both in dealing with the Knights and the confrontation with Morgana. Her fearful reaction to ‘Emrys’ was well handled though, with their magical battle sufficiently climatic.

It was touching to see that Agravaine’s loyalty remains despite her aggressive manner with him. Of course, any great concern for Morgana’s safety sharply dissipated when she was seen clearly fine in the teaser for next time.

In summary, A Servant of Two Masters was an enjoyable episode, striking a fair balance between comedy and dramatic elements, plus giving a gentle push towards the series arc.

Aired at 7.55pm on Saturday 5th November 2011 on BBC One.

> Order the Series 4 Volume 1 DVD on Amazon.

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