In the first few Merlin episodes this series, big things have happened – advancements of the Mordred storyline, major character reunions – surely we must be due one where literally nothing of any use takes place? Half an hour of running around, followed by a fast reversion to status quo?
So is that what we have here? And if so, was it at least fun to watch? Spoilers follow, so catch up first on iPlayer if needed.
One Man’s Backstory Is Another’s Sorrow
First of all, Another’s Sorrow is a continuity-heavy episode of Merlin. You can get most of the backstory from the expository dialogue, but still: if you like to know exactly what’s going on at all times, the sudden reappearances of Mithian and Odin from previous years may throw you off. Just have Wikipedia ready on your iPhone.
Aside from the backstory involved, this is simple stuff. Arthur goes on a quest, it turns out to be a trap set by a traitor allied with Morgana, the trap is sprung, Merlin saves him. There are complications – in particular, the amusing irony of Morgana now hiding behind an ageing spell as well – but this is meat and potatoes Merlin stuff.
The bromance banter and fighting – in particular, a decent sword fight between Arthur and Odin towards the end – stop you from falling asleep, but this is a story that could have happened at almost any time since Morgana turned bad, barring a few details.
Constantly Shocking Adult Drama?
Not every episode has to be a gamechanger, of course. No-one is pretending Merlin is a constantly shocking and self-reinventing adult drama. At least this episode holds together well enough, no-one is acting like a complete moron to drive the action forward and we have fun moments, such as Gaius doing magic out in the field.
Still, might’ve been nice to see hints of a plan by Morgana, or movement in the Mordred storyline. Of course, perhaps they’ll prove me wrong and the Odin/Morgana alliance will be pivotal to the season going forward, and his truce with Arthur is a lie that will return to haunt the young King later. I kinda hope so.
In short, we have here a standard-seeming Merlin episode. Nothing awful, nothing exceptional. I wait with mild interest to see if it turns out to be more meaningful. Next week: a series of images that tell me nothing!