Title: The Witchfinder
written by :Jake Michie
Directed by: Jeremy Webb
picture from bbc.co.uk
The episode begins with Merlin gathering wood outside the walls of Camelot. He walks along, looking tired, and drops some of the logs. He finds a fallen tree, and sits on it, turning to look down on Camelot, and the forest before it, where some smoke raises from somewhere. Merlin lifts his arm, and using magic, shapes a prancing horse out of the smoke, smiling to himself as he does so (Oh, Merlin). He stands to gather the wood and head back to Camelot when a woman in complete panic runs up to him, asking if he had seen the smoke. Merlin denies seeing anything, but the woman becomes more frantic, claiming it to be the work of magic and that the king must be informed, despite Merlin’s protests.
In an audience with the king, the woman claims that she feared for her life (from a smoke prancing pony?? – I love the show of irrational fear here). Arthur tries to diffuse the claim, but Uther decides that this is a threat. Again, Arthur offers his services to his father to find and punish the magic users, but Uther doesn’t agree to this, saying he will call on the witch finder, which unnerves both Gaius and the very quiet Morgana. Gaius asks if that is necessary, but Uther’s mind is made up.
As Gaius and Merlin walk back into their rooms, Gaius furiously berates Merlin for using magic so carelessly. Merlin admits that he wasn’t thinking, and Gaius tells him that he needs to go hide his magic book and anything that could implicate him as a sorcerer. As Merlin starts to make light of the ‘witch finder’, Gaius reveals that he knows him as Aredian, and that he is not to be trifled with. Merlin goes to do as he is told.
That night, Aredian arrives in Camelot, as Gwen and Morgana watch from Morgana’s chambers. He looks up at Morgana, who quickly lets the curtains to her window fall from her hands. Arthur and Uther are met by Aredian in the council chambers, and he informs them that Camelot is rotten to the core due to magic usage, and accuses Uther of becoming idle in the battle against sorcery. Arthur offers Aredian his knights to aid in the search, but Aredian declines, stating he has his own methods. As he leaves, Arthur asks when Aredian plans to start the search – Aredian answers that he has already begun.
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Charles Dance as Aredian
While I felt frustrated with Merlin’s carelessness with his magic at the beginning of this episode, I kind of loved this as well. Merlin looked so tired and sad , and when he used his magic to create something as simple as a prancing horse, it seemed to bring him so much joy – I like that idea of magic being a source of fun and good and happiness for Merlin, even though he spends the majority of his life hiding it away. And, how horrible it is for him when the perception of something that brings him happiness causes so much suffering for people that he loves. I loved how hard he fought for Gaius, and that Gaius was willing to sacrifice himself for Merlin. And, of course, we have a very loyal Arthur, the way he constantly watched Merlin during the confrontations with Aredian, pulled Merlin out of the council chambers under the pretense of arresting him to spend time with a condemned Gaius, and supporting him with the final accusation against Aredian. This kind of brings me to Gwen. GWEN! Finally – the subject of Tom (Gwen’s Father, who was killed in S1’s “To Kill the King” under the suspicion of harbouring a sorcerer) was brought up and directly to Arthur. I cheered very loudly when Gwen called Arthur “Arthur Pendragon”, and when she told him to start behaving like a prince. I adored that Arthur listened to Gwen and did the right thing in setting Gaius free – and, I don’t think he did that because Gwen told him to – but because he knew she was right, that he wasn’t able to help her before, and not only would he be disappointing her, but hurting a friend (Merlin) and inadvertently condemning an innocent man. Gwen and Merlin finally having some screen time together, and Merlin and Arthur’s show of solidarity in Uther’s court were also a huge highlight for me. The interactions between Uther and Gaius were wonderful too- that Uther couldn’t watch Gaius’ execution but (unlike his son)made no move to stop it, and the final scene with those two where Uther tries to downplay his part in the whole mess and Gaius tells him point blank that he was solely responsible for what happened to Gaius. Charles Dance was a wonderful, too, and he really brought the callousness to Aredian’s character. What really got on my nerves? Morgana. She could have been utilised so much more in this ep. But – otherwise, a good, solid episode that promises a bit more of a dark turn to Merlin, especially compared to the last two eps!