Merlin: The Witchfinder

“The Witchfinder serves no one. He is a law unto himself.”

Because he is bored, Merlin carelessly uses magic out in the open. Since this is television, the incident is witnessed by a jittery blabbermouth who goes running straight to the king. Feeling his own methods are too lax, Uther calls for the witchfinder to save the kingdom from the terror of giant horses made of smoke.

After two episodes of silly comedy, the series does a sharp 180 with this episode. Trolls and fart gags are out. Witch hunters and torture are in, giving us one of the darkest episodes yet. Witchfinding has never been a cosy subject, after all. Matthew Hopkins didn't become infamous for his stamp collection (he was a notoriously fanatical collector). But this is still a family show, so the torture scenes never stray into Witchfinder General territory. Nevertheless it is shocking to see a beloved character like Gaius being repeatedly tortured. And on Uther's order.

Even though he is secretly harbouring a powerful wizard, Gaius has been one of the king's most loyal servants. No matter what he's done Gaius has stood up for his king. I loved Gaius giving Uther a long overdue dressing down. Gaius is the only one who could. Uther would never tolerate being spoken to like that from Arthur or Morgana (and certainly not from Merlin or Gwen, he'd have them both executed). Many innocents have died because of Uther's paranoia. Gaius is sure as hell going to make sure Uther knows it for once.

The episode really benefits from having a genuinely frightening villain in Aredian. Charles Dance was just excellent. If anyone was going to give Uther Pendragon a run for his money it would have to be Tywin Lannister himself. Merlin attracts a lot of well known guest starts, but because this is seen as a family show, many either ham it up or phone it in while waiting for the cheque to clear. But not so with a constant professional like Dance. And I love his nifty hat.

Merthur Moments

Merlin? My servant? My secret boyfriend? A sorcerer? Don't be daft.

Familiar Faces

Do I really need to explain who Charles Dance is?

Notes and Quotes

--Gaius and Merlin chuckling away at the end was rather awkward. It felt like something out of a season 3 episode of Star Trek.

-- Considering how he started the episode, by being a complete dunderhead, it is fitting that Merlin saves the day by being quite clever and beating Aredian at his own game.

--So no one found it the least bit suspicious that Adedian's dagger suddenly became smouldering hot? No one? I'm starting to think Merlin could turn Arthur into a goat in front of the entire court and they'd still be clueless about him being a sorcerer.

--Only women buy things to make them look beautiful. Are there no fops in Camelot?

Gaius: “How many times, Merlin? How many times must I drive it into that thick skull of yours that your magic is a secret to be guarded with your life. What were you thinking?”
Merlin: “I... I wasn't thinking.”

Aredian: “It's all around us the foul stench of sorcery. It's infected your great city like a contagion.”

Uther: “You have a suspect?”
Aredian: “Oh, I do, my lord. I regret to say they stand among us in this very room. My methods are infallible. My findings incontestable. The facts point to one person and one person alone. The boy, Merlin!”

Arthur: “My father has already passed sentence. There's nothing I can do.”
Gwen: “You can do the right thing, Arthur Pendragon! You can show some faith in a loyal friend, or you can stand by and watch an innocent man die.”
Arthur: “Guinevere...”
Gwen: “You did it once before to my father. Are you really willing to let it happen again? And you can stop looking at me like that, I know I'm only a servant. I thought you were a prince. So start behaving like one!”

Three out of four Lannisters who always pay their debts.
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Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Charles Dance is indeed awesome. And I know who he is, even though I don't watch the show he is currently awesome upon.