TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 3 – Episode 5: The Crystal Cave

Run for your life and don’t believe what you see during many of the scenes in this week’s action-packed episode of Merlin. Departing from the last 2 fairly lighthearted chapters of the show, we finally get some real character development and plot progression for almost all the characters except Gwen — which isn’t really a surprise.

This is what I’ve been waiting to see more of from the series — drama, darkness, and real twists. The music and direction (by Alice Troughton) made you feel the climbing tension throughout and the pacing was excellent. It really captured my attention; there wasn’t much I didn’t like, but more on that below the cut! As always, there are spoilers!

The thumping beat as Merlin and Arthur run through the forest immediately glues your eyes to the screen. We see that they’re being chased by a huge group of bandits but we never find out why; I guess it was just a reason to have them enter the Valley of the Fallen Kings. Merlin is hesitant to enter because of the magic surrounding it but is pulled through anyway before Arthur gets shot by an arrow.

When Merlin’s magic fails to heal Arthur, your heart aches just a bit for Merlin, who is crying while washing the Prince’s blood away. I love how Colin is playing Merlin even more — a bit more mature, making his own decisions (for better or worse), but as you see in the rest of the episode, still has a way to go.

Lost and not knowing what to do next, an old (and 300 years dead) seer by the name of Taliesin appears, heals Arthur and takes Merlin to the Crystal Cave, where all magic began. Those of you who watched last series will remember the Crystal of Neahtid (which Merlin mentions) that showed the future as well. Merlin is forced to look into them and in doing so, sets in motion everything he sees, which includes: Morgana with a jeweled dagger, fire, a hand dripping with blood/wine, himself screaming, Morgana stabbing Uther and in a separate vision, Morgana with a crown on her head.

During the episode, we see Merlin trying to change the future, as we saw in the Series 2 finale. However, for all his attempts such as changing Arthur’s mind about the plain dagger for Morgana’s gift and knocking over the torch to stop Morgana but causing her to fall and crack her skull, he actually is following exactly what the crystals showed and not changing anything at all.

The biggest surprise is that Morgana is Uther’s daughter and Arthur’s half-sister! She hears this while in a semi-conscious state and it is this knowledge and the King’s lack of making it public that drives her revenge. Oh, how I wait for the episode where some of these secrets start to come out to Arthur!

Personally, I still don’t understand why Merlin is constantly saving King Uther, who would and has sent him to prison and/or death on multiple occasions. There are only two reasons:

  1. Anthony Head is awesome and they can’t kill him off unless the showrunners mean to speed up Arthur’s ascent to the throne.
  2. To prevent Arthur from being in emotional pain. It’s why he decides to force Kilgarrah to imbue Merlin with the knowledge that will save Morgana, relieving a mourning Gwen from her side to “miraculously” save the evil witch with the magic he can barely contain.

My favorite parts of the ep were:

  • Merlin doing all he can to try and save Arthur, smacking an unconscious Arthur calling him a variety of nicknames and finally, his reaction to washing Arthur’s blood off his hands.
  • Merlin taking charge! “Are you ready? Let’s go.” Hahahah! Arthur’s confused face was great but loved that he went along with it anyway.
  • Arthur constantly questioning Merlin on their way back to Camelot, knowing something is wrong, not really believing the answers he gets, but letting it go anyway because Merlin is upset. Harkens back to “Lady of the Lake” with Prince trying to cheer up his friend.
  • Morgana being nice to Gwen — even giving her one of her birthday gifts. I miss this friendship like woah!
  • Morgana going “off plan” — Morgause is losing her grip on her little sister, and you see something in Emilia Fox’s eyes that show she’s noticed. I want to see more of THIS Morgana. Being “evil” on her own, instead of being a puppet for Morgause.

And my Not-so-favorite parts of the ep:

  • Obligatory, shoehorned Arthur and Gwen moment – don’t forget that they are supposed to be in love!
  • Gaius’ constant non-belief in Merlin — saying that he’s overreacting…etc. It was meant to have Merlin make his own decision, but I’m a little tired of Merlin being thought of as truly inept.

I think prior to this episode, Merlin would likely have kept saving whomever to prevent their death from harming Arthur. But now, with Arthur also in the way of Morgana becoming ruler of Camelot, I don’t think he’ll be playing nice for too much longer. I hope. Additionally, the foreshadowing for Gaius (that last scene with Merlin, Uther saying he’ll never forget Gaius saving Morgana, making sure the credit is given to him) — doesn’t make me think good things about his future.

There’s definitely a shift in his relationships with all the characters, especially Arthur, the Dragon and Gaius. Merlin finally is beginning to realize the power he holds (with great power comes great responsibility and all that..thanks Uncle Ben!) and is hopefully letting the lessons sink in.



GS Reporter: Sharlene

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  1. diane /

    I really enjoyed this episode. I liked how Merlin couldn’t seem to change the future or rather he changed it in response to what he’d seen. There does seem to be a depressing idea of destiny forcing him into things rather than of his own free will but I loved the idea of the crystals telling him a future and him fighting it all the way.

    Merlin really does need to learn how to cure puncture wounds though!

  2. Somi /

    I hope he learns fast!


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