TV REVIEW: Merlin Series 3 – Episode 11: The Sorcerer’s Shadow

Another tournament? Not to worry! While there’s yet another competition in Camelot, the tourney is a backdrop to the character development for Merlin and Arthur. I really enjoyed watching Colin Morgan this week as the writers gave him some wonderful emotional scenes that highlight his talent. Viewers also might’ve recognized a familiar face in Gilli (guest star Harry Melling is Dudley Dursely in the Harry Potter movie franchise!)

Strength isn’t always about actual physical ability and I thought both Merlin and Gilli’s story paralleled nicely with Arthur and Uther’s. Both our protagonists have are more powerful but show humility whereas Uther and Gilli are all about the glory and knowing that they really don’t deserve it. Also, it’s sons versus fathers — all three men show that they want to learn from the shortcomings of their fathers and do better in the future.

What would Merlin have turned out like if he hadn’t had guidance from Gaius? Possibly like Gilli. We see the appearance of Merlin the Advisor to someone just like him when he arrived in Camelot. Gilli is accosted by two unsavory men on his way to the tournament and tries to fight them but fails. As the thugs walk away, he scrambles for his bag and pulls out a magical ring that does not remind me of The One Ring at all. Nope. Gilli’s eyes glow gold and we all know what that means!

Merlin is later bullied by the same thugs that bothered Gilli, is rescued by him and a friendship is forged. At dinner, Morgana panders to Uther’s huge ego and plants a thought in his mind that he should compete. Arthur disagrees, which solidifies Uther’s decision. I believe Morgana is hoping that Arthur will humiliate his father and cause a rift between the two, knowing the younger man is the better fighter or you know, just hoping that Uther gets killed in one of the fights.

The morning of the tourney, Merlin gives a “pep” talk to Arthur, which really is less pep and more de-motivating than anything else. Morgana walks out and announces the beginning of the contest, confusing Arthur until Uther comes up next to his son. He is in disbelief, worrying about his father as he fights. Arthur also wins his fight and then Gilli begins to beat every competitor he faces. Both Merlin and Gaius realize he’s using magic.

Gilli uses the ring to heal a cut he’s received but the guards of Camelot have had some training or something because they see the bright light and give chase. He escapes but realizes he’s lost his ring. Back in the castle, Uther cries that it’s sorcery but Gaius convinces him it’s not while grabbing the ring from the floor without drawing attention to it.

Merlin tracks Gilli down and slowly reveals that he knows Gilli is using magic. Gilli denies this but Merlin then holds up the ring reassuring the younger man that he has nothing to fear from Merlin. They talk about how Gilli’s father gave him the ring but died, refusing to use it for fear of being caught by Uther. The two have many heart-to-hearts over the course of the episode; Gilli shows remorse for killing Nollar and is going to withdraw until he’s cheered on by the villagers. Arthur throws the fight with his father so the King saves face. In the final against Uther, instead of just beating him, Gilli is tempted to kill him but thwarted by Merlin but in the end, the two reconcile.

As I do almost every episode, things I liked were:

  • Arthur asking for Merlin’s advice, listening to it and NOT throwing something at his head. Then realizing that Merlin was talking about him being annoying..progress! There have been few instances where Arthur is shown to have matured a bit, so this was refreshing.
  • The way Merlin revealed himself to Gilli – the flame in the palm of his hand, the loneliness you could see in his eyes and hear in his voice; it was subtle, touching and my heart ached. All of the Merlin/Gilli scenes were fabulous.
  • Merlin and the Dragon talking as kin, as equals, instead of one demanding and coercing something from the other.
  • Uther recognizing that Arthur threw the fight, understanding of why his son did it and knowing it was not only for Uther but for the people of Camelot. I loved Arthur’s silent surprise that Merlin’s advice was the correct path.
  • Gilli calling Merlin out on living like a shadow and forgetting who he is. It made Merlin think, even though he denied it, and hopefully we’ll see less of the comic relief Merlin and more of the strong and determined sorcerer that we’ve only seen glimpses of.
  • Gilli surviving the episode!

And the things I didn’t like so much:

  • Repetitive use of Morgana appealing to Uther’s ego to get her way. She’s not a strategist our Morgana , is she?
  • Is Arthur ready to be king? Yes? No? Maybe so? Every episode he either is ready to be king or has to go through some task/quest to be ready to be king. Consistency please?
  • Where did Gwen go? She could’ve at least shown up to serve during dinner or something.

Next week begins the two part finale of Series three and looks like it will be action packed as Merlin, Arthur & Co search for a cup that makes people immortal and Morgana gets closer to her goal of becoming Queen. If the last three finales are anything to go by, this should be one amazing episode!

GS Reporter: Sharlene

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  1. diane /

    I loved the Gilli/Merlin talks, especially the one where Merlin talked about how lonely he was. Made my heart ache for him. Plus I loved that Gilli called him on it, if nothing else than to make Merlin think about what he was doing. After all, once you are invested in something, you can become blind to the repercussions.

    There wasn’t much Merlin and Arthur interaction – and I really miss it but what was there, was really nice.

    I did enjoy this one more than I thought I would.

    • lightstarangel /

      I enjoyed it more than I thought I would as well. I honestly though it’d be a filler episode before the 2-part series finale, but sometimes glad to be wrong!

      Sometimes I like when Merlin has interactions with people other than Arthur because the focus isn’t split – the show hasn’t quite found the balance in showcasing both Merlin & Arthur’s journey’s without shoving one completely to the side.

  2. SnazzyO /

    Good review! I also like that Arthur caught on that Merlin was talking about Arthur when commiserating about dealing with arrogant people. And it wasn’t played for laughes TO Arthur, Merlin really meant it but didn’t expect Arthur to pick up on it.


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