A tough ruler is faced with the task of ensuring that an evil, corrupting influence is vanquished from his peaceful land. That's sort of one of the messages broadcast in this episode of Merlin, a couple of weeks ago (sorry I'm somewhat behind in my reviews). But more on that later...
This episode features yet another tournament in Camelot - they must have one every month. Mind you, with no TV or radio I guess they have to have something to entertain them. Unlike the other knightly tournaments, this one has no rules and anyone can enter - including Uther himself. Why he's desperate to take part in this one (especially considering how apparently deadly it is) but was happy to just sit on the sidelines for the others, I don't know. Perhaps it has something to do with him winning the last five contests.
Wait, the last five contests? And the tournaments happen only once every 10 years? If Uther won his first at 18 years old, that would make him 58 when he won the last tournament and 68 now. Anthony Head doesn't look that old! I'd also be very concerned if a 60-something year old was able to defeat every other fighter - including any soldiers or knights that entered the competition - in Camelot. The only rational explanation is that, like Arthur in this episode, everyone is letting Uther win. Perhaps they're worried that Uther will accuse them of using magic to win and have them burnt at the stake?
Talking of magic, this episode also features Gilli, a young man who his using magic channeled through a ring to help him in the tournament. Can't say I thought much of the actor who played Gilli. He seemed a little wooden. Anyway, after killing a bully, the power goes to his head and he winds up fighting Uther in the final.
Now, I got the impression that Gilli wasn't using the magic ring all the time during his fights. Which means he must be a reasonably good swordsman without magical assistance. So, not only is he quite good at fighting, he also knows a bit of magic. I'm not sure what he was moaning about.
Anyway, in order to rein in the lad, Merlin confesses to him that he also has magical powers and tries to get Gilli to leave the tournament. There then followed a little emotional scene with both of them in tears. I'm not quite sure why - it seemed a little over-dramatic. It's here where it's inferred that magic is a corrupting influence on people. Considering what it's done to Morgana, Morgause and Mordred (never give you child a name beginning with "Mor" in Camelot - they're fated to become evil) and almost to Gilli, then it seems that Uther is right in trying to suppress magic. He may have used a somewhat heavy hand, but the idea was probably right.
Merlin seeks out some advice from that big ol' Dragon, who tells him that if Uther is killed by a sorceror it might harden Arthur's heart against magic. Which is something neither the Dragon nor Merlin want. And so Merlin risks himself (and, again, uses magic right out in the open) to stop Gilli. So let's hope Uther isn't killed by some other sorceror then - like Morgause or Morgana. Magic-users in Camelot will be stuffed under Arthur's reign if that happens!
In the end, Gilli managed to get to the final and, due to Merlin's intervention, came second only to the king (who, remember, has "won" five times in a row already). You'd think the Captain of the guards, the king's army and any bands of mercenaries would be eager for this young man to join up with them. With a little more training he'd be one of the best warriors in Camelot. But no, Gilli just sulks off at the end of the episode.
This was an okay episode - not bad but not wonderful. At least there was no farting! There were some good fight scenes - especially the little nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark. But it didn't really progress the main plot and the acting was only okay.
Of course, after this is the two-part end of season finale. That should be good!