Merlin: Review: Series 5 Episode 3: The Death Song of Uther Pendragon (spoiler-free)

Arthur learns to be careful what you wish for when he is offered the chance to speak with his father again…

Last week’s episode might not have necessarily needed the 8.25 transmission time, in terms of its content, but this week’s tale, courtesy of Misfits writer Howard Overman, most definitely justifies it. There are some really spooky sequences and an air of dread permeates the whole thing.

Overman has often been given the comedy episode to write, but this time around he’s in full dramatic mode, leavened with some well-placed humour which would fall flat on its face if Colin Morgan and Bradley James hadn’t developed such a good sense of timing. James also gets plaudits for his performance throughout the episode: there are a number of scenes without dialogue (to the extent that I did wonder at times whether there had been a conscious decision to remove the dialogue from a scene during filming) which rely, and succeed, purely on James’ ability to tell the story with his body language.

There are also some strong scenes for Colin Morgan: although there are appearances by most of the rest of the cast, this is pretty much a three-hander between James, Morgan and guest star Anthony Head, which gives plenty of opportunities for Morgan to shine.

Tony Head is chilling as Uther, incorporating tough love, anger, revulsion and desperation into his performance. After the restrained Uther seen last season as a result of Morgana’s betrayal, we’re back with a vengeance to the King of Camelot, and I suspect that this will be remembered as one of his very best appearances on the show.

Verdict: As a demonstration of just how far Merlin has come since it began, in terms of acting, production and storyline, this will be hard to beat.  9/10

Paul Simpson

Episode 4: Another’s Sorrow

Discussion

13 thoughts on “Merlin: Review: Series 5 Episode 3: The Death Song of Uther Pendragon (spoiler-free)

  1. If we read your reviews, it seems like everything is about Arthur when the hero of the show and of the stories in really Merlin. For example, in the reviews of the first episodes of Series 5, you only mention Arthur, and not Merlin, when the episodes were more about Merlin than about anyone else… Arthur hardly got airtime in the second episode. Why don’t you mention and talk about Merlin’s preponderant role in the story? You talk about Colin Morgan and about Merlin only towards the end of your reviews, as if it was just an add. I don’t understand. Isn’t for you Merlin about Merlin? But the whole stories are in fact about Merlin and he is still the character that gets the most airtime and scenes in each episode, which is normal since he is the titular character.

    Posted by May | October 18, 2012, 7:29 pm
    • In part because these are spoiler free reviews, in line with the guidelines that we have for early access. There are various elements we are asked not to discuss which often impinges on how much we can talk about particular characters.

      Posted by PS | October 18, 2012, 8:48 pm
      • I understand. Thank you for your reply. It’s just that each time I read a Merlin review, I have to double check on the title of the show to see if it’s still “Merlin”/”Merlin’s adventures” or if it changed to “Arthur’s adventures”. Each time I’m getting “worried” that we won’t get Merlin in his own show and wonder if I’ll continue to watch a show that promises me that it’ll be about Merlin and then shows me something else. But after the episode airs, I can see that the hero is still Merlin and that the stories still revolve around him, which is the reasons why I watch Merlin. Indeed, I came to this show to watch Colin Morgan portray his titular character and to see Merlin being the hero of his own show. However, really thank you for taking the time to read my comment and to answer.

        Posted by May | October 18, 2012, 9:46 pm
        • You’re welcome. Would the reviews be the same if they were written when everyone has had a chance to see the episode? Probably not, and the ones where no previews have been available, for whatever reason, have been free to discuss everything about the episode. For me, one of the things that has shown that Merlin has developed as a series is the fact that the stories are allowed to unfold about Camelot, and there are times where Merlin isn’t as key. Think about how much of that first two-parter wasn’t about Merlin, but about Morgana, Gwen, Gwaine, Mordred… yes, Merlin will always be key but I think now you could feasibly have the Merlin equivalent of Doctor Who’s Doctor-lite/free episodes and it would still work.

          Posted by PS | October 18, 2012, 10:13 pm
    • Why is everyone so nit-picky? Geeze, it is a TV show, though a very underrated show as VECC points out above. Yes the show is entitled MERLIN but he only exists in the context of ARTHUR. Doesn’t anyone on this blog actually LIKE the show? ….so many complaints….

      Posted by snowcat60 | November 2, 2012, 3:21 am
  2. I don’t really see things the way you do, with all the respect due to your analysis. Merlin without Merlin wouldn’t be Merlin, if you get what I’m saying. Doctor Who works another way and has its own trend and brand. Merlin without Merlin would be another little show trying to copy “Games of Thrones”. It would just be another story about Camelot, a kingdom, its king and queen, like we saw hundred times already on tv. Merlin is what makes “Merlin” what it is. The only thing that makes this show special and unique, in my opinion, is that it’s a series about Merlin, the powerful sorcerer of legends fulfiling his destiny and becoming the wizard of the Merlinian legends. Since the beginning, Merlin is at the center of the stories who are told from Merlin’s point of view, the point of view of the sorcerer who has to stay in the shadows and has to keep a huge secret about what makes him so unique. Merlin is the only character with that particular aspect (hiding who he is and making things work without recognition for what he did from anyone). No one else in the show has to hide who he/she really is and no one other than Merlin has to use a particular forbidden skill to make things right for everyone except for himself. I’m sure all the stories (Sefa/Gwen/Morgana/Arthur/Aithusa…) will all lead to Merlin himself because all the stories are related to him. Sefa is the daughter of a sorcerer who worked for Morgana who is still looking for Emrys (Merlin himself), her nemesis. Merlin will eventually be directly related to Sefa since the first episode let us have a glimpse on Merlin being seductive with her. Gwen will eventually learn about Merlin’s secret (since she knows everything while Arthur is still the stupid one who knows nothing) and she will maybe be one of Merlin’s allies in the fight to make magic accepted in Camelot. Aithusa is still Merlin’s dragon since Merlin is the last Dragonlord and commands her. Merlin & Morgana have still this long time fight going on. Everything leads to Merlin and to his secret. I don’t see one of those stories apart from the show’s titular hero. Besides, only Merlin can really help and save the poeple of Camelot. Without him, nothing is right in Camelot. So, definitely, Merlin without Merlin or with a Merlin-lite episode will never be Merlin to me and to a lot of other fans of Merlin. The quality of the show would be gone. What makes Merlin so special would be gone. Besides, it’s probably the last series and it’s time we know more about Merlin himself, about his family, about his roots, about his own magic, because he has to become aknowledged by everyone in the show as the most powerful sorcerer, the one who saved them all hundred times without getting any thank for what he did! Merlin has to stay at the center of the show in order to make him fulfil his destiny. He’s still the only one who didn’t get where he has to be. So let him do it now or it’ll never happen and I’ll always ask myself why they called this show Merlin if they didn’t want to give to Merlin the place and the position he deserves since 5 series!

    Posted by May | October 18, 2012, 11:38 pm
    • I understand entirely where you’re coming from, but one question: what makes you think this is the last series? From the press conference that the producers gave at the launch of the show, the only thing that they said was that they had a definite end planned for the series – not that series 5 was it…

      Posted by PS | October 19, 2012, 7:04 am

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