Season 3 Episode 11

The Sorcerer's Shadow

Aired Unknown Nov 20, 2010 on BBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Camelot's legendary tournament only has one rule: there are no rules whatsoever. Terrifying warriors start to fill the mythical city, Gilli between them. Despite his small stature, Gilli is ready to join the action and committed to achieve victory with a secret weapon to help him: magic. When Gilli begins to realise the full extent of his powers, Merlin becomes torn since his new friend is putting his own life in danger as well as threatening the very heart of Camelot with his actions. Will Merlin be able to make Gilli see sense before it's too late?moreless

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  • A solid episode.

    There isn't much to object to this episode. Maybe the fact that it is a filler, and that suffers from being put at the very end of a very successful season, before a highly expected finale. In some other place it would've made more sense, not because of the contents, but because of the place.

    It's definitely better than most of the fillers the show had. We finally had a magical person point out some of Merlin's faults, and we, luckily, didn't see them refuted.

    We had an intelligent plotting by Morgana, taking her initiative. And we had some causal, random moments with Arthur and Merlin, so we don't forget Arthur is the employer and Merlin is the employee.

    Uther was magnificent in his stage-performance!

    A solid episode.moreless
  • At first blush this seems like yet another formulaic tournament episode. Upon further review, however, this is actually one of the most significant development episodes where he's forced to re-examine his lot in life and the choices he makes.moreless

    What Worked:

    Merlin Looks in the Mirror: The confrontation between Merlin and Gilli when Merlin reveals his magic was outstanding. Gilli hit the target with Merlin when he said Merlin had been playing the fool for so long he's just accepted his position. Merlin naturally protests but it is clear Merlin still struggles with daily subservience in light of his own powers. The initial shoe polishing humiliation comes across as standard fare for someone in Merlin's position. This was the same message as in "The Curse of Cornelius Sigan" but this episode was far more effective. Reaching out to Kilgarrah for advice, going up against one of his own, the way he handles Gilli, all demonstrate how much more mature our young warlock has become. Colin Morgan sells the full range of emotions Merlin experiences and proves again to be an exceptional lead for this series. Humility 3X over – Arthur, Gilli, and Merlin all get lessons in humility. Gilli's lesson is obvious but it takes all of Merlin's abilities and powers of persuasion to finally convince Gilli that using magic for personal gain is a betrayal of his magical kin. We've learned by now that Arthur is a good enough man to take humiliation for the sake of his father's ego. It was a nice touch to hear the music from "The Once and Future King" replayed again as Arthur eschews glory and pride to do the right thing. For all the times he's been an arrogant prat, Arthur has learned when to be humble. Finally like every teacher, Merlin's faith in his own path is reaffirmed as he mentors Gilli to live a humble life and use magic for good, not personal vanity. He also takes his chastisement from Kilgarrah well and, with a world weary grimace, picks up again the difficult burden of making a life and death decision. Morgana's scheme – Again Morgana plays to her strength, manipulation, to put Uther's life in jeopardy. It was a good shot but again "Wiley Coyote" Morgana is just NOT going to get that Road Runner this time. There were several deleted scenes on the DVD that show Morgana working behind the scenes to make sure Uther and Arthur made it into the arena together. Although they were good scenes, dropping them in favor of emphasizing Merlin's development was a good choice.

    Partial Success:

    Uther/Arthur: Anthony Head plays the "old lion" so very well. Uther is clearly feeling his age and struggling with giving up his power to Arthur. He enjoys being the king and the show does a great job of showing the classic confrontation between fathers and sons. There comes a point in most father/son relationship where the father has to accept that his son can "take him". It's a huge ego blow. Arthur showed concern for his father and great sensitivity to his father's pride in how he conducted himself. Uther was a real ass and yet Arthur held his tongue. The payoff when Uther expresses his gratitude for Arthur throwing the fight was a very nice moment. What made this only a partial success, however, is that this episode follows immediately on the heels of "Queen of Hearts" where Arthur says he will never forgive his father for sentencing Gwen to death. It's almost as if those events hadn't happened. This was a glaring continuity error for such a serialized show. Somehow they needed to have Arthur verbalize that despite all the mistakes he's seen his father make, Uther is still his father and he can't turn away from him.

    Gilli – The idea of Gilli was a good one but the actor, Harry Melling from Harry Potter fame, was not as sympathetic as he needed to be. There is a reason he plays the bully step-brother in Harry Potter – he has that "look" between his close-set eyes and his restrained smile. Melling does polite very well but when he brings his anger, it's a little too scary for a "sweet" person. Perhaps this was intentional on the producers' part; make Gilli grey enough that we weren't sure which way it was going to turn out. A decidedly sympathetic figure, however, could have made Gilli's story more tragic and satisfying. What Didn't Work:

    Yet Another Tournament – Yes having an open tournament seems reasonable but we've had this plot so many times it's become pedestrian. The Indiana Jones-like face-punch gag was good as well as the main fight scene of Bradley James and Andreas Petrides (stunt coordinator). It was a nice touch to have Arthur's helmet off so the two could show off the swordplay. Still, the tournament naturally takes up a lot of screentime and it is ultimately another variation on the same theme. Overall grade 9.0. Merlin's transition from student to mentor was an exceptional moment of growth. He wearily continues to wear the mantle of subservience because he knows it's the right thing to do. Arthur also gets reminded that sometimes humility is the better choice as ultimately it helps his father accept him as an able replacement. Upon Second Look Review (includes future spoilers): This episode required about four viewings before its value really came to light. In context of the rest of the season, it was good to have Merlin reaffirm his commitment to his destiny as a behind the scenes operator for now. Merlin is prepared to be "just a servant" in public while also prepared to make the big calls when it comes to ensuring The Once and Future King eventually comes to power. Further, it was important to have a moment where Uther acknowledged to Arthur that Arthur is ready to be King. The two-part finale coming up plays off of that. It would appear this was the last "normal" moment for the Pendragon Family before it all goes to hell. Although Morgana was still a snake in the grass the entire episode, you could see how over the years previously there had been affection between the three of them. Between Queen of Hearts and The Sorcerer's Shadow it would appear the writers made a deliberate choice to show several family meals and private moments. It makes the betrayal by Morgana more believably shocking to Uther and Arthur even if the audience sees it coming a mile off.moreless
  • A great moment for Uther

    While I enjoyed seeing how Merlin has matured through his mentoring of Gilli, it was Uther who stole the episode for me. Even if you consider him a villain, he is one of the most complex characters on the show. He is a deeply flawed person but also has many redeeming qualities. He cares for his children. He will go to battle to protect his kingdom. He can even show wisdom in matters unrelated to magic.

    And here, for all his gloating and arrogance, he knows right away that Arthur threw the fight for him. His acknowledgment of this at the end is one of his best moments. His pride in his son's accomplishments overcomes any hurt to his ego about only being the second greatest fighter in the tournament (since he did defeat several other warriors to get to the semi-finals and the match with Gilli wasn't fair anyway because he didn't know what he was up against).

    The royal dinner almost makes for a beautiful family scene if you can forget that Morgana is plotting against them. While her intelligence and resourcefulness reminds me of the woman from season one, I dislike how the writers have made her so one dimensional. She used to be almost as complex as Uther. Now there is little to no good in her to balance out the evil she commits and very little explanation for why she is now so willing to kill the people she once loved or why she no longer cares about anyone without magic. I hope that the last two episodes of this season will reveal more of her thoughts and feelings and how she came to this point over her year long absence.moreless
  • The Sorcerer's Shadow

    The Sorcerer's Shadow was a pretty good episode of Merlin. I enjoyed watching this episode which was full of action, drama, intrigue, suspense, and magic! There were many scenes which move the series forward and prepare the way for what happens in the future. I thought the story was good, and it was interesting to see how Gilli interacted with Merlin. I find it funny that Gaius can continue to throw the King off the scent of magic if he needs to. I think this episode also saw some character building for Merlin, Arthur, and even Uther. I can't wait to see what happens next!!!!!moreless
  • Good Episode

    Another filler episode to lead the way to what promise's to be an epic two part season finale.

    Merlin reveals himself to another sorcerer in hopes to save the young man from making the wrong choice's.

    There are several touching scenes between the two magician's where they talk of the loneliness, and pressures that come from having their special gifts.

    I was glad to see Merlin able to talk with a member of his own kind, and was happy that the episode did not end in tragedy for the boy.

    The main point of the episode was for Merlin to voice the difficulties of being a warlock in hiding, and help a fellow magic user discover the correct way to use and view his own abilities.moreless
Harry Melling

Harry Melling


Guest Star

Calum MacPherson

Calum MacPherson


Guest Star

Paul McNeilly

Paul McNeilly


Guest Star

John Hurt

John Hurt

Voice of the Great Dragon

Recurring Role

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (21)

    • Goof: Towards the end of the episode, in the scene where Arthur is waiting at the table for Uther and Morgana, there's a lit candle in the centre of the table. However, once Uther and Morgana take a seat, the candle has been moved and placed between them.

    • It is the second time where Merlin is hassled and mocked by two visiting men despite knowing he is the personal servant of the crowned prince. It first occurred in episode 3x04 Gwaine.

    • The Great Dragon tells Merlin: 'The last time we met, you chose to ignore my advice and overrule me'. This happened in episode 3x05 The Crystal Cave where Merlin refused to let Morgana die.

    • This episode marks the second time in which Merlin willingly shows him magic to a fellow magical creature he can relate to. It happened before with Freya in episode 2x09 The Lady of the Lake.

    • Gilli's ring, inherited from his father, allows him to channel magic. Such rings are very rare and only those with considerable gifts are able to wield them.

    • Goof: In his first fight, Uther's shield is intact at the beginning but just as the fight starts it is scratched all over. Similarly, right before Uther fights Arthur his shield is intact but thoroughly scratched when he puts his helmet on.

    • Goof: After Gilli's first fight, Gaius and Merlin exchange some words with him and then watch as he walks towards the castle. Then the camera turns to Gaius and Merlin as they keep on talking for a while. When the camera is back to Gilli, he has hardly advanced 10 metres when he should have covered a way longer distance.

    • Goof: It is raining when Merlin first visits Gilli at the inn but he arrives dry. There is no trace of rain either in Gilli's window.

    • In the last scene between Merlin and Gilli, Merlin's sentence 'You'll no longer have to hide who you are, your gifts will be recognized' is not consistent with his mouthing.

    • Andreas Petrides, the stunt coordinator, fights twice against Arthur depicting different warriors in the tourney.

    • Goof: It should have been clear for everyone that Gilli was using magic when he is being held by Tindr and still he manages to throw Nollar up in the air without making physical contact with him.

    • The tourney depicted in this episode has been held every 10 years for centuries. It is open to all comers and the winner gets 100 gold coins. There are no rules, no weapons are banned and the last man standing takes the price. Uther is the reigning champion having won the last 4 times in a row. Last time the tournament was held three men died just on the first day.

    • In the fight between Uther and Arthur, the prince wears a blue piece of fabric wrapped around his left upper arm so they can be distinguished since they fight in the same outfit and under the same crest.

    • This is the second episode in which Uther is seen fighting in the arena. He previously did in episode 1x09 Excalibur.

    • A scene from episode 1x01 The Dragon's Call depicting Merlin's chamber windows at night is used in this episode right before the final scene with Gaius and Merlin. The same scene was used as well in episode 1x05 Lancelot, episode 3x04 Gwaine and episode 3x09 Love In The Time Of Dragons.

    • Gilli tells Merlin that 'Without magic I'm a nobody'. Merlin told Gaius ' If I can't use magic what have I got? I'm just a nobody' in episode 1x01 The Dragon's Call.
      Both episodes have been written by Julian Jones.

    • This episode features the fourth tournament held in Camelot. The first tournament was a sword fighting one as seen in episode 1x02 Valiant, the second tournament was a jousting one as seen in episode 2x02 The Once and Future Queen and the third one was the melee featured in episode 3x04 Gwaine.
      Series 3 is the first one with two tourney themed episodes.

    • It is the second time that a weapon is heated by magic to unarm a man. Gilli uses the trick during the tournament and Merlin did the same thing in episode 1x10 The Moment of Truth when fighting against one of Kanen's men.

    • Arthur mentions that Uther's weakness when fighting has always been his footwork. He made a similar remark in episode 1x09 Excalibur.

    • Uther didn't inherit Camelot, he conquered it by the sword at Arthur's age.

    • Goof: Tomatoes can be seen on Gaius' and Uther's table. However, they were first introduced in Europe following the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

  • QUOTES (29)

    • Nollar: Where you heading?
      Gilli: Camelot. To fight in the tournament.
      Nollar: (Laughs) Is that what your pretty new sword's for?
      Gilli: Yeah.
      Tindr: (Stealing his sword) Let me see.
      Nollar: You ever seen this tournament? Believe me, a little boy like you has got no chance, especially without a sword (Laughs)
      Gilli: Give it back!
      Nollar: (Walking away) I'm doing you a favour, one day you'll thank me!

    • Merlin: Did anyone think this tournament through? A contest, open to all comers, with a prize of 100 gold coins. I wonder what kind of people are going to turn up?
      Arthur: It's tradition, Merlin. The tournament's been held every ten years for centuries. Nothing to worry about.
      (A competitor chops a dummy's head off with a big axe)
      Merlin: Tell me he can't use that in the contest!
      Arthur: He can use what he likes. It's an open tournament.
      Merlin: What about the knight's code?
      Arthur: Counts for nothing. The only rule is: there are no rules.

    • (Gilli is booking a room at the inn)
      Evoric: I'll have my money now.
      Gilli: Why?
      Evoric: Because you'll be dead by sunset.

    • Gilli: (To Merlin) I know what's it's like to be picked on.

    • Morgana: Remind me how many times you've won this tournament, Uther?
      Uther: Three.
      Morgana: That's a lot to live up to, Arthur.
      Arthur: Indeed.

    • Morgana: I remember your last victory. You were a master in the arena. It's such a shame we won't see you compete again.
      Uther: Who says you won't?
      Morgana: I thought you said you were too old to take the field.
      Uther: It's not age that stops me. I'd still prove a match for any man.
      Arthur: Well, we won't be finding out.
      Uther: Why ever not?
      Arthur: Because I don't want you getting hurt.
      (Uther laughs)
      Morgana: Do you think you could still win the crown?
      Arthur: The kingdom needs him to rule, not to fight.
      Uther: You think I can't do both?

    • Morgana: (To Uther) It is such a shame. It would have been good for the people to see you compete one last time. But still, Arthur's probably right. You can't do everything.

    • Merlin: How're you feeling?
      Arthur: Confident.
      Merlin: Are you sure?
      Arthur: Yes.
      Merlin: Because last time this tournament was held... (Whispers) ...three men died.
      Arthur: Really?
      Merlin: That was just on the first day.
      Arthur: Thanks for that, Merlin.
      Merlin: And on that second day...
      Arthur: Let's just get through the first...
      Merlin: You're right, because that's when most people die.
      Arthur: Merlin?
      Merlin: Yes.
      Arthur: Shut up.

    • Morgana: It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Camelot. This is a contest like no other. It is open to all-comers... including our reigning champion, the King (Arthur is astonished, the crowd cheers) There are no rules, no weapons are banned. The last man standing takes the prize. Let the tournament begin!

    • Merlin: He's using magic.
      Gaius: I suspected as much. The ring bears a mark of the Old Religion. Such rings are very rare but they act as a conduit, a channel for magical powers.
      Merlin: So he does have magic like me?
      Gaius: He doesn't have your powers, Merlin. But to wield a ring such as that would need considerable gifts.
      Merlin: Well, he's braver than me, using magic in front of all those people.
      Gaius: Brave or stupid. If Uther finds out, he'll have him killed.

    • Gaius: It was clearly Gilli, judging by the scorch marks and the odour. There's an old healing spell, it's crude but it works. You heat the skin to coagulate the blood and it cauterises the wound.
      Merlin: His shoulder? No wonder he didn't want any treatment.
      Gaius: You'll have to talk to him before it's too late.

    • Merlin: For someone your size, to go and beat a man like that. I'm sure a lot of people are going to think you're using magic. I'm not going to tell anyone.
      Gilli: I'm not using magic.
      Merlin: You don't have to fear me.

    • (Merlin returns Gilli's ring to him)
      Merlin: Where did you get it from?
      Gilli: My father. He left it me.
      Merlin: Did he have the same powers as you?
      Gilli: He was a gifted man but he would not touch magic. He vowed never to use it. He feared it, wouldn't even let me talk about it.
      Merlin: Why?
      Gilli: He was scared Uther would find out, that the King would discover he was a sorcerer. Even when he was attacked, he had three men on him, he still wouldn't use this.
      Merlin: Is that how he died?
      Gilli: I'm not going to be like him.
      Merlin: Because you want to be proud of who you are?
      Gilli: All these questions...
      Merlin: You remind me of someone I know.

    • Merlin: You saved my life and I'm trying to save yours. You need to withdraw from the tournament.
      Gilli: It's an open competition. You're supposed to be able to use whatever skills you have.
      Merlin: Fighting skills. You're not a swordsman or a gladiator. Fighting is not your talent. Magic is.
      Gilli: Then why can't I use it?
      Merlin: Because it's banned.
      Gilli: Without magic, I'm a nobody. People think they can kick dirt in my face.
      Merlin: You're not a nobody. You're... special.

    • Nollar: (To Gilli) I want you to help me decide... (Opens his clothes showing his weapons) ...which of these I'm going to kill you with

    • Gilli: To Merlin, after killing Nollar) I've never killed a man before. I just wanted to feel... what it was like to be... respected. But this... I'm not a killer. This isn't me.

    • Arthur: What do I do, Merlin? If I fight my father tomorrow, the way I can, I'll show him up, I'll humiliate him in front of his people. Or worse, I could wound him, even kill him!
      Merlin: He's not going to back down. He's determined to prove himself. You have to let him win.
      Arthur: (Sighs) You don't have to put up with the gloating! Do you have any idea what it's like to live with a man who constantly thinks he's the best?
      Merlin: Must be irritating.

    • Uther: (To Arthur) When I was your age, I conquered Camelot. I didn't inherit this Kingdom, I won it. One day you'll be strong enough to take my crown, but not yet.

    • (After Arthur lets Uther win their fight in the tourney)
      Merlin: Well done. That can't have been easy.
      Arthur: If he wasn't my father...

    • (Gilli and Uther are to face each other in the tourney's final battle)
      Gaius: We'll have to warn the king.
      Merlin: No.
      Gaius: Why are you protecting him?
      Merlin: You know what Uther will do.
      Gaius: Gilli is using magic for his own gain. It's corrupting him, poisoning him.
      Merlin: Just let me talk to him.
      Gaius: I fear it's too late.
      Merlin: Gaius, please. You taught me what magic was for, you gave me the opportunity to be the person that I am today. I've had you to help me. Give me one more chance to talk to him.
      Gaius: We'll have to put an end to this. If he fights tomorrow, either his magic will be found out or, worse, the king will die.

    • Merlin: I thought you weren't going to fight.
      Gilli: You've seen the way people are now. They're showing me respect. You don't know what that's like for me.
      Merlin: I do.
      Gilli: No. No. No one does.
      (Merlin casts a spell into his hand and then clasps his fist. When he opens it, a flame is dancing on his palm)
      Merlin: It's... lonely... to... be more powerful than any man you know and have to live like a shadow. To... be special and have to pretend you're a fool. I know how it feels. I understand.

    • Gilli: If Uther is killed, so what? How many of our kind have died at his hands? How many more will? It's time those with magic fought back.
      Merlin: Gilli...
      Gilli: You can't tell me what to do!
      Merlin: You need to learn to use your magic for good. That is its true purpose. It's not meant for your own vanity.
      Gilli: I'm not going to apologise for who I am! You can be a servant and pretend you're less than them.
      Merlin: That's not what I do!
      Gilli: No? You're defending the King! Protecting a man that would have you dead.
      Merlin: I'm protecting you.
      Gilli: You've been pretending for so long now that you've actually forgotten who you are.
      Merlin: That's not true.

    • Gilli: (To Merlin) It's time someone struck a blow for the likes of you and me. And if you're too weak, then I will.

    • The Great Dragon: I was beginning to hope you'd forgotten me.
      Merlin: I don't think so.
      The Great Dragon: The problem is, young warlock, that you wish to talk but you don't wish to listen. The last time we met, you chose to ignore my advice and overrule me.
      Merlin: I'm sorry.
      The Great Dragon: A Dragonlord should never abuse their power.

    • Merlin: You are a creature of magic and only a creature of magic could hope to understand. Uther is to fight a young sorcerer in the tournament tomorrow. Gaius wants me to prevent him from using magic. But if I do that, there is every chance he will die.
      The Great Dragon: Your choice is a hard one, young warlock. Yet you, like I, must hold hope that Arthur will bring about a new age, an age where the likes of you and I are respected once again. If he sees his father killed through the use of magic, it will harden his mind forever.
      Merlin: No. There must be some... other way.
      The Great Dragon: To see one of your kin die is never an easy thing. But all great struggles demand sacrifice. I am sorry, young warlock. I wish I had some words to help you.
      Merlin: Some choices are easy. Some... stay with you forever.

    • Merlin: I'm sorry. I didn't have a choice.
      Gilli: You did what you had to do, and you betrayed your kind.
      Merlin: No, that was you. You betrayed us. You'd won but you were going to kill the King anyway? There's no honour in that. Come on, look inside yourself. You're better than this. Magic is not meant for fighting, it's not meant to bring you glory.
      Gilli: I never understood my father. I thought that he was afraid of magic, but he wasn't. He was afraid of what it can do, how it can corrupt. I know now that he was strong. Well, he was stronger than me.

    • Merlin: I know it doesn't seem like it now but one day magic will be permitted once again. And when that day arrives, you will no longer have to hide who you are. Your gifts will be recognised and we will be free. Who knows, maybe then our paths will cross again.
      Gilli: I hope so.
      Merlin: Oh, they will. We're kin.
      Gilli: Kin.
      (They shake hands)

    • Morgana: You're champion once again. Maybe you can give Arthur some lessons.
      Uther: It is I who learnt a great deal from our fight.
      Morgana: I can't see what.
      Uther: He's a far better warrior than you think. It is Arthur who should have claimed the prize.
      Morgana: But sadly, he wasn't good enough.
      Uther: Because he threw the fight that I might save face.
      Arthur: You knew?
      Uther: I have followed your progress with a sword since you were a boy. I know your abilities better than anyone. I am eternally grateful. I hope that when you are King and have sons of your own, that they will afford you the same honour. Indeed, the most satisfying outcome of the tournament is that Arthur's actions have shown me that he is now truly ready to be king.

    • Gaius: (To Merlin) I'm proud of you.
      Merlin: I don't deserve it.
      Gaius: You're being hard on yourself.

  • NOTES (10)