Season 3 Episode 11

The Sorcerer's Shadow

Aired Unknown Nov 20, 2010 on BBC

Episode Fan Reviews (5)

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out of 10
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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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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!!!!!
  • 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.