Season 2 Episode 7

The Witchfinder

Aired Unknown Nov 07, 2009 on BBC
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Episode Summary

In his determination to rule magic out of Camelot forever, Uther hires the services of Aredian, a terrifying witch hunter who is most feared due to the fact that he stops at nothing in the quest to uncover all and every kind of sorcery. Even though no one is under direct suspicion, several people in Camelot are afraid that the witch hunter could see straight through them: Morgana is worried that Uther might have her executed and Gaius is concerned for the fate of Merlin and his own, since caring for the young warlock is considered crime and treason. Will all three be able to escape a dreadful fate?moreless

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  • A very dark episode with a marvelously malevolent villain brings the daily threat to Merlin to the foreground. Strong characterization and a compelling plot drive a tense and entertaining episode.

    What Worked:

    Charles Dance/Witchfinder – From the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" child-snatcher carriage to his masterful powers of observation, this is the best villain to grace "Merlin" to date. Here Merlin meets his match and nearly loses Gaius in the processes. There was no doubt he was a going to be found as a fraud but in fact Dance did an excellent job of showing that his instincts were spot on as he exploited every opening he got. The basic premise – Although a cloud pony was a laughable trigger, the idea of mass hysteria and someone who preys on fear of magic was a worthy topic for this series. It shows precisely the risk Merlin takes on a daily basis.

    Gaius/Uther – Obviously a strong Gaius episode. Richard Wilson throws himself into the part of the tortured but strong-willed elderly physician who is willing to die a gruesome death for Merlin. Gaius calling out Uther for his cowardice at failing to take ownership for his paranoia was long-awaited and did not disappoint.

    Shattering of Merlin's innocence – This was one of the central themes of the episode and it was well handled by Colin Morgan. Understanding that this episode was originally planned for after The Nightmare Begins, Merlin's loneliness makes more sense. Colin Morgan's bitter tears of guilt, his childlike hugging of Gaius in the cell, and his initial helplessness at correcting his mistake was spot on. Merlin learned his horrible lesson about being more cautious with magic and his desperation to save Gaius was heartbreaking to watch.

    Merlin/Gwen teamwork – Merlin is always clever when it comes to detective work but it was Gwen's connection to the lower town and her insight that the Belladonna drops were insufficient evidence that made Merlin finally have a successfully upheld accusation in front of Uther. Merlin has convinced Arthur before but Uther has always demanded more proof and Merlin's evidence planting was just the right trick. Although I loved the line "Honestly, Merlin, the toad was too much!" I actually thought it was necessary as the slimy Witchfinder might have wormed his way out of it without that final push.

    Arthur/Merlin – A well-played moment by Bradley James during the Gaius confesses as Arthur does nothing but watch Merlin and wait for the bomb to go off. When it inevitably does, the fondness Arthur feels for Merlin is touching as he rushes him out of the room and allows him to see Gaius. Arthur also clearly stands with Merlin's both literally and morally as he pushes his father to examine the evidence. Recalling the death of Tom – A surprising twist where Gwen recalls the specter of her father's death and Arthur's inaction in his execution. This is excellent continuity only marred by her referring to herself as "only a servant" once again. With Merlin so distraught, Gwen tackling Arthur for the save made sense and it show great faith by Merlin for him to trust Gwen to convince Arthur.

    Partial Success:

    Episode placement – Originally filmed as EP4 (per Richard Wilson interview), the push back to behind the Troll two-parter did allow for a nice buildup of epic moments in the later half of the season but characterization suffered because of it. The Uther/Gaius relationship should have been stronger after the Troll incident. Merlin and Arthur had progressed farther. Gwen and Arthur had transitioned to a comfortable friendship in the Troll episode vices this regression back to a "Arthur notices Gwen" moment. Morgana's terror so soon after The Nightmare Begins would have made more sense. Because the rest of the season has yet to air, the jury is still out as to whether or not the character relationship inconsistencies were worth any benefit gained but my initial reaction is that they should have left it between "The Nightmare Begins" and "Lancelot and Guinevere" as originally planned.

    What Didn't Work:

    Morgana's isolation – It's clear now that they have separated the younger cast into Merlin/Arthur/Gwen and Morgana (sometimes with Gwen but very little dialog). This isolation of Morgana and significantly reduced screentime seems too fast for her development. They appear to be rushing her descent into evil versus taking time to show the bonds between all the younger characters before shattering them.

    Overall grade 9. Richard Wilson, Charles Dance and Colin Morgan all shined in this tense drama with a meaningful plot and fully realized characters. Morgana's isolation continues to distract and the relationship between characters was spotty based on episode placement.moreless
Charles Dance

Charles Dance


Guest Star

Katie Foster-Barnes

Katie Foster-Barnes


Guest Star

Amanda Fairbank-Hynes

Amanda Fairbank-Hynes


Guest Star

John Hurt

John Hurt

Voice of the Great Dragon

Recurring Role

Rupert Young

Rupert Young

Sir Leon

Recurring Role

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • This episode features for the first time the steps inside the dragon's cave. They won't be seen again until episode 2x12 The Fires of Idirsholas.

    • This is the first episode in series two in which Arthur refers to Guinevere as 'Gwen'. It is a second occurrence in the show after he did the same in episode 1x10 The Moment of Truth. He will later on refer to her as 'Gwen' again in episode 2x13 The Last Dragonlord.

    • Goof: Aredian dips his feather in the ink and even shakes it aftewards to remove the extra ink; however, it doesn't show any trace of ink whatsoever.

    • If they are searching for evidence that Merlin is a sorcerer, why didn't they search his room first and hide the amulet there instead of between Gaius' supplies in his chambers?

    • Arthurs learns in this episode that Gaius practised sorcery for many years before the Great Purge.

    • Gwen tells Arthur: 'You can show some faith in a loyal friend, or stand by and watch an innocent man die. You did it to my father' in reference to Tom's death in episode 1x12 To Kill the King.

    • Uther doesn't dare witness Gaius' death.

    • Goof: The toad is a way more intense shade of green when it's coming out of Aredian's mouth than when it is on the floor.

    • Goof: When Aredian is searching for someone in his chamber, he pulls the draping but no one is hiding behind it. At that moment, it can be seen that the pattern of the glass in the window is white, green, orange and lilac. The trunk he trips on later can be seen on the ground. However, when he falls off the window the broken glasses are red and blue. Also, from the outside the window is smaller than from the inside, and from the outside the wall is curved while it is not from the inside.

    • Goof: The belladonna flower petals looks nothing like the ones Aredian keeps in his room or the illustration in the book Merlin checks.

    • Gaius lies to save Merlin and Morgana's lives. Merlin and Gwen end up saving Gaius' life.

  • QUOTES (22)

    • Gaius: How many times, Merlin? How many times must I drive it into that thick skull of yours that your magic is a secret to be guarded with your life. What were you thinking?
      Merlin: I... I wasn't thinking.
      Gaius: Well, think boy, think!
      Merlin: It was just a bit of fun.
      Gaius: It was magic and it was seen.

    • Gaius: The man that Uther has sent for... I know him.
      Merlin: The Witchfinder?
      Gaius: Some know him by that name. I know him as Aredian. He is a force to be reckoned with.
      Merlin: But I'm not a witch. Look, no dress or anything (Giggles)
      (Gaius gives him a look)
      Merlin: I'll get the book.

    • Uther: The Witchfinder serves no one. He is a law unto himself.

    • Aredian: Do you smell it, Uther?
      Uther: Aredian...
      Aredian: It's all around us the foul stench of sorcery. It's infected your great city like a contagion.
      Uther: I welcome you to Camelot, Aredian. Thank you for making such haste to be here.
      Aredian: Well, let's hope I am not too late, hmm? For every hour counts in the war against sorcery. Unchecked, it spreads like a disease. It seeks out the young and the old, the weak and the able, the fair and the foul of heart alike. You have grown lazy, Uther. You have grown idle. Your once noble Camelot is rotten to the core. You stand on the brink of dark oblivion.

    • Aredian: So you saw it, the horse conjured from the smoke?
      Merlin: I saw the smoke, but it was only smoke. I saw nothing else.
      Aredian: Are you saying that she lies?
      Merlin: No, I didn't say that. I said I didn't see what she saw.
      Aredian: Hmm. How can that be, I wonder? How can one person see something and the other no?
      Merlin: I can't explain it.
      Aredian: I am at a loss as to explain it myself. Unless it was you who performed the magic.
      Merlin: It wasn't.
      Aredian: Can you prove that it wasn't?
      Merlin: No.

    • Uther: You have a suspect?
      Aredian: Oh, I do, my lord. I regret to say they stand among us in this very room. My methods are infallible. My findings incontestable. The facts point to one person and one person alone. The boy, Merlin!
      Arthur: Merlin? You can't be serious.
      Gaius: This is outrageous! You have no evidence!

    • Aredian: Were you aware, Physician, that your assistant kept instruments of sorcery?
      Gaius: No.
      Aredian: Well, our work is done. I must inform the king.
      Gaius: Aredian! I know for certain that that amulet does not belong to Merlin.
      Aredian: Oh? Well, who does it belong to, then?
      Gaius: It belongs to me.

    • Uther: Gaius has served me with unfailing dedication. Without his knowledge, his wisdom, I would not be sitting here today.
      Aredian: You have shown great faith in him, Sire. Great faith indeed... considering that he was known to practise sorcery.
      Arthur: Gaius? You're mistaken.
      Uther: No, Arthur. He speaks the truth. I am well aware of his past, but I have every reason to believe he has turned his back on sorcery.
      Aredian: Until now.
      Arthur: We don't know that. This amulet you found could just be a stupid mistake.
      Aredian: Or maybe he has fallen back into old habits.
      Arthur: We must give him the benefit of the doubt, surely?
      Aredian: Why?
      (Arthur remains silent)

    • Aredian: There is a sure way to establish his guilt.
      Uther: I know your methods are effective, Aredian, but Gaius is an old man, he could not withstand such... treatment.
      Aredian: It is the only way to rid your mind of doubt.
      (Uther remains silent)

    • Merlin: A Witchfinder has come. He's arrested Gaius for sorcery, but I am the sorcerer.
      The Great Dragon: Yes, I suppose you are.
      Merlin: Well, I'm going to confess. It's the only way to save him.
      The Great Dragon: Then your stupidity continues.
      Merlin: I won't sacrifice a friend to save myself!
      The Great Dragon: Bravely spoken. But Gaius is already doomed. If you confess, the Witchfinder will just burn you both.
      Merlin: But it's my fault! Don't you understand?

    • The Great Dragon: If you were to die, you would endanger the lives of all those that rely upon you.
      Merlin: Well, there must be something I can do. There must be. Please, help me.
      The Great Dragon: Merlin, I see you are distressed by this. But I cannot help you, because I do not know how to.
      Merlin: I can't just stand by and watch Gaius die. I can't!
      The Great Dragon: I am sorry.

    • Aredian: Sorcery is your only master.
      Gaius: I serve only my king!
      Aredian: Huh! In what way have you served him? You have lied to him, you have broken his laws, you have betrayed his trust.
      Gaius: I have saved his life, I have treated his ward, I have protected his only son!

    • Morgana: I had these dreams before Gaius started treating me.
      Aredian: But these dreams, have they got better or worse since Gaius began treating you?
      Morgana: Worse.
      Aredian: As I thought. Thank you. You have been most helpful.

    • Aredian: Gaius? Are you prepared to confess?
      Gaius: I'd rather die first.
      Aredian: Good. And die you shall. But not alone, I'm pleased to say you shall have company.
      Gaius: What?
      Aredian: Merlin and the Lady Morgana are to join you in the flames.

    • Uther: You have betrayed me, Gaius. You have betrayed your friends. But above all, you have betrayed yourself. By the laws of Camelot, I must sentence you... to death.
      Aredian: The sorcerer will be purged of his magic by means of fire! He shall be burned at the stake tomorrow at dawn!

    • Merlin: I can't believe Uther could do this to you.
      Gaius: He had no choice. Once Aredian had found the amulet...
      Merlin: I didn't even know you had such a thing.
      Gaius: It isn't mine.
      Merlin: Why did you say it was?
      Gaius: I was trying to protect you.
      Merlin: I don't know what to say.
      Gaius: It's all right, Merlin, you don't have to say anything.
      Merlin: Yeah, I do. The amulet isn't mine either.
      Gaius: Then how did it get there?
      Merlin: Aredian.

    • Merlin: Do you want to die?
      Gaius: No. But neither do I want you to die. And die you surely will if you get too close to Aredian. He will trap you, Merlin, he will manipulate you, and without ever meaning to, you will incriminate yourself...
      Merlin: But...
      Gaius: You must let this go.
      Merlin: I must let you go?
      Gaius: (Nods) To do otherwise would be an act of suicide.

    • Aredian: My investigations have begun.
      Gaius: Begun? But you've already extracted my confession.
      Aredian: Indeed. Which just leaves Merlin and the Lady Morgana.
      Gaius: But we struck a bargain!
      Aredian: (Laughs) I don't bargain with sorcerers.

    • Merlin: Gaius was set up. Aredian planted that amulet.
      Gwen: But why would he do such a thing?
      Merlin: Aredian is paid to catch sorcerers. Maybe he doesn't care whether someone is guilty or not. Maybe he gets confessions by lying, by planting evidence. As long as he gets a confession, he gets his money.

    • Merlin: Aredian's witnesses saw visions. Visions produced by the belladonna in these eye drops. If we can prove this, we have a chance of saving Gaius.
      Apothecary: He... forced me to sell it. He said he'd kill me if I said anything to anyone.
      Gwen: But it was him? It was Aredian?
      Apothecary: Yes. It was him.

    • Gwen: Arthur, you've got to stop this!
      Arthur: I can't, Gwen. You know I can't.
      Gwen: Merlin has proof that Gaius is innocent.
      Arthur: My father has already passed sentence. There's nothing I can do.
      Gwen: You can do the right thing, Arthur Pendragon! You can show some faith in a loyal friend, or you can stand by and watch an innocent man die.
      Arthur: Guinevere...
      Gwen: You did it once before to my father. Are you really willing to let it happen again? And you can stop looking at me like that, I know I'm only a servant. I thought you were a prince. So start behaving like one!

    • Uther: I'm sorry if you suffered at his hands.
      Gaius: But I did not suffer at his hands, Uther. I suffered at yours. He worked for you, my lord. He was merely following your orders.
      Uther: But I was deceived...
      Gaius: No. You were deceived long before Aredian, for you deceived yourself. You see foes where there are friends, you see sorcerers where there are but servants. I am not the first to be wrongly accused in your war against magic. And not all have been as lucky as I.
      Uther: I assure you, Gaius, every measure will be taken to ensure that nothing like this will happen again.
      Gaius: I hope that is true. For all our sakes.

  • NOTES (11)

    • This episode is Colin Morgan's favourite from season 2.

    • Also Known As:
      France: Le Chasseur De Sorcières, meaning 'The Witch Hunter'.
      Germany: Der Hexenfinder.
      Italy: Il Cacciatore Di Streghe, meaning 'The Witch Hunter'.
      Poland: Łowca Wiedźm, meaning 'Witch Hunter'.
      Portugal: O Caçador De Bruxas , meaning 'The Witch Hunter'.
      Spain: El Cazador De Brujos, meaning 'The Witch Hunter'.
      Ukraine: Відьмолов.

    • International Air Dates:
      Australia: June 6, 2010 on Ten.
      Canada: October 23rd, 2010 on Space.
      France: March 14, 2010 on Canal + Family.
      Germany: January 19, 2011 on RTL.
      Italy: January 30, 2010 on Italia 1.
      Malaysia: January 10, 2010 on TV3.
      Poland: October 16, 2010 on Polsat.
      Spain: March 6, 2010 on Neox.
      Turkey: January 17, 2010 on CNBC-e.
      USA: May 14, 2010 on Syfy.

    • Richard Wilson asked Charles Dance to rough him up and not just pretend in those scenes Aredian mistreats Gaius.

    • Colin Morgan was genuinely intimidated by Charles Dance's performance in the scene where he was questioned by Aredian. He also had a really hard time in the scene where Gaius confesses to be a sorcerer and is sentenced to death.

      Katie McGrath was scared as he rummaged with some torture instruments at her back in the scene right before her interrogation.

    • Charles Dance bought a ring with a claw on it in Camden market which he thought would fit his character.

    • Despite all the trouble he's gotten himself in, this is the first time that Merlin is accused of using magic in the two series.

    • Executive Producer Johnny Capps was freaked out as a child by the Child Catcher in Ken Hughes' 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the image of his carriage was what started the story of the Witchfinder.

    • Filming locations:
      Château de Pierrefonds, Pierrefonds, Oise, France (Camelot).
      Cardiff, Wales (Studio sets).
      Forest of Compiegne (Pierrefonds forest).

    • DVD Release Dates:
      Season 2, Volume 1 (episodes 1-6): November 23, 2009.
      Season 2, Volume 2 (episodes 7-13): February 8, 2010.
      Complete season 2: February 8, 2010.

    • Broadcasts:
      Sat 7 Nov 2009 at 17:40-18:25 on BBC One.
      Mon 9 Nov 2009 at 19:00-19:45 on BBC Three.
      Fri 13 Nov 2009 at 20:00-20:45 on BBC Three.