I was very impressed with this episode. It is important to note the promising introduction which proceeded it in the first episode, Dragon's Call, which succeeded in introducing the central characters in a way which left me curious to know more. In Valiant, we see the development of the relationship between Merlin and Arthur as Merlin begins his new role as Arthur's manservant. Despite their animosity last episode, Merlin seems to have accepted his position and treats Arthur with surmountable - if reluctant - respect, though there is certainly an adjustment period as he takes great umbrage at Gaius's take on a servant's credibility in the castle. Arthur, meanwhile, may be treating Merlin like a dog but you can tell he isn't being deliberately cruel, just a little selfish and thoughtless. I was very glad to see some depth and dimension to Arthur's character, as I had liked the character in the last episode and hoped he wasn't just going to be a villain. Here we see the first signs of a tempestuous relationship between the imperious King Uther and his son, and we realize just how much pressure Arthur is faced with, particularly during a nice scene where he rages at Merlin for humiliating him and making him look a coward. His concept of bravery and honour are admirable, if a little hard to relate to in this modern age. All in all, it was the first push to what will of course eventually be the noble, kind hearted Arthur we all know from history - but true to form, he does retain some aspects of his 'royal ass' self, which is a lot more interesting than the traditional golden boy Arthur - firing Merlin unjustly and generally being a bit cocky and self-absorbed.
We do see some genuine affection and chemistry between Arthur and Morgana - as much as I adore Katie McGrath's performance as Morgana, I almost wish she would switch to being Guinevere, because as much as I like Angel Coulby's portrayal the whole Arthur/Morgana thing has a lot more chemistry and I know it won't work out. The final fight scene I loved, as it really showed Arthur's dedication and bravery, and him amicably clapping Merlin on the shoulder on the way out and reinstating his job at the end do show the beginnings of a friendship.
Anthony Head is a consistent pleaser, his portrayal of King Uther has made a potentially inconsequential, one dimensional villain into an interesting character.