Merlin- The Crystal Cave

Originally written for ace tellyblog Watch With Mothers

After a couple of fairly lighthearted episodes (Goblin’s Gold and Gwaine) things seem to have gone a bit dark in the County of Merlinshire.

Stabbings, murders, pratfalls, clobbering, fires… you name an injury and this episode had it. It was like that bit at the beginning of every Casualty where you see the reason someone ended up in hospital.

Although on this occasion, it was mainly due to arrows and sorcery rather than a stray nail gun and a wonky stepladder.

This episode, like many others, started with Arthur and Merlin being chased through a wood by bandits. Before you could say ‘Lord of the Rings’, they stumbled into a glade full of gigantic, helmeted statues. However, they barely had time to enjoy the scenery before young Arthur was skewered like a cheap shish kebab by a bandit’s arrow.

Now, am I right in thinking that the point of armour – which, after all, is like wearing a chest of drawers – is to deflect arrows? Because in that case I think Artie’s kit came from Poundland. He hardly had time to mouth a witticism before going face first into the moss.

Poor Merlin was quite bereft, trying to heal Arthur with, variously:

  • A parcel of cabbage
  • Looking at Arthur’s back with a worried face
  • Saying ‘Healio!’ or some other Potteresque spell
  • Being rude to Arthur in the hope he’ll get better out of sheer annoyance

That final one, incidentally, is the reason I got thrown out of that Children’s Ward the other week. Tsk. I was only trying to help! Malingering little gits.

Merlin had almost given up when, before you could say ‘Star Wars’, a Captain Birdseye lookalike in a shabby brown robe materialised and cured the ailing Prince with a brief, whispered spell. Or possibly the secret recipe for the crispy-coated cod cakes.

The mysterious, magical stranger then told Merlin it was his destiny to be there at that particular time. Which is true of most people who are in places, to be honest. I’m clearly destined to be sitting on my sofa at 12:07am blearily typing a Merlin review. And you’re destined to be reading it.


Before you can say ‘Superman’, Captain Birdseye whisked a bemused Merlin – possibly wondering whether he’d wandered into the lair of an elderly paedophile – into a shiny cave full of crystals. To prove how magical they were, the crystals instantly started showing Merlin the future, e.g. Morgana stabbing Uther and a bunch of other events leading up to that.

I can’t help feeling it would have been much more impressive if they’d showed him who wins this series of the X Factor instead. But never mind.

Merlin was horrified by the premonition, and barely remembered to collect Arthur before dashing off in a grumpy, soul searching huff.

The subsequent events fell squarely into the ‘someone trying to change the future and instead making it happen’ category. Merlin saw Morgana (who, true to my earlier review, is getting paler the more evil she gets. She’s now almost Marilyn Manson-esque) heading out into the night like a
demented Red Riding Hood.

However, rather than follow her, Merlin pushed her down the stairs with magic. Like you do.

While she was supposedly unconscious and dying – and before you could say ‘The Empire Strikes Back!’ – Morgana heard Uther tell Gaius that… *drumroll*

He is her… FATHER!

…rather than the slightly creepy Uncle he usually appears to be.

He stalked around looking agonised for a while, told Gaius he should try sorcery to keep Morgana alive and had an entirely implausible chat about fatherhood and guardianship with Merlin. Who, let’s remember, is a serf. I’m not sure they were even allowed to talk to Kings in the middle ages, much
less chat about feelings and suchlike.

Merlin felt so guilty he then went and cured Morgana using that most natural of remedies: dragons, annoying his dragon chum in the process, who said that it would be better for her to die.

Tsk, Dragons: always so judgemental.

Scaly-face was right, though, because as soon as Morgana felt perky again, she dashed off to stab Uther’s face in as he slept so she could be Queen (that’s how Prince Charles is going to end up on the throne, you mark my words. Liz isn’t shifting for anyone).

As Marilyn Manson lifted the knife, I was sure it was all going to end on a cliffhanger – but it was all resolved in a blink of an eerie, glowing, orange eye by Merlin’s quick witted but predicable use of magic to disarm her.

OK, it all felt rather rushed, and the writers borrowed heavily from every iconic film they could (I was half expecting Morgana to gasp ‘Rosebud’ on her deathbed), but on the whole I found it surprisingly entertaining. I’ve realised I much prefer the darker episodes – the ones with daft GCI folklore creatures and lame puns are rather painful.

In related news, guess what kind of episode it is next week?



About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at

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