A Servant of Two Masters is a return to the lighthearted humour Merlin does so well and its nice to see Gwen and Gaius being given more lines and a chance to express a facial expression other than that of concern. Plus the Knights actually look competent in this episode.
When Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of Camelot are attacked by mercenaries in the Valley of the Fallen Kings, Merlin is mortally wounded and Arthur does his best to keep the spirits of his friend up. In an earnest moment Arthur admits that Merlin is a “servant who is extremely brave and incredibly loyal, and not at all cowardly.” Faced with attack again, Arthur tries to save Merlin but, still determined to protect the King, Merlin causes a rock fall to separate them, and is captured by Morgana and Agravaine who also controls the mercenaries. Agravaine, fearing the opposition (Gaius) is already suspicious of him, returns to Camelot after Morgana is displeased with his progress at helping her to supremacy.
With Merlin tied up in Morgana’s hut, there’s no love is lost between the pair who were once friends and now enemies. Which leads Merlin to wonder why she is healing his wound instead of killing him. Morgana’s answer: “I haven’t seen you since you condemned my sister to a slow and painful death, thwarted my plans to take over Camelot, and forced me to live in a hovel” and then proceeds to conjure up a Fomorroh, a serpent-like creature of dark magic. She then allows it to burrow into Merlin’s neck and take over his mind with one all-consuming thought: “”YOU WILL KILL ARTHUR PENDRAGON!” (well the old saying does go, “never cross a women scorned”).
With Sir Leon gaining a voice he gets the honour of enlightening the king that only a few knew their route, so they must have a traitor in their midst. If only they would look at Agravaine’s face they would work it out straight away, but I suppose that would be too easy. Talking of Agravaine, I do think Nathaniel Parker has made him an interesting character. He successfully manages to pass suspicion onto Gaius after he is confronted by Arthur; but why is he after the approval of Morgana? And why is he not suspicious that Arthur has not acted on his accusation towards Gaius? With the fear of having to put up with his new polished manservant George who would tend to his every need with perfection, but bore him to death telling brass jokes, Arthur goes in search of Merlin himself and triumphantly returns with his friend, unaware of Merlin’s new-found desire to kill the him. Merlin begins to act more strangely as Morgana’s serpent takes hold of the warlock.
Gaius is the first to notice a change in the Merlin he knows with a new-found interest in Aconite poison, should the need arise to kill someone as you do. Merlin’s rudeness to other members of the kingdom and then his annoyance at Gwen for ruining his chances to poison the king when she gets there first with his meal, leads to several comedic failures when his attempts to assassinate the king fail, several whacks round the head with a jug from Gwen and a cringe-worthy scene of embarrassment when Gaius and Gwen run into Arthur’s chamber to stop Merlin poisoning his bath, to be faced with a very naked embarrassed king and some awkward explaining to do. Angel Coulby as Gwen definitely makes this scene with her facial expressions.
The best bit (after the bath scene obviously) has to be what makes many a show; the fight between good and evil as Morgana and the old Merlin go into battle. I only wish it had been the young Merlin, though I’m still not buying the disguise, and I felt Morgana’s fear of the Emerus figure that has plagued her dreams was too easily overcome. With the help of a vortex that advances and envelops Morgana, before unceremoniously spitting Morgana out, Merlin is given the chance to destroy the mother beast, thus releasing himself from the spell. An unconscious Morgana is left for Agravaine to find. He did seem very upset at the sight of Morgana. What is he playing at?
Interesting parallel between Arthur and Morgana: The one who has power, and the one who so desperately seeks it; and yet they both feel alone. Interestingly they both confess this to Merlin. First Morgana when she mentions that she does understand loyalty, even though she has no one left to show that loyalty to. Arthur when he tells Merlin how his father prepared him well for his role as King, but didn’t teach him about the loneliness and pressure of such a role. Ironic that if Morgana had not turned bad she may have been able to help share that burden with Arthur. Overall an entertaining episode and a welcome return to an ensemble piece.