Merlin “Aithusa” TV Review

Here be dragons – it’s back to the “quest of the week” format, though

Merlin star rating

4.04 “Aithusa”
Writer: Julian Jones
Director: Alex Pillai

THE ONE WHERE A former pupil of Gaius, and a right ruffian, seeks the last surviving dragon’s egg; Merlin thinks it’s his duty to find it first and set it free.

VERDICT This is a fun episode to balance out the darkness of the past three weeks, but it’s a shame the enormity of recent events is completely swept aside in favour of a simple A to B quest. It’s weird that people aren’t more glum about the absence of Lancelot, and why does nobody mention Uther this episode? Surely the coronation of a new king is the most important thing to happen in decades?

But no, instead our heroes spend a lot of time, um, camping. I quite like the “boys’ club” feel of the questing knights, with their pranks and their banter. Playing a trick with the food on Merlin and teasing him does seem childish when they’re on such an important mission but these are just such nice guys that spending time in their company is a great way to pass a Saturday evening.

But Merlin’s motives feel a bit off. Gaius warns him about Julius Borden and last week’s episode should have taught Merlin a lesson about trying to interfere with the affairs of Camelot if nothing else. So it seems treacherous of Merlin to be so quick in turning against his friends (including stealing from his recently bereaved boss) and aiding Borden in a theft? It’s a nice reversal when Julius, an obvious bastard, double-crosses him and knocks him out, but Merlin should have seen most of this coming. And it was only two years ago that the Great Dragon was trying to raze Camelot to the ground, so dragonlord or no, does Merlin really want to help him? I had half hoped that the sneaky Great Dragon might destroy the last egg at the end or something…

There are some attractive special effects in this episode but the final fight in the tomb is oddly short and uninspired. Overall, this is Merlin on autopilot, having a laugh with some endearing characters, but hardly going deeper than that.

Merlin: “Ever heard of the word sorry?”
Arthur: “No. Is that another word you made up?”

THE LEGEND Interesting that the show’s creators should choose a rare white dragon to symbolise the future of Arthur’s Camelot. In most legends (including the influential Historia Regum Britanniae and the Welsh Mabinogion ) it is the red dragon which symbolises Arthur’s valiant Britons. The white dragon symbolises the Saxons. The two dragons fight and the red dragon emerges triumphant – it’s still seen on the flag of Wales today.

MORGANA LITE Not a single word from our antagonist this week. (There’s no Gwen either, for that matter; this one’s all about the boys.)

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE The Great Dragon tells Arthur that in the language of dragons “Aithusa” means the light of the sun. The name aethusa appears in Homeric Greek to mean a door opened to the sun, and symbolised Apollo.

IT’S WOSSISNAME Julius Borden is of course James Callis (of Battlestar and Eureka ) fame. He’s got a hard man vibe going on here, punching out two guards and threatening others with a knife.

Merlin episode Aithusa

INFLUENCES If you’ve ever seen Raiders Of The Lost Ark you know what’s coming when Merlin tries to lift the egg off the plinth.

SLASH BAIT There’s plenty of bedroom farce this episode, including Merlin actually leaping on top of Arthur in bed at one point. Our favourite, though? Merlin magically causing Arthur’s trousers to fall down while he’s bending over a table in the great hall. He then rushes up and tackles him to the floor while yelping, “Allow me to help you, Majesty!”

TRIVIA Star Trek fans stand down; the triskelion is not a reference to the ” Gamesters Of Triskelion ” episode. A triskelion is a Celtic symbol of three interlocking parts – the three-legged symbol of the Isle of Man is a triskelion, for instance.

Gaius: “I believe in the king that Arthur will become and the future he will build.”

Dave Bradley

Merlin airs on Saturday nights on BBC One in the UK. Read our previous Merlin review .

Previous Merlin series four reviews:
Merlin “The Darkest Hour” TV Review
Merlin “The Darkest Hour (Part 2)” TV Review
Merlin “The Wicked Day” TV Review

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