“The Death Song of Uther Pendragon” – Review of Merlin Season 5, Episode 3!

Uther is back.  And he’s not happy.

Uther: Back on the Throne
Uther: Back on the Throne

It’s many a person’s fear that their parents will disapprove of them in life and how they choose to live it.  Those who have lost parents will always wish they could speak to their parent one more time, hoping to hear a word of encouragement or praise.  In Arthur’s case, the best advice would be, “Be careful what you wish for.”

This third episode of Season 5 is much easier-paced than the sweeping epicness that was the 2-part opener.  It feels like you can settle in and sit back for a good ghost story, with the bonus return of Anthony Head as King Uther.  Additionally, most of the action takes place within the castle, which feels a lot like being at “home” again, especially for the avid “Merlin” watcher.
When Arthur saves a woman from being burned at the stake for sorcery, she gives him a gift—a magical horn that has the power to summon the spirits of the dead.  By convenient coincidence, it also happens to be the one-year anniversary of Arthur’s coronation and of Uther’s death.  Arthur looks like a lost little boy, wishing for nothing more than to see his daddy again.  Enter cleverly placed plot device “The Horn of Cathbad”, and you’ve got yourself a ghost.

The reunion with his father’s spirit is not the happy one that Arthur was hoping for.  (Which leads me to want to ask him, “Do you even KNOW your father?”  It’s not a surprise that Uther criticizes Arthur’s ruling style and marriage choice, saying that the people will not respect him and that he has failed at being King.  Feeling shaken, Arthur returns to Camelot with Merlin.

Ghost of a king
Ghost of a king

Soon it becomes clear that they did not return without a guest.  Uther, whose spirit is clearly not at rest, comes back and upsets the castle with all kinds of poltergeist activity and whooshes of wind.  It’s a rather fun haunting to watch– suspensefully shot, and the sound editing is of particular note.  Sudden musical cues, slamming doors and flapping windows, and a cacophony of weapons and other metal or wood items make for a great chilling experience.

Uther gets one last chance to sit in his throne, looking rather blue and worse for wear.  It’s disappointing to see that even after death, Uther is still unswerving in his old opinions of how the kingdom should be ruled, but at the same time, it’s what we’ve come to accept.  It is nice to see Arthur standing up to his father.  Best lines of the episode:
“I’m not you, Father.  I can’t rule the way you did.”
“Camelot must come before all else.  Even you.”  Poor Arthur.  He has his father’s legacy on his shoulders but must also do what he knows to be best for the kingdom.

In my opinion, the most exciting moment of the episode is when Merlin reveals to Uther’s ghost that he has magic.  Finally we get to see Merlin lay bare his deepest secret to one of the most powerful characters of the series.  Merlin could never have done this while Uther lived for fear of losing his own life, but it opens an interesting path to answering the question of whether he will ever finally reveal his secret  to Arthur.

Put that down on the list as another item we have to look forward to and hopefully get answered before the series is out.  Next week on SyFy:  Morgana is back… again.. in Episode 4, “Another’s Sorrow”.

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Post Author: Amy Hirschman

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