Merlin Series 5 Review “The Death Song of Uther Pendragon” – Daddy Issues, Camelot-style

Merlin Season 5 Episode 3 The Death Song of Uther Pendragon

I’m beginning to think the folks behind Merlin are skilled in the art of torture. In ‘The Death Song of Uther Pendragon’, Merlin’s secret is very almost revealed. Key word being ‘almost’.

This episode saw Arthur given the ‘Horn of Cathbhadh’, a magical artifact which can summon the death, by a supposed sorcerer he saved from the pyre in a small village (an act which, oddly, goes unremarked on). Despite Gaius telling him that it holds powerful magic, Arthur decides to use it (and again, Arthur using magic goes unremarked on). He and Merlin travel to the stones of Nemeton, a Stonehenge-like structure, where Arthur uses the horn to part the veil between life and death — to see his father.

It’s no surprise that Uther was an ass. He’s never been the most supportive father, and Arthur has done a lot of things of which Uther would never approve. But it surprised me just how awful Uther was. Given that it was Arthur looking back that allowed Uther’s release, we could even go so far as to say that Uther only told Arthur he loved him to make him look back. I was even more surprised that he actively tried to murder Gwen, but what about poor Percival? Uther disliking his son’s wife because she’s not highborn and didn’t help forge an alliance is one thing; him trying to maim a damned good knight because he’s a commoner somehow feels worse. Has Uther always been this irrational? One might have assumed death would tame a man.

The conclusion of the episode, wherein Arthur and Merlin track down Uther’s spirit in hopes of sending it back to the spirit world could have been bland, but between the emotion shown by the actors and the almost reveal, it was actually quite exciting. Kudos to the writers for not taking the easy way out and having Arthur and Uther reconcile. It was a brutal way for Arthur to learn to value his own leadership abilities, but it worked a treat.

I could complain about the lack of a magic reveal once again, but at this point, I think that’s an argument I could make every single week. I can’t say it didn’t mar the episode for me slightly, because it did, but otherwise, this was a brilliant episode. The camaraderie between Arthur and Merlin was as strong as it had been in earlier series, the humour was top notch (with slightly less slapstick, thankfully), and the new trend of giving other characters a taste of the spotlight continued (more Gwaine and Percy scenes, please and thank you). It definitely slots into the list of my top 5 favourite Merlin episodes.

What did you think of ‘The Death Song of Uther Pendragon’, dear reader? Wish Uther had been a little nicer? Think more could have been said about Arthur’s reaction to magic? Wish you could volunteer to nurse Percival back to health? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!