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  • 34 weeks
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Ranking every episode of Merlin · 4:58am Mar 13th, 2018

Fillies and gentlecolts, I'm about to do as it says on the tin.

To those of you who haven't watched BBC's Merlin, you really must. It's a fantastic show whose appeal (much like MLP's) is based on characters. Colin Morgan plays the young wizard whose destiny it is to restore magic to the land of Albion. If you want a proper synopsis, google that shizz.

So, without any further ado, let's get cracking.

The worst

58. The Drawing of the Dark

A truly dreadful episode which, ironically, contains one of the series' most anticipated climaxes.

57. The Kindness of Strangers

Another of season five's howlers. Clearly, it's supposed to be important but fails to convince you and ends up being awfully dull.

56. The Disir

As with Drawing, this episode plays host to an important turning point, but its bland execution and total lack of charisma establish it firmly as one of the no-nos.

55. The Dark Tower

Morbidly interesting at times, yet ultimately uneventful and forgettable.

54. The Crystal Cave

Season three's only stinker, in which Merlin wanders around, attempting to prevent a future that will inevitably come to pass – uninspired and insipid.

53. The Hunter's Heart

I can't even remember what happens, exactly. Never a good sign.

52. With All My Heart

Colin Morgan's hilarious performance as the Dolma raises this episode slightly in the pecking order. Otherwise, it's a waste of your time, wrapping up the series' most unpopular story arc.

51. The Hollow Queen

This episode provides us with some answers regarding Morgana's (and Aithusa's) inter-seasonal imprisonment. It also features the enigmatic Sarrum, memorably played by John Shrapnel.

50. A Lesson in Vengeance

After witnessing the senseless murder of Tyr the stable-hand, I entered a period of strict mourning, which ended abruptly when I fell asleep.

49. The Nightmare Begins


48. The Diamond of the Day (Parts 1 & 2)

The first half of the series' finale was unbearable. The second, although tear-jerking, wasn't much better. Nevertheless, kudos to Colin Morgan and Bradley James for their sublime performances – especially during the magic-reveal scene, which in itself was everything you could have hoped for.

47. Arthur's Bane (Parts 1 & 2)

Perhaps lower on the list than some would have expected, but for good reason. I'm sorry, but floundering about with Alexander Vlahos in the snow for an hour isn't my idea of decent television.

46. The Death Song of Uther Pendragon

Enter the ghost story, which – surprisingly – worked. I wish only that Anthony Head was given more screen time as the vengeful spirit of King Uther.

45. Another's Sorrow

Morgana's vulnerability in this episode contributes to its position – but it's a season five episode. What can you do?

44. The Witch's Quickening


43. Lancelot du Lac

The only reason this insult to the most infamous affair of all time isn't lower on the list is Santiago Cabrera's performance as Lancelot. Also, a very affecting scene in which the obedient shade is ordered to take his own life.

42. His Father's Son

Morgana's pitiful attempt to sabotage an all-important trial by combat diminishes an otherwise solid episode.

41. A Herald of a New Age

A genuinely creepy-at-times episode, which culminates in an unforeseeable twist.

The mediocre

40. The Secret Sharer

Nathaniel Parker's BEAUTIFUL performance as the charismatic, silver-tongued yet treacherous Agravaine deserves never-ceasing applause. Gary Lewis was also cool.

39. Aithusa

Although the prospect of watching people chase after a dragon's egg doesn't excite me, this episode was well-executed enough to bump it up a bit.

38. Lamia

I think the reason this episode succeeds is we get to see characters pushed outside their comfort zones. The plot is predictable, but no less entertaining for that.

37. Love in the Time of Dragons

Gaius revisits his past when the woman to whom he was engaged returns to Camelot. A bit of a dirge, yet surprisingly sweet.

36. The Changeling

Professor Sprout's priceless demeanour when Gaius enters a room will have you in stitches. If it doesn't – well, I'm not giving you anything.

35. The Eye of the Phoenix

Warwick Davis makes an appearance, and Arthur is a bit thick. It ain't bad, basically.

34. A Servant of Two Masters

Yes, yes, I know. It's number one (or somewhere thereabouts) on most lists, but not on mine. Old-man Merlin is always great, but he wasn't so great this time, methinks, purely because he didn't get enough screen time. Performance-wise, Colin knocked it out of the park. This episode feels more like a gimmick all the same.

33. The Beginning of the End

My least favourite season one episode – which shows you just how good season one actually is.

32. The Castle of Fyrien

Tom Ellis as King Cenred is delightfully captivating. Damn shame he's dead.

31. The Sorcerer's Shadow

Once you recognise Dudley Dursley, you can't unsee. Nevertheless, this episode displays good mediocrity. Some moments are, in fact, excellent – when Uther reveals he knew Arthur threw their bout, for example. (Did you see Morgana's face?)


30. The Curse of Cornelius Sigan

Seriously? I'm amazed, people. How did this episode climb so high?

29. The Wicked Day

An important moment for the series, competently executed and affecting.

28. The Sins of the Father

A fabulous scene shared between Anthony Head and Bradley James lifts this episode far higher than it has any right to be.

27. The Poisoned Chalice

Another of those surprise packages. Why is this so high? I suppose it comes down to tone, and season one nailed it.

26. Le Morte d'Arthur

Ups and downs litter this episode, both in terms of execution and emotion. Nimueh was disappointingly easy to defeat, but in the end it's a worthy curtain for season one.

25. The Dragon's Call

Every great story needs a well-defined beginning, and this one doesn't disappoint, introducing everything we need to know very efficiently.

24. Lancelot

Santiago Cabrera's bad-boy looks are sharp contrast to his man-of-honour personality. His Lancelot is sublime.

23. The Gates of Avalon

An enchantingly ominous instalment, in which Morgana foresees the dangers early on and tries to convince the others they aren't to be ignored.

22. To Kill the King

The chemistry between Anthony Head and Katie McGrath doesn't get much better than during this episode's final moments.

21. Lancelot and Guinevere

A more traditional swords-and-sorcery story, in which a distressing damsel is rescued by her knight in shining armour. Make that two knights (plus Merlin).

20. Queen of Hearts

Ah, yes. Emrys is born. This episode was so good the first time that it simply must be placed here.

19. The Mark of Nimueh

There's something about this episode – the plague, the infected water supply, the accusation followed by the confession. I betcha it be that there tone thingummy again.

18. The Sword in the Stone (Parts 1 & 2)

Not quite as impressive as its season three counterpart, but still highly enjoyable and gratifying. Nathaniel Parker as Agravaine is exceptional once again.

17. The Once and Future Queen

Arthur starts to fall for Gwen. Now, this could have gone horribly wrong, but it was a bang-up job. Hats off to you, writers. Also, Sir William is forever a legend. POLISH MY ARMOUR, BOY!

16. The Lady of the Lake

Colin Morgan lets rip his emotional side and shows us what he's got in store for the series' finale – brilliant stuff. I've no soft spot for romance, but well-played.

15. Excalibur

Tone once again, people. It's important. And I promise you won't forget the feeling gained from watching the Black Knight slaughter his opponents without a word.

14. The Labyrinth of Gedref

You get the idea.

No, seriously. Who'd have thought killing a unicorn would make for such diverting television?

13. The Darkest Hour (Parts 1 & 2)

Mercy, I didn't know Merlin and Arthur wanted to die so much. These episodes are fantastic. Shout out to the Dorocha and Agravaine.

12. Sweet Dreams

Love can be a powerful thing – especially when it's artificially induced, or in this case magically. 'It is destiny, my love! Destiny and chicken!' Enough said.

11. The Witchfinder

The biggest irony is that Aredian busts the right people. Richard Wilson, who is ceaselessly impeccable as Gaius, is even more so in this episode. It's a must-watch.


10. The Fires of Idirsholas

At risk of spoiling how it goes, I won't mention this episode's defining moment. But God damn!

9. Valiant

You couldn't hope for a better follow-up to your first ever episode of Merlin. It's got swords, magic and lies – and it establishes Merlin and Arthur's relationship through masterful suspense.

8. The Moment of Truth

Camaraderie and gravity, and none of it overdone. You'll find yourself re-watching this one again and again.

7. Gwaine

Whoever cast Sir Ethan and Sir Oswald deserves a knighthood of their own. And Eoin Macken glows as the reckless bar-hopper himself.

6. The Coming of Arthur (Parts 1 & 2)

An emotional finale that has us feeling sorry for Uther, who is left a broken man following Morgana's betrayal. Katie McGrath works wonderfully with Emilia Fox.

5. The Tears of Uther Pendragon (Parts 1 & 2)

Morgana is found after a year of absence, and King Uther embraces his loving ward with open arms. Katie McGrath plays the treacherous witch with delightful composure and wickedness.


4. Goblin's Gold

I challenge you not to laugh. Go on. Try. You will fail. There is no way you can stop yourself. Game over. Gaius wins. Go home.

3. A Remedy to Cure All Ills

One of the series' early instalments, in which Gaius tries to stop the mysterious Edwin Muirden (masterfully portrayed by Julian Rhind-Tutt) from discrediting his life's work and murdering the king. Merlin doesn't get much better.

2. The Last Dragonlord

The best finale of the lot, in which Merlin meets his father and takes his first giant step into becoming the man he must one day be.

1. Beauty and the Beast (Parts 1 & 2)

In one word – television gold. OK, that's two, but who cares, this two-parter is genius. It strikes exactly the right balance between comedy and threat and has you on the edge of your seat till the bitter, stinking (literally!) end. Anthony Head as the besotted Uther Pendragon steals the crown for best performance. And if he's king in these episodes, then Sarah Parish is his queen (tee-hee).

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