I tend to judge a show based not only on how glorious it can be at the apex of its awesome, but based on the quality of its filler episodes. Because let’s face it, there is no such thing as a show that doesn’t have filler episodes. And no matter how a show tries to hide it, you can always tell which ones they are, too. The better quality a show is, the less you care about the fact that they exist because they’re still completely delightful. The more the quality dips, the less it tends to dip during sweeps or premieres or finales, but during the filler episodes.
Merlin is a pretty good example of this axiom. The first season had almost no episodes that felt like filler even when they were. It might have, in part, just been shiny new-show smell. Seeing another tournament or magical creature wreak havoc didn’t feel as played out then because it wasn’t played out, yet. It is entirely possible that if some of the season 1 episodes aired next week, I’d go “what is this crap?” and feel totally unfulfilled. Season two’s filler was more obvious, but still highly enjoyable. Season three sank to near-unbearable levels of tedium and terrible writing during filler in spite of the phenomenal efforts during the premiere and finale.
This is the first episode of season four that has been filler, and I have to say, if this is going to be the state of filler for the rest of the season, we could very easily reach season two levels of campy mindless joy, if not season one levels. This is not to say that it was a deep episode or that there’s a lot to say about it — it wasn’t and there isn’t. Like, I feel bad for not being able to write my usual 1500 word feelings-vomit that occasionally brushes past actual philosophical depth, but this episode was just not the kind of episode that inspires that. Which is not to say it was bad, because it was a thoroughly enjoyable and Merlin-esque magical romp, it just wasn’t particularly deep.