Minor spoilers ahead
With the announcement that this season is going to be Merlin's last, it's almost crunch time for Camelot and episode nine sets things on course for what could be a great finale.
In the opening Arthur and Merlin spy on Gwen as she meets up with Morgana in the dead of the night, giving away more of the kingdom's strategic secrets. Merlin is told to seek out the Dochraid, an ancient sorceress, who explains the only way they can reverse Morgana's brainwashing is to have Gwen willingly step into the Great Cauldron and be bathed in the light of the White Goddess. Old Merlin makes an appearance here, and as much as he usually annoys me he's actually pretty good here. He's stopped trying to sound like a shouty geriatric and now speaks in a more gravelly cadence. He's also got a take-no-crap attitude which he displays when he whips out Excalibur and starts slicing into the Dochraid, sending flecks of green blood spattering across the cave.
There's quite a bit played for laughs in this episode, some of it genuinely funny (Merlin, Gaius and Arthur staring at Gwen at the dining table, waiting for her to fall unconscious after drugging her, for example) and other parts not so much. Merlin and Arthur take a sleeping Gwen on a dangerous journey through the mountains, followed closely by Mordred, who suspects foul play on Merlin's part. However, he soon joins them on their quest and we learn that maybe he's not just putting on an act to get into the king's good books - he genuinely seems to care for both Arthur and Merlin, which is going to make the next few episodes very interesting indeed. It's good to see Mordred take a front seat again, as he's been in the background for far too long while the whole Gwen being evil storyline was going on.
We also finally see a bit of Aithusa action, the still emaciated white dragon of Morgana's that doesn't do a whole lot apart from get shouted at by Merlin. I'm still convinced we're going to see an Aithusa/Kilhgarrah brawl towards the end, which should be cool.
Oh yeah, and Merlin becomes an old woman - so there's that, and it's actually a pretty good, if campy, performance.
With All My Heart is a very simple episode, but one that pushes the series further towards the finale. Arthur's used sorcery to save someone he loves, Morgana loses a pawn in the fight against Arthur and Mordred's fate is still to be determined.