Just when everything seems like it’s going well in Camelot – well, except for that pesky Morgana and her issues – a trio of three witches decide to pass judgment on the King and his rule, and the sentence is… Well, why ruin the surprise?
This week’s episode kicks off like MacBeth, three witches stirring up some trouble. They are the Disir, high priestesses of the Old Religion who speak for the Triple Goddess. They dole out justice by her hand and now the less than blind eyes of justice are tuned towards Arthur. But first, combat practice! And young Sir Mordred is coming along nicely with his training. Even Arthur thinks so. Merlin is still dubious about Mordred, and although Gaius tries to convince him that all this worrying is much ado about nothing (another Shakespeare reference – did you catch it!), Merlin remains steadfast in his doubt even though he, himself, has to admit that Mordred doesn’t seem like a bad guy.
Wait, here comes Sir Leon with news. The sorcerer and raconteur Osgar escaped some Camelot knights at a nearby outpost, and in the process Sir Ranulf was killed. The late knight was an old buddy of Arthur’s, so naturally some measure of retaliation is called for. So the Knights of the Round Table saddle up. Mordred comes along on his first official mission, one that includes some gentle hazing from the other knights. The company catches up to Osgar eventually, and though he’s mortally wounded, he manages to live long enough to give Arthur the verdict of the Disir, inscribed on a gold coin.
Merlin, of course, is concerned about the condemnation, but Arthur is merely vexed. Sure, he could understand the Disir condemning his father, but hasn’t he, Arthur, tried to be a just and moral king. Merlin points out that only those worthy can be judged, since it’s pointless to judge a man who won’t listen or examine his own beliefs to consider he might be wrong. Gwen points out that maybe Osgar was just a whack job, but Arthur saw the sincerity and knowing that Osgar was a sorcerer, and a cunning one at that, he could have easily taken out both the king and his knights. But he didn’t. Could the message of judgment have more weight than Arthur would like to admit?
Naturally it does and the Camelot knights ride out to the sacred place where the Disir dwell. When they get there, the knights are rather – um- single-minded. They enter the cave, in force, with weapons drawn, despite Merlin’s warnings that this is a sacred place that they should show some reverence to. Oh that Merlin, such a nimby. But yeah, the Disir aren’t impressed either. Arthur mouths off and disrespect is paid, which results in the Disir throwing some spears with their magic, one of which impales Mordred. The knights retreat, and return to Camelot where Gaius pronounces that it’s only a matter of time before Mordred dies.
Unless… No Merlin refuses to help. Following the advise of the Great Dragon, Merlin decides the risk to the future is too great with Mordred alive and declines to use his magic to heal Mordred. Arthur, however, is not as intractable. He takes Merlin and returns to the Disir to ask for forgiveness and to spare Mordred’s life. The Disir tell Arthur again that he has to convert to the Old Religion or else, and that he has until sun-up to decide. Arthur actually carefully considers it, after all: magic doesn’t kill people, people kill people. Not so fast, says Merlin swallowing hard every dream he has to live open and free as a wizard, magic causes a lot of bad stuff, and isn’t it possible that there’s a toxic effect to magic run unchecked? Wasn’t that the whole root of the purge, and Uther’s madness, and other anti-magic motions across the Five Kingdoms? Arthur sees the wisdom and his mind’s made up. He tells the Disir thanks but no thanks to the Old Religion and heads home.
The Disir’s punishment: Mordred lives. Arthur and Merlin return to Camelot to find Mordred alive and well. Arthur is pleased, but to Merlin, it just solidifies one thing: Mordred is the fateful end to Arthur he’s been looking for. To be continued…
-Can anyone say “filler episode?” This was easily the weakest entry of the season so far, and basically just reinforced the outlining story arc of the season: Arthur brings Mordred into the fold, Mordred is destined to betray Arthur, et cetera, and so forth. I suppose though it must be done. Scenes of Mordred and Arthur paling around, and other knights giving Mordred a gentle good ribbing help to effectively set-up the drama coming down the pipe.
-Bravo to Colin Morgan, the stand out performer from last night’s episode! No longer the country lad caught up in the palace theatrics, Merlin remained steadfast in his doubt of Mordred, and was even more cynical than Gaius about whether or not the Druid boy could turn out all right in the end. Merlin, once defiant when confronted with Mordred’s destiny, is now all too willing to proceed as the Great Dragon advises: let the kid die. On the flip side, Merlin had to swallow any hope for a bright day of magical openness in order to convince Arthur that embracing the Old Religion is wrong in order to save Mordred. Powerful stuff and ripe with inner-turmoil, which was rather underplayed nicely by Morgan who couldn’t really act out all that frustration and doubt, but had to look like he was burying it deep down. Hope this episode makes the Emmy clip reel.
-Was the MacBeth comparison with The Disir apt, or was it just me? It would have been funny if the connection was made a little more explicit, like in the old Disney Gargoyle cartoons, which included characters from both MacBeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream… You know if Hollywood wants to remake something, a live-action Gargoyles is something I could really get behind. Just saying. And what’s the deal with those Blair Witch stick figure ornaments outside The Disir’s cave? Is that a witch thing now?
-Was there a political implication in Merlin’s advice about the Disir’s judgment? Judgment will only be given to those who will listen. I read it as kind of statement about the absolutism of extremism in all forms. So many people never test their beliefs and live in their own little echo chamber that reinforces the things they already know, so how does one learn and grow without accept the judgment of others that you might be wrong? Some wise words to think about indeed. This Merlin has come along way.
-Osgar’s line: “For even as Camelot flowers, the seeds of her destruction are being sown,” some damn fine alliteration, or subliminal Hellboy reference? Dealer’s choice.
Next week: Morgana’s back with a new plot involving Queen Gwen. An evil plot? I guess you’ll just have to tune in and see.