Sorry Merlin fans but after tonight it’s just two more episodes till the end. But hey, wasn’t tonight’s antipenultimate episode amazing? It was the moment we’ve all been waiting for: fate is met, secrets are revealed, and the chess board is set for the ultimate battle of ultimate destiny. But where did it all go wrong? Let’s dive into the recap.
As you’ll remember from last week, Camelot is in the midst of a full-scale war with the Saxons led by Morgana, so when a Camelot patrol comes upon a bunch of slain knights, the assumption is Saxon attack (which is fun to say, but not so much fun to live through). Mordred thinks he sees someone in the nearby woods and gives chase, but it’s not who he expected. Indeed it is a young woman named Kara, and its painfully clear that she and Mordred share an affection. Naturally, Mordred covers for her with Arthur and the others, saying that he merely saw a deer. Merlin, however, is suspicious.
Mordred later tries to sneak remedies and supplies to Kara, but is caught by Merlin on his way out of the castle. Merlin points out that there’ll be big trouble for the knight who helps someone who helped attack Camelot citizens, but Mordred pleads with Merlin, she’s a Druid, one of them, he was duty-bound to help her. Merlin, despite himself, promises to keep Mordred’s secret, but while patrolling in the woods with Arthur later, the king and Merlin come across a trail of boot prints that lead them to Kara. Kara attacks immediately, but is captured in the process.
Because of her seemingly bottomless appetite for murder, Kara is sentenced to death. Mordred blames Merlin, thinking he betrayed him and promising retribution. In the meantime though Mordred sees Arthur to beg for clemency and to take credit for helping Kara out in the first place. Although Arthur’s sympathetic, his judgment stands: Kara will be executed.
Visiting Kara, Mordred is beside himself. he thought he and Arthur were friends, brother knights through and through, but Kara says it just proves that Arthur and Uther are cut from the same cloth. Mordred comes up with a plan. He goes to Arthur and apologizes for his earlier outburst, and Arthur appreciates that. All is forgiven. But Merlin knows that Mordred’s not going to let it drop, and that Mordred is going to spring Kara from the Camelot brig. Gaius points out the irony in Merlin’s decision to stop him, but Merlin says that if Mordred leaves the castle, he’ll run straight into the arms of Morgana, and by then it will be really too late.
And Mordred does indeed escape with Kara from the citadel, with the knights in hot pursuit. When cornered Mordred decides to fight, and Kara urges him to kill the knights with magic, but Mordred hesitates, and they’re both taken into custody. Merlin feels that he’s brought about the very thing he was trying to prevent, but Gaius says that “some paths woven so deeply into the fabric of the world, that nothing can be done to change them.”
Merlin tries to convince Arthur to let both Mordred and Kara go, a desperate plea to avoid the future Merlin knows is coming. Arthur is resolute, but after thinking about Merlin’s words – How will two more deaths help secure a peace in the overall scheme of things? – Arthur gives Kara a chance to repent. But Kara repents not, she says she’s not guilty of any crimes, and that it is a not a crime to fight for your freedom.
So she’s hanged. Mordred, in that moment, loses his $#!% and escapes using magic.
Arthur and Merlin talk later. Arthur feels bad for letting Mordred get so close, but Merlin says it’s because he’s got a good heart and believed in Mordred. Arthur asks Merlin if he’s made a mistake, and Merlin says he hopes not.
But yep, Mordred heads straight to Morgana…
Mordred: I bring you the news you have longed for.
Morgana: Arthur’s death?
Mordred: The key to it. I was wrong to ever question your wisdom, my lady, and I wish to make amends.
Morgana: Tell me!
Mordred: There is someone you have been searching for, someone who has always eluded you.
Mordred: I know where he is.
Mordred: Camelot. And I have his true name. It is Merlin.
Boom. There it is.
-Oh man, that was so worth it. After five years, for Merlin’s secret to be out to the worst possible people waylays all my petty complaining about how Merlin’s secret was on lockdown for so long. I don’t think I was wrong, of course, but it was just a great moment when Mordred let drop that it Merlin was Emrys I let it slide for a minute.
-There was also compelling drama in the Arthur and Mordred dynamic. Their relationship was ruined not by an issue that was cut and dry. Yes, Kara did kill people, and Mordred was in the wrong trying to spring her, but Arthur also offered an olive branch, and it was batted out of his hand. It’s compelling that it was more a moral play than Arthur was 100 per cent right, and Mordred was 100 per cent wrong.
-Good on Gaius for calling double-standard on Merlin. I mean come on, how many people has Merlin sprung for the Camelot jail?
-With Merlin’s whole swan analogy, is it just me or did he come out of the closet in tonight’s episode? Or am I reading too much into that?
NEXT WEEK: The End, Part 1
Last week, Arthur and Merlin were able to free Guinevere from Morgana’s control despite the witch’s best efforts to stop them, and you know what that means – VENGEANCE PARTY!
Indeed, Morgana goes on a tear this week looking for a way to get at her mortal enemy Emrys, AKA: Merlin, AKA: The Meddlesome Serving Boy. Of course, Morgana doesn’t know the three are related, far from it, but she knows someone who knows: Alator of the Catha. Morgana captures Alator in the opening scene and promises that she’ll make him suffer till he coughs up Emrys’ alias. Alator, however, promises to reveal nothing.
In Camelot, refugees have been arriving in the city from a neighboring kingdom, one of the few places in Albion magic is practiced openly. Merlin poses the question: why would Morgana be drawn to attack such a place? He discovers the answers in the woods nearby, a brooch and some papers that Gaius identifies as belonging to Alator. Merlin wants to help, but Gaius is concerned because Alator knows Merlin is Emrys, and more to the point, Alator got that information from Gaius himself, closing the circle of guilt.
Merlin gets a chance to help Alator later when he’s approached by Finna, one of Alator’s trainees in the way of the Catha. Finna asks Merlin to meet her later that night so that she can give Merlin some wisdom that Alator wants Emrys to know. Despite Gaius’ concerns, Merlin goes to meet her in the ruins of an ancient temple. What Merlin doesn’t know is that Gaius went to Arthur behind his back, and as Finna and Merlin start conversing, their meeting is broken up by some Camelot knights led by Mordred. Merlin helps Finna escape, promising her that he’ll meet up with he again.
Back at the castle, Merlin is incensed that Gaius would betray him, and Arthur’s confused how a squad of his best men could let one, lone sorcerer get away. Meanwhile, back at Snake Mountain, Morgana tries to get Alator to talk by actually putting a snake in his head.
Despite Gaius’ concerns that Finna is an agent of Morgana, Merlin sets out to find her. Finna herself has let Alator know via carrier raven that she’s been able to meet up with Emrys, but Morgana intercepts the note, and realizes that Finna’s got the answer she wants, and that she’ll probably be way easier to break than Alator, who she finishes off by snapping his neck. Morgana orders the Saxons to mount up and hunt down Finna.
Racing against time, Merlin finds Finna’s trail, but he also finds the Knights of the Round Table. Leon insists Merlin stick with them, but when night falls, Merlin’s able to lose the knights as they sleep nearby. Merlin finally catches up to Finna, but they’re jumped by a trio of Saxons and Merlin’s injured in the ensuing fight. Finna’s helps Merlin get away, but now Morgana and the Saxons are definitely hot on their trail.
Arriving at an old, abandoned watch tower, Finna takes Merlin inside to the top with the intention of making one last stand. She gives Merlin a box Alator meant for him to have, and tells Merlin not to trust Mordred (as if Merlin needed reminding). She then asks Merlin for his sword and let’s him exit to the safety of the roof, just as Morgana herself arrives. Finna tells Morgan that she’ll reveal nothing, and stabs herself through the chest with Merlin’s blade. Pissed, Morgana orders the old woman’s body burned and she departs with the Saxons.
Dying on the roof, Merlin let’s out a desperate call for assistance from the Great Dragon, who not only carries Merlin to safety, but restores him to health too. Merlin notices that the Dragon doesn’t seem like his chipper self, and it turns out that the Great Dragon is dying. Merlin is visibly upset and asks if there’s anything he can do, but the Dragon says it’s just his time, and he’ll be there to help Merlin once more before the end.
Back in Camelot, Merlin and Gauis examine the box left by Alator and Finna. Inside is a prophecy that reads:
“Let loose the hounds of war. Let the dread fire of the last priestess reign down from angry skies. For brother will slaughter brother. For friend will murder friend. As the great horn sounds, a cold dawn at Camlann. The prophets do not lie. There Arthur will meet his end, upon that mighty plain.”
Bummer. And to add insult to injury, a dead knight is brought in with skin covering the entirety of his face, enchanted as to suffocate him. Gaius recognizes this as a sign, Morgana has officially declared war on Camelot.
– I loved seeing Gary Lewis back as Alator. He was such a bad ass when he appeared in last year’s “The Secret Sharer” and despite the fact that he spent much of this episode as Morgana’s prisoner, he still came across like a bad ass. He’s like the Jack Bauer of medieval Britain, he can torture, and he can be tortured without breaking. He should have his own spin-off where he heads up CCTU, the Camelot Counter Terrorism Unit. Okay, I need to wrap this up so I can start working on a script.
– Sorcha Cusack was also good as Finna. They tried to make us in the audience think she really was a mole for Morgana, but who could deny that sweet old lady face. Well, Gaius could, but unlike Merlin he never saw her sweet old lady face and understood her veracity.
-Gaius, meanwhile, was kind of dick this week. One would think that by this point he might put a little more faith in Merlin’s instincts, they’ve only proved to be right about 9 times out of 10.
-Anyone else struck by the news that the Great Dragon is dying? I guess this really is the last season if the show’s losing such an important character. The CG was a little more impressive than normal to give the Dragon a kind of sickly hue, instead of his once golden sheen. Of course by the time the scene ended I thought they came up with the idea for the effed up wing because the effects for the Dragon while flying weren’t the greatest, but I digress. I take it the next/last time we’ll see the Dragon is the series finale.
-And by the way, Morgana, you’re beautiful when you’re angry.
NEXT WEEK: Can anyone say, “Prophecy fulfilled?”
This week’s Merlin brings to a head the last month’s storyline involving a puppet Gwen and her attempts to bring down Camelot and Arthur according to the will of everyone’s favorite bastard princess and witch, Morgana. The episode’s title, “With All My Heart,” refers to what Gwen said to Arthur when she accepted his wedding proposal, but it’s also a reference to an Elvis Presley song, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” recorded by The King as a single in 1956. It was his second number one hit on the Billboard pop charts. I’m not sure if the writers had that in mind with the line, but it’s where my mind went anyway.
But let’s get down to this very important episode, which opens once again with Guinevere meeting Morgana in the woods outside the castle to discuss their latest takedown options. This time though, Merlin and Arthur are hiding nearby listening to every word. Arthur wants to strike now, but Merlin advises patience. They need to find a way to free Gwen from Morgana’s control.
Gauis says there is a magic that can help Gwen, and although Arthur is hesitant, the combined convincing power of Gaius and Merlin brings the king around to the idea. But first, a field trip for Merlin. Gwen is suffering the Tiene Daga, a magical method of brainwashing that binds the brainwashee to the High Priestess by instilling horrific fear (see: The Dark Tower). Merlin must see the Dochraid in order to find a possible cure for Gwen, and she’s not going to be very accommodating.
Merlin goes in disguise as Dragoon the Great, but that doesn’t fool the Dochraid, she knows who she’s dealing with: Emrys, and he ain’t no friend to the Old Religion or Morgana. Screw it! Merlin goes gangsta on the Dochraid, and busts a cap… Or rather wounds her on the arm with Excalibur. The Dochraid gives up the info: Merlin and Co. will have to travel to the Cauldron of Arianrhod where Merlin will have to summon the Triple Goddess herself as only her healing touch can hope to save Gwen. But the rub is that Gwen will have to enter the waters of the Cauldron willingly, she cannot be tricked or enchanted, or else risk losing her soul forever. As Merlin turns to leave, the Dochraid tries to kill him with an enchanted knife, but Merlin deflects it easily and instead uses it to strike down the Dochraid.
With info in hand, Arthur, Merlin and Gaius plot to get Gwen to the Cauldron (and to disguise Merlin in order to perform the ritual, since Arthur is already aware of the Dragoon ruse). Using a belladonna-spiked drink to put Gwen’s lights out, Arthur and Merlin head out, surreptitiously followed by Mordred, who, at just the right moment, reveals himself in time to save both our heroes from falling off a perilous cliff. But that’s not the only danger. The Dochraid survived and has tipped off Morgana that her old friend Emrys is looking to de-puppetize the queen.
Morgana ambushes the gang as they’re nearing the Cauldron, and she has dragon back-up. Merlin tells Arthur to take Gwen ahead and he uses his Dragon Lord powers to call off Aithusa’s attack, but then Morgana strikes, knocking out Mordred and leaving Merlin with just enough juice to get away. That was fine by Morgana, who, with some lingering degree of affection for Mordred, tries to get out of the knight the identity of Emrys. But nope, Mordred will not tell her anything, or betray Arthur, so he knocks Morgana out with magic instead.
Finally at the Cauldron, Arthur and Gwen are confronted by the sorcerer who will help them: Dolma. If she looks familiar, it’s because she’s Merlin in drag (with some temporary magical sex reassignment, not that we got into the technicalities of the spell). Arthur tries to get Gwen into the lake, but she’s not having any of it. Merlin/Dolma reminds Arthur that he has to convince her to enter the lake of her own free will, so Arthur offers some romantic words to his queen: “Do you remember when I asked you to marry me? Do you remember what you said? You said with all my heart. That’s what you said Guinevere. No subterfuge, no trickery.” Gwen is moved, and enters the lake with Arthur. Merlin lays on the spells, and all is right with the world again.
Arthur prepares to depart and thanks the Dolma for her efforts. The Dolma asks Artur to remember that it was magic that healed his wife, and that the practice itself isn’t bad, it’s how people decide to use it. And by the way, do you want your serving boy back? I’ve got “him” all “tied up” back at my “lair.” Our heroes make their way back to Camelotand everything’s grand, at least until till next week’s crisis, and Mordred tells Merlin that he wasn’t fooled by the whole Dolma ruse. Not one bit. Arthur however, totally bought it.
-Who else is loving bad ass Merlin? Taking on the Dochraid was just the latest in a long line of ballsy moves the wizard’s done since offing Uncle Agravaine in “The Sword and the Stone, Part II.” Of course, somewhat muting Merlin’s development as a magical Punisher was this week’s experimentation with cross-dressing, but you kind of have to respect a man who will literally do whatever it takes to save the day.
-But seriously, is there no such thing as Polyjuice potion or fake mustaches in the Merlin universe? The two options were going old, or going fem?
-Mordred once again got involved in the action this week, which was nice considering he’s done a lot of standing on the sidelines lately (and to prove it, Alexander Vlahos has been made to do that standing on the sidelines to show that Mordred’s still around). However, I found Mordred’s still rather staunch defense of Arthur and Camelot interesting given our proximity to the series finale. Maybe Mordred should be questioning his commitment given that Arthur was using magic to solve his own personal problems while Merlin was perfectly happy to leave him to Morgana and whatever fate she concocted?
-It’s somewhat disappointing that the episode didn’t lead to someone who’s not Mordred discovering Merlin’s secret identity, and I don’t mean Dolma. From the looks of next week’s episode though it looks like somebody might be getting close, perhaps too close. Still, I will call the evil Gwen storyline a mostly success. It added some nice shades of grey to Gwen’s story arc and the resolution was actually very emotionally moving. Bravo!
NEXT WEEK: Morgana goes from 0 to 1,000 in her quest to get rid of Emrys once and for all.
On this week’s episode of Merlin there were devious plots galore: assassinations, revenge, poisoning, and at least one good deed that goes off the tracks. Things get pretty hairy for our young warlock and his king as Queen Guinevere becomes more dangerous than ever, and Morgana smells blood in the water.
At the top of the episode, we meet Daegal, a young Druid boy who seeks out Merlin to heal his sickly sister. Daegal lives with his family in the Valley of the Fallen Kings, which is a bit like saying you live in South Central in the 90s. Regardless, Merlin’s a good Samaritan, and promises to help the boy making the trip. Gaius is concerned because it’s a bad neighborhood, but Merlin says “Relax,” one day and he’ll be back home in the safety of Camelot.
Camelot itself, meanwhile, is playing host to Sarrum, ruler of the kingdom of Amata. Sarrum is an interesting character know for being brutal to his enemies and assassinating his friends. He’s also slightly less known for holding Morgana captive for two of the three intervening years between Merlin season 4 and 5. An alliance with such a man might prove deadly, but Arthur points out that sometimes you have to be diplomatic with people you disagree with in order to achieve the greater good.
But the greater good is a foreign idea to some. Morgana sees the situation as the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: Gwen will get Sarrum to take out Arthur, the knights will in-turn eliminate Sarrum out of retribution, and Gwen takes the throne. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, this is usually where Merlin steps in, but he’s on a mission to help Daegal. Kind of a coincidence, isn’t it? After trying and failing to warn Daegal telepathically about some approaching bandits, and being lead to seemingly a dead end in the valley, Merlin comes to the conclusion that Daegal isn’t what he says it is. The Druid tattoo on Daegal is a fake too, but as Merlin’s left holding the bag, Morgana appears with the real plot and intention: she knocks out Merlin, feeds him poison and warns Daegal that she’s still got some poison left if he steps wrong.
Meanwhile, back at Camelot, Arthur engages in some sparring with one of Sarrum’s men, who manages to get the upper hand on the king. It’s all in good fun, until Gwen approaches Sarrum on the sly and drops a few hints about hating her husband and wanting him dead. Sarrum picks up on the hint and starts to put a plan in motion.
Back in the Valley of the Fallen Kings, a guilt-ridden Daegal returns to the dying Merlin and following Merlin’s instructions manages to make a antedote to the poison. Daegal tells Merlin that he met Gwen and Morgana only once, but that Morgana was putting a plan in motion to kill Arthur. (Incidentally, killing Merlin was a bonus as he’s constantly interfering in Morgana’s evil schemes.) Daegal promises to help Merlin get back to Camelot and thwart Morgana’s plans.
The next morning, Arthur makes ready to sign the new accord with Sarrum, and Sarrum makes ready his assassination attempt on Arthur. The signing will take place in the round table room, and Sarrum’s assassin is positioned in a hallway overlooking the room on the level above. Merlin and Daegal arrive back at the castle, and searching the castle, Merlin notices an unlocked door that’s supposed to be locked. Discovering the assassin, Merlin manages to thwart his first shot, which ends up missing Arthur and killing Sarrum. Before he can get off a second shot, Merlin magically spears the assassin, but in the fight Daegal is killed with a well-placed knife.
When the dust settles, Arthur tells Merlin to make sure that the mysterious boy who saved his life gets a proper burial. At Daegal’s graveside, Merlin and Gaius agree that something has to be done about Gwen.
Next Week: Arthur and Gaius do something about Gwen!
-Although Merlin’s sojourn into the woods could be considered the B-story of the week, but Colin Morgan made it the A. He’s really quite convincing showing Merlin’s growth and wisdom, and this week was one of the few instances where Merlin has to carry out action solo without Arthur or any of the knights as back-up.
-John Shrapnel was also good as Sarrum, an oily sort of villain who gets his proper comeuppance in the end. Obviously the guy who’s made us sympathetic to Morgana had to be appropriately bad ass, a little slimy and completely morally bankrupt. Let’s just say that Gwen wasn’t the only one whose stomach was slightly turned by the clinical way Sarrum described imprisoning Morgana and Aithusa, and the quality of their captivity.
-For some reason, I love that old Merlin cover about being at the tavern. Arthur’s assumption for Merlin being MIA was that his servant was down at the pub washing away his sorrows with glass after glass of meade. If Merlin isn’t, by reputation, the biggest functioning alcoholic of the Middle Ages, then it’s got to be Friar Tuck.
-Admittedly I was a bit disappointed with last week’s adventure and the rather clumsy method of Gwen and Morgana’s attempted disposal of Arthur, but the Machiavelli dimensions of this week’s plot were much more satisfying. I’m still ready for this storyline to end though, and it appears next week I get my wish, but it was nice to see the writers actually able to take the proverbial bull by the horns with this one.
-Gwen Trivia Alert! Her favorite flower is the Gillyflower. This is what it looks like:
-We’ve now had two episodes out of the last three where Mordred is seen, but not heard. Way to be the bringer of doom, Mordred. Gotta love the way you just stand there and say nothing. Bravo. Good on Alexander Vlahos for being a sport about it.
Yay, it’s Arthur and Gwen’s anniversary. Everybody celebrate! Except…
Oh yeah, the Queen is an empty-headed bobble-head doing Morgana’s bidding by going full-tilt Wile E. Coyote after the King. Exhibit A: a flaming bag of fire crackers meant to knock Arthur off his horse and hopefully injuring him enough to fall to the two bandits hired to take him out. Unfortunately for the plan’s sake, Arthur’s manages to shake off the horse toss and is able to defeat his attackers with a little, hidden magic help from Merlin. But before you can say, “ACME rocket and sling shot” the Camelot gang quickly realizes that there’s treachery afoot in the kingdom.
Instead the episode took on a crime procedural feel, Arthur and the knights commit to an investigation of the incident and discover that Arthur’s saddle was sabotaged, on top of the explosives and the mercenaries. This trifecta of treachery leads the knights to the king’s stablehand, Tyr Steward, who is arrested on the spot. When the home he shares with his mother is searched, the knights find the smoking thread, the same thread used to reattach Arthur’s severed saddle strap making it just firm enough to pass inspection but loose enough to throw him if the horse was startled by, say, a bag of fireworks.
Case closed, right? Yeah right. Tyr is brought before Arthur who demands to know if his stablehand had an accomplice in the plot. Not only does Tyr deny he had an accomplice, he denies any knowledge of a plot. Arthur sentences the kid to death, and orders him taken away, but Merlin isn’t sure that’s the right call. So in the dungeons, Merlin pops in to talked to Tyr and in the privacy of the cells the stablehand let’s slip that there is another. He saw someone fiddling with Arthur’s saddle who threatened the life of Tyr’s mother if he snitched, but he’s too scared to say who.
Merlin’s even more convinced of Tyr’s innocence and goes to Arthur. Arthur will hear what Tyr has to say immediately, but Gwen says leave it till morning when cooler heads will prevail all around. Merlin made sure to note that as it was most unusual. Indeed, by the time Arthur pays Tyr a visit in the morning, he’s dead in his cell. The Queen had a little “talk” with him during the night. And although this initial Kill Arthur plot didn’t go according to spec, Morgana is pleased with Gwen’s progress when they meet the next night outside the castle.
Still, there’s the small problem of the still living king. Morgana pays a visit to apothecary named Sindri and buys off him a fatal poison. Disguising herself as old Hilda, Morgana gets the poison to Gwen who “seasons” Arthur’s dinner with it that night. When the King falls victim to the poison, Gwen points the finger at Merlin, the only one that has access to both the food and Arthur. Despite earlier reservations, Gaius has to agree with Merlin, something ain’t quite right with Queen Gwen.
One thing’s for sure, only Merlin’s magic can save Arthur’s life. Gauis sneaks Merlin the aging potion and as Dragoon the Great, Merlin escapes the dungeon and makes his way to Arthur’s bedside while evading the patrolling knights, eventually healing the King under the nose of everyone. In the morning, Arthur is back to normal and frees Merlin from the cells. Before the court he reveals that Gwen was “able to track” the markings on the poison back to Sindri who admits that he sold the poison to Morgana. Gwen is cheered by the court, but Merlin knows for sure, the danger is far from over.
-So we’re officially halfway done the last season of Merlin. Pour a forty of meade on the dirt road for everyone’s favorite youth-oriented, Arthurian legend origin re-telling British serial. In other news…
-Oh, Dragoon the Great. He says things Merlin only ever gets to think about… And incidentally, it was kind of nice to see Old Merlin again. The novelty was wearing by the end of last season, but now was a good time to whip it out again. (On the other hand, I guess I called it about Morgana and the Hilda disguise. One would thing the Camelot guards would have been shown an artist’s rendering of what “Hilda”/Morgana looks like so they can be on their guard, but maybe I’m putting too much credit in medieval crime fighting techniques.)
-This was an interesting episode even though it was light on action. Definitely darker given how Gwen implicates Merlin and how she quite nearly succeeds at both killing Arthur and framing Merlin for it. Strangely enough, the evening’s most perilous action sequence belonged to Merlin as he had to scale the tower wall from the outside in order to get access to Arthur’s chamber. The whole thing was positively Cliffhanger-esque.
-On the other hand, zombie mind-control Gwen isn’t that compelling. I’ll reserve finally judgement for when the whole arc resolves itself, which I hope is soon. This is getting as bad as the whole mole-inside-CTU meme on 24 with all these traitors and conspirators, even the coerced ones. The end kind of bothered me with Merlin once again staring across the room at someone he once thought friend and trying to comprehend their betrayal and what form it might take next. All that was missing was Merlin saying at the end, “How can the same $#!% happen to the same guy twice.” Except there’s no swearing in Camelot. Oh well.
Next Week: Merlin gets called away on urgent Druid business, while Gwen ponders a new evil scheme (and an unlikely team-up). Yippie Ki-Yay, mother-father!
Before the beginning of the season, the creators of Merlin promised more trips to the dark side, and more continuing storylines. This week, that promised was paid off in bold, almost freaky new dimensions for the normally buttoned up fantasy series, and moreover, the episode involved the criminally underused Angel Coulby, AKA: Queen Guinevere. The Queen finds herself in big trouble when Morgana hatches a new scheme, and things just might go from bad to worse by episode’s end.
But let’s kick things off on a sour note. Gwen and Elyan pay respects to their dearly departed father who was executed by Uther for conspiring with sorcerers in season one. On the way back to Camelot, Morgana strikes by enchanting a nest of snakes that scare the horses, bite Sirs Leon and Percival and cause just enough of a distraction so that Morgana can make off with the Queen before anyone’s the wiser.
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.