Merlin series 5 episode 9 review: With All My Heart

Review Dave Adamson 1 Dec 2012 - 19:04

Merlin is set to go out on a real high, judging by this week's episode...

This review contains spoilers.

5.9 With All My Heart

Gwen, it seems, isn't above a bit of emotional blackmail as she continues her treacherous association with Morgana this week. Percival may be convinced, but it appears that Arthur has discovered the truth and must get to the bottom of the betrayal. 

To help Gwen and release her from the wicked magic, Gaius sends Merlin to meet an ancient being, the Dochraid, though he must disguise himself as Old Merlin as the Dochraid has heightened senses and would recognise the good in our favourite wizard. 

Sadly, the Dochraid can see through the disguise and he is forced to threaten her to discover the truth, effectively brandishing his sword and injuring the ancient in order to extract the necessary information that will save the Queen. 

All it will take is a perilous journey to the White Goddess and for Gwen to willingly step into the Great Cauldron, whilst a spell is cast to free her from her torment. Though initially suspicious of such a magical remedy, Arthur is convinced by Gaius in order to save his one true love. 

Of course, things don't run smoothly as Arthur, Gaius and Merlin kidnap the Queen whilst the Dochraid helps Morgana seek her revenge. 

Thankfully, Mordred has had his own suspicions that lead to him rescue Arthur and Merlin in the nick of time, subdue Morgana and reaffirm his conviction to the cause (though it’s not clear to whom he is truly allied), whilst Arthur reminds Gwen of their love and the darkest of spells is broken. The last five minutes are truly beautiful and show the strength of Bradley James and Angel Coulby in their roles. It is such a simple exchange, yet it feels so authentic. 

Richard McBrien’s script is superb, bringing a fine combination of humour and pathos, drama and intrigue to the final half of the final series of Merlin. He gives us a wonderful story of strength, love and emotion without overdoing any of these aspects. 

Humour is clearly in evidence as Arthur, Merlin and Gaius plot to deal with the Queen, with Merlin doing most of the work.  It does border on farce a number of times, with Bradley James coming up with exceedingly outlandish reasons for his behaviour, whilst Colin Morgan is saddled with being the butt of many jokes. The sequence with Gaius and Merlin trying to sneak the Queen out of the castle brought about memories of the film 9 to 5

Whilst Morgan mostly covers the comedy, Bradley James gets to be heroic and commanding whilst Katie McGrath delivers an emotional performance as she begins to lose control of events. Binding the characters together is a great turn from Alexander Vlahos as Mordred, with his loyalty to Arthur, attempts to overcome Merlin’s suspicious and his distrust of Morgana filling out the final act. His cutting words toward Morgana are delivered with such venom and McGrath's reaction, understated and emotional, is perfectly played. His is a character that has certainly shaken the foundations of the two magic users. 

With Arthur having to put his faith in magic, and Gaius offering the services of a female magic user, Colin Morgan gets a dual turn - Old Merlin has only a few minutes' screen time and manages to be more threatening than annoying, whilst we also see Old Woman Merlin with an incredibly camp voice that would make some drag acts squirm!  Much is made of the fact that Old Woman Merlin looks far too much like regular Merlin; it’s clearly being played for laughs and, thankfully, doesn’t take too much away from the otherwise dramatic storyline. 

Visual effects are at a series high, with The Dochraid being portrayed by Maureen Carr. With ashen skin and an eyeless, rotting face, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in some horror films. Carr’s vocal work is equally creepy. As with many of these tertiary characters, the lack of screen time is a bit disappointing. 

In more ambitious special effects, Morgana's dragon makes an impact this week and looks rather impressive in its emaciated state, breathing fire and swooping from the sky. Sadly, it doesn’t spend too much time on the screen. 

As many will know, it was recently announced that this series of Merlin would be the last series. With only four more episodes to go (including the final two-part story), Merlin is on course to deliver a knock out finale. Morgana has lost her ace in the hole, Arthur will no doubt be seeking revenge, Merlin has left Arthur with a reminder that magic saved his loved one and Mordred’s destiny is still to be played out.

There’s plenty of ground still to cover and the series certainly looks like it will be going out on a real high.

Read Dave's review of the previous episode, The Hollow Queen, here.

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Once again, in your "review", only praises for Coulby, Mcgrath (who appeared 2 seconds) and James, when the most brilliant works were done once again by the amazing Colin Morgan.

Cool your jets, its an opinion. No need to start hitting out with the 'once again' hyperbole.

Well, it just proved ONCE AGAIN that the reviewer had blinders/bias against Colin Morgan. ONCE AGAIN, such vieled dismissiveness and snubbery might be rooted with insecurity and being-threatened-for-his-pet that even his incessant pandering and passive glorification of his pet might be nullified by even a bit of acknowledgement that Colin actually did good. It ain't hyperbole. It's all the in related reviews on this site for all to see if you'd care enough not to be on same blinders and dismissiveness.

I agree. Colin is amazing and hilarious. But it is OK, I guess the writer had ran out of praising adjectives for Mr Morgan.

This week was better than most this season glad the Gwen Story seems to be Done move on it was a low point in the series and this season. so we have 4 eps left going to be sad. i look forward to seeing where they take us for the final ride into the sunset

Dan Kirkman Bellingham Wa

I freaking loved seeing the "old" merlin in a serious role this episode. great change of pace from the typical light banter role that character plays. The writing is still lacking in serious ways. Giving merlin yet another identity to fool arthur? really? come on! The show reminds me of kids shows that we all used to watch like thundercats or voltron where its just a new bad guy each week and the show revolves around the same plots. I hope that the show can progress into a more mature show. Other than the lame Merlin switch again, this episode shows promise that the series is making progress so I hope that the writers keep with it and give us the show I believe we all want. Best episode this season in my opinion.

Awesome episode, but little sad to think this is Merlin's swan song - boooo!

Separately, does anybody know of any cool Merlin-related pressies I can get friends? (Not the action figures though as already have one :P)

My boyfriend bought me a calendar, perhaps not cool but it has lots of lovely pictures of Colin Morgan. If you search Amazon there are some really cool novels based on the series and other Camelot stories like Lancelot and the Wolf by Sarah Luddington or Searching for Arthur by Donna Hosie. Or there are Top Trumps or a 3D puzzle. As you can see I have researched this. I am gutted this is ending.

I'm curious the review did not deal with the surprising opening
shots, because clearly the audience was introduced well into the
significant plot line of Arthur having found out about Guinevere. I
don't think that suspicion was even on the cards at the end of last
week, not for Arthur anyway. This episode began dark and serious for
the main characters, and that's quite rare.

I'm sorry to see this will be the last season, though in truth I think the whole
thing has been a monumental missed opportunity. We have the usual round
of eloquent back-patting from the cast and crew, all very fine and
diplomatic, and in fairness it has been mostly entertaining.

But if the intention was for five seasons, as Colin Morgan seems to
suggest, why was there no better plan? Very little has happened. Great
sorcery still mostly seems to consist of flinging people about the room
or blowing candles out. OK, the dragon lord stuff works quite well,
but overall it fails in that sense of great sorcery; removing a deep and
powerful spell seems to consist of dipping the queen in the lake, some
magical language, a bit of flary stuff, and all is well again. Merlin
was warned that the magic would fight for her, but that didn't seem to
happen - no sense of anticipation or threat. It's just a bit lame,

At five seasons, we should have seen Merlin and
the story move from the sorceror's apprentice type of plot within two
seasons. And are we going to see the death of Arthur? Will Morgana be
destroyed somehow? Will the knights be slain? Or is the big finale
Arthur finally seeing Merlin for what he is? I almost hope not, because
that is where we should have been at the end of season two, at the

It's the same opinion we've seen each week from the same man. It's become BEYOND bizarre.

Totally agree about the magic, Mordred says (roughly) "You are more powerful than me" to Morgana and then magically throws her to the ground knocking her unconscious, if it's that easy why don't they just knock her out and execute her? Also, if it's exhausting for Merlin to use the ageing spell, surely it would be even worse for him to be older and a woman?!

Sorry all I could remember was Gwen's cleavage as she left the lake. At last the BBC is compensating for the topless imbalance of the sexes.

The Arthur/Gwen stuff at the end was generic romantic lead pablum. No special feat of writing or acting. Nothing particularly demanding or unusual. The basic dramatic story line of the episode was also quite generic to the series. Colin Morgan's turn as the sorceress, far from being something he was "saddled with" that fortunately didn't "take too much away" from the drama, was a stand out moment in the series and a genuine acting challenge. Morgan's performance there playing Merlin playing the old lady is what average viewers thrilled at and will likely retain as a strong lasting impression from the episode for its comic value and display of acting ability. It was very well done, and, as actors say all the time, comedy is more difficult than drama. Also, it is bizarre for you to dismiss Morgan as mostly in charge of the comedy when most of his scenes (which included some of the most dramatically intense and important scenes in the episode) were in fact dramatic. As usual he handled the dramatic scenes skillfully and demonstrated fluid dexterity at bending into the odd bits comedy. If you don't like Colin Morgan for some reason you should acknowledge that openly and at least try to be more objective as a reviewer. If your reviews are simply a product of a poor ability to assess acting work and a personal taste not shared by the majority of viewers then perhaps you should focus on another area of writing.

Thought the whole Arthur forgetting Merlin was a bit of an odd led to great reaction from Merlin though, very funny. Just a bit out of character for Arthur, especially considering he'd just thrown himself over a cliff to help Merlin...but then he had just gotten his wife back, so understandably distracted.

Old Lady Merlin made me laugh out loud. It was hilarious, but still serious enough to sell the 'magic is not evil' point at the end. Very much enjoyed Excalibur-wielding, bad-ass old man Emrys too. It's nice when he gets to be more than just comic relief. And kudos to Colin Morgan, three characters in one ep is no mean feat, and he was marvellous as all of them!

Thought that was a really good scene between Mordred and Morgana. Loving ass kicking Mordred! It's the first time we've seen him use his magic (well, since his return), which was a great moment.
And it's worth noticing that he seems to be one of those rare people in Camelot who actually notices the odd things happening around him.

The 'you had a funny feeling...' moment was quite sweet. Sort of a pat on the back for Mordred and a nod of respect to Merlin too. At least that's how I choose to see it. ;)

As well as (sort of) acknowledging Merlin's funny feelings, Arthur also wanted Merlin's opinion before he agreed to go to this place. Nice that we're seeing a bit more of that growing respect Arthur has for Merlin and his opinions. And it's about time he started asking how Merlin knows all this 'old religion' stuff. He really needs to start asking more questions like that!

Have to admit, I'm glad to see the end of the Evil Gwen arc. It was a bit too much "it's been done..." for me. Poor Arthur. Again. Also, Gwen is a much better liar than Arthur is, bless his heart. ;)

The spell-breaking was a bit cheesy, but quite touching at the same time. Bradley James & Angel Coulby sold it beautifully.

Arthur recognising (or at least claiming that he does) that magic itself is not evil, could be a big moment. Hope that has some proper repercussions.

I liked how Arthur forgot Merlin, Merlin told him off for it... and then proceeded to tell Arthur he could leave.

Because it is the same actors, and they are all doing the same sort of work, so yes, it looks much the same. But he's right: tertiary actors are doing wonderful stuff to support the main storyline. And I must admit, while Colin has always been wonderful, Bradley has gone from strength to strength through Series 2 ad onwards, giving us an amazingly rounded 3D king when he could so easily have slipped into easy cliche. And Angel Coulby has also rather stepped out of the background herself. They deserve the respect as actors they are getting, above.

Mordred only got away with that because she was caught off-guard; by his words, then by his unexpected magical attack. He won't get away with that again! And I bet after the adrenalin rush of doing the spell, and changing back, Merlin had a very tired and quiet ride back home...

Too right about the so called aging spell. Seeing Colin as an old man is one thing but seeing him in drag. I just groaned with Gauis said it. Come on...drag?

Too much cleavage throughout this season.

Loved the drip dry dress as sported by Gwen. Ages messing around right up to her heaving cleavage in a cold lake then a horse ride home in a bone dry frock

This review is so lame. Can you at leadt discuss if the storyline has advanced and if the mainn character called 'Merlin' has grown in the five seasons? Who the hell cares about Arthur and Gwen's epic love??????? FAIL!!

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