Merlin series 5 episode 10 review: The Kindness Of Strangers

Review Dave Adamson 8 Dec 2012 - 20:15

Morgana declares war in this eventful episode of Merlin. Here's Dave's review of The Kindness Of Strangers...

This review contains spoilers.

5.10 The Kindness of Strangers

Whilst hunting down Alator of the Catha, again played by Gary Lewis, this week Morgana is intent on discovering the true identity of Emrys. She plans to torture the High Priest of the Old Religion, despite his training and ability to withstand all forms of torture, even employing the Nathair to torment his mind beyond all reason. 

Whilst Alator suffers, everything else is all sweetness and loveliness for Arthur and Gwen as he takes her for a ride into the forest, plans a breakfast for her, and promptly dispatches Merlin to do all the work. Things were much more interesting when Gwen was under Morgan's enchantment! 

Whilst they're being all loved-up, refugees flood into Camelot from one of the few places where magic is still used, the victims of Morgana and her wicked ways. It's an interesting plot thread; we could have seen what happens when Arthur and the Knights of Camelot roll up to a magic-wielding populace, but the thread is pretty much thrown away! 

Whilst all this is happening, Merlin heads off to investigate a magical mystery of his own and discovers evidence that Alator is at risk before heading off to pick some flowers and encountering a druid priestess called Finna. She has a warning for him whilst he is picking the aforementioned flowers. 

Gaius is naturally suspicious of such a powerful seer, believing her to be in league with Morgana. Of course, Merlin isn't going to listen to his closest confidant so chooses to visit the powerful follower of the Old Religion, leaving Gaius with no choice but to inform Arthur of Finna's nature. 

Admittedly, sending the knights to deal with the Finna situation probably isn't Arthur's wisest move, and things get worse when they arrive on the scene. With little choice but to use magic on the knights, Merlin and Finna evade capture. 

With Arthur furious at his knights and Morgana becoming frustrated that she cannot break Alator, both parties search for Finna, unbeknownst to her new protector, Merlin. As Morgana closes in on Finna, she passes on the knowledge of her people and a warning about Mordred to a wounded Merlin before robbing Morgana of the opportunity to interrogate her. 

Emrys' identity is, for now, safe. Morgana has been thwarted once more, and Merlin is saved, just in the nick of time, by the dragon...  It doesn't end on a happy note, however, when it is revealed the dragon is close to death and a knight is found dead, the victim of old magic. 

Morgana, it seems, has declared war. 

The Kindess of Strangers works despite a script that is overly ambitious in its runtime. There are a few strands – Gaius admitting he is responsible for Finna's predicament, the dragon rescue, the refugees and far too much time spent with loved-up Gwen and Arthur – that really do get in the way of the underlying story.  Gaius didn't need forgiving straight away and there could certainly have been more to the main story with less Gwen and Arthur! 

All that said, the cast lift an, at times, pedestrian script to heady heights, particularly when Gary Lewis, as Alator, and Sorcha Cusack, as Finna, are on the screen. Katie McGrath sizzles as Morgana and doesn't go over-the-top with her frustration. Conversely, Bradley James plays Arthur in full-on buffoon mode this week, as his various romantic endeavours show his masculine ineptitude. He gets a few opportunities to be the figure of authority, but much of the episode is spent playing the fool whilst Angel Coulby returns to her earlier, and much less interesting, dutiful wife role. 

More should have been made of Merlin losing faith in Gaius, instead of reducing it to a throw away reconciliation that feels tacked on to prevent another loose thread needed resolving in the remaining three episodes. Whilst that felt badly handled, Merlin's distrust of Mordred and the unclear allegiance of that character are played out effectively despite very little interaction. They have a terse relationship and Alexander Vlahos makes the most of his sparse dialogue. 

With so much going on, with some of it being of little consequence in the first half of the episode, the knights, save for Mordred, are reduced to background characters. They all have 'stuff' to do, but there's little substance and their quest to find Finna seems to be unresolved: just where did they end up going after Merlin left them? 

With one more standalone episode to go and yet more hints being dropped as to what the future holds, the build-up to the final two part story is becoming unbearable!

Read Dave's review of the previous episode, With All My Heart, here.

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Bring on the battle of Camlen

Is it just me or is there nothing being made of the fact Mordred knows Merlin is Emrys?

nothing is being made of it yet...
this is because when arthur kills mordreds love next weekend, this is the moment mordred turns bad.
then mordred can tell morgana who emrys is or morgana can ask oh who is emrys?

this episode was let down by no reveal...

lol you once again "forgot" to mention Colin Morgan and his amazing acting. It was a Merlin centric episode... It's so very "odd" you don't talk about the one actor who makes the best work and who appears the most! COlin Morgan is in every scene of the show, pretty much, which means you can't "not" see his outstanding work. You're just so ridiculous with your rubbish reviews that only focus on Morgana since you pretty much seem in love with the actress.

There wasn't even anything when she outright asked him last week that was an inkling of "Oh crap that's Merlin!", it's only been anything to do with that Merlin has magic that's been dealt with. Even the odd drop of calling him "Emrys" in private conversations would be more satisfying but this feels like glossing over it until it's convenient :/

I completely agree, you never ever seem to be able to see and appreciate Colin Morgan's abilities to turn a wonderful performance week after week, and it's very frustrating to read DOG reviews when they ignore the obvious. we will miss Merlin badly.

Very good episode, even if it was a bit light series arc-wise. A lot of serious foreshadowing going on though. And a great ep for Merlin himself!

I really thought the knights might catch Merlin with Finna...putting Merlin's loyalty into question for them and for Arthur. Anything's possible this close to the end, right? I was convinced for a few scenes that Morgana was going to discover Merlin's identity, especially when some of her henchmen caught up with them. Alas, twas not to be...

Ooh, Mordred. I love that character, and Alex Vlahos is just brilliant. He hasn't had an awful lot to do, but what he has had has been fantastic. I do believe he is loyal to Arthur, absolutely. But his attitude towards Merlin is very different. Is he as distrustful of Merlin as Merlin is of him? It would be understandable considering their history. Or is he really trying to help Merlin, and the change in his demeanor when he's alone with him is just down to the fact that Merlin knows he has magic?

As a slight aside re: the next time teaser. If Mordred goes darkside over a girl I'm gonna feel reeeaaally cheated. Hoping I'm just jumping to conclusions there, cos they are so much better than that.

Poor Alator...really liked him, sorry to see him go. Good to have the reminder of the threat Morgana really poses, and that she can be ruthless and brutal. It was quite a good ep for her too.

It's not often we get to see Merlin as the 'great one', that was sort of refreshing! Hoping that's something that might play a bigger part now that Morgana has declared war.

Bit of a lack of Merlin/Arthur banter, always miss that when they're not in an ep together much. Hopefully there'll be more of that in the last eps. (Awww, the last eps!! *sniff*)

Great to have those Merlin & Gaius scenes. Richard Wilson's been a bit underused this series, but he had some lovely moments in this ep. It would have been odd not to I suppose, considering what happened the last time we saw Alator. I didn't see it as Merlin losing faith in Gaius, he knows what Gaius did was done with the best of intentions. But Merlin trusted his own instincts about Finna, the right thing to do as it turns out. And it's good character development, while he's always been fairly rash, he's also been too quick too trust other's judgement over his own, particularly Gaius and Kilgarrah.

Speaking of Kilgarrah!! Aww, that can't be the last time we see him, that would be tragic. Hoping for an appearance at the big showdown in the final eps.

The prophecy was...I'm looking for a better way to say 'foreshadowy' :P
No doubt we'll all be scrutinising the exact wording of it to try and find some hidden meaning and/or loopholes...is it next Saturday yet?

I found this to be a good episode, not the best yet but good, even though it did seem to be a bit of "Deja Vu" from a previous episode, but a good build up towards the finale two part. But then I am still not looking forward to the ending of this series, with Merlin's magic being revealed. It can't finish on Arthur finding out about his magic and then... just that. There needs to be a finale series 6 that shows what Camelot would be like with Arthur allowing magic back to the kingdom, Morgana dead, Mordred's character developed more into the danger that he is supposed to be and Merlin finally being able to be himself. There's so much more they could do, such a shame.

Who is Mordred's love?

Oh for goodness sake, it's not Dave penning this again is it? You would of thought Den of Geek might have realised how biased and one sided this guy is by now, 10 episodes in to a series of reviews. Clearly they don't read comments these days.

Colin Morgan playing an old crone in the previous episode last week was, at one and the same time, one of the most hillarious yet beautifully-acted scenes ever, achieving a difficult yet perfect balance between comedy and serious drama. He is a truly gifted actor. The script for that episode, unfortunately, seems to have been a rush job. Would it not have been a vastly more impressive, emotional, dramatic and well-thought-out climax if, at the Cauldron of Cerridwen, instead of merely sweet-talking Gwen into entering the water of her own accord, Arthur had nobly put his life on the line for his beloved by deliberately jumping into a deep part in his chain mail, so that Gwen had to make the choice to let him drown, or go in and save him? That's how I would have written it.....

I am greatly disturbing about the ending.

Disturbed*.

Colin Morgan's portrayal of Merlin has certainly become more brooding and detached, which is great; I still believe it's too little too late, but there we are, nothing we can do about that.

The foreboding of Camlann was good, though again it begs the question of whether we are going to see the demise of so many characters. The opening epidode's vision of Camlann, with Arthur apparently being run through by Mordred, surrounded by a field of dead knights, and Morgana cowering on the ground, in armour, in the shadow of, presumably, Merlin and exclaiming "You?!" It's all there isn't it? Which then begs the question are we going to get the whole Avalon thing?

There has been so much fluff in the storytelling, that I cannot see how Arthur even qualifies. He seems to have united the land, but not much was ever made of it; again, that lack of threat, and then achievement. To go from all this to such a big ending would be a devil of a jolt, not least having the demise of favourite characters on Christmas Eve, though why not, I guess. After the dragon cameo last night though, I am expecting the death of the dragon.

But then we have this whole Merlin's responsibility thing, presumably to prevent Camlann. If he doesn't and that vision was correct, then the boy did not do well.

I'm more inclined to think the big reveal will be Merlin's magic, openly saving the day, and at least some of the characters returning to a Camelot which will be quite a bit more interesting than what we have seen in these five seasons. Ah well, it should be interesting to see how it plays out, if nothing else.

Camlann*

More didn't really need to be made of Gaius' error - their bond is too strong, their relationship is Father - Son so it made perfect sense. What is weird though is the role Merlin is playing in creating Mordred as a baddie, which given things that happened in previous series seems to be done in a really clumsy, ill thought out (when it comes to what lessons Merlin theoretically learned in earlier series) way. Also, Arthur at the start being horrid to Merlin seemed to have a less innocent tinge to it than usual. I wonder if, combined with last week's dig at Merlin, he's guessed / beginning to come to terms with the idea of Merlin having message? Fab acting from Colin Morgan though. The man has serious talent.

Im not sure that adult Mordred remembers that Merlin is emrys, he certainly hasn't called him it for some time. Merlins attempt to trip him up and get him captured as a child also seems to have been forgotton which is a bit of a plot hole.

This episode had a 'calm before the storm' feeling to it, cetainly until the end, arthur and gwen played a limited role. The scene with the dragon was very touching, it has been there the whole series as friend and occasional enemy. I imagine he will see battle once more and die helping Merlin.
There are only three episodes left and the plot now really needs to move forward quite a lot in the next episode, it seems we will see the start of Mordreds return to the dark side but we also need Merlins magic to be revealed to Arthur and perhaps a tearjerker such as Gaius dying.
Ideally Morgana would be killed off and we would get one more series with Mordred as the main protaganist and Magic running riot, That won't be happening now.

He called him Emrys in Arthur's Bane

Are they going to end the series with Arthur dying??? Do you remember the episode that had the vision of the future, the end of a battle scene with dead knights strewn around and old Merlin asking morgana if this is what she had really wanted? I thought this series was about the early years of the Arthurian legend (hacked about as it has been) not the whole story. I strongly suspect Arthur will never know Merlin's secret/find out as he dies/or knew all along and the whole motivation for which many have given their lives "the great days of Camelot to come where Arthur will no longer persecute people for having magic" is a day we will never see. If it ends like that, it will put the mouldy cherry on a very stale cake.

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