Merlin series 5 episode 11 review: The Drawing Of The Dark

Review Dave Adamson 15 Dec 2012 - 21:00

Alexander Vlahos and Colin Morgan impress in this week's fantastic episode of Merlin. Here's Dave's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.11 The Drawing of the Dark

So, Mordred's betrayal comes down to the love of a woman. It can't really be that simple, can it? 

Definitely not! The Drawing of the Dark gives us one of the best stories in an already fantastic final series, allowing Alexander Vlahos to deliver a sterling performance and setting us up for a dark finale. 

Whilst investigating an attack on a weapon shipment that resulted in the death of the knights and delivery men, Mordred pursues an escaping Saxon only to discover that it is his beloved Kara. He allows her to escape, but not before Merlin sees him, reinforcing the wizard's view that Mordred is up to no good. 

And, up to no good he is... all in the name of love. Returning to help her heal from the injuries she has suffered, you could cut the tension with a knife as the pair discusses Mordred's presence in the court of Camelot and his reluctance to reveal his true nature to his 'friend', the King. 

Merlin is convinced there's more going on than meets the eye and is gearing up for Mordred's prophesied betrayal, yet he doesn't realise that his actions may be the catalyst to events. With Arthur taking his servant along to investigate, the pair encounter Kara themselves, who promptly attempts to kill the King, resulting in her incarceration and Mordred's growing fury. 

Realising that things may be moving faster than he planned, Merlin tries to settle things between Mordred and Arthur, smoothing over the cracks that are rapidly forming, but finding his counsel shunned by both. Things become much more difficult when Mordred, realising that even pleading for her release won't break Arthur's resolve, chooses to break Kara out of prison and go on the run.

As the knights hunt for their escaped friend and his beloved, it quickly becomes apparent that Kara isn't beyond killing. Mordred may be shocked at the turn of events, but that doesn't stop him from trying to escape Camelot. The knights, however, soon surround Kara and Mordred, taking them into custody, despite his pleas for leniency (and pleas from Kara to use magic to kill them all!).

Betrayed by one of his own, all for love, Arthur has little choice but to imprison them both and carry out the death sentence. There's nothing that Merlin can do, nor can Mordred save his beloved Kara. 

As the fury builds, Mordred finally escapes the confines of Camelot and heads straight to the one person who understands him... Morgana... with news of Emrys and a new-found anger.

Series five has certainly been the most mature series of Merlin. Keeping the emotional side of things close to the surface, it's allowed the characters to develop in leaps and bounds. It's helped that the main cast have all grown into their roles and that Alexander Vlahos as Mordred, was a revelation in casting, being a focal point of his scenes without having much to say or do... up until now.  Part of his success has been the sense of uncertainly in his motives, with Vlahos giving few hints as to his true nature. 

The Drawing of the Dark gives Vlahos a chance to show what he's capable of doing, and he does it with style! He doesn't overplay his part, nor does he give in to wave after wave of emotion. As with many of his scenes, he's a master of restraint – never overly emotional, befitting the colder character of Mordred and leading us a merry dance around his intentions. Only in the last few minutes, do we get a hint of his fury and, even in the presence of Morgana, he doesn't descend into wrought emotion, instead playing the part with class. 

Merlin, with a wonderful performance by Colin Morgan, spends most of the second half of the story trying to undo the damage of his prejudice, smoothing things over between Mordred and Arthur, realising the potential damage that an angered Mordred could cause. As Merlin gets more and more out of his depth, playing off against Mordred, Gaius and Arthur, Colin Morgan gives us a hint of the desperation that must be to come. From his initial arrogance around Mordred to the moment he realises that things are beyond his control, Morgan's eroded confidence is well-played. 

By the end of the episode, Arthur has discovered that Mordred was a magic-user and his disappointment is palpable.  Having had to cast aside his friendship with Mordred and then receiving this kick in the teeth, Bradley James' Arthur is becoming even more worn and weary. 

The Drawing of the Dark is a tragic love story that, as with the best tragedies, works because we've grown to like these characters. We feel Mordred's pain and can't help but be drawn by his plight; betraying his friends for the one he loves.  With the exception of the last few minutes, Morgana doesn't play a part in this story – previous seasons may have seen the writer planting a character like Kara as Morgana's spy just to show how evil she is – and to think that it is in this final season that the series has found its stride, is bittersweet. 

Two more episodes to go! A two-part story! The battle lines are well and truly drawn.

Read Dave's review of the previous episode, The Kindness of Strangers, here.

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Morderd's betrayal was a self fulfilling prophesy helped along by Morgana? My god, I NEVER saw that coming. Sheesh. I really hope they kill Arthur in the finale. Now that would actually surprise me.

Kara was rather ferocious and ruthless and she was willing to resort to murder but despite that, I considered Merlin and Arthur to be the villains in this episode. Kara's prejudice towards Arthur was born out of the fact that he refused to lift the ban on magic and he was the son of Uther Pendragon who had slaughtered magical beings for over two decades.This episode was unique since it is the first time ever that I have been rooting for the bad guys. Mordred and Kara obviously had a very close relationship; I'm suprised that the episode did not include a kiss between the two of them because they were obviously in love. I think the fact that they never even kissed makes it all the more tragic; Mordred and Kara were separated by Mordred's duty to Camelot and loyalty to Arthur and Kara's hatred and contempt for the king not to mention the fact that they spent several parts of the episode looking and talking to each other through the bars of cells.

Merlin and Arthur rather disgusted me in this episode. Arthur's claims about not being able to change the law are complete bullshit. He's the king for crying out loud; he makes the law! And the thing that really caused me to get pissed with Merlin was his hypocrisy; if Freya had been locked in the cells, he would have broken her out and run away with her, which was exactly what Mordred was trying to do. This story has several similarities with The Lady of the Lake, but is much darker and really shows how dark both Merlin and Arthur are capable of being. However at least Merlin tried to talk Arthur out of killing Kara; Arthur's refusal to listen to him is what caused Mordred to turn against him. The Euchdag from Arthur's Bane was right; Arthur really is his own worst enemy.

my god i cannot believe they are 'cancelling' this programme. head writer 'oh we had plan for five years of the show'. no more like the bbc boss has come round to say that they are doing a new show next year. my god this programme is ten times better than doctor who.
doctor who special clara quote 'oh there is this man who lives on a cloud'. PATHETIC.
Just getting jenna louise coleman in for another chance for men to have a wang like they did when amy was on the show. how can doctor who be immune?

i have never been entertained with doctor who since david tennant left. i was the show was like it was when eccleston played the doctor. i mean who misses the weakest link episode that was magic.

as for tonights MERLIN episode never saw that coming. the look on morganas face was priceless. It also proves how much better actors that Colin and alexander are to matt smith.

can't wait for the finale. hope morgana revives arthur in the end and takes him to avalon because arthur dying would just suck even if the show has to end.

<3 colin morgan 4 eva.

Freya didn't murder people. Freya didn't try to kill Arthur. The beast did, but not her. The two situations aren't really comparable. If Arthur let Kara free, she would have killed more and more people. She explicitly said she had no remorse and refused to repent for what she had done. Should Arthur just let her kill more and more people? Nah, I completely agree with Arthur and Merlin on this one.

Judging by last weeks' comments, I'm guessing many will be happy for Colin Morgan to be getting some credit this week.

The whole 'Merlin tries to prevent the future but ends up causing it' concept has happened so many times in Merlin now that it reminds me of the 'oh no! Arthur is going to get killed in a jousting tournament!' storyline they recycled so many times. Despite that, it was a good episode and I'll be sad to see Merlin end in two weeks' time. I hope Arthur doesn't die. And I really hope Arthur finds out about Merlin's magic. I would feel cheated if he never does.

Agreed. Arthur even went as far as to give her a second chance to redeem herself, but she chose her death.

But Merlin really has to start making better decisions. In the earlier seasons, the dragon warned him time after time about the risks posed by Mordred, yet at that time he chose not to heed the prophecies, due to his compassion. But in recent seasons, it has been his focus on trying to prevent prophecies that has led to his downfall - Merlin was arrogant and cold towards Mordred, and in the end he may pay for this .

Props to Colin Morgan and Alexander Vlahos for stellar performances - both are upping their game episode after episode!

If Merlin can keep this momentum up - this will be an incredible way to finish the show.

The writers do owe the fans something special after sticking with the show through its slower and more repetitive parts.

Cannot wait :)

Why oh Why does Merlin have to end!!? Please bring back at least one season where Merlin is hailed as the hero of Camelot and revered as such!! I feel cheated!

I think Alexander Vlahos really shone in this episode, Colin Morgan and Bradley James have been excellent this season but I'm afraid to say that in my opinion Vlahos's acting practically blows them off the screen.

I will be so sorry to see the end of this series, but not sorry to lose the frustration of the silly questions it raises for me. The never ending 'why has Merlin not revealed his magic to Arthur?', frankly at this stage of the game with only two episodes left I don't really give a damn whether he does or not now, it's too late. Also why has Angel suddenly started acting as if she's a stuck up royal, rolling her eyes and being annoyed at poor old Merlin (seemingly only a serf rather than a friend to her these days) when he barges in to speak to Arthur. Her previous character would not have acted this way even after becoming queen. It almost feels to me as if the Guinevere of the previous series has been replaced by a robotic Stepford queen. Ahh Merlin I will miss you plot holes and sporadically wooden acting and all.

I disagree. I believe Kara's mind could have been changed if Arthur had only banished her from camelot, killing only causes more killing and Mordred would not have resorted to going to Morgana and telling her who Merlin is.

You've misunderstood Coleman's quote; it was in a fairy tale context... -_-

Great episode, at last it feels like there is movement in the over arching plot as apposed to the knock out Arthur so Merlin can save the day padding to earlier in the series.

I did think however that Gwen's redemption was a bit to clean, she did betray the knights after all and some suspicion would have added to the authenticity.

Again the quality of the acting was excellent.

What are the BBC thinking about in cancelling this half way through the planned 10 season run. The ratings are great, its sold around the world and there is plenty to scope for moving the characters forward.

Colin Morgan is playing Merlin as flawed and dangerous, and it works a treat, brilliant; and is it me or is the lighting on him darker and more brooding? Now finally we are getting a hint of the powerful sorceror, and hopefully the magic that will be unleashed in the finale.

Mordred and Kara were great, but Kara was still the knife wielding nut-job, unwilling to listen to reason and take an offered chance. And remember Mordred's expression when she disabled that guard in the dungeon then went back to stab him? Love is powerful, but her hate overrode that and Arthur really had no choice when she refused to repent. Mordred was in the cells so didn't see that - again the whole thing is setup to be a disaster of misunderstandings and bad choices.

I will still be very surprised if Arthur dies, not least because where does that leave the story? Indeed, he hasn't actually done anything bad. The whole thing of legalising sorcery cannot be dealt with in a quick court scene, and frankly it's too late for the series to deal with that, so in many ways, this could be Arthur picking up the pieces of what his father did, which is fair enough.

Somehow I suspect that Christmas Eve viewing this year might be a bit of a surprise; too late for Merlin as a show, but at least we are now seeing what it could, and should, have been all along.

The BBC have not cancelled this show - it is being brought to the natural end the creative team always intended it to.

Not sure what your source is but it was never planned to be a 10 series run - the writers always intended for five series from the get-go. If you disagree have a look on Benjamin Cook's website (can't post links here but if you search Google using Benjamin Cook Merlin as the search terms it comes up as the top result).

On that page writer Cook has reprinted his interview with the cast and crew from the Radio Times published the week before Merlin started in 2008 and it is made explicitly clear that a five year story was the plan all along.

The creators were offered the chance to make more seasons by the BBC and turned it down because they did not want to sell out by making episodes beyond their vision for the show.

The 'five year' plan has been well documented even before the show started in 2008. Why can't people accept that it is just coming to an end and that it has not actually been cancelled?

For someone who dislikes Doctor Who so much you seem to spend a lot of time talking about it.

Nah - she had the chance to get out and run but instead she chose to delay her escape to slit an unconscious guard's throat. By the time she was caught she had remorseless killer written all over her.

Had she survived Mordred would have left with her anyway and no doubt still told Morgana once Kara persuaded him to.

Totally gutted this series is finishing. Colin and Bradley are excellent. If the BBC are thinking of making a different Camelot series, they should look into the Knights of Camelot by Sarah Luddington or Searching for Arthur by Donna Hoise. We never did see Lancelot again and the knights were a little overlooked. I can't imagine life without Camelot now. Thank you Colin for making me love myths and legends.

I agree. Despite Mordred being seen as a 'bad guy', I've really been rooting for him, especially in this episode. It was such a tragic episode, because I could empathise with everyone. I could see Arthur wanted to set Kara free, but couldn't because he was worried about the safety of Camelot. I could see that essentially Kara wasn't really a bad person; I know that's what she's seen as because of the way she so easily killed people, but it is forgotten that she has been on the run simply because of her magic, and she has seen people she loved killed. Wouldn't that be enough to turn some people? Merlin was caught in the middle of it all. I could see that Mordred wanted to stay loyal to the knights but he loved Kara and of course couldn't see her faults because of this love. He did appeal to Arthur and Merlin many times, only to be rejected, so I was really sympathetic for him.

They all had a point, and they were all essentially good people, all driven to doing something bad because of the way things turned out. Arthur killed Kara, Merlin involuntarily caused everything by acting with arrogance towards Mordred, Mordred joined Morgana, Kara killed all those people... they all had faults.

I have definitely been supporting Mordred throughout this series, despite how much I like Merlin and Arthur. Mordred has so much depth, and you can see how he is caught in the middle of it all.

I was extremely impressed with Alexander Vlahos' acting. He has made the character so real... He is amazing!

This series has really made me think, actually. The idea that everything is meant to happen and that the future is already written out, so whatever you do the future won't change and is essentially already decided, is really interesting. Everything that happened had to happen and nothing anyone did could change it. I really felt for Mordred's character as even though he wanted to be a good person, it was like fate wouldn't let him :(


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