Merlin series 5 episode 12 review: The Diamond Of The Day (Part 1)

Review Dave Adamson 22 Dec 2012 - 20:50

Merlin's penultimate episode is a slow-burner featuring hugely impressive performances and action...

This review contains spoilers.

5.12 Diamond of the Day (Part 1)

As ever, let's begin with a recap of the episode's events:

Morgana has a new weapon in her arsenal, a creature capable of draining the magic from people. She sees nothing wrong in using this upon her former ally, Ari, despite Mordred voicing his reservations. She’s unstoppable, though, as she knows that without his magic, Merlin is powerless and that Camelot will surely fall if Arthur doesn’t have a powerful wizard - albeit unknowingly - in his midst.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Merlin are playing a dice game that the servant appears to be winning with the aid of magic. There's humour and merriment, with Merlin showing a wicked streak, winning plenty of money and making his master look a tad foolish, before retiring to his chambers, where he is promptly attacked by Morgana’s magic-eating slug.

Together, Mordred and Morgana storm a nearby garrison, with their mercenary troops, forcing the knights to retreat to Camelot. With this threat looming, Arthur declares his knights will stop Morgana reaching Camelot... the war has begun and will take place on the prophesied field of Arthur's death, with Merlin now powerless to stop him unless the wizard can get to the Crystal Caves, the birthplace of magic.

Discovering that Merlin won't be joining him in this sojourn, Arthur is terse towards his servant, disappointed in his decision to go on a quest for Gaius instead of stand beside the master who has, he admits, never thought of Merlin as a coward, despite the jokes. If only he'd told the truth, in the way that Gwaine had with Morgana's conveniently placed wanton woman that found her way into the amorous, and loose tongued Knight's bed. 

With news that Merlin is on his way to regain his magic, Morgana sets out catch Merlin but not before giving a sword to Mordred, one forged in Aithusa’s breath. Finally face to face, Morgana exchanges barbed comments before trapping the powerless wizard in a rock fall. 

As he slips in and out consciousness, Merlin resigns himself to his fate. As his strength wanes, Merlin sees a vision of his father who tells him to not give in. With renewed vigour, Merlin warns Arthur via the crystals in the cave; shaking the King into action.

With knowledge of Morgana's plan, Arthur sends knights to cut off Morgana, before he prepares his troops for the long night ahead.

As a bloody battle ensues, Merlin escapes the cave... aged and angry. 

Here it is, The Diamond of the Day (Part One).

It’s the final story in the television adventures of Merlin and it's a slow-burning episode that should lead into one cracking finale. So much is brought into play here that it's almost overwhelming.

It would have been easy to just throw us straight into the conflict between Morgana and Arthur, but through this lengthy build-up we get a lot of character-driven scenes, with series regular Jake Michie showing his clear comfort with all the characters and events on screen as he crafts a particularly impressive script.

There are some fantastic moments between characters that crystalise their relationship. The exchange between Arthur and Merlin, in which Arthur confesses he believes Merlin to be brave but must have been mistaken, is heartbreakingly executed, as is Gwen’s discussion with Gaius about Merlin’s absence, in which little is said but much is meant, and Gwen’s faith in her King.

Arthur, once again, has confidence issues due to Merlin's absence and the sheer enormity of what is about to happen, but Gwen's faith gives him strength. Bradley James and Angel Coulby are at their best in this episode. His speech to his troops ranks up their with the President's speech in Independence Day - which will either mean it’s impressive to you or terribly cheesy - either way, Bradley James nails it and I’d find it difficult not to rush to my bloody death!

Colin Morgan’s Merlin covers a gamut of emotions in this episode - humour, loss, fear, elation - and he puts his heart and soul into the performance. There isn’t a moment where you feel Morgan isn’t invested in his character and even the appearance of Old Merlin is a spirited one.

As for the rest of the cast, Gwaine’s womanising ways are seen, as Eoin Macken gets more screen time than the other knights. The Great Dragon doesn’t appear, though Aithusa, Morgana’s dragon, makes a brief appearance.

The battle at the end of the episode looks impressive. Shot to make it look like there are more people on screen than there probably were, slow-motion and well-choreographed combat are merged in a way that makes it look suitably brutal, without being bloody. This isn’t Gladiator, or Game of Thrones, but it’s still a triumph for the producers and will hopefully lead to more impressive sequences in the concluding instalment.

By the end of this episode, you’ll probably want to draw a breath as the finale is coming very, very soon.

See the concluding part of Merlin on Christmas Eve at 8.15pm.

Read Dave's review of the previous episode, The Drawing of the Dark, here.

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Morgana's bloody dragon is about as useful as Godzuki... can someone in Geekland please write a geek show especially for Erin Richards and Katie McGrath all of their very own please? Even if it involved vampires!

Im really annoyed that they made Merlin old, I mean it would of been nice to see colin morgan again:/

Couldn't agree more! Why must Merlin be the 'old' powerful wizard that everyone is accustomed to?

I am soooo annoyed that they turned him into old merlin! I knew it was coming and I had to physically stop myself throwing something at the tv! The only consolation was that we heard merlons young voice admitting he's a sorcerer so maybe hopefully we see Colin Morgan again. But really I'm so upset we've waiting 5 seasons for merlons Time to shine when finally everyone sees all the behind the scenes magic that merlin does that ensure the battle is successful and that he never gets credit for ;(

The telepathic message was a nice touch - I've been mithering about the lack of magic in these shows, other than blowing out candles and flinging people about - so this was smart, and interesting.

By Merlin's words over the fade to credits, I think we can pretty much know what is coming, but still not how or in what context. The old man transformation? Well, if it's permanent then the cave has risen him to his full power and that is the price, perhaps - though it could be a disguise again ... whatever.

Yes, a slow-burner for sure, but tense, with still alot of strands to tie together - Christmas Eve 8.15pm should be interesting telly.

"Colin Morgan’s Merlin covers a gamut of emotions in this episode - humour, loss, fear, elation - and he puts his heart and soul into the performance. There isn’t a moment where you feel Morgan isn’t invested in his character and even the appearance of Old Merlin is a spirited one."

Wow thanks for this part. I agree with you. Colin Morgan is truly an amazing actor, the best of the cast in my humble opinion. His portrayal of Merlin is beyong brilliant.

As much as I love old man Emrys, I don't want him there for the full finale. It doesn't feel like it's really Merlin, it feels more like trying to force the legend into the show, which is not what this show has ever been about. Ever.
Assuming that the whole 'I have magic, I'm a sorcerer' clip from the next time teaser is the reveal to Arthur (!), I thought it sounded like that was OldMerlin talking. :S

Also really hoping for (a lot) more Merlin/Arthur moments in the last ep. The ones that were in this one were wonderful, but nowhere near enough! Heart of the show!!!

Okay, that's my moaning out of the way :P I did actually really like this ep. Magic-less Merlin was very interesting, but glad it's not being carried to the last ep. Liked that he was still pretty bad ass when facing Morgana. And great to get the opportunity to see Balinor again.

That scene when Merlin says goodbye to Arthur broke me a little. Beautifully acted by Colin Morgan & Bradley James. Poor Merlin.

Arthur trusting Dream Merlin was a surprising and very welcome moment.

Good to have some Merlin & Gwaine time. I really did think he might tell Gwaine the truth...but then that probably would have been a bit anticlimactic... "I'm a sorcerer!" "Really?? Cool, show me your stuff!" "Um...yeah, about that..." :P

Gwen copping on that Merlin did actually have something important going on was a nice reminder that the two of them are actually good friends. And a nice moment between Gwen and Gaius too.

I knew Eira was gonna turn out to be not-such-a-nice-person-after-all cos I saw some of her stuff being filmed in France, but don't think that would have come as too great a shock. Led to a good Merlin/Morgana confrontation though, so that's okay then :P

Hoping Mordred has some more to do next week (ya know, aside from THAT). He was little more than a henchman in this ep, and it would be a travesty if Alex Vlahos didn't have some time to shine in the finale!

I'm really looking forward to, and slightly dreading the last ep. Ah feck it. Bring it on. ;)

Tremendous episode. One minor quibble - I've never accepted Morgana as the completely bad, one-dimensional, soulless Witch that we now see on screen. Looking back to the earlier seasons - Morgana had a conscience and sense of morality. She originally turned against Uther due to his tyrannical treatment of those with magic abilities. Now - she has turned into Uther - with no grey areas - completely unsympathetic and lacking any doubt about committing mass murder or regret about the consequences of her actions.

What if Modred kills Arthur but Merlin uses magic to revive him. This would
be the perfect catalyst for Arthur to bring back the old religion. We already
know that Merlin is ' Morgana's destiny and her doom'. Its a shame that the
good Morgana never resurfaced, its hard to believe that she harbours no
self-doubt or residual affection for her old friends.

What happened to the Great Dragon's wing - has he been fighting with
Aithusa - and will Aithusa change sides as Merlin is the one who hatched her ?

I second that part about Colin. Not even the best description of Colin can do him justice. He is superior.

Amazing stuff -- absolutely heartbroken we are now about to move on to the last one as it is the only thing I bother to watch! Acting is amazing - Merlin is incredibly believable and love the relationship he has with Arthur - great acting the pair of them. Can't wait for Christmas eve edition - hope it will be tear free!

Wouldn't bother reading this. It's a long Aspergian rant that I wanted to get out.

Throughout this whole season, I've found like I've been watching different characters with every episode, and Morgana was possibly the most changeable.

"For this episode, we'll portray her in an evil light."
"For this one, we want you to relate to her."
"But wait, hold the phone! This week, we now want you to hate her again!"

Bloody annoying if you ask me. I've felt the same about Arthur several times. It's like they're pushing the 'just and noble king' bit down our throats each week while Arthur's background and character just screams tyranny. Each week, we deal with Gwen pampering Arthur's ego and Merlin imagining his future Camelot, all while the sub-plot of the episode usually involves the crushed and decimated old religion in some shape or form.

We all understand how hazy the concept of the 'good guys' can be. Game of Thrones anyone? I have no idea whose side I'm on watching that show. However with Merlin, I'm perplexed every week. I'm not comparing the two shows, I'm simply giving an example on how it SHOULD be done. I don't want to feel sympathy for Morgana one week, and then have it completely disappear from the show the next. That's not my lack of ability to see past the script and see the character, this is simply the script forcing an evil character down your throat when you've JUST had an episode which portrays pity. The episodes don't even allude to each other in this sense, not even a little bit.

Bah, rant over. I'll be watching Christmas Eve, although I'm pissed off at that too. For 5 years I've waited for the day Merlin steps up and saves Arthur's life, and Arthur sees the sheer power his serving boy has been hiding for so long, but apparently we're not getting that. We're getting the old Merlin. Nice one writers, outdone yourselves. Maybe there's some kind of plot device worm-in-a-box which will allow me to get my wishes, this once.

You know what? Writers of Merlin. Each and every one of you. TALK TO EACH OTHER ON YOUR NEXT JOB, WHATEVER IT MAY BE. This series has been the same episode over and over.

Ambiguous threat outside of Camelot. Arthur must go out and meet it! But Arthur is the king, he cannot! But he MUST. "But Arthur, your people love you<3". I'm sure Gaius is knowledgeable on the subject of said ambiguous threat! No Merlin, you're crazy, you're imagining this ambiguous threat. Oh Arthur, you're a tyrant now, but it'll get better eventually! Merlin defeats ambiguous threat yay!

I've had nothing but disappointment this series. "lol go way then sadbad we dun care bout it" Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm going. Just my bitter two cents.

Absolutely brilliant Merlin at its best..when his dad (the wonderful John Lynch) said you are born of the earth and of the stars, you are Magic, I was in tears. Can not wait for Xmas eve, but dreading not seeing this wonderful cast again..has it really been 5 years !

YES! Im so glad that Old Merlin has finally been realised! I've always thought of Merlin as this grand, age-old wizard, and finally he has developed into him! It feels like a just transformation to signify the end of the series - from boy to man.
I hope we finally see some real power from Merlin's hand, not just flinging people, but real destruction! I've always thought the fact that Morgana feared the baby-face of Colin Morgan as a little strange. This makes the program more believable, and much more engrossing! CAN'T WAIT.

I don't see why Merlin becoming old is a bad thing, I think that is a sign of growth, power and wisdom and I would find it satisfactory because to me it is a nod to the myths that have gone before and it is the story getting to its natural conclusion. It makes sense to have Merlin become old forever because I remember when he told Gaius that everytime he took the ageing potion it made him feel weak and tired but not anymore because he has accepted his fate and his taken on the role with gutso but I suspect that in order to have such great power it will come at the expense of his youth and maybe his friendship with Arthur. Hope that is not the case but if it comes to that then I will still find it satisfactory. Some people were destined for greatness even if it does lead to sacrifices being made which fits the story and progresses the narrative and shows some real growth in the characters. That would be the purpose of merlin staying old. Throughout the series he has been at odds with himself and doubting his own abilities and his own heart but in this ep he is now at peace with himself and like his father said he has to have faith and believe in what could be. It makes sense to me.

Another thing that I like about the prospect of Merlin becoming old is that finally we will see some seriousness to this side of Merlin because I have been upset with their tendency to use the old merlin as a source of comedy (I like it don't get me wrong) and I think its time to go beyond that. I am so looking foreward to this final episode and I hope he does admit to arthur that he has magic.
Brilliant episode all around.

Sadbad...I second your Aspergian rant...I really, really don't WANT to feel disappointed however this season in particular has been puzzling in its flow, or lack thereof, though the actors' performances have been solid for the most part. An anti-climax regarding Merlin's mind message to Arthur, kind of gave
away the big reveal, unless Arthur's a complete idiot - Arthur: "It felt
like...(insert MAGIC here)". Grrr frustrating...if it helps a little, there was a glimpse in the crystal during Merlin's scrying of what could possibly be Merlin on the ground doing The Dragon Call and he looks like his non-aged self so perhaps he won't stay aged & wise through the whole battle...sigh, a bitter four cents now ;)

I also predict, Emrys riding on the dragon's back wreaking havoc to Morgana's army in one huge battle then turning back to normal Merlin for one last time to tell Arthur who he really is. Let's see..

It's Colin Morgan in the Old Merlin disguise. Colin Morgan plays the ols sorcerer.

completely agree with your observations with a few other things that I found inconsistent...
- there have been many a times where merlin saves arthurs bacon when he is passed out or conscious and both of them are on their own and merlin shows his ability to be a survivor and protect him...Yet everytime this scene happens arthur (and merlin) behaves like its the first time its happening and nothing learnt from those experiences.
- there is no real growth in the characters. One episode you see merlin with a sword and protecting himself well without the use of magic then this episode he walks out with gwaine - without a sword with all the dangers about and now really has no magic and acts like a pansy. Don't get it.
- about characters again....It would have been nice to see merlin actually listen to guis at least ONCE. It would have been nice to see a natural progression/maturing of each character after all this time but they all seem to not have learnt anything from their past experience. merlin of 3 seasons ago would still make the same wrong immature mistakes today. Arthur would still think the same way about merlin. The only character that evolved really was gwen.

Anyways, rant over. I love fantasy and this show and Games of thrones are the only places i can get it so i do enjoy the show and look forward to the end with anticipation and sadness. just wish they were developed better. Merry Xmas!

in the `coming next' trailer at the end of the show you do hear Merlin revealing his true identity to someone , the screen is blacked out so you can't see who he is talking to, but it would be an anti climax if it wasn't Arthur..

No offence, but why do you guys make unfounded assumptions then work yourself up into an angry frenzy over it?*

When I saw Old Merlin, I simply thought he had adopted the disguise, which has used in a few episodes. Yes, it's possible that it's a permanent change, but we don't know that, and I think it's unlikely. Yet people get all irate over something that *might* be.

I guess one argument for the idea that the change is permanent is the fact that he emerged from the cave old, rather than waiting until he reached the battle, considering how taxing it is for him. This can simply be explained that it's highly likely Morgana and the Saxons have plenty of spies abroad, and as far as Morgana is concerned Merlin is trapped or dead. It makes sense that he would adopt the disguise early, and we already have a previous episode showing that he can cope with the aged disguise for a significant amount of time.

*Okay, ironically 'angry frenzy' might be an exaggeration. ;)

I agree with that, i tis also not out of the question that a newly re-energized more powerful merlin could be able to maintain the spell as long as necessary.

I would have liked a bit more peril at the end of the episode, maybe Merlins escape from the cave should have waited until next week. Generally the episode was good though, the 'coward' scene between Merlin and Arthur was excellent as you could see the dissapointment in Arthurs face.
I hope the writers resisted the temptation to go with an entirely happy ending, There must surely be heartbreak to come regarding The great dragon and Gaius. As for Arthur, it should play out like the real legend with him and Mordred killing each other.

Why do i get the feeling there is going to be an "epilogue" scene in which Arthur and merlin are awake in the modern world (bsg style)? I did enjoy seing arthur slicing through a few baddies like a lite version of sparty blood and sand. And the prick tease over the big it going to be an anti climax because thay should have done it at the end of the previous series?

I have to say...I would be hugely disappointed if they did a 'modern world' thing at the end, I really would. It would feel incredibly out of character with the series :S

I just can't see them ending it on the sadness of arthur and the knights going to sleep til albion needs them again.......but ending on a "battle done, happy ever after" scene would be a massive cop out.

coming next year "MERLIN 2020" the future tech/magic series hehe.

Yeah, I really can't see the doing the 'happily ever after' thing, you're right it would be a huge cop out. And a terrible waste of some very fine foreshadowing. I guess it depends how closely they stick to the legend. They've never been too worried about doing that in the past...

one thing for sure, I'm excited to see this more than the xmas dr who right now.

Yep, me too. I adore DW, but this year, I'm mostly just relying on it to help get me over the emotional turmoil of Merlin :P

That's what I was thinking. Memory tells me that he had to take a potion whenever he wanted to be Old Merlin but his time in the cave recharging and advancing his powers now allows him to do so at will. My initial thought was that he would head into the battle as Old Merlin to be able to freely assist Arthur with magic without compromising his secret to him, leaving the reveal of who he really is for the end. Can't wait for the final part, although it's such a shame as whether Arthur lives or dies there's so much to cover. If Arthur lives and learns Merlin's secret then what happens then? Does he repeal the law against magic? If Arthur dies what happens to Camelot? Urgh ... frustrating knowing there will be no more Merlin on telly.

I agree my Gut tells me Gaius is not long for this Realm now. i feel he could be the emotional trigger to create a Blood Bath for Morgana's army. there will be Blood and Death in this last episode i feel. not sure how much and who. if they want to do movies not sure they can kill everyone good or bad

Woah amazing end to that show. I was half right about the time jump at the end. So sad and special. Gonna miss them guys for a long time.

I think they handled it really well, its nice to think theres some magic left in the world.

I cannot believe it's the final episode. I'm going to miss Merlin, our Saturday nights will not be the same, ever again! What odded me though how it drawn to the future at the end... Merlin isn't that old? LOL! It just was awkward how it was hundred and hundred of years ago then jumps to the future with Merlin walking a side of where all the events happened. I'm going to miss Merlin!

Thought I'd really dislike that bit at the end, but it worked. Hell of a finale.

The issue, is that, if the change is permanent, then all the rubbish young Merlin went through to save the King's hide,won't be properly acknowledged. :-(

Btw that is Colin Morgan but with prothsetics. But I do like the younger one better.

I totally agree, my fav character is morgana and I still believe she an be good.

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