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.
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