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.
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