This review contains spoilers.
5.9 With All My Heart
Gwen, it seems, isn’t above a bit of emotional blackmail as she continues her treacherous association with Morgana this week. Percival may be convinced, but it appears that Arthur has discovered the truth and must get to the bottom of the betrayal.
To help Gwen and release her from the wicked magic, Gaius sends Merlin to meet an ancient being, the Dochraid, though he must disguise himself as Old Merlin as the Dochraid has heightened senses and would recognise the good in our favourite wizard.
Sadly, the Dochraid can see through the disguise and he is forced to threaten her to discover the truth, effectively brandishing his sword and injuring the ancient in order to extract the necessary information that will save the Queen.
All it will take is a perilous journey to the White Goddess and for Gwen to willingly step into the Great Cauldron, whilst a spell is cast to free her from her torment. Though initially suspicious of such a magical remedy, Arthur is convinced by Gaius in order to save his one true love.
Of course, things don’t run smoothly as Arthur, Gaius and Merlin kidnap the Queen whilst the Dochraid helps Morgana seek her revenge.
Thankfully, Mordred has had his own suspicions that lead to him rescue Arthur and Merlin in the nick of time, subdue Morgana and reaffirm his conviction to the cause (though it’s not clear to whom he is truly allied), whilst Arthur reminds Gwen of their love and the darkest of spells is broken. The last five minutes are truly beautiful and show the strength of Bradley James and Angel Coulby in their roles. It is such a simple exchange, yet it feels so authentic.
Richard McBrien’s script is superb, bringing a fine combination of humour and pathos, drama and intrigue to the final half of the final series of Merlin. He gives us a wonderful story of strength, love and emotion without overdoing any of these aspects.
Humour is clearly in evidence as Arthur, Merlin and Gaius plot to deal with the Queen, with Merlin doing most of the work. It does border on farce a number of times, with Bradley James coming up with exceedingly outlandish reasons for his behaviour, whilst Colin Morgan is saddled with being the butt of many jokes. The sequence with Gaius and Merlin trying to sneak the Queen out of the castle brought about memories of the film 9 to 5!
Whilst Morgan mostly covers the comedy, Bradley James gets to be heroic and commanding whilst Katie McGrath delivers an emotional performance as she begins to lose control of events. Binding the characters together is a great turn from Alexander Vlahos as Mordred, with his loyalty to Arthur, attempts to overcome Merlin’s suspicious and his distrust of Morgana filling out the final act. His cutting words toward Morgana are delivered with such venom and McGrath’s reaction, understated and emotional, is perfectly played. His is a character that has certainly shaken the foundations of the two magic users.
With Arthur having to put his faith in magic, and Gaius offering the services of a female magic user, Colin Morgan gets a dual turn – Old Merlin has only a few minutes’ screen time and manages to be more threatening than annoying, whilst we also see Old Woman Merlin with an incredibly camp voice that would make some drag acts squirm! Much is made of the fact that Old Woman Merlin looks far too much like regular Merlin; it’s clearly being played for laughs and, thankfully, doesn’t take too much away from the otherwise dramatic storyline.
Visual effects are at a series high, with The Dochraid being portrayed by Maureen Carr. With ashen skin and an eyeless, rotting face, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in some horror films. Carr’s vocal work is equally creepy. As with many of these tertiary characters, the lack of screen time is a bit disappointing.
In more ambitious special effects, Morgana’s dragon makes an impact this week and looks rather impressive in its emaciated state, breathing fire and swooping from the sky. Sadly, it doesn’t spend too much time on the screen.
As many will know, it was recently announced that this series of Merlin would be the last series. With only four more episodes to go (including the final two-part story), Merlin is on course to deliver a knock out finale. Morgana has lost her ace in the hole, Arthur will no doubt be seeking revenge, Merlin has left Arthur with a reminder that magic saved his loved one and Mordred’s destiny is still to be played out.
There’s plenty of ground still to cover and the series certainly looks like it will be going out on a real high.
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