Ladies and Lords, welcome back to Merlin’s Fifth Season run on SyFy! After a long break heading into sweeps, SyFy has led us with much anticipation into the final 5 episodes of the adapted fantasy series. This long of a break puts a bit of a wrench in the momentum of the show’s continuity, as those in the UK were able to watch the show’s entire run week-by-week, uninterrupted during its original airing. However, Americans are more used to this kind of thing with our favorite TV shows, so let’s move on to discuss how this episode works to bring us back into the storyline.
Warning, spoilers below!
If you were growing weary of Guinevere being possessed by Morgana to carry out her dastardly machinations upon her King, then you are in luck– Episode 9, “With All My Heart”, serves to bring her back to the light side of the Force (half-hearted apologies to George Lucas for the reference). In effect, SyFy did pick a good turning-point to draw us back in. The episode begins with Arthur discovering what he suspected– Gwen conspiring to do him and Camelot harm. Merlin, being the noble person he is, of course promises to Arthur that he will find a way to bring her back.
Gaius tells Merlin of the spell Gwen was placed under by Morgana, and that the only ones who know the ritual to undo it are Morgana herself and a sorceress called the Dochraid (who also appeared in the Season 4 episode “Lancelot du Lac”). Not veering far from the stereotype of the ugly witch, the Dochraid is pretty hideous with eyes that look scarred shut, a crusty mouth full of rotting teeth and a voice like Gollum. Merlin approaches her disguised as his wizened alter ego to get the answers he needs. She is rather difficult and confrontational but he does learn what he needs to do. The Dochraid is not really on Merlin’s side though, as she quickly turns and informs Morgana of Merlin and Arthur’s plans to release Gwen from her power.
Both Merlin and Arthur will be tested on their journey to cure Guinevere. Magic must be used to release Gwen from the enchantment, which of course goes against Arthur’s decrees. And Merlin must disguise himself in a form Arthur and the others don’t recognize in order to perform this spell. To add to Merlin’s inner turmoil, Mordred follows along. After the break, his accompaniment screams, “It’s me Mordred! I’m still here, trying to prove myself to you! And I’m still kind of ambiguous!” Saying this, I wouldn’t discount Mordred just yet. He does contradict Morgana and sets her back as she attempts to stop them.
Getting Gwen to the sacred cauldron (this is a natural body of water, not a metal pot) where the spell will be broken is made out to be easier than it should be. Dropping some tincture of Belladonna into her goblet before making an erroneous toast at dinner time doesn’t take much imagination, and she face-plants into a loaf of bread. They have to wheel her out of the castle in a wheelbarrow covered in linens, pretending it’s a deceased boy with “Red Thrush Fever”. “Merlin” always manages to slip a bit of humor in, even during the most dire of times, which is one thing I really like about this show.
I was going to say that the end of the episode is a deus ex machina using magic again to break a spell, but thinking about it, it took more than simply magic. Gwen had to go into the water with Arthur of her own free will, and this was executed very sweetly. Arthur hearkens back to an earlier time when he asked Guinevere to marry him and her response was the title of this episode: “With All My Heart”. The message is really that their love for each other is stronger than any evil magic Morgana can try to sustain. Before you go, “Awww,” it’s necessary to mention that all this is facilitated by Merlin in yet another amazing and hilarious disguise. Colin Morgan’s performance very much sells him as an old woman (looking pretty much like his older male alter-ego except without a beard). He is alternately flamboyant and deadly serious, and his performance helps to carry the final scenes.
In the episodes to come, I think it’s certain that Mordred must play a crucial role. As they travel back to the Camelot, he says to Merlin, “We have something in common after all: the future of Camelot.”
To close, here are my favorite quotes of the episode:
Mordred to Morgana: “Such hatred as yours can never triumph. I hope one day you can find the love and compassion which used to fill your heart.”
“Dolma” (Merlin’s female sorceress alter-ego): “There is no evil in sorcery, only in the hearts of men.”
Next week: Episode 10: “The Kindness of Strangers”