Prophecies, magical symbols, closely guarded secrets, destinies and dragons; You can tell we are getting close to Merlin’s finale as all these elements combine darkly in this one episode, “The Kindness of Strangers”. There is a lot of time spent on the run in the forest. The formula of the story seems very familiar– we’ve seen episodes with very similar conventions to this one before.
But this time the stakes are raised as Morgana tries to take a more active hand in trying to prevent her own doom, rather than find another way to mess with Arthur. She seems even more sinister and dangerous as she herself tortures a former torturer, Alator, to learn of Merlin’s true identity as Emrys. You may remember Alator as the man who once tortured this information out of Gaius. However now, he is loyal to Merlin and the prophecy. Morgana no longer cares about anything but getting the information she so desperately wants.
The show is no longer as goofy as it was in the beginning. Viewers shouldn’t be surprised to see Morgana use magic to kill instead of simply to throw people around or drive them mad. Only one scene of brevity is used the whole episode– an adorable aside of Arthur (who barely appears) doting on Gwen with breakfast in bed (provided by Merlin of course).
While gathering flowers for Gwen’s breakfast surprise, Merlin encounters an old woman in a cloak who warns Merlin that a battle is coming, and instructs him to meet her alone at night in the temple of Eryu. Gaius, being rightfully suspicious warns Merlin against it but we know by now that Merlin doesn’t ever really listen. A good thing too, because it moves the plot along. This time Gaius’ instincts are wrong and the woman (who is a sorceress) turns out to be on the side of Alator and Merlin. Their mission is to make sure that Merlin ensures the triumph of Arthur, the “once and future king”.
This is the crux of the story– protecting Merlin’s name, and Arthur as king along with Camelot’s future. Unfortunately, since Gaius misinformed Arthur of the sorceress Finna’s intentions, his knights are on the hunt to apprehend her. Merlin gives the old “looking for herbs” excuse again when they find him wandering the forest looking for Finna. They keep him under watch as they make camp, until Mordred allows Merlin to leave, understanding his mission.
As Mordred is part of the prophecy indicating Arthur’s downfall, it will be interesting to see how his role plays out over the next few episodes. He has been presented as nothing but helpful up to this point. As Merlin finds and runs with Finna, she warns him not to trust the Druid boy (Mordred). Before her fateful meeting with Morgana, she entrusts a small box to Merlin, telling him its knowledge will help him in the dark days to come.
In a last dramatic scene, the wounded Merlin drags himself to the rooftop and calls out for the Dragon. Once rescued, his brief conversation with the Dragon reveals their friendship and concern for one another. The Dragon sounds like a parent or grandparent who has guided Merlin and is ready to let him fly on his own. His non-response to Merlin’s final question is typical of his personality, which comes as no surprise.
Colin Morgan plays the last scene with Gaius very seriously– When Gaius imparts that he knows Merlin is thinking his destiny is more than one man can manage, the look on Merlin’s face is so convincingly weary.
The call to battle has sounded. Merlin has received another piece of the prophecy. Camelot will prepare itself for its doom or its salvation. Emrys has a job to do.
Next week: “The Drawing of the Dark” — Will Mordred finally show his bad side?