Thus, in the age of mankind in the year 2013 did the modern tales of the adventures of Merlin and his friends come to a close. No but seriously, kids– prepare yourselves for a real thrill ride of a final season as the BBC’s “Merlin” tells its final stories of magic, adventure, loyalty and betrayal. Be warned, spoilers lie ahead.
The season begins with Part 1 of a two-parter titled “Arthur’s Bane”. Already, I can hear you going, “Oooo… who could be Arthur’s bane besides Morgana?” It takes most of the episode to get to that “Ah-HA!” moment where you realize, but good things come to those who wait, of course. Part 1 takes us even further outside the walls of Camelot throughout the episode and wastes no time jumping into the action. On the surface, Camelot appears prosperous and strong. The round table is squarely situated in Arthur’s court, with even more knights than we saw in the past season, and Guinevere, or “Gwen” as we know her, is firmly in her role as Queen, even having her own lady servant (which is kind of fun to see). However, the kingdom is threatened more strongly than ever by old enemies and new alliances. Morgana leads an army to find and eliminate Arthur, while Arthur and his knights, along with Merlin, seek out Morgana to stop her evil plans.
At its outset, Season 5 seems to be showing shades of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. Morgana is stationed in the snowy North, while Sir Gawain and Sir Percival travel through a snow-covered landscape, hunted down by wolves and Morgana’s men. Even the costumes give that impression with an abundance of fur to keep warm. I could have mistaken Gawain for John Snow if I didn’t know any better. I also thought of Robb Stark making an alliance for passage when Arthur and his men visit the court of their ally Queen Annis (played by Lindsay Duncan) to gain passage to the North.
Overall this is a pretty serious episode, but the one moment of levity made me laugh out loud– Merlin in Queen Annis’ court using magic in order to have the ability to juggle and perform sleight of hand, utterly baffling Arthur at these suddenly displayed abilities.
Even more responsibility is heaped on Merlin’s shoulders at the outset. A druid thought dead comes back to life and shows him a horrible vision of Arthur’s fate. Frightened, Merlin learns from the Dragon what he probably already knew– that he (Merlin) is the only one who can save Arthur from a terrible fate. (On a side note, the CGI animation of the Dragon is looking better than ever. Compare it with the way the Dragon looks in Season 1 and you’ll see.)
Gwen shows us a frightening new side, which comes as a shock. At first she seems to be the benevolent merciful Queen Guinevere she was always meant to be. But when she is betrayed by her new servant girl, who is aiding her father (Ruadan) in his support of Morgana, she shows no mercy toward her. Perhaps her devotion to Arthur has blinded her, or maybe it’s her position of power. Either way, this is a new development I can’t wait to see more of.
Now to the title of the episode. If you haven’t been spoiled enough already, turn back now. Remember the blue-eyed dark-haired little Druid boy wizard (same actor who starred in the movie “Hugo”) from earlier seasons? Yes, I’m talking about Mordred. He’s back, older, and aiding Morgana. It’s strange how quickly he grew up, yet Arthur and Merlin look the same. I wonder exactly how much time has gone by and how old he is supposed to be now. We should look forward to the role his character will play as the season goes on.
One last thing to wonder about before the episode ended– a mysterious glowy alien-looking being healed Gawain after he was beaten by slave drivers in Morgana’s mines. What/who is this odd looking fellow? We should get some more answers and see some more action next week!