Review: Merlin 5.05 – “The Disir”

In this week’s episode of “Merlin”, Arthur’s fate draws ever closer.  But what is the difference between fate and destiny?  This is the question Arthur wonders aloud as both he and Merlin are directly faced with the elements that could bring about both his and Camelot’s destruction.  The episode weaves these elements together expertly, leaving us feeling just as concerned as Merlin is.

The deceptively yet cleverly placed shot of Mordred attacking Merlin in last week’s trailer actually proved to be from a scene of “Sir” Mordred training as one of the Knights of the Round Table.  Arthur is very complimentary of the young knight, giving him new responsibilities and holding high hopes for him.  Of course this makes Merlin ever more uneasy.  Despite the bond he shares with Mordred, he cannot shake the thought of him bringing about Arthur’s doom.
Arthur and his men face The Disir
Arthur and his men face The Disir

When one of Arthur’s knights is killed by a sorcerer in the forests surrounding Camelot, the King and his remaining knights lead a patrol to bring him to justice.  Following a confrontation with this sorcerer, he gives Arthur the object that lies at the heart of this episode– a Runemark.  According to Gaius, this is an item given to people found wanting by The Disir– three frightening older women in cloaks who serve as the mouth of the triple goddess.  While this is the first we ever hear of the triple goddess, The Disir seems to fit right in as if they/she/it had always been a part of the series.  Like the three fates of legend, they are like a grand council, the be-all end-all of the magical world.

Despite Arthur’s receiving the Runemark, ultimately I find that such an object is merely symbolic and isn’t very necessary to get the point across.  It serves as a reminder of the choice the Disir ask Arthur to make.  They don’t care if he’s been generally a good ruler– they only care that he is similar to his father in one way:  he has angered them by denying the old religion and executing its followers.After summoning the Dragon for advice, Merlin finds himself caught up in a difficult decision yet again– protect the rights of those with magic, or continue to deny such freedom to himself and others and let Arthur face destruction.  It’s definitely not as clear cut as those two decisions, which is where the show has gotten more brilliant as it’s matured.  The waters get a little murky where Mordred comes into play, especially the way the Dragon ends up advising Merlin.

The mouth of the triple Goddess: The Disir
The mouth of the triple Goddess: The Disir

Upon sharing his feelings and decisions with Gaius, the physician asks him, “What happened to the young boy who came into my chambers just a few years ago?”  Merlin replies, “He grew up.  And learned the meaning of duty.”  Truer words were never spoken.  We get to see shades of the powerful sorcerer Merlin is destined to become, a far cry from the bumbling servant boy in Season 1.  Colin Morgan really shows his acting chops in a scene with Arthur, as the young king requests his honest opinion on the answer he should give The Disir- Embrace the old ways or face destruction.  Tears in his eyes, Merlin battles from within on what is best for himself vs. Arthur.  At this point, their fates are so entwined that what happens to Arthur will affect him and vice versa.

With the brilliance of this episode, I will be very surprised if they go back to any comedic tricks at any point this season.  After the heavy nature of the season so far, I can’t picture a silly goblin or mischievous fairy with a funny voice mucking things up.  Arthur and Merlin have more important matters with which to concern themselves.

A last note– Keep an eye out for some beautiful sweeping cinematography across green hills as Arthur and his men make their travels.  It’s excellent to see a TV show being able to do this and it’s reflective of their (possible) increase in budget since the beginning.

Next week, Morgana plays some twisted games in “The Dark Tower”.

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Post Author: Amy Hirschman

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