I kind of want to give Merlin some credit for this last series of episodes. It is really making the viewer question who the show’s ultimate bad guy really is. Morgana sits another one episode out this time around, and the real baddie might actually be Merlin himself.
Look, we all know Merlin is no villain protagonist. He’s a good-hearted young man who wants what is best for everyone. That’s especially true for practitioners of the Old Religion, particularly the ones who use magic.
By the by, it’s a little weird how this show uses the “Old Religion” concept. The Christian religion heavily influenced most classic Arthurian legend even if King Arthur stories predate Christianity in Britain. But on this show? You never hear a peep about Christianity. They imply it at best. And the “Old Religion” is just some nondescript pagan religion the Druids practice. At least this episode brings a little more generic paganism into the mix. The Disir of the episode’s title are the three women who speak on behalf of the Triple Goddess and they have a condemnation for Arthur Pendragon.
OK, so, here’s where it gets a little screwy. True, the episode actually acknowledges how screwy it is, but it’s still screwy. The Disir assign some guy to deliver the news. In the process, he gets into a fight with some roving knights. Random Guy is a sorcerer and one of the knights dies. Arthur feels bad. He said the dead knight was a longtime friend from his childhood.
You know, one of my TV pet peeves is when a character just shows up that’s supposed to be a long lost friend we’ve never seen or heard of before and often don’t see or hear from again. Original series Star Trek does this all the time with old love interests and school friends. I think Merlin does it one step better (?) in that I don’t think this guy ever actually appeared on the show. He’s just some dude Arthur tells Gwen about.
And Gwen the last few episodes seems to be little more than the loving woman who stays behind when Arthur goes out, often giving him advice he will ultimately listen to when Merlin repeats it later. Just sayin’.
Plus, there’s the Mordred issue. Merlin is still wary of the guy. Even his go-to wise people for advice can’t give him a clear answer. The Great Dragon says Mordred should die at the nearest convenience. Gaius points out future prophecies are hard to predict exactly and lots of things can change. Mordred is a nice young man. Everyone likes him. Heck, even Merlin likes him. And ask Arthur about destiny and he takes the concept well, even if his destiny is to die. Basically, Merlin is the only one who cares about that stuff around Camelot to actually do something about it.
And it all goes horribly wrong. First, yeah, they find Random Guy, but he dies after passing on the Disir’s calling card. Arthur, Merlin, and the knights go out to see the old women in the cave. Arthur completely disregards Merlin’s advice on being respectful of their sacred cave. It’s made worse when Percival rips down some sort of Celtic dreamcatcher for other knights to step on, and later when Gwaine shouts some threats.
Seriously, leave those guys at home next time.
Wait, Arthur does. Never mind.
Bottom line is, Mordred gets speared protecting Arthur. Merlin does some magic and gets…no actual reprimand or even a sigh of disappointment from the Disir.
And what is Arthur guilty of? That is an excellent question. That’s what Gwen asks, that’s what Arthur asks, and that’s what I ask. Arthur has been a lot better at the whole “tolerant king” thing than, say, his kid-killing father. Well, it seems he still doesn’t let the Old Religion do whatever, or maybe he just doesn’t practice it himself? Forced conversions are always cool, Disir. Point is, he and Merlin go back, act more respectfully, and see if they can save dying Mordred. All Arthur has to is pledge himself to the Old Ways. He can sleep on his decision.
Merlin advises him not to. Let’s face it: the Old Religion as far as Arthur knows just keeps giving him Morgana. I’d be wary of the stuff too. And so, the Disir tell Arthur he’s doomed.
Which means Mordred is alive and well when Merlin and Arthur return to Camelot.
At least Arthur doesn’t say something about how it was all a trick or something. He looks a little disturbed by all this.
You know, if Merlin had acted more in his own self-interest and advised Arthur to, you know, accept the Old Religion, the kingdom may not be so doomed. Then again, Arthur might have claimed the Disir broke their promise because he doesn’t know the Mordred prophecy. That probably would have caused more trouble.
There was really no winning in this episode, was there?