Saturday, 3 November 2012

Review: Merlin 5.5: The Disir

I will avoid the temptation to make a Monty Python joke. For now.
If there's one thing that this new, darker Merlin is still pretty good at, it's taking opportunities to further the myth and simply get on with telling the story and completely and utterly fucking them up. The Disir was a rather bad example, because it came rather close to actually making some progress. How radical would that have been, eh, to actually make some progress near the beginning of the season and then present some interesting scenarios. But no. The writers of Merlin, even when they make a tremendously good episode like this, just can't do it.
     The Disir, the mightiest court of the Old Religion, give a coin to a bloke named Osgar, who passes it on to Arthur. The coin is a rune that acts as his judgement, predicting his death at the hands of Mordred. Arthur, initially skeptical, becomes obsessed with discovering why the Disir are so pissed off at him. Merlin talks to Killgarrah, who of course tells him to off Mordred whenever he gets the chance. Arthur soon becomes restless, and asks Merlin to take him to the Disir to face judgement. Mordred, knowing what's going on, asks to come-with, and Arthur lets him. The Disir give Arthur a good talking down to, and as they escape with an injured Mordred, Merlin lets the three know that there's at least one magical person in the Kingdom. He ends up with a moral dilemma; he is the only one who can save Mordred's life, but he doesn't know if he should. Arthur decides that the best tac will be to head to the Disir and beg for them to save Mordred's life, so he and Merlin go out to them. They tell him that they'll only help him if he promises to embrace the Old Religion like the rest of the world. Arthur asks him what he thinks about magic, and Merlin has a kerfuffle before sprouting some stupid Utherian shite against magic. Luckily, Mordred is fine when they return, and Merlin realises what a total and utter twat he's just been.
     And that really baffled me. There are moments here and there where I'm often taken out of a show's narrative because characters stop acting like themselves and start acting as the writer needs them to act to shove the plot in a particular direction. The best example is probably Season Five of LOST, but this was just as good - Merlin reverted to Series One and took the Dragon's advice as 100% gospel, when he knows that the Dragon can be an opinionated dick and his advice never really helps. Merlin had an opportunity there to do what he's been working towards for four whole series now, and because the plot says so he sprouts some complete and utter bullshit that doesn't even feel right in-universe.
Merlin doesn't just grab the Idiot Ball, he absorbs it.
     But. And it's a big but. I did love this episode up until that point. It managed to mix together the mythos of the show with its characterisation, making Arthur seriously consider his stance towards magic and actually having members of the Old Religion calling Arthur out on the bullshit of his fathers' that he's still spreading. There were some nice character beats from the main trio, and while Merlin's situation was bullshit driven by the writers (I mean, why did he call Kilgarragh in the first place?) it was certainly good to see Colin Morgan doing some quite brilliant acting. Everything seemed to work this week, up until that point where unfortunately the writers' wish to keep to easy story formulas made sure it didn't pull through.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Morgana has another kerazeeeee scheme! I wonder if she'll win this time?

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