As they say, all good things must come to an end. After four seasons of swords, sorcery, and the most satisfying character interactions, this week marked the beginning of the end for Merlin, the show chronicling the life of Merlin and Arthur, the once and future king.
Picking up three years after season four’s Sword in the Stone finale where Guineviere and Arthur married and the power-crazed Morgana was defeated, Arthur calls a meeting at the wonderfully famous roundtable. Six weeks prior, Sirs Gwaine and Percival, along with three score of knights, have disappeared without a trace. A search party headed by Sir Eylan was unable to find any clues of the lost knights but, as the conversation continues with Arthur leading his own expedition, we’re united with the lost band of knights as they are chased through a frozen wasteland (later identified as Ismere). It’s not long before we find that everyone’s favorite villain to hate, Morgana, is behind it all. Lording over her own little Fortress of Solitude in Ismere, she has a new partner in Ruadan, a sorcerer in his own right. He speaks of Arthur’s bane, and D’amere, the key to all knowledge buried beneath the caverns of the fortress. Unfortunately for the knights of Camelot, they’ve been drafted as hard labor for the crazed sorceress.
Back in Camelot, with some lateral thinking from his queen, Arthur and company ready to leave for Ismere, taking the western route through Queen Annis’s lands. After reaching the gorge that separates her lands from Camelot, they come across a massacred town. As they search for survivors, a voice in the wind calls Merlin by his prophetic name (Emerys). He enters a cave and comes across a dying druid who shares with him the prophecy of Arthur’s bane, the very thing that will strike the King down. As they man passes on, his hand in the cavern’s waters stirs up a chilling vision of death and blood before showing Arthur facing a young raven haired man who cuts down the King of Camelot. As they make camp, Merlin calls forth the Dragon, questioning the majestic beast about the druid’s tattoo. It was the symbol of Avartis, a druidic seer whose portents had no rival. The Dragon suggests Merlin to heed the warning though unable to direct the young wizard on what he should do. So, after all these years, Merlin is once again left to his own devices, a hard prospect that doesn’t get easier with age.
The next day Arthur’s company arrives and dines with Annis and the two rulers share news on the current state of their lands, the most important of which is that Morgana is back on the move and searching for something in Ismere. To break up the morose tones of the conversation, Annis directs Arthur to provide entertainment by way of his fool—yes, that would be Merlin. Mr. Magic amps up his dexterity and puts on quite the egg juggling show, for which Arthur expresses surprise at what his friend and servant hides behind the sometimes bumbling exterior.
In Camelot, Gwen’s own servant, the newly introduced Sefa (one that had definitely received Merlin’s attention earlier)
sneaks away from her lady’s chambers and treks through the forest. She meets up with Ruadan and relays Arthur’s plans to storm Ismere from the west. Ruadan shows little thanks and his coldness is exacerbated when we learn that Sefa is his daughter. He takes the warning to Morgana—though one has to wonder how hard of a ride and just how much time has passed—and she orders preparations for battle, to ride out and meet Arthur’s force instead of waiting for the King to attack her.
While the troops laugh gaily and enjoy the downtime in camp, the weight of yet another prophecy presses into Merlin. Arthur offers an ear for Merlin and though he doesn’t share his total concerns with Arthur, the two do share a moment of solace. The next day as they prepare for departure, Morgana’s forces descend upon them. Taken by surprise they try to retreat but are surrounded. Arthur is nearly killed by Ruadan but Merlin shuffles the injured King from the battle. After he regains his senses, Arthur re-dedicates himself (and, by extension, Merlin) to reach Ismere. Even though tension is still high, the banter we’ve come to know and love between the two men usher us to the next scene.
Escaping Morgana’s assault, Elyan and Leon report the ambush to Gaius and the Queen and it’s not long before she realizes the traitor in the midst is none other than Sefa. Upon interrogation, the meek girl admits her guilt and, showing no mercy, Gwen orders Sefa’s execution, and Elyan is visibly surprised by his sister’s harshness, despite the validity and necessity of her decision.
Taking rest in the woods, Merlin breaks down to confess the druid’s warning to Merlin. Though he understands it, Arthur is not deterred. Merlin tries convincing him of the dangers the road ahead may hold but Arthur’s virtue becomes even more pronounced when he tells Merlin “No matter what adversity we face, we stand for what is right.” It’s these words that only strengthen those who’ve had faith in his greatness as the once and future king.
Back in the caverns of Ismere, as they rest from a day of back breaking work, Gwaine notices a soft blue light pulsing from one of the cave fissures. He follows it for quite sometime but never reaches the end before being accosted and heartily beaten by two guards. Laid out on the rock, the soft blue light returns to the unconscious knight and is shown to originate from the freakiest CGI entity since baby Renesmee from Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. The creepy Indiana Jones: Crystal Skull alien passes a hand over Gwaine’s battered face and heals his injuries.
Out in the woods, Arthur and Merlin are awakened to the sound of Morgana and her troops. They are just able to evade her search party but when a starving Merlin showcases a bit of buffoonery, they are caught in a snare trap throughout the night, released the next day by men who are ready to kill Arthur and claim the dead or alive reward on the King’s head. They are saved when an eerily familiar face, the one from Merlin’s vision, appears. The young man turns out to be Mordred, all grown up and eyes full of malice. He suggests they take the captives to Lady Morgana to sort things out. And just like that, business is seriously about to pick up.
What can I say? Season 5 starts off with quite the bang, immediately throwing us into the frays of what will no doubt be an epic confluence of events. Just how will the season progress with Mordred already in the fold? He knows of Merlin’s identity and, in no uncertain terms, told Emerys he would never forgive him for Merlin’s betrayal in “The Witch’s Quickening”, a promise Merlin no doubt remembers. And just what is the alien thing hiding in the Ismere caves? Methinks it is this D’amere key Morgana and Ruadan are searching for though it’s not in the form I would have guessed. Let’s just hope Merlin doesn’t fall into the alien silliness of the most recent Indiana Jones offering. I will say this though; based on what we’ve seen in the first episode and the montage of scenes offered as what’s coming for this season, I am going to enjoy every second of this wonderful ride that is The Adventures of Merlin.
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