I meant to finish this before the first-part of the series finale aired but I’ve been so busy with work. However, I still felt we should take a look back at episode 10 & 11. As we get closer and closer to the end of the series, the stakes are higher than ever for Merlin as his secret is looming closer to being revealed and Morgana becomes more fervent in her effort to find the true identity of Emrys and bring about Arthur’s downfall.
Episode 10 revolves around an old acquaintance – Alator of the Catha, one of the only people to know Merlin’s true identity and someone that consequently, Morgana is extremely interested in. Whilst she tortures his mind and body to try and extract the information, it’s back to romance and grand gestures with Arthur and Gwen. Merlin soon gets dragged into the mystery of Alator’s disappearance, encountering the mysterious Druid priestess Finna. While Gaius is suspicious of her, Merlin chooses to trust her which forces Gaius into an awkward position – he tells Arthur of her existence which then causes the knights to go in search for her. As well as the knights looking for her, Morgana learns of her existence from her master Alator (so in fact she was trustworthy) and launches her own hunt for her. With both parties closing in, Merlin has to think fast (while injured) and after imparting wisdom and a further warning about Mordred, Finna sacrifices herself so that Morgana does not find out Merlin’s identity.
Alexander Vlahos (Mordred) takes a back seat in this episode; although the moments he is on screen he utilizes fully, particularly one tense conversation with Merlin where the mutual distrust that both characters feel for the other oozes off screen. Katie McGrath is also brilliant again as Morgana, not being melodramatic in her frustration and determination to capture Finna. She is the perfect villain, powerful but also vulnerable and easy to get a reaction out of. This episode ends on a cliff-hanger that certainly signifies the end is nigh – Morgana sends a message with the death of a knight due to old magic, signalling that war has begun.
The antepenultimate episode of the series is certainly a treat and truly brings out the acting talents of Alexander Vlahos’s Mordred as this episode centres mostly on him. While investigating an attack on a group of Camelot knights, Mordred stumbles across an old friend (and love) of his – a woman named Kara (played by guest-star Alexandra Dowling). He lets her escape, but she is later found and sentenced to death for killing the soldiers. Her lack of remorse and tenacity in a powerful scene with Arthur (Bradley James) allows the audience to not feel much sympathy for her character, as it is clear her belief that Arthur is the enemy is so rooted that it cannot be changed. Mordred attempts to change Arthur’s mind about her sentencing, telling him the truth and confessing his love for her. Arthur (sympathetically) refuses and so Mordred launches an escape attempt – Merlin leaps into action, telling Arthur of Mordred’s plan, allowing them to catch the pair. As Kara is put to death, Mordred seeps into despair and rage; escaping from his cell, he disappears and makes his way to Morgana. In a delicious cliff-hanger he tells Morgana the information she has longed to hear – the true identity of Emrys: Merlin.
This episode is filled with some standout, solid performances – particularly Vlahos’s Mordred. Mordred has always been lingering in the shadows, with the audience never knowing what his true motives have been, and now he moves into the forefront and Vlahos is able to fully flex his acting muscles. He succeeds in making the audience feel sympathy for his character in his torment about what to do about Kara – he loves her, yet he is so shocked by what she has become. Vlahos and Colin Morgan have some fantastic scenes together in this episode, filled with tension and mistrust – you can really feel the frustrations that have been building throughout the series. The heartbreaking scene where he asks Arthur to reconsider his decision is also stunning – truly a series best performance from him. Colin Morgan also puts in a fantastic performance, particularly the second half of the episode as he tries and repairs the fragile situation. He is soon out of his depth and you can see the weariness and lack of confidence in his decisions by the end of the episode, when he realises that he cannot save Mordred from going down the path to evil.
Bradley James also puts in a stellar performance as Arthur must struggle with the decision he is making – his relationship with Mordred has been a close one, with a bond and a trust forming, and even though Arthur tried to help, offering Kara a way out of her death, she threw it back in his face, choosing death, and thus fixing Mordred’s turn to the dark side.
The ending and the truth of Merlin’s true identity is a perfect set-up for next week’s finale two-parter. I cannot wait to see what the writers have come up with to end this fantastic series, which has truly found its stride in the last season.
Arthur: I’ve made a terrible mistake haven’t I?
Merlin: I hope not.
(The Drawing of the Dark)