“Until then, we go unmarked in death as in life.” ~ Mordred
Last time on Merlin, Morgana uses Princess Mithian to lure Arthur into a trap. After Odin and Morgana capture Princess Mithian and King Rodor, Morgana threatens to kill Rodor if Mithian doesn’t help lure Arthur out of Camelot. Using a little aging magic, Morgana tags along to Camelot to ensure Mithian sticks to the plan and doesn’t ring any warning bells. When Princess Mithian and “Hilda” arrive in Camelot, Mithian manages to convince Arthur to rescue her father despite Merlin’s misgivings about the servant. On the way to Nemeth, Mithian finally gets a message to Merlin about Morgana but Morgana catches them and knocks Merlin out before he can warn Arthur. Arthur continues on, straight into a trap and Odin’s hands. Just as Arthur is about to be beheaded by Odin, however, Merlin arrives and saves him. When the two escape, Arthur is forced to confront Odin and after a short battle, which Arthur wins, Odin and Arthur come to a truce and Odin restores the throne of Nemeth to Rodor under Arthur’s behest.
This time in The Disir, Arthur is faced with the decision, yet again, to allow magic back into Camelot or banish the old religion forever.
During a council meeting, Sir Leon informs King Arthur that a knight has been killed while trying to arrest a sorcerer called Osgar. When the Arthur and his knights head out to find Osgar, Elyan and Gwaine confront him, stabbing him fatally. He fends them off with magic, before escaping to find Arthur, Merlin and Mordred and give Arthur his message: that he has been sent from the sacred Disir to pass judgment on Arthur. As Arthur has waged war on the Old Religion, the ancient gods are now answering him. He gives Arthur a coin that is both judgment and fate and warns him that it is not too late to change his path and then dies from his wounds.
Back in Camelot, Gaius informs them that the coin was given to those found wanting by the court of the Disir, three women chosen at birth to become soothsayers and interpret the word of the Triple Goddess. The coin is the gods’ judgment against him, as well as a symbol of his fate, which can be avoided if Arthur were to repent and appease the gods. Worried about Gaius’ information, Merlin seeks advice from Kilgharrah who tells him that the Disir have predicted Arthur’s death and to take the next chance he gets to kill Mordred.
That night as Arthur and Guinevere talk about the events of the day, Arthur becomes concerned that the coin should be taken seriously so he seeks out Gaius and demands to know where to find the Disir. Gaius reluctantly tells him and shortly afterward, Arthur and his knights head out to find and confront the Disir. When they arrive at the sacred place, Arthur and his knights disrespectfully trample into the cave with swords drawn despite Merlin’s warning about this being sacred ground. Arthur throws the coin at the Disir and demands an explanation. They tell him that his persecution of the Old Religion has offended the Triple Goddess and he must embrace the old ways or else Camelot will fall. Upset by the way he had entered and his level of disrespect, the Disir scold him for his arrogance, conceit and insolence. When Gwaine steps forward with his sword drawn, they use magic to send him flying and then aim a spear at Arthur. Mordred, however, jumps between Arthur and the spear and takes the hit. The knights and Arthur escape as Merlin hangs back to give them a little time by using his own magic to deflect another spear.
After checking Mordred’s injuries, Merlin tells Arthur that there’s nothing he can do and they must take him to Gaius. Though Arthur is worried that Mordred won’t survive the trip, they head back to Camelot where Gaius tells them that Mordred’s injuries were caused by magic, so there’s little he can do. When everyone leaves the room, Gaius tells Merlin that only his magic can save Mordred, but Merlin, following Kilgharrah’s advice, decides he must let Mordred die to save Arthur.
Arthur, feeling guilty for Mordred’s injuries, decides to appeal to the Disir after Gaius tells him that only the Disir can cure Mordred. Arthur and Merlin return to the sacred ground, this time taking pains to respect the place, Arthur removes his sword before entering the cave. He pleads for Mordred’s life and the Disir tells him that he must embrace the old religion or his fate will be sealed and give him until dawn to decide. That night as Arthur contemplates what to do, he seeks Merlin’s advice. Merlin, still concerned about Kilgharrah’s warning and the self-fulfilling prophecy, advices Arthur that he must sacrifice Mordred for the greater good of Camelot and that “there can be no place for magic in Camelot.”
At dawn, Arthur returns to the Disir and informs them that he must reject their offer. They tell him that he has sealed his fate and that of his kingdom before Arthur and Merlin leave. As they head home, Merlin attempts to comfort Arthur by telling him it was the right thing to do, but Arthur feels terrible about his decision to condemn a man, his knight and loyal friend, to death for the sake of Camelot. Just as they arrive in the courtyard, however, Mordred emerges from the castle completely healed and Merlin realizes that by refusing the Disir’s offer he sealed Arthur’s fate to die at Mordred’s hands.
First, I have a couple criticisms for Arthur and all the magic people like the Disir, Morgana, Rodan, Osgar, etc…First: Arthur. Arthur is a king. He’s been king for three years now. He’s brought peace to the land through diplomacy and respect for other kingdoms. What happened to all of the knowledge he’s gained as king when he went to confront the Disir the first time? Would he have gone storming into any of the other kingdoms, trampling their sacred relics with swords drawn in hopes of peaceful negotiations? Probably not, so why did he meet the Disir like that, and once again, ignore Merlin when he warned him about the sacred ground? How could that have possibly resulted in anything peaceful? And when will he figure out that Merlin seems to know a bit about this magic stuff, even if it came only through his association with Gaius, he knows something and Arthur should listen to him about it. Of course, he didn’t and pissed the Disir off, getting Mordred injured and ending with his own fate being sealed.
And that’s another thing, yeah, Arthur disrespected their sacred ground and has a ban against the Old Religion, but how exactly does using magic to attack Arthur and hurt or kill people convince him that magic isn’t evil and should be allowed to return to Camelot? Every time someone tries to convince him that magic isn’t bad, they always do so by using it against him. Smart. Wouldn’t it be better to use it to heal instead of kill? Help Camelot instead of destroy it? Wouldn’t the Disir have gotten a bit farther with their request if instead of threatening and ultimately blackmailing him, they had tried to appeal to his sensibility? Why not try to show him the great things magic can do by doing good with it instead of evil? This goes back to Morgana killing Uther through magic. Arthur had agreed to use it, which would have gone miles to convince him of the good it could do, if it had saved Uther, but no thanks to Morgana’s interference, Arthur only saw it kill his father. Have to say, I can’t blame the guy for hating magic when death, hate and pain has been the majority of his experience with it.
That being said, this was still a great episode and definitely hints towards the overall dark theme of the final season of Merlin. Colin Morgan was great in The Disir as he portrayed Merlin’s struggle with his decision to let Mordred die by telling Arthur to ban magic forever. It was a sad moment, both because he told Arthur to ban magic forever and he lost that innocence we saw when he originally met and saved Mordred. Speaking of…Alexander Vlahos was also great as Sir Mordred. You really get a sense of the adolescence he possesses, as he was being hazed and ribbed as the noob on the team (meld the saddle by riding backwards Hilarious), but at the same time you also see hints of how much he’s had to grow up as a Druid, hiding his magic and constantly fearing the repercussions of being found. You just really can’t help but like the kid.
Honestly, I’m still hoping this season won’t really end with Mordred killing Arthur. He’s genuine and loyal and has saved Arthur’s life twice now! Maybe, like I’ve said before, Merlin could embrace the kid and kind of mentor him and in that way guide him away from his destiny. It would be great to see Merlin have a comrade in magic instead of always going it alone. If this episode has proven anything, though, that’s not likely to happen. Merlin, in all his wisdom, keeps pushing Mordred away when all he really seems to want is acceptance. Hell, Mordred has even sided with Arthur because he realized that love is stronger than the power they possess; yet Merlin refuses to give him a chance because of that whole prophecy thing.
When they first came across Mordred, he did the right thing. He ignored the dragon and helped Mordred because it was wrong to let someone die when he hasn’t done anything yet and there is no definite guarantee that he will. What happened to that boy? As Merlin said, “He grew up.” If I remember correctly, isn’t that what Morgana said when Arthur faced her with a similar question? She grew up. Either way Mordred’s destiny wasn’t written in stone when Merlin decided to let him die….but it is now. Or is it? Maybe there’s still a chance that Mordred won’t kill Arthur. Mordred is still in the court. He’s a knight and still loyal to Arthur after all, right? Okay, so that’s probably wishful thinking on my part considering the whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing, but damn it, I like Mordred too much to see him turn against Arthur! No, I’m not a Merthur shipper, don’t go there, but I like their friendship and the brotherly love they show for one another and don’t want it to end in death! Guess we’ll just have to keep watching to see what happens.
If The Disir was a little dark with Merlin opting to let Mordred die and telling Arthur to ban magic forever, next week dips a bit further into that darkness when Morgana kidnaps Gwen and holds her in a place of terror that haunts the hearts and minds of men in The Dark Tower.
Merlin airs Friday on SyFy at 10/9c.