Merlin Series 5 Episode 1: Arthur’s Bane Review

“For even as camelot flowers so the seeds of her destruction are being sewn”

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For us mere mortals a year has passed but in the land of Camelot, Merlin has returned for a two-parter with a three year time jump and while the cameras have been away it would seen Camelot has been a peaceful place with good fortune – but that would make a pretty dull show, so the threat to Arthur and Camelot is alive once more and the burden placed firmly on Merlin’s shoulders.

The producers have promised a more darker grown up series and the opening scene displays a cinematic presence that wouldn’t be out of place on Game of Thrones, with wolves, snow covered chase sequences and windswept shots, but the show remains faithful to the core elements of the show and its characters.

When several of Arthur’s men disappear while travelling over the frozen wastelands of the North – including Sir Gwaine and Sir Percival; Arthur decides to embark on a dangerous journey to find out what happened. With a nervous Merlin in tow due to an encounter with a druids seer who gives him the warning: “the prophets speak of Arthur’s bane. You would do well to fear it for it stalks him like a ghost in the night, unless you act quickly Emerus even you cannot alter the never-ending circle of his fate”.

But what is Arthur’s Bane? Or should we say who? As the vision shows Arthur’s killer to be a grown-up Mordred (the role now played by Alexander Vlahos). Is Mordred Arthur’s Bane? Or the white alien like creature? Merlin summons the dragon for answers who tells him: “A wise man is not cowed by knowledge Merlin he uses it to guide him. Now more than ever it is you and you alone who can keep Arthur safe”. No pressure then.

Morgana (Katie McGrath) and her new sidekick Ruadan (Liam Cunningham) have amassed the kidnapped workforce to dig up the Citadel in search of said “Arthur’s Bane” which leads to many a gratuitous shots of a shirtless Tom Hopper and Eoin Macken. Hey I’m not complaining (as shallow as it is).

As with all Merlin episodes its multi layered with several story arcs seamlessly running at the same time, our characters have all evolved and matured. Gwen is the most changed especially after last series where Gwen hardly featured at all – I’m glad the writers saw fit to rectify that. Angel Coulby portrays an authoritative queen but still displays the compassion we know her for. Gwen sits alongside Arthur at the round table and voices her ideas when she puts forward the idea to pass through Queen Annis’ land. However her decision to sentence her servant Sefa to death (Sophie Rundle) for betraying Arthur was a major turnaround for her character. But will she go through with it? And how will she cope afterwards?

Merlin is also stepping closer to his destiny as the signs are there he’s getting frustrated playing the “fool” and wants Arthur to notice the talents he does possess. Colin Morgan and Bradley James have learnt to balance the emotional bromance well with the humorous encounters that make their friendship so entertaining.

The opener wasn’t as spectacular as previous series openers but was a good episode nonetheless. The series looks to be as exciting as ever. The higher focus on our lead characters is much appreciated and adds more interesting aspects to the characters arcs as we understand the relationships between our four main leads. I did miss Agravaine’s baddie though. As good as Liam Cunningham is, he’s a more reserved threat, but with his daughter about to be executed that could change quite quickly. I can’t wait!