‘Merlin’ 5.5: ‘The Disir’ review

“He grew up and he learned the meaning of duty.”

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A dangerous dilemma faces Arthur and Merlin this week as their actions pose severe consequences for the future of Camelot, and the survival of Arthur in some very cleverly riddled, but highly frustrating scriptwriting.

Three soothsayers known as ‘The Disir’ task sorcerer Osgar with passing on a coin containing the judgement of the Triple Goddess onto King Arthur for his punishments of sorcerers and refusal to acknowledge the Old Religion; Osgar does so giving his life in the process. Arthur initially thinks its nonsense while Merlin wonders why a powerful sorcerer would give his life to deliver the trinket if it has no value. Gaius warns Arthur of The Disir’s power and how he is “old enough to be wary of dismissing other people beliefs.” Merlin summons the dragon who warns Merlin that if he gets the chance to kill Mordred again he must take it, to save Arthur and the future of Albion.

Arthur travels with his Knights, including his new favourite Knight, young Mordred (much to Merlin’s dislike and Gwen’s amusement) on his first quest to confront The Disir over what he feels to be an unfair judgement. However he and his knights show little respect for their sacred ground and so the hooded sorcerers attack Mordred with a magically poisoned spear wounding him. With no way of Gaius healing him, and Merlin’s refusal to save to King’s would be killer, Arthur returns to The Disir begging them to save Mordred’s life. The Disir gives Arthur an ultimatum: Accept the Old Religion, or Camelot and Arthur’s fate will be sealed to destruction and Mordred’s death… or so we’re led to believe. As it turns out Arthur’s refusal to accept the Old Religion actually saves Mordred leaving him alive and well to fulfil his prophesy to one day kill the King.

There’s a lot of implausibility required for this episode. I found myself thinking all the way through “Why was this judgement never passed on Uther who was a true despicable King against sorcery,” the writers handily explained it away by Merlin telling Arthur: “Judgement is wasted on a man who won’t listen, ” but it did feel a vehicle to force Arthur and Merlin into the predicament of, “does Merlin reveal his magic and condemn Camelot, or once again sacrifice his own beliefs to save Arthur.”

Don’t get me wrong the episode was enjoyable but on the whole too coincidental. Yet again Gwen is reduced to the concerned wife. I hope Angel Coulby outing in next weeks episode proves to give her something to do. Colin Morgan displayed a strong sense of dismay over Merlin’s difficult decision as he says: “There can be no place for magic in Camelot.” However, is saving Arthur more important than being able to live freely as a sorcerer? I also did wonder why Merlin didn’t talk to The Disir as he has done previously with foes when magic is involved.

A good episode in terms of plot development and the Arthur/Mordred/Merlin story arc, but not one of the strongest of the series as a whole.

Next week Morgana returns and she has Gwen in her sights.