‘Merlin’ 5.6: ‘The Dark Tower’ review

The game-changing episode

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Spoilers are included in this review, don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen episode 6 or would prefer not to know.

Finally Angel Coulby’s Gwen gets let out of Camelot this week and in doing so not only does she get herself captured, but she becomes a force Arthur nor Merlin (or the audience) had anticipated.

During a trip to her father’s grave with Elyan (remember he’s her brother?) with the Knights in tow, Morgana senses her chance to capture the Queen by magically creating snakes in the grass (see what she did there?) to spook the Knights horses. Eylan tells Gwen to go and save herself which puts her right where Morgana wants her for capture, who she then proceeds to drag to the titular Dark Tower.

Whilst captive, Gwen is subjected to visions of those she loves and trusts as frightening mocking versions of themselves; as the mandrake roots that hang above her play on her fears and terrify her in the dark. Morgana has learnt she must play the long game and fluctuates between the devious captor – to the kindly once-friend whose trying to save Gwen from the horrors and loneliness; Or as she reveals the darkness of her own capture, which I’m sure will be revisited again in some way in future episodes.

As soon as Arthur learns of what’s happened he rides to rescue his Queen with the Knights and Merlin, but Arthur struggles to lead his Knights while fraught with worry about Gwen and the thought of losing her again, leaving Merlin to guide the way with a little help from Queen Mab; a creature in the forest who warns Merlin one of the Knights will not return. (OK be honest: who started to think which Knight they’d be happy to see the back of? And who they DEFINITELY better not kill off; I’ll admit I chose Elylan to die and Percival to definitely stay – well he is the eye candy!)

Although tonight’s episode was Gwen and Elyan’s episode it was a good ensemble episode that gave each a chance to shine: Colin Morgan‘s Merlin got to not only be trusted to lead the group but to show how grown-up he has become; whereas Bradley James was heartfelt in his portrayal of the emotionally off balanced King, plus his brotherly conversation with Elyan was well played. It’s a shame Arthur hasn’t been given much chance to interact on a personal level with the other characters other than Merlin.

And then of course we have the other surprise: Elyan’s death at the hands of Morgana’s enchanted sword. A fitting end, although I can’t say the characters death resonated too much mainly due to Elyan’s lack of dialogue through the series. But the main plaudit has to go to Angel Coulby who finally got to stretch her acting wings to shine in both the fear and despair of her capture, and the shock plot twist as Morgana’s inside woman who intends to bring the Kingdom down from within. I literally screamed NOOOO! when she met with Morgana in the woods.

However I’m convinced Gwen is not herself and all will be righted! Right? Otherwise why would Gwen help not only her captor, but the cause of her brother’s death? Methinks magic is involved. Otherwise I shall be shouting LOUDLY!