Merlin 5.10: ‘The Kindness of Strangers’ review

“There are some things even a Warlock as great as you cannot overcome!”

Sorcha Cusack as Finna provides many of this week’s revelations

After a mixed episode last week, were back into the throes of the action as our hero’s quest and burden looms at every corner.

Morgana, yet again thwarted by Emrys in last weeks episode (when is she not?) decides it time to track down Alator of Cathar, last seen as Morgana’s feared torturer in ‘The Secret Sharer‘ of series 4.  For those that don’t remember, Alator switched allegiance on meeting Merlin with a promise to keep his secret.  However Morgana decides torture is also her way to prise the information of Emrys whereabouts, but a Cathar priest is trained to withstand pain and Morgana fails to break him.  But there is another…

Finna approaches Merlin with a warning about Arthur’s enemies and the approaching Great War, against Gaius’ wishes Merlin meets her to discover she is here to help him prepare for what is ahead.  However Morgana is also on Finna’s tail after finding a note from her to Alator, and in the chase Merlin is mortally wounded by an arrow.  Seeking refuge is the tower with Morgana hot on their heals Finna gives Merlin a cursory warning that Mordred is not to be trusted and hands him a box.  As Morgana approaches Finna sacrifices herself for Merlin’s escape by stabbing herself with a sword.  Merlin faces near death for about the third time this series until he gathers enough strength to summon the Dragon to rescue and heal him.

Theres a bit of Doctor Who in the ending as a Knight is disfigured/suffocated by his own skin, very reminiscent in look of the muted creatures in ‘The Idiots Lantern‘ – quite more shocking for this series compared to the usual ailments Gaius deals with.  Morgana has sent her message and declared war!  I do often hope Gaius has written down how Merlin is meant to read all these ancient languages and decipher all these hidden magical messages – should we lose Gaius.

A strong episode filled with tension and action, and for me, the most emotional scene with the Dragon I have seen in the whole of Merlin.  Beyond all the threats, the imminent demise of the Great Dragon, and his wise words, pierces a sad blow to Merlin and the audience’s hearts.  And when he say’s, “You will remember me” we certainly do as Colin Morgan‘s raw emotion and the Dragon’s acceptance of his fate that his time is near may even overshadow the demise of Arthur should that come to pass (if they follow the mythology).  John Hurt as the voice of the dragon provides the standout moment of the episode amongst many cast highlights, from strong guest actors in Sorcha Cusack and Gary Lewis to stalwart Richard Wilson as Gaius with his concern and guiding hand.

There was a lot to fit in this episode – and as happens a lot with Merlin – the emotional consequences of the characters actions rarely get explored. Gwen feels no remorse for killing a man while under a spell; we learn nothing of Morgana’s feelings about losing the power over Gwen (and perhaps even her friend in her warped mind}, but there’s no time for that now.  With only four episodes left, the tension action and mythology needs to be wrapped up.  What you don’t know now, you’re not going to find out.  But what is important in the following episodes is: Does each character get the finale they deserve?  Finna’s box talks of the Great War as if it’s set in stone, while Gaius still believes Merlin has the power to succeed.  Maybe when Finna said the contents of the box, “will help you in the dark days to come” she means his belief that Arthur will die being set will make him stronger to fight against it?