Merlin Series 5 Review “The Dark Tower” — An Impenetrable Forest and a Burning Boat

It’s hard to review Merlin without referring back to the magic reveal that just will not happen. Week after week we tune in waiting for Merlin to reveal all, allowing himself to use his powers whenever he deems necessary. ‘The Dark Tower’ was one of those episodes where Merlin’s abilities could have changed everything, if he would just use them.

This week saw Morgana kidnap Gwen and imprison her in a tower. She lets Arthur know where Gwen is by means of visions given to an injured Leon and Percival. I’m actually amazed that Merlin bothered to tell Arthur that he and Gaius suspected Morgana — in the past they’ve usually hidden that information with dire results. Character growth? Perhaps.

Then it was onto the actual rescuing. The boys spent a day walking before Leon and Percival had their visions. The second day was spent wandering aimlessly around the Impenetrable Forest. You would imagine that after a few hours, Merlin would say ‘oh, this is ridiculous’ and use one of his numerous abilities to try and guide them and/or cut a path through the forest.

Not so. In fact Merlin waited until he’d spoken to Queen Mab, a fairy (and possibly the most random and pointless guest character to date), before breaking out a shiny new ability to try. When did Merlin discover he had it? Why didn’t he use it the day before? I suggest we ask Gwaine, because he seemed to be the only one with a lick of sense in this episode.

Meanwhile, back at a dark tower — named, rather aptly, The Dark Tower — Morgana locked Gwen in a room full of mandrake root for a couple days. The horrific screaming and visions of her loved ones taunting her sent Gwen a bit mad. (Sidenote: Colin Morgan can roar at me any day, baby.)

Now, I’ve never been locked in a room with mandrake root by my crazy ex-friend, but it seemed to work a little too well, too quickly. I choose to imagine Morgana slipped Gwen a magical mickey to enhance its effects at some point between the final mandrake room scene and the sword room scene. Either that, or one too many slow motion head injuries finally took their toll.

Morgana’s plan is actually pretty ingenious and leads us into the next episode. Morgana’s Stockholm syndrome-d Gwen into believing she’s the only trustworthy person around and that everyone else should be despised. Presumably this is the show’s take on a False Guinevere situation, and it could work really well depending on how it’s resolved. I won’t hold my breath, though. As much as I love parts of series 5, I’m finding it equally as frustrating.

The most frustrating thing for me in this episode, besides Merlin’s lack of a magic reveal, was Elyan’s death. Now I know it was foreshadowed, and probably so obvious that most people were headdesking from the outset of the episode, but I didn’t see it coming until he broke away from the group in the tower. I think it’s because I was more concerned about Gwaine — he had so many awesome lines that I was sure they were building him up for an early exit. The thought of his swooshy hair swooshing no more was almost too much for my little heart, so I’m glad he didn’t die, but I still don’t understand why Elyan did.

Isn’t Elyan’s death counterintuitive? Shouldn’t Gwen blame Morgana for his death instead of Arthur and the boys? I’m no psychologist; I don’t quite get it. From a fan/reviewer point of view, I really don’t see the logic in losing one of the show’s strongest actors. They should have been using Elyan more in this series, not killing him off!

Another thing I was wondering for the entirety of the episode: where was Mordred? He was the beloved up-and-coming knight last week and yet he was nowhere to be seen this week. I wanted to see Mordred reassuring Arthur, being glared at by jealous-and-suspicious Merlin, worrying about his next encounter with angry Morgana. For crying out loud, use your characters, Merlin!

At this point I would really love one utterly irreverent episode. Just 45 minutes of the knights hanging out in a tavern, sans Arthur and Merlin, so we can get their view on everything that’s happened. Because, dear reader, I need to know what the other characters make of events and whether everything that happens makes sense to them, even if doesn’t to us. And perhaps most importantly, I need to hear lines like ‘I dreamt about eating a cheese that tasted of apple pie. Anyone else have that dream? You’re all missing out.’ get the chuckles they deserve.

What did you think of ‘The Dark Tower’, dear reader? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!