Merlin Series 5 Review “The Drawing of the Dark” — The Battle Lines Are Drawn…

‘The Drawing of the Dark’ saw Merlin prepare itself for the final two episodes of the series overall. It’s taken a long time to reach this point and, fair warning, I can’t say I was entirely happy with the episode.

I’ll start with the positives, though. This episode saw Mordred finally go dark side because of his anger over the treatment of a fellow druid, Kara, who Mordred just so happened to be in love with. While I dislike that it took a lover to turn Mordred against Arthur in the space of a single episode, I was impressed with both Kara and the ending of the episode. Kara was fantastic, a rare 3D guest character in Merlin who was allowed to be horrifically cold, lovingly tender, and impressively resolute in her beliefs all at the same time.

It’s a shame Morgana couldn’t have been rendered in a similar light over the course of S5; she would have been a hell of a lot more threatening if she had been less of an evil queen caricature and more like Kara. But there is hope for Morgana in the final two episodes. ‘The Drawing of the Dark’ saw Mordred reveal to her the true identity of Emrys, something she’s been wanting to know for years. With that information now in her hands, Morgana can move on and actually do something with it. What, I’m not entirely sure, but I hope it will lead to Merlin finally breaking out the big magic and showing us why he’s supposedly the most powerful sorcerer Camelot has ever seen.

The acting definitely deserves a mention this week. There were great performances all around, but especially from Alexandra Dowling (Kara) and Alex Vlahos (Mordred). Vlahos in particular completely blew me away; the scene in which he petitioned Arthur to allow Kara to live, and his last scene in the cell on the morning of Kara’s execution, were incredible. It’s a shame we haven’t had a chance to see more from him this series.

And then there are the negatives. A lot of this episode was a genuinely good watch and I truly enjoyed most of it. But, as often happens with this show, I think some of the writing let the episode down, especially when it came to Merlin himself. It seems harsh to blame him for what went wrong in this episode, but it’s inevitable. This smart character has been written as a fool quite a few times over the course of five series, doing things that just make no sense. And his decisions this week again left me baffled:

Take Merlin’s decision to not let Mordred escape. If Merlin had instead helped Mordred to escape with Kara, explaining that he hopes Mordred doesn’t run to Morgana, and that he (Merlin) will attempt to sway Arthur in favour of letting magic return to Camelot, Merlin may have been able to smooth things over somewhat. Mordred could have turned Kara away from Morgana, and, while Arthur would have been upset and maybe spent some time trying to find them, he would ultimately understand why Mordred did what he did. Arthur knows love and the effect it can have on a person. He and Mordred would have been left with some hope of a reconciliation at some point in the future.

Instead, by telling Arthur of Mordred’s plans to escape, Merlin ensured that Arthur could never reconcile with Mordred and that Mordred would never want to reconcile with either of them. It was a stupid move and one that I honestly cannot understand, just as I can’t understand why he thought freeing them after their capture was a good idea. Arthur’s plan to give Kara a second chance by allowing her to repent was a nice gesture, but even that was written in the worst possible way; why would Kara, a woman who had been so resolute in her beliefs a day prior, suddenly change her mind about her actions after being recaptured and, perhaps more importantly, having seen Mordred not only imprisoned by his ‘friend’ but physically assaulted too?

Perhaps this all would have worked if Kara had seemed frightened by her impending demise, or if Arthur had brought Mordred into the room with Kara and given him a full pardon first as a show of good faith for a woman who has never seen an act like that from a Pendragon. Mordred’s reaction to a pardon would also have helped Kara understand how a druid and a Pendragon can forge an amiable relationship. (It could be argued that Arthur giving her the chance to repent was an act of good faith, but don’t we all get upset when told we can/should apologise for something when we don’t perceive our actions as having been wrong?)

And what was with Arthur at the end of the episode with his whole ‘I shouldn’t have trusted [Mordred]’ speech? Why not? Neither he nor Mordred knew that Mordred was going to meet his old friend again, that she would be working for Morgana, or that Arthur would be forced to kill her, thereby upsetting Mordred and forcing him to think perhaps Kara was correct in her allegiance to Morgana (insofar as Morgana being able to help him get revenge against Arthur/Merlin).

Of course, if Merlin had told Arthur about his own magic earlier in S5 then he could have told him about his vision of the future, and they could both have kept a closer eye on Mordred. Alas, I’m tired of pondering ‘what ifs’ when it comes to the magic reveal. I just hope it’ll be done well when it finally does (hopefully!) arrive next week.

I’d love to know what you thought of ‘The Drawing of the Dark’, dear reader. How did you feel about the characters’ decisions and actions? Were you glad to see Merlin shift up a gear in preparation for the two-part finale next week? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note: ‘The Diamond of the Day: Part One’ will air on Saturday 22nd December with ‘The Diamond of the Day: Part Two’ following on Monday 24th December.

  • Paula

    I completely agree with your review of the episode. The writers could have found a smarter way to initiate the falling apart of Arthur and Mordred. Nevertheless I was truly impressed with Alex Vlahos. What a stunning, heartfelt performance. He came out strong, and blew me away. There is a lot of sympathy I have for his character and I wish we knew a little more about his past. This episode would have been great for some sequences from his (and Kara’s past). What I don’t like about Morganas portrayal is, that the emotion is missing. At least for me. I’d like to see more of an inner battle. All in all, I’m looking forward for the finale … may it be a good one.

  • J Vaughn

    I took Arthur’s “I should not have trusted him (Mordred)..” comments to mean that Mordred’s escape revealed his true identity – as a Druid and someone who possesses magic. The problem with that is when Arthur saved Mordred years ago, everyone knew he was a Druid boy and therefore had magic. Why hadn’t Arthur remembered that important fact? Also, why did we have to wait until this episode to see Mordred (as a man) communicate with Merlin telepathically? The inconsistencies are too many to name, and the story lines are often full of holes. Nevertheless, these characters and the actors who play them are wonderful and I will miss the show.

    • AB2012ish

      I took the line to mean that Arthur put faith and trust in that he was good and would not use magic against him,that Mordred was good even with magic.

      The story and character interaction was all good. Great acting by all.

      I will miss the show when its over.