Merlin: Review: Series 5 Episode 11: The Drawing of the Dark (Spoiler-free)

Merlin 511When Merlin sees Mordred protecting a Druid girl, it’s the start of a desperate race against time…

This is the pivot point for the season. Who has been right about Mordred? Arthur, who believes that he is an exemplary member of the Knights of the Round Table? Or Merlin, who has been told by so many people not to trust him – and who has had the vision of Mordred killing Arthur?

What makes this episode so gripping is that Mordred himself doesn’t necessarily know. He is clearly in love with Kara – a good performance by guest star Alexandra Dowling – and he genuinely does not know how to square the circle. She is implacable in her hatred of all that Uther and Arthur Pendragon stand for; he respects and trusts Arthur, and believes that a better time is coming. Alexander Vlahos excels and makes Mordred’s actions totally believable.

Although he’s necessarily reactive rather than proactive for much of the episode, Merlin is key, working behind the scenes trying to create a situation where Mordred doesn’t storm off, angry at Arthur. There’s an increasing rift between him and Gaius – at one point, his mentor points out that Merlin is being rather hypocritical, which doesn’t sit well. Colin Morgan matches Vlahos’ impassioned performance – as does Bradley James, showing Arthur’s desire to be more humane than his father, yet aware his kingdom is at war.

This isn’t an episode for very young viewers – Merlin began with an execution off-screen, but there’s far more attention given to the mechanics of the death in this episode than we’ve had previously. It’s appropriate, given what rests on it, but make no mistake, this is not a children’s show.

As to what’s coming up? There have been a lot of comments from fans – not least here on this site – complaining that the show hasn’t been true to Arthurian roots, and that we should see the golden age and/or Merlin acting as Arthur’s adviser. That perhaps isn’t what this show has been about: it’s a time of myth, remember. And this is a new telling of the myth – it may not be to everyone’s taste but there are many who’ve enjoyed it.

Verdict: The darkness is falling. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Discussion

51 thoughts on “Merlin: Review: Series 5 Episode 11: The Drawing of the Dark (Spoiler-free)

  1. What I find hilarious about this whole debacle is that if Merlin has never been “warned” about Mordred he would have probably been open and nice to him, possibly helping him in a scenario like this (as he has done many times in the past) but alas it feels like his own “prejudice” against Mordred will shape him into the player he feared. Combine that with what you mentioned in the last paragraph, that the golden age might not come despite the constant mentions of it in the show (and it’s promise being the driving force behind Merlin’s decisions before he became simply a baby sitter), and one starts to wonder what was even the point of all of Kilgharrah’s mythical mumbo-jumbo.

    Alas! I shall look forward to the performances of Morgan, James and Vlahos as always.

    Posted by Zane | December 12, 2012, 9:07 am
  2. I REALLY don’t think that many fans are ‘complaining that the show hasn’t been true to Arthurian roots’???? We’re complaining that it hasnt been true to ITSELF. From S1 we’ve been led by the nose with prophecies of a golden age created by Arthur and Merlin with Magic accepted in a united Albion under the greatest king ever known. THAT’S what fans are upset about – the fact that they’re suddenly announcing we’ve reached Camlann with no Albion, magic users still persecuted and Arthur still groping about in the dark making terrible decisions and very far from the greatest king ever. He’s achieved, as far as we can see, almost nothing and Merlin is still skulking around in hiding making Arthurs decisions for him. Still tp the very bitter end the hidden hero thing thats so overdue an end that its poisoned the show.

    Thats ‘the new telling of the myth’? The Once and Future King was a failure who lasted 3 years who never united Albion and couldnt hold on to his throne because he made terrible decisions and couldnt think imaginatively and Merlin the greatest sorceror ever, never made it out of servitude or hiding while Arthur was alive? Why would anyone bother telling that story afterwards? Once upon a time there was a king who didnt do very much and a sorceror who failed? It may make the producers happy to suddenly posture as ‘dark’ and hope for awards to come, but from the look of spoilers, the fans who believed in this show have been left high and dry. 😦

    Posted by Seb | December 12, 2012, 9:32 am
    • I agree with SEB. A magic reveal was a promise since the very first episode. The show has gotten so bad that I stopped watching and won’t watch any more episodes until I hear some good news. I barely care enough to read spoilers and I’m telling everyone I know not to even bother with season 5. It’s a shame.

      Posted by Thethuthinnang | December 13, 2012, 4:47 am
  3. SEB, I completaly agree with you. What I enjoyed in this serie is the freshness of approach, the humour the lightness. They trie now to make a “psychological” “dark” “adult” serie of it. So many oher series do that very well, no need for MERLIN to go that way. All the fans wanted to see the Merlin’s magie revelation early in the season to enjoy his new statut with all the other characters; Very frustating in fact. By chance, it is always such a pleasure to see Colin’s play.

    Posted by Amélie | December 12, 2012, 10:48 am
  4. The majority of fans don’t complain about the show not telling the legends accurately. They complain because Merlin, since 5 series (which is like 10 years in Merlin time), is still treated like a servant when he is clearly more than that and proved it million times to everyone in the show. They complain that Merlin didn’t get the recognition and the status rewarding all his actions and efforts to save Camelot and its kings in every episodesince the first one. They complain that Merlin still didn’t get to reveal his magic and to show that his magic is what made Camelot a strong realm and Arthur its king.

    It’s time we see Merlin show his powers “publicly”. It’s time we see Merlin and arthur unite Albion and make it a world of magic accorded and of peace, with Merlin being treated with deference, respect.

    But yes, despite all the frustrations that match Merlin’s frustrations in the show, I continue to watch “Merlin” because Colin Morgan’s acting makes it easy to see all the feelings, the emotions, the pain… Merlin goes through. I’m still hoping we’ll see Merlin reveal his magic in one of the last two episodes of the show.

    Thank you.

    Posted by Merlin Fan | December 12, 2012, 10:56 am
    • And do you think that Arthur would allow Merlin to speak to him in the way he does if he truly simply regarded him as just a servant? There are boundaries in Camelot which haven’t been broken down.

      Posted by PS | December 12, 2012, 11:50 am
      • I think that Merlin is allowed to talk to Arthur like he does because he has proven more than several times that he is the one who finds the solutions and that his thoughts are very often right, but we can see that he is allowed to talk his mind only in “private”, never in front of the court. I think Arthur is hypocritical, knowing that Merlin is his best consellor but not wanting him to get into a more powerful position in Camelot. Arthur treats Merlin as a servant, especially publicly, and uses his insights when no one else is watching. That’s not the way I want to see Merlin being treated by the king he spends his time rescuing.

        Posted by Merlin Fan | December 12, 2012, 12:26 pm
        • But look at the situation at the court that was set up right from day one regarding nobles and servants! Merlin is a servant. Like it or hate it, that’s the set up of this version. We already have one character that has crossed the lines, in terms of Guinevere – would the court that has been established in this series put up with two?

          Posted by PS | December 12, 2012, 12:31 pm
          • Guinevere wasn’t the only one. Lancelot, Perceval, Elyan and Gwaine (Athur doesn’t know that he is in fact fom a noble family. Only Merlin knows it) have all crossed the lines when they were knighted at the end of series 3. We can also add Mordred to that list since he is a simple Druid. Those characters have all been rewarded and ennobled after just one action to help Arthur. Merlin is the only character Arthur didn’t publicly reward for his exceptional acts for Camelot, though Arthur witnessed Merlin saving Camelot and the kings several times. Since the court accepted a queen and 5 knights from servant/peasant conditions, it would have accepted Merlin as an official consellor. It’s just that Arthur keep showing his hypocritical side towards Merlin only.

            Posted by Merlin Fan | December 12, 2012, 7:37 pm
          • I have to wonder just what show you are watching. Not an eyelash was batted by the court when a serving girl was made queen, (in fact she seems to out-noble the nobles and out-royal the royals, she is Queen Mary Sue, absolutely perfect in every way, feted and revered by all). Likewise all the peasant knights fit right into court life immediatly. . It might have been a very interesting story to show these characters adjusting from commoners to nobles, but no, it was far more important to showcase Gwen’s frocks and the passionless romance and the same storylines over and over again.

            Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 7:13 am
            • There were three years between seasons!

              Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 7:20 am
              • Yes, but there weren’t 3 years between seasons 3 and 4–season 3 was when the peasant knights were first knighted and the original Round Table established, not to be seen or mentioned again until this season. They were apparently accepted by the court right away with nary a whimper.
                Quite frankly tho–I’m kind of glad that more time wasn’t wasted on Gwen (probably the most boring character in the entire show). Just responding to your point.

                Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 8:19 am
                • I did wonder if some of the comments made by Uther during his brief reappearance this season were intended to be dealing with some of the criticisms raised about the show…

                  Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 8:26 am
                  • And just like all things in this show, Uther’s appearance was promptly forgotten, Arthur still worships him. He says he is not his father, yet he hasn’t lifted the magic ban and he’s still persecuting magic users. Arthur has also forgotten both that Mordred is a druid with magic, and that he promised the spirit of the druid boy in 4.11 that he would respect the druids.Too bad the show couldn’t have addressed those fan criticisms.

                    Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 8:42 am
      • Arthur and Merlin’s enigmatic relationship (and the crackling chemistry between Morgan & James) is the only reason why many many fans watch the show and will continue to watch until the bitter end (something that James recently acknowledged in an interview too.) But to try to deny that Arthur does not treat Merlin as a servant–taking advantage of him, hitting him, insulting him constantly, seeing him in the same shabby clothes he arrived in Camelot in ten years ago, depending upon him for everything and yet rarely acknowledging his contributions, even those he’s fully aware of–while at the same time telling him to keep secrets from the queen, seeking his advice before his own wife’s, confiding in him before he would Gwen, taking him with him everywhere he goes (even on romantic picnics with his wife)–well, let’s just say it doesn’t cast a good light on this supposed Once & Future King. Merlin is slavishly devoted to him, his entire reason for being in Camelot is Arthur, hell, his whole reason for being is Arthur, and while Arthur depends upon him, and likes him, even considers him a friend of sorts, he does not for one moment show that he values him. While Arthur swiftly knighted Mordred and Percival, (both men he didn’t know from a hole in the wall), for saving his life, Merlin might get a slap on the back and an insult, and then told to fetch his supper up for him. And he is aware of a great many tremendous things, above and beyond the calling of a mere servant, that Merlin has done for him, excluding all the magical help he’s given Arthur. Their co-dependence makes them both look a tad pathetic.
        Chalk that up to another of those fan complaints.

        Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 8:57 am
  5. If he made one servant queen I would think that making another a mere advisor would be easy. In reality there has been zero attention paid to the effects of a servant becoming a royal – no attention to any problems Gwen might have had. We just were expected to accept it was all fine. Using that as an excuse for Merlin to never ever be rewarded as he producers do use it, is an insult to the intelligence. In my opinion the producers didnt have the imagination to run the show without that exhausted hidden hero thing so Merlin, who Arthur knows has done more for him than anyone else has stayed a servant (and Arthur often forgets by the end of the episode what Merlin has done and treats him like an idiot again). Yet, Mordred, after saving Arthur’s life once was rewarded lavishly and made a knight.

    Posted by Seb | December 12, 2012, 12:44 pm
  6. PS thats not the mentio n the number of peasants made knights. We’re supposed to believe Arthur is a meritocrat – he rewards people according to their abilities not their birth. Its one of the few things Arthurs been allowed to do to differentiate him from Uther in fact.

    Gwen of course. Lancelot, Perceval, Gwaine (as far as he knows) Mordred, Elyan are the ones we know of. Just never, ever Merlin. He still gets abused by Arthur as a useless idiot to his face (OK ..humour sometimes) and behind his back (not funny at all after all Merlins done for him). And now we have Camlann and nothing had changed for Merlin from S1 apart from the realisation that all his sacrifices have been pointless. Is anyone surprised the fans are gutted?

    Posted by Seb | December 12, 2012, 12:50 pm
    • *Some* fans are gutted. Not, by any means, all…

      Posted by PS | December 12, 2012, 2:29 pm
      • I dont think either of us know how many fans care and how many don’t. I take it from your reviews and responses that you’re one of the fans who’re quite happy with the way its all panned out? No reveal, no Albion, no recognition for Merlin, no enlightenment for Arthur just a three year reign which achieved nothing, no credible Once and Future King just a bloke killed by his own shortsightedness and…the end?

        Posted by Seb | December 13, 2012, 2:52 am
        • I’m reserving judgement on what is going to happen at the end *until I see it*. At that point, my views may alter, but I am not going to prejudge the series or the producers.

          Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 6:58 am
          • The remaining episodes would not negate the fact that this whole smug-driven spin of a Merlin story is way beyond bad and pretentious already. A 60+-episode tale about a masochistic doormat servant and his ‘stannish’ dedication to his sadistic and perennially d*ck-headed King is what the series had turn out. They may pull-out a Twilight’y finale, but still all there’ll be,.. all are just pointless in the end. Lots of fans end up being masochistic themselves sticking it out till the bitter end inspite of it all, mainly because of their dedication to Colin and the dynamic chemistry he had with Bradley (before).

            Posted by geljean | December 13, 2012, 2:31 pm
        • SEB, I agree so strongly with all of your comments. I really have to wonder what the point was to any of these characters and this show, if they’re all going to meet their end with only the constant repetition of storylines and nothing learned as their legacy. It just makes no sense whatsoever. Maybe that makes some fans happy, but I’m afraid I’m in the category you describe as “gutted”.

          Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 7:00 am
  7. I must say that I totally agree with SEB and all the other people who have made comments. Although we know that Merlin is ‘kind of’ Arthur’s advisor, this is kept hidden from the greater public. Some knights might almost acknowledge Merlin but even then, not quite. So much more could have been made out of the Gwaine/ Merlin relationship.
    I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the situation in the royal household – Gwen who is now queen and Merlin still the servant. He is actually serving her and Arthur. And he is washing her clothes – no, this is NOT what we were hoping for and what we were promised for 4 seasons.
    Now it seems the show is going to end with Merlin not achieving any of his big goals, so all his suffering, his self denial and generous support of Arthur will have been for nothing.
    It looks like we are all going to be denied seeing Merlin for the hero he has been – I can only but hope that Colin, Bradley and all of them are right when they say that the fans WILL be happy in the end. At the moment I find that very difficult to imagine.
    Like many of the other people who commented – I watch the show for the actors now – watching Colin, Bradley and Alex is pure joy. I am looking forward seeing them in other roles now.

    Posted by Nimueh123 | December 12, 2012, 6:13 pm
  8. That is just it, the show is ending with none of the characters accomplishing anything–Arthur hasn’t united Albion, he doesn’t know who Merlin really is and hasn’t rewarded him,he hasn’t brought magic back to the land. Why in the world would this king be thought of as “The Once and Future King” and why would anyone care or even remember him? And all Merlin has seen for all his efforts to help Arthur build this shining kingdom is unrelieved suffering and fear–how does this fulfill any of the prophecies of the great Emrys? The show is hurtling towards a bleak, hopeless, pointless ending (on Christmas Eve, yet), without any of their promises fulfilled.

    Posted by Quinana | December 12, 2012, 7:40 pm
  9. Wait, what? “Hasn’t been true to the Arthurian roots”?? No, I’m pretty sure fans are angry at the CONSTANT mention of a united Albion, a wise Merlin, once and future king Arthur etc. throughout the past series, but what do we get? Nothing. Also the constant teasing since the first series about Merlin’s magic being almost revealed and the promise of him living in a free land and all that crap – which will obviously never happen now – makes it feel like it’s been 5 wasted years. Watching back on the series will be ridiculous knowing that everything Merlin and everything we’ve been promised was a load of crap….Nevertheless, I’m still sort of excited and worried about these last 3 episodes.

    Posted by Me | December 12, 2012, 10:37 pm
  10. The Once and Future King? That must be a huge joke. The Arthur in their script is SO unqualified. And the most horrible on-screen romance story ever watched by myself is NO help.
    No wonder Bradley doesn’t want to sign a 6 series contract. Maybe he want to try new things, but I think he find the character of Arthur is just humiliating.

    Posted by alec | December 13, 2012, 2:29 am
  11. Very true, fans of the series are very disappointed with the story. We have waited for nearly five years, live the glory days of a great king with the greatest wizard in history, fighting together as equals against evil. We have posed the hope and faith in the future a reality increasingly dark, we were suddenly to Camlann without Albion. They started with a family show and end up with one that is not suitable for children, because psychologically destroys the ethos and hope for the good, to fight on the side of good if evil won, if ever there was Albion. Where was the great power that would have said that Merlin and Arthur’s reign, only three years of peace jurisdiction? All is lost for this series, I have to touch other another version of this legend which shows the glory of Arthur and his great wizard Merlin. But it will not Colin, Bradly, Angel, Katie, Wilson or the other cast. Capps and Murphy lost his chance.

    Posted by Paviles | December 13, 2012, 4:13 am
    • See my reply above. Unless you’ve seen the last three episodes, you don’t know what’s happening in them…

      Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 6:59 am
      • If you’ve read any of the spoilers or reviews, heard the comments of the actors or Shine, taken part in any discussions on the internet, you have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen.

        Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 7:04 am
        • There are no reviews out there because the episodes have yet to be released. I was on set when those episodes were being filmed and don’t know what is going to happen!

          Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 7:07 am
          • Would you like me to send you addys of various reviews and articles on the last two eps, already seen by reviewers?

            Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 7:14 am
            • Send to the site’s address (on the About page) please –

              Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 7:21 am
              • Done.

                Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 8:43 am
                • And I’ve replied. It makes it clear in the link you sent that all they’ve seen is the preview for ep 12.

                  Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 8:48 am
                  • I would think Colin Morgan has seen more than the preview, wouldn’t you? His quote is pretty much an end game. What exactly is it that you think is going to happen in 12 & 13 that is different from what most of the fans in this thread believe will happen? Will Arthur live? Will he unite Albion? Will there be a magic reveal? Will Arthur lift the ban on magic users? See Merlin for what and who he is, elevate him, and lift the magic ban, allowing magic users to live in peace? Get him some new freakin’ clothes? Anything the fans have hoped for and been promised for the last five years? Anything at all?

                    Posted by Quinana | December 13, 2012, 9:04 am
                    • I think Colin Morgan has very very strict instructions on what he is and is not allowed to say in public before the episodes air. In the same way that I cannot comment on anything beyond the 35 minute mark in the episode airing on Saturday…

                      Posted by PS | December 13, 2012, 9:19 am
                    • Now I’m imagining the end of the episode with a Merlin stunned to hear Arthur asking him to use his magic during the Camlann war…

                      Posted by Merlin Fan | December 13, 2012, 9:32 am
  12. All I can see from the very beginning of season 5 is a very depressive Merlin. Unfortunately the script writers lost their brilliant way of keeping the balance of light magic and intelligent humour and dark scenes, what was very special in this show and with these actors. This balance disappeared. It seems to be that the writers got a depression, too in struggling for a swift ending of this TV-show.

    Posted by Tina | December 13, 2012, 11:45 am
  13. Merlin should have revealed his magic a long time ago. Then he would have saved himself a lot of pain and suffering feeling this huge lack of recognition and we wouldn’t feel this extreme frustration seeing this deserving young man treated so poorly by the man who calls himself a king when he is seen by the viewers as the worst human of Camelot. Now Merlin is so messed up, hurt so deeply in his soul and in his dignity that he is full of frustrations and affraid to reveal his true magical nature. Arthur is plenty aware that without Merlin he would be dead ages ago. But what does he do to thank him? He insults him, he belittles him, he hits him and asks him to do his chores. This show makes me often depressed because since we follow Merlin’s point of view and know as much as Merlin knows, we automatically identify with him. Since he feels so bad most of the time, I feel bad at the end of each episode.

    Posted by Merlin Watcher | December 13, 2012, 1:04 pm
  14. I used to love this show. I really did, but in my opinion it has utterly failed to live up to its early promise. So many of the so-called developments over the years have occurred off screen. The programme makers seem to have ignored one of the most basic ‘rules’ of effective story telling – show, don’t tell. It’s got particularly bad in the last year or so when they are constantly telling us that Merlin (Emrys) is this great, powerful sorcerer who other sorcerers hold in respect and awe, but when was the last time Merlin actually used his magic for something impressive, or came up against another powerful sorcerer without getting his clock cleaned? In an entire series the most powerful sorcerer of all time has done virtually nothing to demonstrate that he is worthy of that name. Likewise with Arthur. He’s suposed to be a great and noble king, but he has actually done nothing more than his father did in terms of ‘uniting albion’. His father, in the very first series, made a peace treaty with a neighbouring king, in the second series, made a peace treaty with all the kings of ‘the five kingdoms’. We SAW that process happening. We’re supposed to believe that Arthur has done more than this, but again, we’ve only been told (and not told that much either). We’ve never been shown. What we have been shown is a petulant young man who treats his servant like dirt, goes to peices when his wife is threatened, and still hasn’t done anything to relieve the suffering or persecution of magic users in the kingdom. Who can’t even dress himself without help. This is supposed to be the once a future king? Rubbish. just rubbish. It doesn’t matter now WHAT they do in the next three episodes. With just about 130 minutes of airtime left, it doesn’t matter if they cover every single point they’ve left outstanding until now, there simply won’t be enough time to do any of it justice. There won’t be enough time to convince me that these lame duck characters are deserving of being called legends. There is too much evidence to the contrary in my mind.

    Posted by Magnolia | December 13, 2012, 1:52 pm
    • ^^This!

      It’s as if the last 10mins or less of the show is what TPTB thinks that would only matter for the fans and such will seal the deal of their writing brilliance. “Too much nothing happening to the main character and too much glorifying happening to characters not-named-Merlin” is what their formula for the show. Better steer clear of anything the 4Js touched on in the future.

      Posted by geljean | December 13, 2012, 2:48 pm
    • Magnolia – I couldn’t have put it better myself, and believe me a fair few of us have been having just this conversation on LJ. If we end with Camlann playing out anything like the myths outline, we have invested 5 seasons of our time for no real pay-off to show for it – and by pay-off I mean Merlin accepted & recognised / Arthur actually living up to the OAFK moniker / magic accepted and a ‘Golden Age’ that’s not just skimmed over in between s4&5. I’m honestly dreading the final 3 episodes.

      The name of this show is ‘Merlin’. Given all that the titular character has had to go through in service of his perceived destiny (and that of his King), and given that the writers are happy to hack-n-slash other elements of the myths to give their reinterpretations, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that Merlin achieve all that’s he’s been working towards, on screen, loud and proud, for us all to see and revel in. Anything less will be a failure.

      But what does my opinion matter? I’m just a *viewer*!

      Posted by Khaireddin | December 13, 2012, 4:48 pm
  15. I totally agree that they could have done more with this show after all the promises from the beginning .series five for me was spoilt by the constant reference to Arthur’s impending death….yes we all know he was mortally wounded by Mordred at Camlann but its all I can think about while I am watching it and it spoils my enjoyment of the programme.i miss the odd light hearted episode that was perhaps a little tongue in cheek this was too dark and thus I haven’t enjoyed it as much. Also the actors have been a trifle thoughtless sometimes with their comments and not thought that the huge fan base this has is staunchly loyal to the characters. I will watch these last episodes with the same saddened heart as I did when they destroyed Robin Hood ,killed off Marian in the holy land of all places and poisoned robin after killing off most of the merry men……my my tv producers and writers will you never acknowledge your fan base :(((((

    Posted by Susan lee | December 13, 2012, 10:03 pm
  16. Check out Quinana’s feature on the subject of the final two episodes at http://scifibulletin.com/uk-tv/merlin/merlin-feature-a-fans-guide-to-having-their-heart-broken/

    Posted by PS | December 17, 2012, 4:10 pm

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