Merlin: Review: Series 5 Episode 5: The Disir (Spoiler-free)

Merlin faces an agonising choice when the opportunity to bring magic to the kingdom is offered…

At one point in this episode, when Merlin seems on the point of making a decision that will condemn a man to die, Gaius asks what happened to the young lad who came into his chambers a few years earlier. He grew up, Merlin says bluntly. It sums up not just this episode, but this entire series of Merlin, which has a much stronger serial feel than any of its predecessors. The arrival of Mordred as a Knight of Camelot, combined with the vision Merlin had in the first episode, has changed the parameters by which Merlin judges everything, and with conflicting advice from various quarters, he doesn’t know which way to jump.

Things are much darker now: it’s almost as if we’ve bypassed Camelot’s Golden Age completely and are going straight to its downfall, with portents, judgements and deaths among the Knights. Once again, Arthur decides to be a king leading from the front, much to Guinevere’s displeasure, and his approach is beginning to infect those around him. We learned what Arthur’s Bane truly is, and we’re seeing it in operation. While there’s unlikely ever to be parity between Merlin and Arthur, the king is turning to him for advice far more than before – but the question this season is throwing up increasingly is, will he listen in time?

Verdict: A dark episode with some worrying portents for the future…  7/10

Paul Simpson


26 thoughts on “Merlin: Review: Series 5 Episode 5: The Disir (Spoiler-free)

  1. Then Merlin will have, once again, the heavy responsability to make the ultime decision in this episode too?

    Posted by May | November 1, 2012, 10:54 am
  2. Merlin “grew up” – haha… grew up to be a lovesick all-for-Arthur devotee.. grew up losing the essence of being the wizard to stand for the cause of his people just to pander for the ‘greater gloriness’ of his-and-only Arthur. Another smug delusion of creed of the writers turning the show into a second-rate non-even-a-good-copycat of GoT. For a magic show, Wizards vs Aliens even managed to put the bamf in its pilot episode, while Merlin at series 5 regressed to being a limpy trickster wanna-be against Morgana. 😦 So Colin what’s up next? Hopefully your next show will really be dynamically progressive and not as sadistically regressive with a sham of a title.

    Posted by geljean | November 1, 2012, 1:16 pm
  3. I’m disappointed that the producers are rushing the story line through just to get to Camlann. No matter whether there is a 6th season or not, the saga should proceed at its own pace. Yes, the story will always be about the eventual end of Camelot, but its long golden age should not be dismissed. It makes Merlin’s and Arthur’s previous efforts look futile.There is nothing wrong with growing up, but one doesn’t go from 20 years old to 60 years old overnight.

    Posted by Jim | November 1, 2012, 2:03 pm
  4. This is a jump the shark episode and it seems to end the series they will be going down roads already traveled only this time without the positive outcome. This is the kind of episode reviewers love but the fans will totally hate. I have a feeling the fan base is going to reject this episode and potentially the rest of the series based because of it.

    Posted by Malady | November 1, 2012, 8:29 pm
    • I think you’re making a lot of assumptions here without having seen the episode; you can’t call anything a “jump the shark” until you’ve seen it. As a fan myself – and being very careful to write the reviews so it doesn’t spoil the effect of the episode – I didn’t reject the episode (as you can tell from the review) although it does make me wonder what’s coming. Remember what the producers said when launching this series, as has been reported in a number of places, about what the story entails.

      Posted by PS | November 1, 2012, 8:38 pm
      • Firstly, thanks for the indeed objective spin put into your review. But the thing is, content-wise, what’s been divulged (in reviews, teasers, and spoiler clips) is that Merlin will then be treated again with rehashed story arc in the combination of Cedric’s (Merlin being dismiss/ignored) and Agravaine’s (a series-long manipulator whom Arthur only listens to and with only a millisecond-long of comeuppance).

        With the lingering bitter taste of Merlin’s non-progression in stature in the whole storyline and regressing ‘magical’ capacities (a wimp against Morgana, a far-cry from the warlock against Nimueh in S1 with instinctive elemental powers in very first episode), the spoilers aced the red-flags . In all, he’s just gonna be stuck as a long-suffering, heart-eyes-only-for-Arthur, one-track-minded ill-wisher/advisor-wanna-be (wanting Mordred/Morgan dead/done-away-with without even showing any attempts to discern the cause and consider ‘better’ ways to thwart the so-defining destiny), and with only plot-forwarding yet lame capacities (with and without magic).

        The only good thing about it is knowing the would-be disappointments at the onset thereby skipping up to the last episodes make it seemed to be the better option and to just look for alternative sources elsewhere for whatever Colin-awesomeness that may nonetheless still be enjoyed.

        Posted by geljean | November 1, 2012, 11:35 pm
        • well, I guess you are not liking Merlin so much….you have haughty words of displeasure for a show that started out as a family show and one which I still enjoy. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

          Posted by snowcat60 | November 2, 2012, 2:56 am
          • What was expressed is displeasure on the character non-development and regression of the TITULAR character. Until hence, it should be obvious that I still have some enjoyment of the show (primarily because of Colin Morgan) and actually supporting and willing it to hopefully change-up to be more enjoyable to watch than what it has become. The “haughty words” are just descriptive on what I’ve seen and as presented, otherwise, please free to prove them to be otherwise.

            As said, unfortunately, the spoilers point for the worse, hence the option to skip is unhappily considered. You can’t assume even then that “the rest of you” is taking the show either just like the way you do or unlike the way I did. If you wanna take off your blinders, there are actually lots who’ve expressed much more issues than what was elaborated. I think this is an open venue to express anyone’s opinion and just as everyone is entitled on how to take on the shows they’re watching.

            Posted by geljean | November 2, 2012, 9:43 am
  5. I read the first part of this review with pleasure because it gave me the impression that this episode would develop a storyline centered around Merlin himself for once & that we’d see him deal for once with something that is the core of his own existence (and not AGAIN something that is arthur related)… but it’s AGAIN arthur-related…

    I just hope that what remains of series 5 will give to Merlin center stage & that it’ll allow him more character development since he is still the only one who needs to be what he was in the Merlinian legends.

    I love the first two episodes of this new series, but since then, it’s always about Arthur & it makes me frustrated to not see more episodes giving to the titular character more stories & opportunities to evolve.

    Colin Morgan is a too brilliant actor for this show. He does all the work of “character development” all by himself while the writing since to forget about his title character. Colin Morgan successfully & wonderfully portrays his character as being stronger, darker than he was in previous series, but the stories don’t support him really & are not to his level. I hope the upcoming episodes will give to Colin Morgan the opportunities to not only show Merlin’s growth (which Colin already does despite the stories), but also that the writing will give back to his character the place that is meant his: front and center.

    Posted by LL | November 2, 2012, 10:19 am
    • I really do get surprised at some of the reactions to the stories this season. Setting aside that you’ve not yet seen it so it’s hard to judge it, why on earth would a story about Camelot not be abut Arthur? It doesn’t mean that Merlin isn’t the central character or in more scenes than everyone else… It means that the story is being true (ish) to the legend. It’s how Merlin assists Arthur, how he secretly helps the king come to his decisions..

      Posted by PS | November 2, 2012, 10:58 am
      • Some reviewers in other sites gave some insights in what’s to come and let know that the stories will tell more about Merlin assisting Arthur secretly and being mistreated because he is still the belittled servant who deosen’t get any recognition from anyone… I get that Merlin assists Arthur and that Camelot has a king… but do all the stories have to be about Arthur? Arthur isn’t the only one in Merlin’s life. In series 1, 2 & 3, Merlin got stories away from his duty to serve & protect Arthur. He got a (short) romance with Freya who became the Lady of the Lake, stories about him being the last Dragonlord, stories with dragons, about his own father… There is still many things we have to know about the titular character. Plus Merlin has to become the legendary Merlin of the legends. All the episodes don’t have to show us how Merlin helps secretly Arthur to take his decisions. I want episodes in wich we see Merlin have stories with his own mother Hunith, with his own father Balinor, with Aliator who told him a whole army of sorcerers want to help him, with the Lady of the Lake… There is a lot of stories Merlin didn’t have just because all the stories are about Arthur. It’s too much Arthur for a show called Merlin.

        Posted by LL | November 2, 2012, 11:17 am
        • ditto!

          Also for Merlin to be more ‘pro-active’ in developing his non-magic skill-set and exploring better use of his magic. A missed opportunity would have been for him to explore the ways to reach-out to Morgana in her dreams (or through some magic-induced trance) to establish a non-violent discourse that may at least shred her of some reasons to be all-out evil in her ways. It would have establish his virtue as one that never gave up on his friends. This could have also ushered in a conflicted and more interesting Morgana than just the caricature that she’s now.

          Posted by geljean | November 2, 2012, 12:39 pm
      • In simple terms, the core source of annoyance is the lingering fact that the show is entitled “Merlin” but actually end up becoming all about “Arthur”. They could have titled it as such, but then they might have thought it to be not as marketable since it’s actually been overdone. Talk about false promotion. It’s like buying subsequent books on HP but end up just reading all about the pandering to Draco Malfoy instead. It’s not even really about Camelot and championing the cause of his people anymore.

        Further though, S1!Merlin proved to be way better than what S5!Merlin had become. If anything, what’s actually had changed is just him being a more forceful literal lip-service provider for Arthur – though still be more generally ignored/dismissed. In terms of capabilities and status, he is as stale as spoiled bread and his magical capacities is nothing really worth anything to be ‘most powerful’ and spectacular. Keeping the story true(ish) to the legend is just the most hypocritical go-to excuse in terms of giving Merlin’s character some attention but completely thrown out of the window when altering the storyline to aggrandise the rest of the cast not-named Merlin.

        Again, it’s Colin Morgan’s innate charm that had me sold at the onset to stuck it out this far, irregardless.

        Posted by geljean | November 2, 2012, 12:17 pm
        • Like you GelJean, I still watch Merlin because Colin Morgan portrays his titular role with intelligence and brilliance. He fills up his own role with caracteristics that he came up with by himself since the writing didn’t gave him the opportunities to develop his character. I’m still watching with the hope that what will come in the following of the series will be more about Merlin being centric of his own show.

          Posted by LL | November 2, 2012, 12:59 pm
          • Sadly the impending dis-characterization is too much for me to hang on. I’ll just wait for the last episodes of the season for some resolution and skip passed the bitter taste of the writers’ indulgences. As for what it’s worth, i’m like just reaching out through an empty barrel anyways. Hopefully LJ, tumblr, and this site can provide the Colin-nuggets to get me by instead.

            Posted by geljean | November 2, 2012, 1:24 pm
      • Sorry to correct something here: it’s not a story about Camelot. It’s the story of Merlin, which is different in the sense that the stories can be set up away from Camelot and from Arthur. In the legends, Merlin had his own stories and his own life away from Arthur. Besides in the show it’s Merlin’s own story & point of view of the stories that the viewers see. What frustrates me in this fifth series (like in the previous one) is that the stories concentrate too much on Arthur’s own story and forget about Merlin’s own story. Why can’t we see Merlin practicing magic & making his powers stronger, meeting up with other sorcerers and getting stories with them, living his own life of powerful sorcerer and making his own destiny come true? All that Merlin does these days is come to the rescue of a prat of a king and make things right behind the back of everyone all that to let Arthur think that he is the better king ever when he is in fact the stupidest of all the humans. Merlin, as a character and as the hero of his own show, deserves a better treatment and better stories about himself. Thanks for reading.

        Posted by Merlin Fan | November 2, 2012, 12:49 pm
  6. Hope you’ll publish my comment.

    Posted by Merlin Fan | November 2, 2012, 1:40 pm
  7. Merlin was unbelievably stupid in this episode and more than a little evil. The warnings from the three Disir were clear. But instead Merlin fell into the trap of listening to the riddles of his friend with scales. Arthur gave him a clear opportunity to argue for clemency for magic. His loyalty to Arthur is becoming unreflexive, unthinking and sychophantic to the point where it is empty of meaning. Mordred will of course go on to kill Arthur and yes it is Merlin’s fault. Once again he’s missed a tremendous opportunity but this time he doesn’t have the excuse of youth to fall back on in order to gain our sympathy. He’s become a very dark and very flawed character. At the bottom of his untruths probably lies his own fear and under the pretense of putting Arthur’s life first, Merlin’s deeply flawed personality is bringing about the King’s death and that of thousands on the bloody battle field of the future. What a shame !

    Posted by David | November 5, 2012, 5:39 am
  8. Our review of episode six will be up by 10 am Thursday

    Posted by PS | November 8, 2012, 8:48 am

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