Merlin: 509 “With All My Heart” Review
The announcement that Series 5 of Merlin will be the last has provided a new perspective on reviewing the last five episodes. With just a handful left now, can the show satisfactorily conclude everything? And more importantly, will Merlin’s secret ever be revealed? This episode at least makes a start by wrapping up the “Puppet Queen” arc and finally bringing Mordred back into the fold.
The plot gets straight to business with Arthur being exposed to Gwen’s evil nature surprisingly early on. Shortly after, Merlin asks Gaius if he knows of a remedy for Gwen’s affliction and this leads him to the Dochraid, first seen in Series 4 episode Lancelot du Lac. Merlin, as his older self, confronts and subsequently tortures the Dochraid (guest star Maureen Carr) for information on a cure. Unlike the usual comedy antics that ensue when Merlin becomes Emrys, here Morgan portrays him as a force to be reckoned with and it’s much more enthralling and one of the best scenes of the episode.
After some debate, Arthur eventually concedes that the use of magic is the only chance he stands at getting Gwen back. Following the death of Uther at the hand of sorcery, Arthur wants Gaius to ensure he uses someone who can absolutely be trusted with Gwen’s life. While this could have been another opportunity for a Merlin magic reveal, it’s squandered for comedy. Now perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if Merlin was back next year and the writers had the luxury of time, but how much longer can they keep passing up opportunities now?
Despite the plot being centred on her, Gwen surprisingly spends most of the episode out of action, with most of the screentime falling to Merlin, Arthur and Mordred instead. The Mordred plot line hasn’t really gone anywhere since its intriguing set up in the opener, so it’s good to see some movement, finally. We also get to see another moment between Morgana and Mordred that seems to pin down exactly where his allegiances lie. Alexander Vlahos does a good job at keeping the audiences on their toes, wondering what his next move will be.
Over the past couple of years the show has pushed towards darker and more mature themes. It’s a shame then that the final act of this episode is so silly. Despite Colin Morgan’s best efforts with his latest disguise, it all turns into a bit of pantomime and spoils what are meant to be dramatic moments between Gwen and Arthur. Yes, there are a couple of smirks to be had seeing Merlin dressed up like this, but it’s the type of plot gimmick you’d expect in the show’s early years, not this late on. It also reinforces the concern that the writers prefer to force Merlin into increasingly ludicrous situations when a magic reveal would have solved the problem and been much more captivating. You can overlook this so many times, but with only four ever episodes remaining now, it’s a bigger concern than ever. Colin Morgan should, however, be commended for playing three characters.
So the episode is a bit of a mixed bag. It does at least push the story forward in some ways, but it’s also another case of a missed opportunity in favour of silliness. It had the ingredients for a classic and instead ends up being only just above average.
The episode airs Saturday 1 December 2012 at 8pm on BBC1.