Merlin: 502 “Arthur’s Bane: Part 2” Review
Merlin continues with the second episode of Series 5, the concluding part of the Arthur’s Bane two-parter. Last week, Merlin and Arthur had just been reunited with the man who will seemingly kill Arthur, Mordred. Episode 2 picks up with the King of Camelot and his ever faithful servant enslaved and forced to make a treacherous journey back to Ismere. Morgana’s search for the titular Arthur’s Bane continues, while back in Camelot Gwen is preparing for Sefa’s execution. But will she go through with it?
Only appearing ever so briefly in part one of the story, Mordred has a much larger role in this installment. After Merlin’s vision and Mordred’s early actions this episode, you may think you know exactly where allegiances lie. However, the episode shows it is far from that simple. Just when you think you’ve got a handle of the character, he goes and does something really shocking… Alexander Vlahos does a great job of playing the ambiguity. You are never quite sure what’s going behind those eyes. He may well be the best addition to the show this year and is already much more compelling to watch than Morgana, has become a tad one note.
In contrast to Mordred, Morgana is now so full of hatred, there seems there can be no way back for the character. Especially she’s spouting lines like, “I want to put [Arthur’s] head on a spike and watch as the crows feast on his eyes.” Morgana only shows compassion to dragon Aithusa, who returns this week. We find out a little more about what happened between this pair during the time between Series 4 and 5. Merlin also finally gets a confrontation with the young dragon. Not all the lingering questions are answered though, for a good reason.
As for the other players, guest star Liam Cunningham’s Ruadan almost steals the show with a strong and moving performance. Richard Wilson, who was lacking in the opener, gets a little more to do as Gaius, as he tries to stop Gwen going through with the execution. Gwen continues to build on her enhanced role with the Sefa storyline playing out in an interesting way.
Aside from a encounter with some vegetables, there’s little time for Merlin and Arthur banter this week. After the opener began with their relationship almost reset back to square one it’s pleasing to see that it is more balanced here. Arthur shows more concern and is much less dismissive of the person who has saved his life countless times.
As with the opener, the visuals on display remain a high point. There’s some more excellent action scenes, including some brief battles and daring escapes. The the snowy tundras and scenes like Merlin and Arthur leaping icy chasms betray the shows budget.
So all in all, another solid installment of the show and a strong start to this run. Let’s hope Merlin can keep up the high standard for the remainder of the series.
Arthur’s Bane: Part 2 airs Saturday at 8.25pm on BBC1.