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Merlin: The Dark Tower

“Hello, my lady, shall we play a little game.”

The woman in black fled across the desert, and the Knights of Camelot followed.

'The Dark Tower' is another blinder of an episode from a season that has yet to put a foot wrong (with the exception of 'Another's Sorrow'). With a twisted fairytale vibe, this was a wonderful episode featuring a shocking death and a bewildering twist as Gwen is well and truly Abu Nazired by Morgana.

Since I'm something of a Homeland fanatic, I caught on early to what Morgana was trying to do. At first I thought that Morgana had turned Gwen far too quickly. It took Abu Nazir years to turn Brody and his methods were a lot more brutal. Morgana turned Gwen in only a few days. But then I started to wonder if that was really the case. The exact nature of the Dark Tower is never really made clear. Queen Mab described it as not not a real place but “the heart's rest, the mind's deepest fear, the stillness in the hummingbird's eye" (whatever any of that means). Did time move normally in there? And if not, just how long were Gwen and Morgana in there for? Months? Years? Maybe that is why Morgana took Gwen there in the first place, so she could work on brainwashing Gwen for as long as she wanted.

As with Stephen King's epic fantasy series of the same name, this episode had its roots in the story of Childe Rowland. In the tale, four children are playing when one of them, Burd Ellen, is taken by the King of Elfland to the Dark Tower. Burd Ellen's brother, Rowland, consults Merlin before journeying to the Dark Tower to rescue his sister. In place of Burd Ellen and Rowland we had Gwen and Elyan. This episode would've been a great opportunity for Elyan to take centre stage, but instead he's kept in the background for most of it. This was Arthur's quest to save Gwen, and Elyan more or less just tagged along. It wasn't until the end that he got his moment to be the hero. Too bad it ended up with him being killed.

When Queen Mab said that one would not return from the Dark Tower, I initially thought it would be Gwaine since Eoin Macken was recently cast in a pilot for NBC. Then I started to think that it would be a cop out of some kind. Boy, was I wrong there. Still, Elyan's death felt a little flat to me. Of all the knights, he was the blandest. Even Percival seems to have more of a personality and all we know about him is that he has biceps.

While Gwen was subjected to the kind of relentless psychological torture you can get away with on BBC One, her husband, his boyfriend, her brother and their mates were racing to her rescue. When they are not getting lost in the forest, that is (should've followed the path of the beam, lads). This was pure quest stuff with rousing music, widescreen vistas, and difficult challenges swiped wholesale from popular movies like Sleeping Beauty and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Familiar Faces

Mab was played by Kelly Wenham, who looked a lot like Keira Knightly. She has previous appeared in ITV drama Where The Heart Is and Charlie Brooker's zombie/Big Brother hybrid, Dead Set.

Merthur Moments

Notes and Quotes

--Gold acting star to Angel Coulby. She gave one of her best performances on the show yet.

--Arthur never tells Gwen anything? That is not the sign of a healthy marriage.

--Still no sign of Aithusa. I also thought Mordred was not in the episode, but he can been seen in the background at Elyan's funeral:

--Merlin leads the knights through the forest, seemingly by magic, and everyone just finds this amazing rather than suspicious.

--What happened to you Morgana? Who threw you in that pit? We must know!!!! She seemed surprised that Gwen did not know about it. Is it possible Arthur had something to do with it?

--Queen Mab is first mentioned in Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. In the Sam Neill mini-series, Mab, played by Miranda Richardson, was the main villain, the evil twin sister of the Lady of the Lake.

Morgana: “Sleep my lady, for it could be some time before you do again.”

Merlin: "Stop talking in riddles."
Queen Mab: "Then I shall talk in rhyme. Heed my words with due concern, for one of you will not return."

Merlin: “You’re not going to lose her. You’re not. We’re going to find her. I swear. We’ll bring her home.”

Gwaine: “I was having a dream about eating a cheese that tasted of apple pie. Anyone else have that dream? Well you’re all missing out.”

Morgana: “I would have sold my soul for someone to show me kindness such as this.”

Three and a half out of four women in black who fled across the desert, and the Knights of Camelot followed.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. LOL!!! Oh my, what fun to see your review start out stating something that really obsessed me as well! "Gwen is well and truly Abu Nazired by Morgana"! I too made that comparison on my blog! :p

    Good point on a possible time bubble of some kind in the Tower, that hadn't occurred to me! I just thought it strange that she should succeed so quickly...

    I've never heard of the story of Childe Rowland! Merlin is in it???

    I'm not going to miss Elyan either, but I think he was chosen as it would have more of an emotional pain for Gwen, making it harder to break Morgana's brainwashing...

    Morgana's surprise about Gwen not know about her 2 year stay in a pit probably means she thinks Arthur was responsible. I somehow doubt that very much, so it seems like someone knew exactly which buttons of Morgana's to push!

    Morgana's tactics with Gwen got me to wondering if perhaps Morgause had used something similar on her... After all her return with such a sudden hatred of all things Camelot was a bit dramatic seeing as how before she was just scared of Uther but still affectionate towards Arthur, Gwen, Merlin and Gaius.

  2. Trying to pretend I can't read the Homeland stuff cause I haven't had a chance to watch any of it yet but plan to (though I did initially mis-read that as Abed Nadir as was very confused)

    I caught up on this episode after seeing both the following episode and this week's Vampire Diaries, which in combination made me a bit disappointed in it. I wanted the visions of Gwen's friends and family to talk to her, to get into her psyche, to bring up something real that she felt guilty or angry about, not just laugh or scream at her. But I did like the dark fairytale vibe and Queen Mab (who I see hath been with you...)


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