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Merlin: The Disir

“There can be no place for magic in Camelot.”

'The Disir' was a major return to form after last week's misstep. It returned us to the core story of the season – the death of Arthur at Mordred's hands.

To avenge the death of Sir Not Appearing In The Series, Arthur rounds up his knights, plus Merlin and Mordred, and sets off yet again to deal with things personally. Seriously, Arthur, you need to listen to Gwen and stop running every little quest mission yourself. And I'm sure your knights are getting a little sick and tired of you holding their hands all the time. Just because L'Oreal Hair and Sleeveless got captured when you sent them North alone doesn't mean you have to supervise every mission personally.

Anyway, Arthur tracks down the man responsible for Sir Not Appearing In The Series' death, which leads him to a confrontation with the Disir, a powerful trio who serve the Triple Goddess, and will later relocate north of the boarder where they will give the central character of The Scottish Play some really bad advice. The Disir gave Arthur an ultimatum; embrace the Old Religion or face the dire consequences (they were rather vague on that part).

This season Merlin has been a far grimmer, less cheery character. Even Arthur has noticed. He constantly looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulder. And he has. He is still haunted by the prophecy of Arthur's death, which leads him to make some shocking choices in this episode. Way back in 'The Beginning of the End', Merlin was warned by the Dragon that Mordred would one day kill Arthur. He had the chance to let him die then but couldn't do it. It wasn't who he was. He couldn't let an innocent boy die, no matter what he was destined to do. But, as he makes clear to Gaius, Merlin is no longer the wide eyed young boy he was in season 1. He faced the same moral dilemma in this episode and this time chose to let Mordred die. He believed he was doing the right thing to save Arthur. Instead, he may have sealed Arthur's fate.

From the start of the series, the young warlock has wanted nothing more than to come out of the magical closet. He finally has the chance to make the dream come true. All he has to do is tell Arthur to give in to the Disir. Arthur respects Merlin's opinion above all others because, with one big exception, Merlin never lies to him. Even though he is a servant, he has always given Arthur honest council. He never tells the king what he wants to hear, he tells him what he needs to hear.

Merlin knows if he tells Arthur to give in, he will listen to him and those who practice magic will be free to do so without persecution. But now there is something more important to him than than his dream of magical liberation: Arthur's life. No matter how much he mistreats him, Merlin believes completely that Arthur is the right man to be king. He's not perfect, but he is a damn sight better than the alternative. In many ways, he's Obama. Which kind of means that Gwen is Michelle. Yeah, I can totally see Gwen as Michelle Obama. But does that mean Gaius is Joe Biden?

Merthur Moments

Arthur is clearly quite fond of Mordred and the feeling is more mutual. Many times in this episode we see Merlin glare at them like a jealous boyfriend.

Notes and Quotes

--In Neopagan usage, the three female figures of the Triple Goddess are commonly referred to as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone.

--The Disir are ghosts or spirits from Norse mythology. Like the Fates of Ancient Greece, they had power over the fates of gods and mortals. The most prominent Disir, and likely the basis for the ones we see in this episode, are the Norns, Urðr ,Verðandi and Skuld.

--Arthur makes a good point about those who use magic. More people use it for evil and self interest than for good and helping others. For every Merlin there are a dozen Morganas.

--Osgar referred to Arthur as The Once and Future King in this episode. He is the fourth character to do so after The Great Dragon ('The Dragon's Call'), The Fisher King ('The Eye Of The Phoenix') and Merlin ('The Hunter's Heart').

Arthur: "Only, more and more I find your face resembles the back end of a cat. See, you don’t even laugh at my jokes anymore. Seriously… I haven’t seen you smile these past three days."
Merlin: "I’m not sure there is a great deal to smile about."

Gaius: "If Mordred wished Arthur ill, he has had ample opportunity to do so. He's a likeable boy, Merlin."
Merlin: "I know. I like him myself, but I can't ignore what I saw."
Gaius: "Seeing is not the same as knowing. And we must know, for certain, before we act."

Merlin: "What will you do?"
Arthur: "I don't know. My heart says do anything I can to save Mordred. But I have seen what misery unfettered sorcery brings. Before my father outlawed magic, Camelot was almost destroyed by sorcery. In my own time, Morgana has used it for nothing but evil. What would you do? In my place?"
Merlin: "Me? I'm just a lackey, a maker of beds."
Arthur: "Lackeys can be wise."

Four our of four Scottish Plays.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. "Arthur respects Merlin's opinion above all others because, with one big exception, Merlin never lies to him"
    More and more I find myself wondering how Arthur will react when he finds out. Flabbergasted, betrayed, a bit stupid for having to wool over his eyes so many years... I just wish they'd hurry up and do it!!!

    I said on my blog that this episode was both excellent (let's forget the previous episode, ugh!) and FRUSTRATING!!! Once again Merlin has the chance to let Arthur choose magic and so make a better life for himself (Merlin), but purposely misguides Arthur (and betrays magic and thus his own nature) in order to protect Arthur from the consequences of such a choice. In season 2 it was when Morgause revealed to Arthur that Uther had used magic to conceive him and that's why his mother died. Merlin stopped him from killing Uther (by telling him Morgause lied) because he knew Arthur would never forgive himself for killing his father. And now he's making a choice not against magic, but against Mordred who he is sure will on day kill Arthur... The look on Colin Morgan's face throughout that final campfire dialogue was heartbreaking! Poor Merlin...

    But come on! Surely there must be another way!!! There are more evil sorcerers than good, yes, but that's in part because they've been fighting for their lives against Camelot. Declare a truce, outlaw evil practitioners and let Arthur see how magic can be good! But no... they have once again decided to avoid the middle ground.

    Excellent episode but FRUSTRATING!

  2. I don't remember which episode in the previous seasons it was, but at one point I was thinking, "What if Arthur already knows that Merlin can use magic?" That all those cases of being knocked out / dust in the eye / being clueless, were in fact his way of having plausible deniability.

    That would have been fascinating to me. It would make Arthur a lot cleverer than he seems, and would make Merlin the clueless one. I'd be interested in how Arthur would react to the knowledge that his best friend continues to not trust him with this secret.

    Unfortunately, there have been enough episodes to make it clear that the writer's were not going down that path.

  3. Now that would have been a cool idea! But definitely not possible.

    In my mind Merlin ends up revealing himself to save them all somehow, Arthur HAS to apply the law but instead of executing him just banishes Merlin because he saved their lives. Merlin leaves for a while, spends time with other magical people increasing his learning (the mythical Merlin was famous for his travels!) and in the end comes back to save Camelot from a fate worse than death and remains there as Arthur's trusty advisor. He'd have to spend some time away from Arthur and get some prestige elsewhere for Arthur to view him as an equal... otherwise in his eyes he'd always be the serving boy.

  4. I'm starting to suspect that Gwen knows the truth. There was just something about the way she asked Merlin to look after Arthur.

  5. You'd think someone would notice Merlin keeps getting Arthur out of trouble... How would a "serving boy" keep doing that?

    I'm still upset they ignored the fact that Gwaine saw Merlin using magic in the caves (towards the end of season 4, he went with him to rescue Gaius I believe?). I was so sure Gwaine would step in to fill Lancelot's shoes as the one who knows Merlin's secret.

    In fact, ever since Gwaine became a knight it's like Merlin lost a friend... I really enjoyed the episodes when it was the two of them against the baddies! :p

  6. It killed me when Merlin said "There can be no place for magic in Camelot." I can tell that hurt him like crazy. Gah!


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