- WEEKLY TV PICKS
Sunday, 4 November 2012
MERLIN, 5.5 – 'The Disir'
written by Richard McBrien / directed by Ashley Way
There was a lot of horse-riding back-and-forth during "The Disir", mixed with the unshakable feeling we've seen it all before. Merlin has always encountered problems making every episode feel distinctive, as it leans so heavily on clichés, formulas and tradition. There's strength in those things, in subtle doses, but this show doesn't always get the mixture right. I feel like we've had the argument about sorcery for so long it's lost all meaning, and to be honest the exponents of The Old Region need to employ spin doctors—because standing around in a spooky caves, passing on condemnation of a king whose only "crime" is disagreeing with your religion, before demanding he start worshipping a Triple-Headed Goddess (or else!) isn't going to win hearts and minds...
As mentioned, King Arthur's (Bradley James) put into a tricky situation this week after being presented with a token from the druid Osgar (Andrew Tiernan); messenger for three soothsayers known as The Disir, who themselves are middle-management for a goddess who's apparently taken offence with Arthur's on-going prohibition of sorcery across Camelot. (Hard to blame the king, when a good 90% of the problems he always encounters come from people using magic for nefarious purposes, let's face it!) Merlin does worryingly little to promote the positive aspects of magic, beyond stoking our natural sympathy for Merlin (Colin Morgan) and knowledge that sorcery's often used to protect Arthur without him realising it.
I guess "The Disir" solidified things that needed to be made more concrete after the two-part premiere, with Merlin now helpless as Mordred (surprisingly healed by The Disir only because he'll kill Arthur in time) grows closer to the king and becomes a valued and trusted young knight. In some ways Mordred's now fulfilling the role Morgana had in the third series, when only Merlin and Gaius (Richard Wilson) were aware of the danger she posed, but couldn't speak a word of it to the Pendragons... although, to be honest, it's been handled more believably with Mordred's story. So that's good to see.
Overall, "The Disir" had merit in its ideas and intention, but I don't think Richard McBrien's story was particularly well executed and didn't feel very fresh. Although the preview for next week's looks even worse, what with the umpteenth return of Morgana—a character who lost all power and relevance halfway through the fourth season. I dearly wish Merlin had a better grasp on how and when to move its story along in a major way, because this fifth year (as good as it is tonally) should really have been its third.
3 November 2012 / BBC1