Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: Merlin 5.06 - The Dark Tower


If the last few episodes have been lacking the high adventure that we've come to love from Merlin, then The Dark Tower has more than made up for it with a tense, thrilling and dark (ahem) story that changes everything.

While out in the woods with the knights, Gwen is set upon by Morgana, who kidnaps her and imprisons her in an enchantment-laced room in the eponymous Dark Tower. Naturally Arthur, the knights and Merlin saddle up and head out on a rescue mission to save the queen from the clutches of the ever-insane Morgana.

This is pure Dungeons and Dragons adventure, ladies and gentlemen. You have sorcery-enhanced snakes, a forest that will screw with your head, a fairy being, an enchanted sword and even a trap room. I've always found the episodes where the knights of the round head off on some crazy quest to be some of the best and The Dark Tower manages to top the lot of them, not only delivering some great sprawling landscapes fraught with danger, but a huge twist.

Morgana is trying to break Gwen with the use of mandrake root, which makes her greatest fears come to life inside the dark room where eerie silence is punctuated by blood curdling screams. While Gwen falls into more of a catatonic state, Morgana plays the friend card, persuading the queen that she is the only person she can trust, until Gwen has no idea what to think. This was a really clever way of torturing Gwen instead of just falling back on the old beating someone into submission routine and it shows how deranged Morgana has become.

There are some wonderful scenes with the knights, whose playful banter is a beacon in what could have been a thoroughly depressing story. Interestingly there's no boyish joking with Merlin and Arthur this time, eschewing it for statements of loyalty and friendship, an ever-present theme so far this series.

So how does The Dark Tower change everything? Well, for one we have a death and it's not an insignificant one, but I'll leave it at that. Secondly, the plot twist at the end will no doubt have you gasping an wondering what will happen next - it's seriously that good.

Thus far season five has given us some of the best episodes in the show's history and The Dark Tower is the best of them, especially if you love high adventure. Sure, it's a quest to save a damsel in distress, but underneath it's much more than that and something that will have repercussions for the rest of the series.

*****