TV Review: MERLIN Series 5, Episode 10 'The Kindness of Strangers'

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In this thrilling instalment... Morgana catches up with Alator of the Catha (the one person she is sure knows the identity of “Emrys”) and as she tortures the information out of him, his ally Finna tries to keep Merlin safe.

This was another interestingly mature and complex episode, with betrayals and mistrust coming thick and fast. It all harks back to the Series Four episode where Gaius, under duress, spilled the beans to Alator about Merlin's magical name. Merlin might have forgiven him, but Gaius clearly hasn’t forgiven himself, and his actions throughout are driven by guilt and shame. Scared that Merlin will be betrayed again and keen to make amends for his own weakness, Gaius cocks up by reporting Finna to Arthur. Finna, of course, turns out to be a goodie ,and Merlin ends up on the run from both the Knights of Camelot and Morgana as he tries to protect her. It’s great to finally see Richard Wilson get something to work with, and for Gaius to actually be driving the plot of an episode.

Well, I suppose he doesn’t drive the plot, but he certainly makes it more complicated. The real driving force, as always, is Morgana. If she’s suddenly so keen to find out who Emrys is, then why didn’t she question Gaius when she had him in custody last series? Oh well, we don’t expect logic from ol’ crazy eyes. But we do expect bad-ass magic, and in this episode at least Morgana delivers. There are fewer tiresome air punches this week, and instead we get Morgana blowing up chunks of forest, utilizing the same GPS spell Merlin used in The Dark Tower, snapping necks and, in a standout moment worthy of a post-watershed show, growing someone’s skin over their face until they suffocate – gruesome! At this rate, it’s hard to believe that Merlin would be able to take her in a fight. But hopefully all the pyrotechnics on display here (Merlin uses a fire spell too) indicate that the budget is being shifted up a notch as we head towards the finale.

Elsewhere this episode, Alator and Finna both add themselves to the list of characters who have died to save Merlin and his destiny, while Merlin is rescued by the Great Dragon, who is old and dying. I don’t imagine this will be the last time we see him – no doubt he’ll turn up in the finale – but his gradual death is further evidence that the show is reaching its conclusion.

The prophecy of Arthur’s death is reiterated here in slightly more detail, actually referencing Camlann, where the mythical King met his end. Finna also drums home that Mordred is not to be trusted, and Alexander Vlahos does some more ambiguous acting. At this point he still seems genuinely loyal to Arthur, even hunting down a sorceress on Arthur’s command, but he’s clearly wary of Merlin. Is this going to end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy? Mordred only goes bad because Merlin treats him with such suspicion? It certainly looks that way at the moment, but if the preview is anything to go by then next week’s episode will be focused on Mordred, so we might get some answers.

There’s very little for Arthur to do here, beside be all lovey-dovey with Gwen and deliver a light-hearted scene that’s a nice throwback to the old bedroom antics of Merlin and Arthur (get your minds out of the gutter). It might be the last chance the characters have for a quiet, comical moment given that Morgana has now declared war on Camelot (again). There are only three episodes left in which to decide what Mordred’s up to, reveal Merlin’s magic, take out Morgana and – if they want to go for a downer ending – kill Arthur. Chop chop!

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