‘Merlin’: ‘The Disir’ spoiler-free review

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Having made a return for the series opener, young Mordred has scarcely been seen since. It could not last of course, as the druid fated to kill Arthur steps forward to feature heavily in this instalment.

Beginning with a tremendous mystic ceremony presided over by a triad of ancient hooded soothsayers, the eponymous ‘Disir’, it is clear from the outset that desires of the old religion are set to occupy centre stage.

With his eager attitude and developing prowess with a sword, and against Merlin’s better judgement, Mordred joins the King’s retinue on a mission from Camelot. This occasions much mirth from his brother Knights, who soon employ an initiation rite that plays like the medieval version of sending the apprentice out for a ‘left-handed screwdriver’.

Humour aside, it is all down to business when they tackle their objective, an apparently murderous rogue sorcerer who has a message of judgement for Arthur.

Though initially displaying a healthy scepticism for such superstition, it is soon clear that the young King is troubled as he turns once again to Gaius for magical advice. For someone who apparently believes in putting sorcerers to death his attitude seems more than a little conflicted, though this doesn’t appear to get in the way of his arrogance at times.

Meanwhile a troubled Merlin watches on, concerned over the growing friendship between Mordred and Arthur and it is this concern that defines the episode. After listening to some blunt advice, he is led to a terrific dilemma when some heroic action leads to unintended consequences.

With plenty of back and forth across the forests of Camelot, it is clear to see that Arthur is leaning more and more on Merlin for advice, though he is reluctant to admit it. When he fails to heed Merlin’s warnings things tend to go awry, as they do here to disastrous effect.

Gwen again remains staunchly in the role of supporting her man, but she gets to voice some strong opinions. She is not the only female presence in the story this week though, as the Disir themselves, realised simply in hooded robes, present a shadow-drenched and menacing threat.

Written by Richard McBrien, who was responsible for last year’s ‘The Hunter’s Heart’, this enthralling episode hangs on a couple of huge moral questions for both Arthur and Merlin. With Colin Morgan simply superb in some heart wrenching scenes, this is stirring stuff and perhaps the best this series has offered so far.

Airs at 8.15pm on Saturday 3 November 2012 on BBC One.

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