Merlin Review: The Last Dragonlord

Merlin has come leaps and bounds from its first few episodes this season to give us a finale that is sure to thrust the show into a completely different direction whenever it returns for its third season.

At the end of last week’s episode, Merlin set free his great dragon mentor after practically being blackmailed by the creature. It’s so obvious the dragon was going to cause problems – he’s made no secret about his disdain for Uther, so when our opening scenes are of Camelot up in flames, I can’t say I’m surprised.

The battle against the dragon seems to be a lost cause, until Gaius suggests to the court that they call upon a dragonlord to tame the creature. There’s only one dragonlord believed to be alive and in hiding – only because Uther failed to track him down and kill him. Uther really knows how to make friends, doesn’t he?

Well, Gaius believes he knows the whereabouts of this dragonlord named Balinor. Arthur insists on going to find him and Uther relents. But before Merlin joins Arthur on this journey, Gaius has to break to Merlin some pretty heavy hitting news: Balinor, the man they’re going to look for, is actually his father. Plot twist!

When we finally meet Balinor, he’s obviously a very withdrawn person and distrusting of others. He doesn’t even agree to help Camelot until Merlin name drops Gaius. Feeling he owes it to his old friend to help save Camelot, Balinor finally decides to accompany Arthur and Merlin. It is during a break in their journey that Merlin breaks the news to Balinor that he’s his son. Balinor softens up and the pair is given a brief opportunity to bond.

But then, of course, trouble comes in the form of enemy knights. During a quick battle, Merlin is pretty much considered a goner until Balinor jumps in front of the deadly sword strike. His parting words to Merlin is the secret in which to defeat the great dragon – after all, the skill of being a dragonlord is passed down from father to son. It won’t be known, however, if Merlin acquired the skill until he faces the great dragon.

Though he was only on screen for a short amount of time, John Lynch played Balinor beautifully. There was a real sense of sadness behind his eyes and Colin Morgan did an equally good job bringing through the pain and emotion of losing a father he only just met. I really do love this cast!

Now they’re back at Camelot with no hope in sight. Arthur proposes a final showdown against the dragon and recruits his first twelve knights (goosebumps!). They go out into an open field, but the dragon’s too quick for them. Arthur manages to strike the dragon, but it’s not nearly enough to cause permanent damage. In response to this, the dragon knocks Arthur out.

With everyone either dead or unconscious, Merlin seizes his opportunity and follows the instructions his father left him: speak to the dragon as if he were your kin. This way, he has no choice but to obey Merlin.  Merlin’s final faceoff with the dragon proves he has inherited his father’s skill and is now the last dragonlord. Merlin spares the dragon’s life, but threatens to kill him if he ever returns. The dragon obeys, but not before cryptically telling Merlin, “I’m sure our paths will cross again.”

Let’s talk about Camelot’s royalty, though! For starters: Arthur Pendragon. My, how far this boy has come! Sure he’s still an arrogant knobhead, but we’re seeing far more leadership from him and noble qualities. He’s turning into one hell of a prince. There’s also some Gwen/Arthur moments, but it’s nothing compared to how much we get to see Arthur and Merlin’s friendship evolve in this episode. When Merlin is down in the dumps about something, Arthur is genuinely concerned and tries to lighten the mood a bit.

All this glowing praise can’t be given to Uther, however. I’m really sensing the end for this guy. He’s been slowly losing control of his kingdom, and now with Morgana having turned on him completely (so we’re made to believe) who knows what will happen next.  Where is Morgana? Is she being trained into the perfect evil witch by her half-sister, Morgause? One thing’s for sure, though: dark times are coming for Camelot.

Season 2, Episode 13: The Last Dragonlord (aired July 2, 2010)

For more on Merlin, click here.

Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy

Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal and SyFy.

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