Season 5 Episode 5

The Disir

Aired Unknown Nov 03, 2012 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
77 votes

By Users

Episode Summary


Three soothsayers cast a dark curse upon the King of Camelot in the black depths of an ancient pool.

Contrary to Merlin's advice Arthur is stubborn and refuses to take the words of the Disir seriously and, as a result, Camelot is to pay the price of their fury. With the kingdom in peril, will Arthur be ready to make the greatest sacrifice to appease them?

Faced with the King's hesitation, Merlin has just one chance to save him from his destiny, a decision that comes at the highest price.


Watch Full Episode

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • Very good episode

    Sorry for my English, I am not a native speaker.

    This episode shows one of the Merlin's traits that I love most: despite being the hero of the show, he is able to kill or let die the villain in order to save Arthur or Camelot. He was very close to do it seasons ago, when he threw a distracted Morgana through the stairs, although in the very last moment he healed her. Now, he has stuck to his decision, no matter how tough it was.

    That said, I think he is making a huge mistake (which is great because perfect characters are unappealing and mistakes are the driving force of the plot). His assumption that Mordred is evil is going to lead Mordred to evil, as it happened with Morgana. Morgana was desperate to find someone who accepted and loved her as she was. Merlin could (and should) have been that person (I mean love in a friendly way, although a romantic relationship would have been awesome too). I am not saying that Merlin is responsible for Morgana's change. Of course, Morgana is the ultimate responsible for her own actions, but Merlin did not help.

    On another note, in this episode we see the darkest side of the old religion. In other episodes, druids, warlocks just want Arthur to establish religious freedom in Camelot. Here, the Triple Goddess gives the king an ultimatum to submit himself to her authority, otherwise she will doom Camelot. I hope there are other (and better) gods, but that point of the old religion is unclear to me.

    I am eager to know what happens next!! I love this show and each of its characters and the acting is amazing.

  • Merlin makes a strange choise

    It was a good episode dealing with the fate of Arthur and the hope of changing it, but it ended in dissapointment, or rather: Merlin Makes a Stupid Choise. I have never know him in the entire series to do something as stupid as this and I just can't let it go.

    The episode was set up so Merlin had to make a choise between the life of Mordred and the life of Arthur, between duty and a clean conscious. But that was not the choise he ended up making.

    The moment where Merlin defends taking the Dragons advice and doesn't save a dying Mordred was an emotional one and you can feel the weight of the years he has lived at Camelot; what he has lived through and the adversaries he has faced. You may have agreed or not but you knew how difficult this was for him.

    But his choise to advice Arthur to deny magic to ensure the death of Morded was a strange choise. Merlin seemed to think it was the same choise as he had made before, but it wasn't and it is strange for him to act like it was. The situation changes when the Disir made clear the the consequences for choosing wrong would seal Arthurs fate. It was Merlin who was so worried about angering the old Gods that it is baffling that he seems to suddenly disregard them now. The Disir warned that denying them would destroy Arthur as well as all those he loves, all that he has built and Camelot itself. It's a grave warning and one Merlin who has such regard and respect, even fear, for the old religion should have heeded.

    He seemed to still think that the choise was between duty (saving Arthur by letting Mordred die) and his own happiness (the stakes getting higher by making it about accepting or deny magic).

    To chose the angered the old Gods who promise a terrible fate to avoid a terrible fate is without sense.

    I hope Merlin gets the chance to rectify this, and that it was not, as the Disir warned, the last oppertunity to change Arthurs fate.

    Also, I have to wonder hos Arthur can still not know that there is something up with Merlin and magic. They are having a conversation about possibly allowing magic and Merlin ends up crying, how can Arthur not wonder why he is so emotional about the issue. I honestly thought that this was the moment where Merlin tells Arthur the truth, changing the story and the Merlin/Arthur relationship for ever. Perhaps that is why I find this so upsetting, I though this was going to be a new chapter in the story only to find it was it's doom.

    But fates can change from the familiar Arthurian legend that looms over the series (like it did for Guinevere) to something happier. Can't it?moreless
  • where is Merlin? ??

    I have had the dvr set since the first season, but it is not showing in my area now? What happened.
  • poor dear!

    what's happened with gaius's eye? poor him!
  • I liked merlin 55+

    I liked this episode much better than I thought I would be based on the spoilers. I loved the triple goddess passing judgement on Arthur
Frances Tomelty

Frances Tomelty


Guest Star

Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas


Guest Star

Helen Schlesinger

Helen Schlesinger


Guest Star

John Hurt

John Hurt

Voice of the Great Dragon

Recurring Role

Rupert Young

Rupert Young

Sir Leon

Recurring Role

Eoin Macken

Eoin Macken

Sir Gwaine

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (17)

    • Goof: When Gwen says to Arthur: I nearly lost you, Arthur's lips move but we only hear part of his sentence. This happens twice in the scene.

    • Goof: Gaius' (actually Richard Wilson's) burst eye blood vessel appears and disappears throughout the episode.

    • Goof: The Disir introduce their staffs in the water but seconds after they are dry.

    • Sir Ranulf is a knight of Camelot that is reported dead in this episode. He and Arthur knew each other as boys and grew up friends and fellow Knights of Camelot.

    • Goof: When Arthur and the knights are in the courtyard ready to depart to the White Mountains for the first time, Mordred can be seen sitting on his horse, then standing up beside it, then up on it again.

    • Goof: The first time that the knights depart they all ride brown horse. However, later on one of them is riding a white one. Likewise, Merlin's horse changes from light brown to dark brown. Later on, the knights ride back in several white horses that are nowhere to be seen when they dismount in the courtyard.
      The second time that the knights depart a white horse is among the party, never to be seen later on. Likewise, Merlin's horse changes from light brown to dark brown.
      Finally, when Merlin and Arthur ride out on their own, Merlin departs on a light brown horse and arrives on the same one. However, during all the forest scenes he can be seen riding a dark brown one.

    • In the scene where the knights are taking the mick out of Mordred making him ride backwards the synchro between image and voice is off as Gwaine and Arthur speak. The same happens when Merlin is checking out Mordred's wound.

    • Goof: When Osgar leaves them behind, Gwaine and Elyan lay in different place than where they were knocked out.

    • Sorcerers are not permitted marked graves in Camelot.

    • Goof: Tomatoes can be seen as part of Arthur's dinner. However, tomatoes were only known in Europe after Columbus brought them from America around 1498.

    • In times past a runemark aroused great fear since it was given to those found wanting by the court of the Disir. The runemark not only containes a man's guilt but the path that the gods had chosen for him. That is why it is both a judgement and fate. It is said that only the gods can alter a man's fate and even then, only when he repents and appeases them.

    • The Disir are the highest court of the Old Religion, three women chosen at birth to be trained as seers and soothsayers. Their only task is to interpret the word of the Triple Goddess and when they sit in judgement their word is final. No man is above them however royal and only the Disir themselves have the power to counteract their own sorcery. They divine using a pool which is fed by the sacred spring at Caerlanrigh. The source of the spring is a grove of yew trees in the White Mountains, The Grove of Brineved.

    • The Triple Goddess is the one who presides over all, who sees all, who knows all. Arthur has angered her by denying the Old Religion, dismissing its faith and persecuting its followers even unto slaughter. Unless Arthur embraces the ways of the Old Religion, he will face the destruction of everything he most values, the end of his reign and the fall of Camelot.

    • Weapons can't be carried into sacred places.

    • This episode is the fourth time in which Arthur is referred to as The Once and Future King (by Osgar). The Great Dragon did so in 1x01 The Dragon's Call, The Fisher King in 3x08 The Eye Of The Phoenix and Merlin in 4x11 The Hunter's Heart.

    • Osgar tells Arthur the same line that Lochru told Merlin in in episode 5x01 Arthur's Bane Part 1: 'Even as Camelot flowers, the seeds of her destruction are being sown'.

    • Despite featured in the opening credits, Katie McGrath does not appear in this episode.
      It is the eighth time that Katie isn't featured in an episode after 2x09 The Lady Of The Lake, 2x13 The Last Dragonlord, 3x09 Love In The Time Of Dragons, 4x04 Aithusa, 4x08 Lamia, 4x10 A Herald Of The New Age and 5x03 The Death Song of Uther Pendragon.

  • QUOTES (39)

    • The Disir: (Giving the rune to Osgar) The fate of Arthur Pendragon is in your hands now. See that you honor it.

    • Arthur: Mordred used a contre quarte to my high-line attack. It was skilfully done.
      Merlin: Really?
      Arthur: You understand what a contre quarte is?
      Merlin: At a guess, a type of parry, beginning in the quarte position ending with a twist of the wrist.
      Arthur: You have been paying attention.

    • Arthur: What do you think of young Mordred?
      Merlin: He's, hmm... making progress.
      Arthur: He has all the makings of a fine knight, don't you think?
      Merlin: There are many fine knights in Camelot.
      Arthur: Yes, but if I'm not mistaken, he'll be one of the finest and I'm determined he'll receive nothing but encouragement from me.

    • Gaius: You think he's not ready?
      Merlin: It's not that. He's an excellent swordsman.
      Gaius: You think he's too young? Too headstrong?
      Merlin: He's always been thoughtful and modest.
      Gaius: The boy sounds perfect, Merlin.
      Merlin: I can't ignore what I saw. Gaius, Mordred is destined to play a part in Arthur's death.
      Gaius: Perhaps, perhaps not. The future has many paths. That is only one.

    • Gaius: If Mordred wished Arthur ill, he has had ample opportunity to do so. He's a likeable boy, Merlin.
      Merlin: I know. I like him myself, but I can't ignore what I saw.
      Gaius: Seeing is not the same as knowing. And we must know, for certain, before we act.

    • (Arthur is determined to lead a patrol to bring Osgar to justice)
      Gwen: Is it necessary for you to go in person?
      Arthur: A king must lead, or what is the point of him?
      Gwen: You lead the men when you saved Mithian's father and I nearly lost you.
      Arthur: Sir Ranulf's death cannot go unpunished.
      Gwen: You have many fine men to avenge him.
      Arthur: He wasn't just a knight, Guinevere, he was a friend. We knew each other as boys. I must go. Have no fear. I will be perfectly safe. As you say, I have many fine knights.

    • Arthur: The time has come for you to accompany your king.
      Mordred: My lord?
      Arthur: I want you to join me on a patrol to the White Mountains.
      Mordred: Me? To Brechfa?
      Arthur: Congratulations.
      Mordred: This is a great honour. I...
      Arthur: You have earned your place. Be ready to ride at dawn.
      Mordred: I shall be, my lord. You won't regret this. I promise.

    • Merlin: (About letting Mordred join them in a patrol) Are you sure this is a good idea?
      Arthur: He's a good fighter, a brave knight.
      Merlin: He's very young.
      Arthur: Where would any of us be, Merlin, if no-one had given us a chance?

    • Gwen: (About Arthur) Merlin? You will take care of him?
      Merlin: He doesn't always make it easy.
      Gwen: I know.

    • (Mordred is riding his horse sitting backwards in the saddle)
      Sir Elyan
      : It is a tradition. Goes back years.
      Sir Percival: We all had to do it on our first patrol.
      Arthur: Mordred, what on earth are you doing?
      Mordred: Melding the saddle, my lord.
      Sir Gwaine: As in the ancient tradition... of melding.
      Arthur: Of course. I trust your breeches are on inside out?
      Mordred: My lord?
      (The other knights laugh)

    • Osgar: Do you not know who I am?
      Sir Gwaine: You are a sorcerer, a heretic and a murderer.
      Osgar: No. Just a man who values his freedom.

    • Osgar: I am sent from the sacred Disir to pass judgment on Arthur Pendragon, the Once and Future King.
      Mordred: (Putting a sword to his neck) What right have you to pass judgment?
      Osgar: No man is above the Disir, however royal. It is my duty to pass their judgment on to you, dread King. My sacred duty. Your hand... Arthur Pendragon (He places a rune on it) It is done.

    • Arthur: (About the rune) What is the meaning of this?
      Osgar: It is both judgment and fate. You have waged war on the people of the Old Religion. Now the ancient gods answer you. The Disir have spoken. The circle of fate begins to close. For even as Camelot flowers, the seeds of her destruction are being sown.
      Arthur: What nonsense is this?
      Osgar: It is not too late, Arthur. Not too late to find the true path. Redeem yourself. No further chance shall be given.

    • (Merlin has given Osgar burial and is piling some stones on top of his grave)
      Mordred: What would the king say? Sorcerers are not permitted marked graves (Merlin replies nothing) It's all right, Merlin. I'd have done the same. He was one of us, after all.
      Merlin: It won't always be like this. One day we will live in freedom again.
      Mordred: You really believe that?
      Merlin: I do.
      Mordred: Until then, we go unmarked in death as in life.

    • Mordred: You are a skilled physician, Merlin.
      Merlin: I've watched Gaius, that's all.
      Arthur: He also makes a very fine breakfast as you'll soon discover, eh, Merlin? Now I've offended him.

    • Arthur: If he died and was granted eternal happiness, I do believe he'd find reason to be miserable (The knights laugh) Come, Merlin, we've triumphed.
      Merlin: Osgar could have easily killed you.
      Arthur: But he didn't, did he?
      Merlin: He was a sorcerer, it was quite within his power.
      Arthur: He was deranged.
      Merlin: And the runemark?
      Arthur: A trinket, nothing more. Here (Tosses it to Merlin) I'll have the jeweller mount it as a memento of our success.

    • Arthur: Are you feeling all right, Merlin?
      Merlin: Quite, my lord.
      Arthur: Only, more and more I find your face resembles the back end of a cat. See, you don't even laugh at my jokes any more. Seriously... I haven't seen you smile these past three days.
      Merlin: I'm not sure there is a great deal to smile about.

    • Gaius: This is the judgement of the gods against you.
      Arthur: This is... nonsense, surely?
      Gaius: The Old Religion held that the runemark not only contained a man's guilt but the path that the gods had chosen for him. That is why it is both a judgement and fate.
      Arthur: I make my own path.
      Gaius: Do you? It is said that only the gods can alter a man's fate... and even then, only when he repents and appeases them.
      Arthur: You don't believe any of this? Gaius?
      Gaius: I am an old man, Sire. Old enough to be wary of dismissing other people's beliefs.

    • Arthur: Have I not made Camelot a fairer and more just kingdom?
      Merlin: You have, my lord.
      Arthur: Have I not rid it of the cruelties and injustices of the past?
      Merlin: You have.
      Arthur: I am not my father.
      Merlin: No.
      Arthur: Then why do they judge me so?
      Merlin: I'm not sure I'm the person to ask.
      Arthur: I am asking you... Merlin. Man to man.
      Merlin: Well, perhaps they feel you are worthy enough to be judged.
      Arthur: What do you mean by that?
      Merlin: Judgement is wasted on a... man who won't listen.
      Arthur: You think I should take them seriously?
      Merlin: I think you already have.

    • The Great Dragon: The runemark predicts Arthur's death.
      Merlin: When? When will Arthur die?
      The Great Dragon: The future is never clear, Merlin. You should know that by now. There are many paths. Not all lead to Camelot's ruin.
      Merlin: Do they lead to Mordred?
      The Great Dragon: The Druid boy? His fate and Arthur's are bound together like ivy round a tree.
      Merlin: I fear he is dangerous.
      The Great Dragon: There is good cause to doubt him.
      Merlin: Is there nothing I can do?
      The Great Dragon: Sometimes... to save the tree, the ivy must be cut. You had a chance to kill the Druid boy once before. If you have another... you must not fail.

    • Gwen: (About Osgar) He was a deranged, desperate man. You said so yourself.
      Arthur: Merlin was right, he could have killed me but instead he thought it was more important to give me this and he gave his life in doing so.
      Gwen: Who can fathom the mind of a fanatic?
      Arthur: That wasn't what was in his eyes, Guinevere. There was no hatred there. It was something else, pity almost. Why would a sorcerer pity a king?

    • Arthur: What if the Disir are right? What if I have transgressed in some way? What if I have put Camelot in danger?
      Gwen: Arthur, you are a good and just king.
      Arthur: The Disir don't seem to think so.
      Gwen: That is because they don't know you like I do. If they did, they would feel nothing but love (She kisses his forehead and strokes his hair as he leans against her for comfort)

    • Mordred: My lord, you are going to the White Mountains?
      Arthur: I am.
      Mordred: Then I humbly petition to come with you.
      Arthur: It is not for novices, Mordred.
      Mordred: Did I not serve you well?
      Arthur: You did.
      Mordred: Then I will do again.
      Arthur: It is no mere sorcerer this time, Mordred. Our mission is dangerous in ways we cannot perhaps imagine.
      Mordred: Then you will need good men by your side. Let me serve, let me do my duty.

    • Merlin: This place is sacred.
      Arthur: It's a cave, Merlin.
      Merlin: It's more than that.
      Arthur: To me, one cave is the same as another.
      Merlin: You can't go armed into a sacred place.
      Arthur: You want us to go in there unarmed? Of all the ridiculous things that you have ever said, Merlin... and there's been a few... that is the most ridiculous. By far.

    • Arthur: Have I not been an honourable king? Have I not made Camelot a fair and just kingdom?
      The Disir: So much is true. But you have denied the Old Religion. Dismissed its faith. Persecuted its followers. Even unto slaughter.
      Arthur: I fight against sorcery and superstition, that is all.
      The Disir: Embrace the ways of the Old Religion, Arthur. Or risk the ire of the Goddess. The destruction of everything you most value. The end of your reign. The fall of Camelot itself.

    • Arthur: I refuse to be judged by those who do not know me.
      The Disir: You are known, Arthur. You have always been known. And now you come here, to the most sacred of the sacred, to the very heart of the Old Religion, with weapons drawn. Trampling hallowed relics. Treating our sacred space like you do your kingdom: with arrogance. With conceit. With insolence.

    • Arthur: I should never have let him come.
      Merlin: He wanted to prove himself.
      Arthur: And he has. He saved my life for the second time.

    • Gaius: Only your magic can save him, Merlin.
      Merlin: I cannot save the life of a man destined to kill Arthur.
      Gaius: If Mordred is destined to take the King's life, why has he just saved it?
      Merlin: I cannot ignore what the dragon said.
      Gaius: What happened to the young boy who came into my chambers just a few years ago?
      Merlin: He grew up. And he learned the meaning of duty.

    • Gwen: It is not your fault. He begged you to let him go, it was a kindness to allow him.
      Arthur: It was foolishness.
      Gwen: No.
      Arthur: You told me once that Mordred had a strong sense of duty.
      Gwen: That is true.
      Arthur: You also told me he was impetuous. I should have listened to you.
      Gwen: No, you shouldn't. If Mordred hadn't gone, it could be you in Gaius's chambers. Mordred did his duty so you could do yours... to be King.

    • I thought that once we'd got him back to Camelot and your care...
      Gaius: The staff that caused his wound was forged using powerful sorcery.
      Arthur: All the same...
      Gaius: And the poison that runs through his veins is beyond remedy.
      Arthur: There must be... something you can do.
      Gaius: I'm afraid not. Only the Disir themselves have the power to counteract their own sorcery. I'm afraid we must prepare ourselves for the worst.
      Arthur: I'll go to them.
      Gaius: Sire, I do not think that...
      Arthur: And beg for mercy.

    • Merlin: Why do you risk so much for one man?
      Arthur: I would do the same for any knight.
      Merlin: Though, obviously, not me.
      Arthur: Actually, I would. Servants are hard to come by, even bad ones.
      Merlin: I'm touched.
      Arthur: Mordred saved my life. What greater debt could there be?
      Merlin: The debt to your people, to your destiny.
      Arthur: You almost sound as if you care.
      Merlin: I do care. About who you are, Arthur, who you are destined to become.
      Arthur: If it's fated. It doesn't matter what I do, it'll still happen.
      Merlin: There is a difference between fate and destiny.
      Arthur: You think too much, Merlin. The situation is quite simple. A brother-in-arms saves my life. When he, in turn, is threatened, it is my duty to do all I can to save him.

    • Arthur: I am not totally insensitive, Merlin. I can see that some people feel this is a sacred place. I am even prepared to admit that you are right sometimes. Obviously, I will deny I ever saying that.
      Merlin: Obviously.

    • Arthur: My men and I behaved with arrogance and stupidity. We dishonoured this place and insulted your faith. I humbly beg your forgiveness. One amongst us, Sir Mordred... may yet pay the ultimate price. I have come here to petition you for his life.
      The Disir: Why should we help you?
      Arthur: I ask not for myself, but for a young man whose only crime was to sacrifice himself for his king.
      The Disir: The future holds much pain and suffering for you, Arthur Pendragon.
      For you and your people. If you wish to save all you hold dear. If you wish to save your kingdom. Embrace the Old Religion. Learn her ways. Bow to the Goddess.
      Arthur: You know I can't do that.
      The Disir: Consider carefully. You have until dawn.

    • Arthur: How did you know this place was sacred?
      Merlin: That's obvious.
      Arthur: Pretend it isn't.
      Merlin: Everything here... is so full of life. Every tree, every leaf... every insect. It's as if the world is vibrating. As if everything is much more than itself.
      Arthur: You feel all that?
      Merlin: Don't you?
      (Arthur shakes his head)

    • Merlin: What will you do?
      Arthur: I don't know. My heart says do anything I can to save Mordred. But I have seen what misery unfettered sorcery brings. Before my father outlawed magic, Camelot was almost destroyed by sorcery. In my own time, Morgana has used it for nothing but evil. What would you do? In my place?
      Merlin: Me? I'm just a lackey, a maker of beds.
      Arthur: Lackeys can be wise.
      Merlin: (Merlin thinks for some seconds what to say next)
      Arthur: It is not like you to be silent.
      Merlin: A kingdom's future is at stake.
      Arthur: And a man's life.

    • Merlin: You must protect Camelot. You must protect the world you have spent your life building... a just and fair kingdom for all.
      Arthur: You would have me sacrifice a friend?
      Merlin: I would have you become the king you are destined to be.
      Arthur: If I do save Mordred, all my father's work will be for nothing. Sorcery will reign once more in Camelot. Is that what you'd want? (Merlin says nothing) Perhaps my father was wrong, perhaps the old ways aren't as evil as we thought (Merlin is struggling and at the brink of tears) So what should we do? Accept magic? Or let Mordred die?
      Merlin: (Long pause as he considers his reply carefully) There can be no place for magic in Camelot.

    • Arthur: I cannot do as you ask.
      The Disir: Consider carefully, Arthur Pendragon. This is your last chance to save all that is dear to you. It will not come again.
      Arthur: I have seen too much... to allow sorcery again within Camelot.
      The Disir: You have made your decision. Sealed your fate. And that of your kingdom.

    • Merlin: You did the right thing.
      Arthur: I condemned a man to death.
      Merlin: For the sake of Camelot.
      Arthur: He saved my life, Merlin. More than once.
      Merlin: I know.

    • Merlin: How could I have been so stupid?
      Gaius: You did what you thought best.
      Merlin: I assumed the best way to protect Arthur was to kill Mordred.
      Gaius: A perfectly natural assumption.
      Merlin: But all I did was make sure he lived. That was the Disir's judgement. Mordred's life is Arthur's punishment for rejecting magic.
      Gaius: You mustn't blame yourself.
      Merlin: But it is my fault. Mordred is alive and well. He's free to play his part
      in Arthur's death and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. Nothing.

  • NOTES (13)


    • Osgar: (To Arthur) I am sent from the sacred Disir to pass judgement on Arthur Pendragon, The Once and Future King.

      It is a reference to the supposed inscription over King Arthur's grave: "HIC IACET ARTHURUS REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS" (Here lies Arthur, the once and future king).

      Also, T.H. White wrote an Arthurian fantasy novel published in 1958 and entitled The Once and Future King.