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06 January 2013 @ 05:09 pm
Merlin: Series Finale Episode  
I'm probably the last person on LJ to comment on the series finale of Merlin. I'd largely fallen behind in watching this show during its last season partly due to school but also because my general interest had waned a bit. But I couldn't let this show go without at least saying a few things about its end.

So below the cut is my long review, sort of recap of the two part series finale.


Arguably this show for most viewers was about the relationship between Merlin and Arthur. Whether or not you slashed them or just saw them as good friends, whatever bond between them was often the centerpiece for both the fans and at times the writers. Most of series 5 felt a bit like the writers had forgotten this in lieu of pushing forward some plot points that limped along, which probably accounted for a lot of why my general interest in the show had faded a little. But as the sun began to set on the show itself, the writers pulled out all the stops in displaying the loyalty and love between the two main characters.

The first part opens up with Merlin and Arthur hanging out in a tavern together. Do kings and their manservants do this? I guess they do. In retrospect this scene saddens me because it is literally the last lighthearted scene we'll ever get between the two of them as Merlin stealthily (by Camelot standards, not real standards) uses his magic to beat Arthur at gambling. It's nice to see them so relaxed and having fun. BECAUSE IT WON'T LAST.

Soon enough the episode promises all sorts of angst and tragedy as Morgana moves her forces forwarded but not before using a creature of the Old Religion (Jesus, there are a lot) to strip Merlin of his magic. In order to gain it back, the young warlock travels to enter the crystal cave, leaving Arthur to enter into the battle of Camlann on his own. We get Heartbreaking Scene #1 where Arthur actually believes Merlin is abandoning him out of cowardice rather than for REALLY GOOD REASONS. This actually kind of pissed me off because at this point I'd expect Arthur to be able to twig that something is wrong rather than Merlin just being afraid. I mean, come on, Merlin let himself get basically killed by a Dorocha to save Arthur. What more does he need to do in order to prove himself? But I guess Arthur is nothing if not consistent in his inconsistent observational skills. We do get a nice mini-speech from Arthur about having always believed Merlin was the bravest man he knew. That is until he ruins it with his parting shot.

While Arthur rides to his doom, Merlin is trapped in the cave by Morgana. Why she didn't decide to just kill him when he's powerless and utterly defenseless is beyond me. There really cannot be a better time to kill Emrys but as Morgana must be a witless villain until the end, we just get rocks blocking the exit. While Merlin all but gives up hope, he gets a ghostly visit from Balinor. It's a nice contrast to the ghostly visit from Uther who was all vengeful and crazy as Balinor restores hope to Merlin with a rather portentous speech about how Merlin is eternal, etc. I'm a little sad that we never got one more appearance by Hunith, Merlin's mother. I understand she's not that important in the large scheme of things but in my heart I always wanted some sort of conversation between Merlin and his mother about having met Balinor. I guess I just have to dig through fics for that.

Anyway, with his mojo back in action, Merlin susses out Morgana's ambush plan and warns Arthur about it via talking to him in his dreams. All slashy jokes aside, I enjoyed this scene if anything because it is one of the very few straightforward advisory deeds Merlin performs for Arthur. No speaking under layers of subtext or innuendo, Merlin just straight out warns Arthur and advises him to find the path Morgana intends to use. That Arthur more or less immediately takes this advice to heart despite it appearing to him in a dream speaks a lot about his faith in Merlin. I'm only frustrated that we'll never get more of these moments which really demonstrated what could have been had this show lasted another season with Merlin being Arthur's adviser rather than a manservant who dispenses random tips. The first part ends with old!Merlin leaving the cave to kick some magical ass.

Before I get to the 2nd part, I'll say that my biggest fear for the show was that it would end without a reveal of Merlin's magic to Arthur. Well, the trailer for the 2nd part got rid of that worry as we hear Merlin's voice stating, "I'm a sorcerer. I have magic." But then I worried that Arthur would find out about 10 minutes before dying. Well, that didn't happen either. He found out about 40 minutes before dying. And while I'm still upset for what could have been, I will give the writers props for fitting in a lot of excellent scenes between the two after Merlin finally confesses.

Hell, I'm not going to recap it other than to say that yes, Merlin saves the day at Camlann but Mordred still manages to stab Arthur before being dealt his own death blow. Merlin carries Arthur to safety and in the privacy of the night woods, he finally, FINALLY reveals to Arthur that he has magic. Given just how much was riding on this scene after 5 seasons of toying with the audience, I'll say that Colin Morgan and Bradley James acted the hell out of it. I sort of wish there had been less tears on Morgan's part (mainly because Merlin has cried so damn much on this show it almost felt distracting at this point) but the silent face acting by both actors was incredible. And I was more than pleased that Arthur's reaction to the whole thing was not a positive one. I mean, I wasn't pleased for the characters but it was realistic. Still, it broke my heart that Arthur actually seemed to fear Merlin which was something I sort of hadn't thought about. Anger and hurt, yes. But not fear.

With about 30 minutes left, the show packs in the last few plot points and leaves much of the screen time for Arthur and Merlin to travel to Avalon in an attempt to save Arthur's life from the fatal wound. During this, Arthur finally gets to see Merlin's magic in practical action which as a viewer, I LOVED WATCHING. But again, I was also frustrated at just how much more of this we could have gotten if only the reveal had happened in say, series 4. During the whole journey, we slowly see Arthur's acceptance of Merlin's magic. Amidst the anger and hurt, there were a few moments where their old banter kept cropping up. Despite the enormity of the magic reveal, I loved that Arthur seemed genuinely annoyed that Merlin had used magic all those years ago to defeat Arthur at their first meeting. Arthur wasn't always written consistently on this show, but James should be praised for playing him as consistently as possible.

Actually, Bradley James' face acting overall on this show should be applauded. Whether it was for comedy or drama, he was often at his best when he had to silently use that rather expressive mug of his. Watching his expressions go from closed off to softening as he talked to Merlin more and more during their trip was quite lovely to behold. You can almost pinpoint the moment that he comes to realize what Merlin probably realized awhile ago: that while Arthur may not have known about Merlin's magic, he does know Merlin. Merlin, who is his friend. The most emotionally wrenching moment for me was not Arthur's last words but him telling Merlin, "I don't want you to change. I want you to always be you." There is nothing more accepting and beautiful than that, people. NOTHING.

So as the episode moves on, we lose Gwaine but his death sadly made barely registered for me as I was too fixated on how Arthur would no doubt die in a matter of minutes. Morgana also finally gets stabbed to death by Merlin with Excalibur, dying the somewhat whatever death that befits her status as a whatever villain. And at the end of it all, Arthur dies before they reach Avalon. Way beyond the point of helpful, Merlin calls Kilgarrah which only made me question why the hell he didn't do this hours ago when Arthur still had time. No, seriously. This is one huge plot point that even for a show like Merlin felt too big to ignore. In all the times Merlin sought the dragon's assistance, THIS WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME. And yet he waited until it was too late.

I get that the writers wanted one more conversation between Merlin and the dragon before the show's end since it more or less began with them. But really the story would have made more sense if the dragon himself had departed for Avalon earlier or had died already as he revealed in the 3rd to last episode that he was dying. So thank you, Merlin writers for giving us one last plot hole to deal with.

Anyway, Arthur's final words in the show ever is to say thank you to Merlin for everything he's done, giving him the recognition and praise he more than deserved since this show began. Merlin's last words on the show ever is the spell he speaks to send Arthur's body on a boat toward Avalon after he throws Excalibur back into its lake. I hung on not crying through most of this, despite the ridiculous number of sad scenes thrown at me. Only to lose my shit completely at Gwen's coronation. I don't know. Perhaps it was the music or just my emotional walls breaking down but the shot of her resolute face with the knights shouting, "Long live the Queen!" sort of drove it home that the reign of King Arthur was over and so was the show. I should have just wept onto my laptop and shut off the episode then but no, I kept watching until we got...

...a very irritating modern times ending. If the writers insisted on doing this, I'd rather it end with us actually seeing Arthur's resurrection or reincarnation as per the dragon's prophecy. But instead we see Merlin as an old man, apparently eternal as Balinor suggested, just waiting and waiting still for Arthur to one day return. It felt like a set up for that possible film or series revamp Julian Jones was talking about which annoyed me as I wanted a cleaner ending for the show. Frankly, if they really were serious about telling more of this story, I'd rather they have just given us another season to wrap it all up then give us this finale and then continue to stretch the tale along via a film or a new series. Still, it is perhaps a minor point given all that we got in the final two episodes.

So, one of the big questions left unanswered is if Merlin returned to Camelot after sending Arthur's body to Avalon. It's clear he wasn't at Gwen's coronation. In my head canon, I had Merlin return to Ealdor to live in his old village and every once in awhile go to Camelot to help Gwen out if she needed him. And to see Gaius every now and again. But somehow in my mind, he never went back to live in Camelot as his time there, like Arthur's, had ended.


Thus concludes another BBC show that so many were obsessed with, including myself for at least a time. I think I'm most sad that now Colin Morgan and Bradley James no longer have a reason to hang out together 4 months at a time. But the best of luck to them as well as the rest of the cast in their careers.
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Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: TemptingFateguardian_chaos on January 7th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
Oh, bless you for writing this, because I've been dying to know what happened in that finale, without actually having to watch it.

But I guess Arthur is nothing if not consistent in his inconsistent observational skills.

His true birth parents were squirrels. Naturally, it is difficult for him to focus.

Still, it broke my heart that Arthur actually seemed to fear Merlin which was something I sort of hadn't thought about. Anger and hurt, yes. But not fear.

Oh! I'm not even in the fandom and I think that's really, really cool. Tragic, yes, but that's a twist I didn't see coming. I'm so glad the reveal was done well. I think the fandom totally deserves it. I suppose fear would be a rational reaction, and having Arthur gradually realize that Merlin is still Merlin, despite the secret he'd kept for so long, sounds perfect. It would have been horrible if the show had ended with the reveal bringing nothing but drama and distrust instead, yikes.

The most emotionally wrenching moment for me was not Arthur's last words but him telling Merlin, "I don't want you to change. I want you to always be you." There is nothing more accepting and beautiful than that, people. NOTHING.

Even more beautiful! Oh, it does seem a shame that this whole thing has to end with this added. Amazing so much could be tied up in 40 minutes, though. I mean, wow. That's difficult to do.

Morgana also finally gets stabbed to death by Merlin with Excalibur, dying the somewhat whatever death that befits her status as a whatever villain.

Y'know, lines like this make you a lot of fun to have on my friend's list. Really. Hee!

And oh gosh, Arthur's death scene sounds so sad. I knew something had happened from the collective wails I've heard throughout the Internet, but I didn't know exactly what had happened, and now I don't know what to think about it. :(

...a very irritating modern times ending.

Might I recommend denial and pretending it was all a dream sequence, and that the modern times ending never happened?

Anyway. *coughs* I hope you don't mind me hijacking your Merlin post, as I am a person who doesn't know the show. Thank you for being so extensive in your review, though. :D
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on January 7th, 2013 06:15 am (UTC)
Oh! I'm not even in the fandom and I think that's really, really cool. Tragic, yes, but that's a twist I didn't see coming. I'm so glad the reveal was done well. I think the fandom totally deserves it. I suppose fear would be a rational reaction, and having Arthur gradually realize that Merlin is still Merlin, despite the secret he'd kept for so long, sounds perfect. It would have been horrible if the show had ended with the reveal bringing nothing but drama and distrust instead, yikes.

Yes, despite how it all got shoved into one episode, the reveal was quite good. It went about the way I always wanted it to other than that it happened at the final hour.

Y'know, lines like this make you a lot of fun to have on my friend's list. Really. Hee!

Haha! Thanks!

Might I recommend denial and pretending it was all a dream sequence, and that the modern times ending never happened?

I can't unsee it! I just can't!

Anyway. *coughs* I hope you don't mind me hijacking your Merlin post, as I am a person who doesn't know the show.

Not at all! Your comments are always loved on this LJ!

Edited at 2013-01-07 06:20 am (UTC)
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: BBT_NerdDance!guardian_chaos on January 7th, 2013 06:43 am (UTC)
I'm just glad the show was willing to do it! I guess that's the benefit of having advance notice abut a cancellation: there is time to prepare one heck of a final, if those who make the show are of the mindset to do so. It's horrible when a beloved show ends prematurely, leaving too many loose ends in its wake.

I can't unsee it! I just can't!

Oh, reeaaalllyy??? Not even for...ONE MILLION DOLLARS!? *waves Monopoly money in front of your face* TEMPTING, ISN'T IT?

Not at all! Your comments are always loved on this LJ!

Well, I think it goes without saying that I feel the same about you. Gotta love Scribbler commentaries!

Speaking of things I want to subtly guide you towards commenting on, my latest entry on my LJ is about my foray into the word of amateur treasure hunting. Great fun! Distractingly sandy, though, haha. Check it out if you want to know what I've been up to since Friday. :D
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on January 7th, 2013 06:55 am (UTC)
It's horrible when a beloved show ends prematurely, leaving too many loose ends in its wake.

Could you possibly be thinking of THE DRESDEN FILES?!

I want to subtly guide you towards commenting on, my latest entry on my LJ is about my foray into the word of amateur treasure hunting. Great fun!

Oooooo!!
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: DW_Cheersguardian_chaos on January 7th, 2013 07:03 am (UTC)
Psshhaw! Don't be silly. It's not like my every waking moment isn't consumed by that! Also. Invader Zim, recently. I am definitely having a resurgence of Invader Zim feelings. I recently re-read one of the first stories that made me think, "I NEED TO WRITE STORIES LIKE THIS" and the fic hit me as hard as it ever had, alas. Sometimes I think a fandom's available fanfiction is part of what makes the fandom itself so memorable and beloved, and I wonder how people who like a show but don't read its epic fanfic manage to go on, not knowing what they're missing. But then, I'm addicted to stories, so what do I know? *shrugs feebly*

Edited at 2013-01-07 07:05 am (UTC)