Settling down to watch the final ever episode of Merlin and it hits me when those famous words that every fan recognises are spoken for the final time:
“In a land of myth and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young man. His name – Merlin.”
The episode picks up right where part 1 finished: the battle is still raging on with Arthur and his men breaking a sweat fighting Morgana’s forces, whilst Merlin rushes to the battle, to be by Arthur’s side and stop the prophecy from coming true. Even though Merlin produces his most powerful magic yet, with bolts of lightning from the sky, it doesn’t take long for the confrontation between Arthur and Mordred to take place. Gotta say I didn’t expect it to be over within 5 minutes, and quite so quickly. I was sad to see Alexander Vlahos go, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. Even though Arthur dispatches Mordred, Arthur is also wounded and the image of Merlin wandering through the masses of bodies in search of his friend is incredibly dark.
As the battle dwindles, Gwen returns to Camelot, anxious, but hopeful that her husband is in fact alive. Having rescued him, Merlin finally chooses this moment to reveal the secret he has kept over the past 5 seasons – he has magic. The scene is terrifically acted by Bradley James as he takes in a range of emotions; disbelief, shock, denial and anger. It’s heartbreaking to see Arthur’s rejection of Merlin and later when Gaius comes to help Merlin, Arthur’s realisation that Gaius has known about Merlin all along is a great moment. Most of the rest of the episode revolves around Merlin trying to get Arthur to the Lake of Avalon in order to save him. The sub-plot of Gwen running things back in Camelot, and her guessing that Merlin was the sorcerer on the mountain are interesting and a little too predictable, but I suppose hints have been dropped to her over the last two episodes and Gwen was always shrewd. We also get the other sub-plot of Gwaine and Percival going on a fool’s errand to try and kill Morgana who at this stage is completely broken, shrieking ‘I want him dead’ – a moment which is brilliant. Of course the knight’s quest doesn’t go to plan and poor Gwaine is tortured to death by the Nathair, ultimately revealing where Merlin and Arthur have gone.
Speaking of Merlin and Arthur, they are still journeying towards the lake, and really the best moments from tonight’s episode are from them. Bradley James and Colin Morgan really have a great on-screen partnership and their relationship is tested in light of Merlin’s admission. You see moments where it is clear that Arthur is hurt and betrayed “You’ve lied to me all this time.” But as the episode goes on, you see Arthur slowly thawing, and realising that Merlin is still the same person – a true gift for the fans is seeing these two share so many beautiful moments together in this episode. The bromance runs into trouble when Morgana arrives to try and kill Arthur once and for all, and even though her death is again swift, Katie McGrath really utilises every moment, not over doing it and making it as powerful as possible. It seems that these diversions have taken too much time though, and with a final heartfelt and heartbreaking apology and “thank you” from Arthur, the King dies in Merlin’s arms. Even though Merlin tries to save him with help from the Great Dragon, John Hurt’s booming voice informs Merlin that the King is indeed dead, but that he will rise again, when Albion’s need is greatest. This entire sequence is incredibly moving to watch, and certainly bought a tear or two to my eyes. You can feel the raw emotion coming off of Colin Morgan, and watching Arthur float away in that boat was beautifully heartbreaking. The series ends with Gwen taking the throne, and a bizarre 30 seconds of Merlin, disguised as the old man, walking through present day Britain.
Merlin really has blossomed into its 5th series and it’s sad to think I’m going to have to find something else to occupy my Saturday night’s next year. Throughout its 5 year run, it’s grown from an entertaining, funny and lighter TV drama, to a darker, grown-up and still extremely entertaining series, which has really shined on the BBC and certainly deserved all of its success. The entire main cast grew in their roles, McGrath even more so when she was allowed to be entirely evil and deliciously so. This series has allowed for the Knights to have more things to do as well, showing the entire cast’s creative talents. We’re not sure what the future holds for Merlin with movies, specials or spin-off’s all a potential, especially considering the loyal fan base, the show’s ratings and an open-ending. What I know however, is that this show will be greatly missed. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the entire cast, crew, and creators for all their hard work and for giving us Merlin – in the words of the great dragon “It has been a privilege to have known you, young warlock. The story we have been a part of, will live long in the minds of men”
“I’m a sorcerer. I have magic. I use it for you, Arthur. Only for you.” (Merlin)