It’s the End of An Era – Take Me to Glasgow!
There is nothing quite like an unparalleled angst-fest on Christmas Eve to clear the sinuses.
Let me just say that I am forever grateful that not everything on my non-wish list came to pass. The finale of Merlin was far, far better executed than I could have ever allowed myself to even hope for, and I found myself mumbling “FOUL” only a couple of times.
It was terrible for me to watch. I was in full melt-down mode for the last fifteen minutes before final credits rolled, and I’ve vowed to never again allow myself to become so emotionally ensnared by a television program.
There was too much crammed into one episode, and there were enough dangling threads left to provide everyone a sweater for Christmas…like just how did Aithusa wind up as Morgana’s flying Labrador? We’ll never know, obviously.
But we did get the magic reveal early on, and while Arthur’s reaction at first was painful, it was also real and believable. Thankfully, it wasn’t the magic that outraged him; it was the idea of Merlin lying to him all that time, and mistakenly thinking he’d known Merlin.
In the end, Arthur accepted Merlin’s magic because it was Merlin’s.
And can we just talk a little more about Arthur and Merlin? Bradley and Colin pulled out all the stops on their performances, and the entire episode rightly focused on their characters, with only quick forays to peek in on the knights, Gwen, and the unhinged Morgana. While fans of some of the other characters and pairings might exit the Merlin table still feeling peckish, this episode provided a veritable orgasmastic smorgasbord for the bromance fans. This, honestly, was why the episode worked for me and why I’ve finally called a truce with the Js and the incredible potential they’ve squandered for five years.
There are still complaints, though. Two major points of my non-wish list was Merlin never being appreciated or elevated, and Arthur dying never having accomplished anything, not earning the “Once and Future King” title, or even being someone worth remembering. The latter was addressed, but only in a half-arsed fashion that left me disgruntled and annoyed. This show has always been one to tell, not show. They’ve told us Arthur is a great king, and Merlin seems to believe he could hang the moon in the sky, but the king they’ve shown us, while a good man with good intent, is also lacking wisdom, judgement and discernment. Why would anyone but Merlin – notably biased Merlin – think Arthur was worthy of legend?
As for Merlin finally getting some credit…oh, I think someone at Shine heard us, and they addressed that. Merlin tells Arthur he never wanted any credit. That’s what he says, anyway. And yet, we’ve seen him complain to Gaius, about how Arthur has mistreated, unappreciated and belittled him at times. We’ve seen him empathize with Gilli, “Having to play the fool…being only half of who you really are…”
But Arthur thanked Merlin with his dying breath, and we all recognized the enormity of that.
Oh, Arthur, we hardly knew ye…you’ve died before you could ever do what we hoped you would. You and Merlin were supposed to build Albion together, and bring magic back to the land. It was your destinies….
Damn prophecies. Can’t ever trust them.
So. The body count in this is high, Morgana’s finally been put out of her misery, Gwaine has been lost, and the now-immortal Merlin is fated to wander about the island waiting for his king.
And that is the greatest foul of all. Immortal doesn’t mean age to the point of being so ancient and decrepit that he’d scare a waking Arthur back to death. (I mean, how much aging does an immortal person do, anyway?) That should have been young Merlin in what looked like modern times.
But I did notice a certain spring to the step. The elderly do not move that way. Whoever was under all that hair, all those bags and satchels, may be in disguise. Maybe he’s hiding his lack of real grey hairs while he waits for his king, because people might notice he looks the same as he did fifty years ago?
Head canon can be a lovely, comforting thing…
In this finale it seems that the producers of Merlin have portrayed the tragedy of the legends brutally (and there were a lot of them), while pretty much forgetting that amongst all that pathos had been a magnificent Golden Age, and it was for that, the legends endured.
Shine gave us rich characters that held us bewitched and enthralled for five series, and had us sobbing when we had to say farewell. (Admit it, you’re still holding a soggy tissue.) We cry not only because we will miss these characters and this show, but because of what could have been, and even…what should have been.