Merlin: Feature: A Fan’s Guide to the End of an Era (Spoiler-filled!)

513A week ago, Rose LaChance gave her pessimistic view of what was likely to happen in the final two episodes of the BBC’s Merlin, giving voice to the worries of many in the fan community. Of her predictions, some came true completely (e.g. Arthur dies); others were partially true; others were off-beam. Although she noted that it was incredibly difficult to write a follow-up piece, she agreed to present her views now she’s seen the two episodes:

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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.

Farewell, Merlin.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Merlin: Feature: A Fan’s Guide to the End of an Era (Spoiler-filled!)

  1. 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.

    I totally agree with this.

    We had some excellent moments between Merlin & Arthur – I couldn’t have asked for me…except I would have preferred them significantly earlier.

    I have no problem with a heavy head count at the end of Camlann – it’s in keeping with the canon. Just would have been easier to swallow if we’d had certain other things happen in place before this – like the reveal, the recognition, etc etc.

    A last gasp ‘thank you’ from Arthur to Merlin is not my idea of recognition. Merlin may have been satisfied with it (???) but as a viewer of the development of his story, I’m sorry I’m not.

    Someone has already commented elsewhere that their head canon for the end scene is that Merlin is old by disguise (easier to melt into the background as an old homeless person than a youngster) and that he will return to his youthful appearance as and when he needs, specifically when Arthur returns. OK, that’ll be my head canon now. Because otherwise I find this ending too depressing.

    I’m waiting to interrogate my nieces & nephews in detail as to their views on this ep, but so far the short comments I’ve got from them via phone / txt have not been exactly positive. The boys liked the battles, yes; they all thought that Arthur was pretty mean to Merlin at the start of the reveal; there were questions why Kilgarrah couldn’t have flown them to Avalon faster than the horses they used at the start (how can I answer that??!!) and there’s a distinct feeling of ‘perplexed’ re the outcome.

    Overall, I stil feel we were sold one thing, but were ultimately presented another. I know that when shows end, that not all the fans are happy. You cannot make a show that pleases everyone all of the time – absolute impossible. For most of 3-1/2 series, I didn’t have a problem with what we were being sold (it gave rise to some excellent dissections of the sub-text online if nothing else). It’s entertainment after all, it does what it says on the tin. But if the Trades Description Act covered tv shows, I would be asking for a proportion of my money back – specifically for this last season and what we have been left with.

    Posted by Khaireddin | December 24, 2012, 11:22 pm
  2. Firstly Merry Christmas- hard to remember that it’s the season of goodwill with all this about!

    Thanks Rose for your excellent articles. I have to say that due to your previous article I have actually come out the back of this mainly with a sense of relief (ie. that some of the more worst predictions on the anti-wish list didn’t happen)

    We got the reveal- they explored it inadequately but at least demonstrated a few of the stages of Arthur’s response (shock, denial etc etc) but as you said, it’s never going to be quite enough (in my opnion, they could have used a whole season to explore the reveal!)

    At least Merlin got a chance to show how kick ass he was before Arthur hoofed it. Even though I agree that he didn’t get much recognition, Gwen did work it out and there is a big period of time that we don’t know about- who’s to say that the golden age doesn’t happen with Gwen with Merlin as adviser/court sorcerer etc? He has got quite a bit of time to kill before Arthur returns.

    I think that overall it seemed an adequate end to the show. We perhaps have been a bit sold short, there is so much lost potential and I could easily think of better ways to explore the issues that we have been wanting answers to from episode one but there is not much more they could have squeezed in to the last two episodes and at least what they did put in was done sensibly and with dignity.

    With wistful sorrow, farewell to Merlin. It’s been great even if you don’t sell as many DVDs as you would have for previous seasons.

    Posted by Lindsay | December 25, 2012, 1:52 am
  3. It would have been rather kinder and more fun for the younger audience to have left a younger version of modern Merlin, complete with brown boots and jeans (and even the signature leather jacket!) walking into frame on Glastonbury Tor with his rucksack and the festival in the background with the strains of Arthur’s theme complete with drum and base floating across – he could have settled back against the tower to listen with a small smile. I was not keen on old tramp bag man Merlin after the wringer we had just been through. It was hardly comforting.

    Having said that, a huge thank you to the casting director who put the very different Colin and Bradley into the key roles – the last two days of Arthur’s dying were so beautifully acted by both – subtle and wonderfully paced. It showed us how much more could have been in the reveal. If only it had not been left so late. Angel Coulby’s Gwen was wonderful too – restrained, dignified and grieving, as enigmatic as Gaius and at least she had her closest other remaining friends by her side to face the lonely future – the ‘immortal’ Sir Leon, wise and kindly Gaius and strong staunch Sir Percival.

    So thank you all the cast, you excelled throughout.

    Posted by Bess | December 25, 2012, 12:29 pm
  4. ‘I’ve vowed to never again allow myself to become so emotionally ensnared by a television program’ Yeah, this.
    I have never been really involved in a TV show. Yes, you like some and watch them. That’s fine.
    Unfortunately Mr. Colin Morgan and Mr. Bradley James changed all that. I have been – so I have been told – slightly obsessed with the show and I had been dreading that last episode.
    In short – Colin and Bradley sold it totally to me. And that last episode was all theirs – thank God! Like so many of us fans, I also feel that the reveal should have happened a long time ago. Preferably at the beginning of season 5, so the reactions of everyone could have been explored and Arthur would have had time to come to terms with the news. Many more interesting avenues rather than an ‘evil Gwen plot that lasted FOUR episodes could have been explored. It was to be a season of wasted opportunities.
    At least this last episode gave us what we wanted to see – Merlin and Arthur finally had a real heart to heart. And although Arthur could finally see how powerful and clever his servant was, there were loads of things he never would find out : did he realize that Merlin was Dolma and Dragoon? What about his belief that Dragoon had killed Uther? I would have loved if Arthur had a flash back seeing all those situation in which Merlin had saved him and helped him using magic.
    As for Merlin – I actually think that he IS happy being Arthur’s servant. It is something that we fans, with our ‘modern’ values have found hard to accept. The recognition that never really happened. the elevation to Arthur’s advisor. I do not think that Merlin needed that. This last episode clearly showed love between them,(Alex Vlahos did describe it as a ‘love story’) and although I have always maintained that they were close friends and nothing more, their bond in this episode was so strong, so sweet that it was very close to a real relationship.
    As for the ending – well TPTB decided to leave a back door open if there should be a continuation at one point. I have no idea what Colin has done to deserve that coat in the final scene! Wearing the same brown jacket for 5 years was punishment enough! I liked the idea of Bess – Merlin in a leather jacket would have much more appealing!
    Thanks Rose for sharing your thoughts in the aftermaths of this final. You sums up many of my feelings very nicely!

    Posted by Nimueh123 | December 26, 2012, 4:29 pm

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