A suitably dramatic series finale finds time for some quiet moments between the principal protagonists, some dry humour from Arthur to Merlin, words of wisdom from Gaius, the use of more than one major piece of Arthurian iconography and lore – and the unexpected return of at least one character.
It’s a key story for Merlin; it may not be the first time that someone has died as a result of his powers, but one of the deaths early on in the episode is highly important to his development as Arthur’s protector.
Detractors of the way in which the Arthur and Gwen romance has been handled this season will probably chafe at some of the developments in this episode, but quite frankly, there are certain givens within the way that the BBC is telling this story, and one of those is that Arthur and Gwen will be together – it’s central to Morgana’s hatred of Gwen, after all. Arthur’s “sister” gets a few memorable moments, particularly given director Alice Troughton’s use of slow motion and almost freeze-frame during battle sequences, with a silhouette shot that epitomises the character’s changes over the past four seasons.
Tristan and Isolde’s story plays out much as one might expect, although at one point you do wonder whether the writers have mistaken Tristan for Han Solo (there’s a scene that feels so like the farewell on the Yavin moon in the first Star Wars film that you half-expect them to disappear and reappear from out of the sun to save Arthur’s life…!)
Verdict: With a nice twist in the final scene, this is a strong end to a strong season. 8/10
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