We’re into the home stretch here as Arthur and his army ride to Camlann to face Morgana and Mordred. But Merlin, having lost his magic to an oversized slug, can’t be there to protect him.
This was a great set-up for the finale, with only one or two niggles. The very end of the episode, with Merlin taking on the elderly Emrys form again was the main let down. I guess the writers are trying to marry the show up with the legend by presenting the old, bearded Merlin, but it’s actually to the detriment of the show. The last thing you want to do in the finale is cover the lead actor’s face with prosthetics. Also, after all this time, what we really want to see is Merlin accepting his magic without the disguise. Instead, he’s still hiding. I can only hope that the old Emrys make-up doesn’t last long in the final episode, impressive as it is.
But that ending was really the only flaw in the episode. Morgana is enjoyably mental, and Mordred seems uncomfortably aware of the fact. The sight of them combining their magic to firebomb Camelot’s garrison was suitably impressive. They’re like a medieval WMD. And those two sword fights at the end were truly the stuff of big-screen blockbusters (did anyone else cheer to see Percival leading a charge? Bless him). Merlin can often be accused of overdoing the slow-mo battles, but when it showcases all the snazzy fight moves Bradley James has picked up over the years, who cares?
The action scenes in this episode, though, are really beside the point. The heart of the episode lies in Arthur and Merlin’s relationship, and Merlin’s lost powers. The opening game of dice between the two of them was good fun and a nice last piece of levity between them before Merlin gets face-raped by Morgana’s latest magical pet and loses his magic. Colin Morgan is fantastic throughout, looking utterly bereft without his powers, a shadow of his usual quietly confident self. Merlin even seems somehow smaller, and the terror with which he screams for Gwaine to save him when he’s attacked by a bandit is shocking to both the character and the audience.
Quite why Morgana chooses to trap the powerless Merlin in the Crystal Cave rather than kill him is a bit of a mystery (hey, if it’s good enough for Bond villains, it’s good enough for Morgana), but it does lead to Merlin’s beautifully played lowest point. Luckily, his Ghost Dad is on hand for a pep talk (it’s been a good series for dead dads) and soon he’s all better and powered up, even communicating with Arthur via crystals – although if I was Gwen I’d worry about my husband waking up in the middle of the night calling out Merlin’s name…
Speaking of Arthur, the scene where Merlin tells him he won’t be coming to Camlann is of course the highlight of the episode. It’s as painful as any break-up scene, and as any good script writer knows you always want to drive a wedge between your central couple as you go into the third act.
Everything, aside from the presence of old Merlin, is perfectly in place for the finale. Merlin and Gwaine got one last mini adventure together (in between Gwaine shagging treacherous village girls – that was odd), but it did smack of a final goodbye between them. Will Gwaine survive the final battle? Mordred was last seen making his way through the battle, looking for Arthur. Gwen and Arthur got one last big romantic scene, and everything is in place for the chief relationship in the show to take centre stage – it’s always been all about the bromance.