Here it is, the final episode of Merlin, and our hero finally has a confession for Arthur…
Well, that was a rather strange beast, and not once did it take the path you expected. A lot of big moments were merrily skipped over in no time flat. There’s no sword fight between Arthur and Mordred, they just stab each other in the first five minutes. Gwaine, as predicted after his ‘moment’ with Merlin in Part 1, doesn’t survive the episode, but he bites the bullet (or, in this case, the magical snake) in a remarkably bleak way. And as for Morgana – still no magical smack-down between her and Merlin! That alone loses the episode a star – after three series of her plotting, she is simply stabbed to death. It’s a shame, as Katie McGrath was more enjoyably mad than ever this episode. Her perfunctory death was a real disservice to the character.
But I’d say Morgana’s death was the episode’s only let down. You can justify Mordred’s swift death, simply because it was unexpected and caught the audience off guard. Even Gwaine’s death had a horrible pointlessness about it, which really was the theme of the whole episode. The good intentions of men apparently mean little in the face of overwhelming destiny.
The Battle of Camlann was over in five minutes, once Emrys arrived to use the kind of magic we’ve been waiting to see for years. Things were also quiet on the Camelot side of things, with only a rather lovely scene of Gwen figuring out for herself that Merlin’s a sorcerer standing out. Seeing her blossom into a powerful Queen in her own right has also been quite rewarding across the series – bar occasional evilness.
So what the hell takes up the episode, if it’s not magical battles and Camelot intrigue? Merlin and Arthur, of course. The heart of the show. Merlin is (thankfully) de-aged from the five minute mark, and spends the rest of the episode trying to get to Avalon in time to save Arthur’s life (without calling his dragon buddies, for some irritating reason…) It’s a bold decision for a finale to spend three-quarters of it’s running time as a two-hander, with Merlin finally confessing his magic and Arthur coming to accept it, embrace who Merlin really is, and finally thank him for everything he’s done.
Colin Morgan and Bradley James have always had incredible chemistry and it’s all cashed in here. Their scenes are heartbreaking and beautifully portrayed. You may wish that Arthur had found out about Merlin’s powers earlier so that the show could have had longer to explore the new status quo between them, but the scenes are played so well here that you don’t care. There was more bromance in this one episode that in Sherlock and Supernatural put together. Hell, there were even moments where a full-on snog would not have been remotely out of place.
I was left in a bit of a state of shock when it became evident that Arthur wasn’t going to survive the journey and that the show wasn’t going to hit its beloved reset button. Instead, he just died in Merlin’s arms. Bit of a downer for Christmas Eve. Colin Morgan is one of those actors – like Billie Piper and Russell Tovey – who make you burst into tears the second you see them crying, so I doubt there were many dry eyes in the roughly six million households across the country who regularly watch Merlin.
As for that modern-day ending, though, with a (very) old Merlin still waiting for Arthur’s resurrection to fulfil his Once and Future King destiny – what do we make of that? Is the BBC keeping its options open for a modern-day continuation of the legend, or was it just to stop the ending from being completely depressing? Spin-offs have been teased, but given the offers Morgan and James have piling up, a full series with them would be impossible. But if Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman can find time for Sherlock, who knows? We might yet still see that prophecy come true.
For now, though, Merlin will be seriously missed from the TV schedules. Sob.