Monday, 24 December 2012

Review: Merlin 5.12-13: The Diamond of the Day

I'm sorry. I'm emotional right now, and I shouldn't really get emotional at a show like Merlin. I was never particularly fond of it, but it was like that little nick you have in the edge of your desk that you're not quite sure is very good for your writing surface but that you feel a bit empty without. I never expected Merlin to be good but I did have this tiny niggling hope that it would all turn out in the end. I can, of course, trust these asshat writers to completely dash that hope, and while in some respects this finale was everything we've asked for, in others it was a cop-out of truly epic proportions that has made sure this seires will go the same way as its spiritual predecessor, the terrible Robin Hood.
Merlin gets old for no reason.
     Morgana, now in the knowledge that Emrys has been Merlin this whole time, marches her forces towards the battlefield of Camlan, where Arthur is prophecised to die. She's used a magic slug to suck away Merlin's powers, forcing him to leave the battle and go to the Crystal Cave. There he has a chat with his spirit Dad and, while watching Arthur's forces go bravely to Camlan, he looks into the light and is recharged as an old man for some reason. On the battlefield, Mordred stabs Arthur with a magic sword and gets Excalibur to the gut in return, but Merlin's deus ex machina isn't in time to save him. He ages down and explains to Arthur all about his magic. As they try to make their way to a place where Arthur can be healed, Arthur slowly comes to terms with Merlin's loyalty and bravery over the past five series. They meet Morgana, whom Merlin stabs with Excalibur, but then despite Kilgarrah's help, Arthur dies in Merlin's arms and Gwen becomes Queen. And then Merlin is a hobo in the Present. Or something.
     Morgana and Mordred worked well together, but their characterisations were completely shoved to the side to make way for the main plot. I was suprised that Merlin has never done the "protagonist loses his powers" thing before, and I was a bit disappointed that it couldn't have had an episode of its own to pan out instead of being sidelined into the end Prophecy, which itself hasn't had the right buildup because of that stupid four weeks of Brainwash!Gwen.
     Merlin telling Arthur was, I'll admit, well done. Arthur reacted how he really would react in that situation, and it was good to see them smoothing over their own ignorance of character development so that Arthur could finally come to appreciate all that Merlin has done for him. It seems an eon ago that this was a cheesy monster-of-the-week show in the vein of Smallville, and this was the confirmation of just how far Merlin has come. And then, then there was something else. Something that told me the exact opposite.
     There were many ways for Merlin to end. The one we all expected, the one that made the most sense, was the one in which Arthur would go on to rule, with Merlin by his side, and create a more free and just kingdom for all. It's something we've taken as granted over these past five years, that while the plot may be swerving away from the Legend, that we'd always end up there by this episode. The writers don't know when to just do what needs to be done, and so for whatever stupid reason, they chose to end the series by having Arthur die and Merlin live forever watching over his body. And that really, really just angered me to the point of blind rage.
Morgana gets a pretty shit death, to be honest.
     I was fine when Lancelot snuffed it. When Mordred randomly grew up far faster than he should have. I was ok when Uther's death was handled in the worst possible way, and I was less annoyed when Merlin himself went out of his way to stop Magic being accepted. But to end the series with Arthur dying, with the added circumstance that he is pretty much gone forever, and that Gwen will reign and will probably have the same views on magic that Arthur had... it's pretty much the biggest fuck you that the writers could come up with without actually saying it.
     After five years, I'm glad to say that the finale was, for the most part, enjoyable. It had good characterisations, good story, nice themes... until, regretfully, the last ten minutes. Those last ten minutes took everything I ever liked about Merlin and threw it all away, choosing to go out on an ending that was less appropriate than anything that LOST or Ashes To Ashes could ever accomplish. The end of the BBC's series of high-quality, Saturday tea-time Family Dramas has come at the cost of the last bit of integrity that Merlin ever had, and it's a horrifically tragic way for it to go.



  1. Couldn't agree with you more

  2. Thank you for giving words to this betrayed, enraged feeling I've been suffering since the finale!