With just four episodes left before BBC’s Merlin finally draws to a close, the one question on everyone’s mind seems to be: how can Merlin reach it’s climactic end when there are still so many unresolved plot points in the story?
For our first post as part of Hypable’s Month of Merlin series, we’ve outlined the five biggest plot points the show needs to address before Merlin’s epic series finale.
We know what you must be thinking: Mordred eventually turning evil is almost a given. In Arthurian Legend, Mordred is the one who ultimately slays Arthur during the Battle of Camlann, and in the BBC series, we’ve seen a glimpse of this future already.
But the peculiar thing about Mordred is that up until now, we haven’t been given a reason not to trust him. In fact, he seems genuinely loyal to Arthur – even willingly laying down his life to save his when the knights journeyed to see the Disir. Additionally, we haven’t seen Mordred use a trace of magic since he was reintroduced to us in series 5.
Clearly, something big has to happen that will act as the catalyst he needs to ultimately betray Arthur and fight against him. And whatever that catalyst might be, we just hope it’s explained properly; we hope it’s believable and if it turns out that Mordred has in fact been hiding his true colors all this time, we hope we as viewers are allowed a glimpse into what has been going on in his head through the first half of series 5.
Morgana learning that Merlin is Emrys (and has magic) is arguably as important of a development as Arthur discovering the truth. The writers have very deliberately made sure that she never found out, even though by all rights she should have realised by now – if nothing else, Mordred should have told her. They even made Aithusa unable to speak, probably so she wouldn’t reveal Merlin’s identity to her either!
As we know, Emrys is the person prophesied to bring about Morgana’s downfall. If Morgana had known it was Merlin, she probably would have come after him a long time ago, but surely the writers have been saving this reveal for something specific, too? If Arthur and Mordred are being set up for their date with destiny by the season’s end, then hopefully Morgana and Merlin are, too.
And we want that reveal and showdown to be as epic as it possibly can be! If Merlin just transforms into Dragoon again and faces her in that form without her ever learning the truth, it’s going to feel like a bit of a let-down.
While this one seems like a given, it is actually the one giving us the most anxiety. Because as some Hypable readers have already pointed out to us, there is a distinct possibility that it may not happen at all.
First of all, Bradley James (Arthur) has previously said in interviews that he believes there needs to be a period of Arthur knowing about Merlin’s magic without Merlin realising. Of course, his opinion probably doesn’t have a bearing on the actual plot, but it does make us wonder: is there a possibility that Arthur already knows, and that the writers will use that to save some time by having Merlin reveal his magic only for Arthur to brush it off like it’s old news? (Not all fans are against this, of course, as it’d prove that Arthur trusts Merlin no matter what.)
Second, the writers have hinted that Arthur finding out isn’t actually that important to the story. Is it possible that Arthur could die without ever learning the truth? Or maybe he sees the truth just as Mordred mortally wounds him, and we never get his reaction?
All of these worst-case scenarios only serve to make us feel even more strongly about Arthur needing to find out. This is what the show has been building towards for five years: Arthur and Merlin’s budding friendship, which has always been held back because Merlin has needed to keep his true power and worth from Arthur, who continues to see him as a hapless servant. Surely, this dynamic needs to finally change for the better before the end!
Continuing on from the last point, Merlin not only needs to be able to stand tall and sing “Born This Way” for all of Camelot to hear, but he also needs to come into his own and have not only Arthur but all of the people he knows see him for who he truly is, and understand what he’s really been doing for them all this time.
While the show is called Merlin, some fans have noted that the show seems to mainly be about Arthur – because everything Merlin feels and does centers around the man he’s sworn to protect. The last episode showed perfectly how Merlin’s entire existence revolves around Arthur, and how he really doesn’t have anything in his life that’s just his. Sure, Merlin is usually the one saving the day, but nothing ever changes because no one usually realises that it’s him. As such, Merlin’s character growth has been very limited, because his relationships with the other characters can’t change.
There’s probably not enough time for this, but what we really want is for Merlin to finally take his rightful place on Arthur’s right-hand side at the Round Table, for everyone to see. Yes, Arthur needs to acknowledge his magic, but so does Gwen, and Gwaine, and Leon, and the servants, and the kingdom at large. Everything Merlin has had to suffer in order to keep his secret and keep Arthur safe must be revealed, to allow the character to be appreciated not just by the audience and Gaius, but the other characters as well.
The ban on magic has been the literary device used to shape the entire series since the very beginning. It is the reason why Merlin has had to keep his true powers a secret and keep up his affected simple-mindedness, and why he has had to stay by Arthur’s side as his servant, not his equal. Defeating magic users was King Uther’s ultimate aim, and this was the reason why the majority of the show’s villains came to Camelot to try to take down the royal family.
It was why Kilgarrah was imprisoned in the dungeons, and why Merlin’s destiny was tied to Arthur in the first place: the two of them would unite Albion in an era of peace and prosperity, and people with magic would no longer be unfairly prosecuted.
None of this has been resolved yet, and there are four episodes left. Four episodes that also need to deal with Gwen’s twisted personality, Mordred’s betrayal, and the final battle. Yes, there has been a period of calm in the kingdom since Arthur took the throne, but it has been made very apparent this season that the “golden age” of Albion is still ahead of us. But… er, when exactly is it gonna happen? Unless there’s another time jump, it looks like Arthur will meet his end in the finale without this golden age ever happening! And it would be a strange and unfulfilling way to resolve a series, if it ends up having been defined by a prophecy which never came true.
Maybe the series will be left on a hopeful note. Maybe Arthur doesn’t die (er, yeah, we’re delusional, we know), or maybe he has a child who Merlin can help be the next great ruler. At this point, we can only hope that Albion is united somehow, and that magic is finally accepted by the general population. After all, the dragon promised.
What do you think is the biggest plot point that must be resolved before Merlin’s series finale on December 29?