‘Merlin’: Series finale review

This article was written by a Hypable visitor! Learn more and write your own right here.

11:39 pm EST, December 24, 2012

After five years of Merlin, the show has finally come to an end with this truly monumental and unforgettable conclusion. Spoilers follow!

The BBC’s Merlin came to a close tonight with a tragic and sorrowful end. Many elements were handled elegantly and it was a brilliant send-off for some of the most beloved characters in this show.

As for the fans, this episode certainly brought out the waterworks for many (myself included, something I’m not ashamed to admit) but in the end left us on a relatively high note with the resounding message of hope, loyalty, and friendship that we have all come to expect from Merlin. This finale had the epic and vast, but became something so much more personal, the story of how two men would go to the end of the universe and back for each other.

“The Diamond of the Day – Part 2” opens right where part 1 left off; Arthur is in the middle of battle with his knights, Emrys rides on horseback through the forest to Camlann (something which I found visually very humorous), a furious Mordred slaughters through Camelot’s knights on his way to Arthur while Gwen and Gaius tend to the wounded back at camp. Merlin arrives at Camlann in the last moment and blast the saxons away from Arthur and the rest of battlefield, leaving Morgana and her army in shambles. Already emotions are running high throughout these sequences. I was also quite surprised by how quickly the battle was over but not left disappointed because, lets face it, all we wanted were Merlin/Arthur moments.

Then the moment that everyone didn’t want to happen came anyways. As Arthur kneels over a knight Mordred hauntingly enters the frame out of focus and we all know what’s coming. (I for one kept shouting “NO!” multiple times at the screen as Mordred walked up.) No time is wasted as Mordred swiftly stabs Arthur in the gut; then Arthur returns with a similar, but better aimed, blow into Mordred’s heart. I’m glad they choose not to go with the cliche fight sequence between Mordred and Arthur here – the approach of having a swift end for Mordred felt right for the story and for his character.

Alexander Vlahos gave a powerful and heart-wrenching (pun intended) performance in his final scene which, I think, had many sympathizing with his character’s struggle. However much I wish Alexander Vlahos could’ve had more screentime in this episode, I can find no justification for it and completely cherish the time he did have in the episode.

Emrys finds Arthur and carries him off the battlefield into the forest. It is here that Merlin, no longer as old Emrys, tells Arthur he has magic. This scene was one of my favorite moments from the episode. It was such an intimate moment, perfect for the reveal, and the fact that Merlin was still struggling to tell Arthur just broke my heart. Arthur’s outright denial of Merlin when he finally sees the truth was also gut-wrenching, but also understandable for the character. My hat goes off to the writers of the show, for I don’t think this scene could have been handled any better.

Back in Camelot all the knights and Gwen have returned. Gwaine, along with Percival, uses Eira to ambush Morgana. The plan backfires and leads to their capture, torture and Gwaine’s unfortunate death. This was the most difficult death to watch in the episode – Gwaine dies with the knowledge that he has betrayed his king and his kingdom. He fights with his coming death, still wanting to prove that he was a noble knight of Camelot, and it is this struggle that makes it so tragic. Eoin Macken nearly moved me to tears, and I only wish his character could’ve found out the truth about Merlin before his death.

During all of this, Merlin is taking Arthur to Avalon in hopes of healing his fatal wound. The writers chose to make these scenes the majority of the episode, focusing on Merlin and Arthur’s changing relationship with the revelation of magic. Throughout the journey, Arthur goes from someone who denies, rejects, and is suspicious of Merlin and his magic to someone thankful and accepting of Merlin and his unwavering loyalty. It was such a beautiful transformation to see in the episode and superbly underplayed by Bradley James.

This episode perhaps shows the strongest growth in Arthur’s character in a single episode of Merlin. Ultimately, these scenes worked because of Colin Morgan and Bradley James’ on-screen chemistry. They held the episode together and did a remarkable job at bringing a believability to the emotions of their characters.

Morgana’s death scene, on the other hand, might be the biggest let-down of the episode. Her final moments felt lackluster and too abrupt. There was no struggle or real threat in ending Morgana. Everyone was waiting to see this “epic of all epic” showdowns between the two most powerful sorcerers in the world, and all we got was Merlin sneaking up behind Morgana and stabbing her with Excalibur.

Where were the sparks?! Where was the fire and explosions?! Morgana deserved a bigger send off than this, so I found her death unsatisfying.

Arthur’s goodbye turned me into a big gooey pile of mush, I couldn’t hold it back anymore. As Arthur told Merlin “Thank you,” I completely broke down. The impact that this scene had on me surpassed anything that I thought I would feel watching this episode. How relaxed Arthur seemed that he was dying, that everything was okay because he was with Merlin was so touching. And then to watch Merlin, desperate to do anything to save Arthur, calling upon Kilgharrah to help take Arthur to the Lake faster, always believing there is still a chance just made me cry out for him. (Colin, why do you do this to me?!)

Kilgharrah tells Merlin that Arthur was always going to die, but he will come again. Merlin returns Excalibur to the Lake (for a moment I thought he was going to impale himself on the blade, and nearly started crying again) and then gives Arthur a proper send-off upon a boat into the Lake.

We see Gwen take the throne of Camelot and then we’re back to Lake Avalon… when suddenly a truck rumbles past revealing it is now present day! An old, unkempt man with a long beard and ratty jacket walks down the side of the road past the Lake. It is clearly Emrys, who has lived all this time waiting for Arthur to one day return to the world so he can take his place by Arthur’s side. I rather liked this end because I felt it tied up the themes nicely and doesn’t give a definitive end to Merlin’s story, but allows it to continue forever.

Make sure to leave your reactions to the series finale below in the comments and we may read your thoughts on the next Talks of Camelot episode.

How emotional were you during the finale of ‘Merlin’?

2018 is the year of the diverse superhero

Introducing the Hypable app

Free for iOS and Android