British Merlin fans were able to get their series 5 DVD box sets today, and might have already listened to the commentary track for “The Diamond of the Day, Part 2,” which features Katie McGrath (Morgana) and Julian Murphy.
This track marks the first and so far only time in which one of the Merlin showrunners have spoken out about the way in which the show ended, and as such, we are sure that fans of the show will be curious to find out what he had to say.
The commentary is a very enjoyable listen; they seem to have a lot of fun discussing the show and playing with innuendos and fan assumptions. If possible, do listen to the whole thing yourself, because we’re sure it’s more enjoyable to hear Murphy and McGrath themselves rather than reading about it!
Here are some of the biggest reveals for easy consumption:
The magic reveal almost didn’t happen
One of the first things which Murphy reveals is that in one version of the finale script, “Arthur never found out about Merlin’s magic.” This was definitely shocking, since that has been what fans have probably been anticipating the most for the past five years.
Murphy also acknowledges here that they were, in fact, never planning to reveal Merlin’s magic before the end of the series. Luckily they decided to include it in the finale after all, as not doing it at all “felt like a cheat to the audience.”
The finale was “a love story between two men”
Merlin and Arthur’s friendship has obviously been one of the driving forces of the series, and the perceived ambiguity of their relationship has been a main focus for the fandom. In this commentary, Murphy and McGrath share some really interesting thoughts (and some very funny jokes) about the pair of them, and while a lot of what they say is definitely not meant to be taken seriously, we did find some of their comments worth pointing out.
Most notably, the showrunner confirms that Merlin and Arthur did indeed grow to love each other by the end of the series, calling it a “pure” love. “We did, very genuinely, think of the episode as a love story between two men. Which is what I think it is, jokes and innuendo aside,” he says. McGrath adds that, “you can’t deny that Merlin and Arthur do love each other, you know? In whatever love way you want to think, there is no denying.”
Their jokes in the commentary largely revolve around the idea that magic (and the magic reveal) is a metaphor for homosexuality – an idea which Merlin fans have been throwing around for years, and we were therefore surprised to hear the way in which McGrath and Murphy address it. Murphy says things like, “on no level is magic metaphorical in this show,” to which McGrath will respond, “it’s funny, I don’t actually feel like you’re being sincere.” This leaves us to wonder to what extent they were, in fact, making these metaphors on a more conscious level than perhaps the average viewer (who wasn’t necessarily looking for the subtext) might have assumed.
Murphy points to the moment where Arthur finally dies as what the entire series has been building towards. At the “just hold me,” Murphy justifies to a shocked McGrath that, “well, he’s dying, the man he loves is dying, so he’s holding him.”
“I think you maybe just confirmed what a lot of people thought,” McGrath says at the end of the commentary. “And I’m glad that Julian could do it, because he’s probably the only one who could have gotten away with that commentary.”
We also want to point to a hilarious line by Murphy, even if it is said in joke (when Arthur passes his seal to Gaius), “That’s the last vestige of his heterosexu– I mean sorry, that’s the last vestige of his marriage.” Well, now that the show is over, we guess they can finally make jokes like this, right?
Gwen and Leon? Morgana and… Morgause?
Now, here is a ship which never really sailed, but which this writer in particular might have developed a bit of a penchant for. And evidently, so has Katie McGrath. Murphy jokes about Gwen being a “scorned wife,” and McGrath replies, “but she has Sir Leon!” Although Murphy’s response (“ah, see, that’s another undercurrent in Merlin“) sounds like a joke, we’ll take it. Gweon, are we calling it?
McGrath also complains that she never got a love interest, and Murphy pays homage to another fan pairing: “I gave you Morgause. Incestuous lesbianism, what more do you want?” Although he maintains that it was McGrath and Emilia Fox who brought that element of their relationship across. Sadly though, the Gwen/Morgana mud wrestling scene never got greenlit. “It’s a family show,” Murphy says. “Not in your head,” McGrath replies.
Choosing to end the series with tragedy
“I felt a horrible pressure doing these [last] two [episodes],” Murphy admits. “Because you gotta pay off the series.” Because they based the show on such an iconic legend, and because people have an expectation for the ending and Arthur’s death, “it has that weight of history, and yet you have to make it fresh.”
Ultimately, the showrunner calls the finale “simple,” just Merlin and Arthur on this final journey together. He also allows that, “obviously the ending is tragic, basically, Arthur dies and he fails,” adding, “I don’t know how the nation’s gonna feel on Christmas eve. It’s pretty gut-wrenching.” But Murphy explains that he just couldn’t find a way to give the show a happy ending, because “people would feel cheated.” So he couldn’t find a way out of the tragedy, except for adding in the final flash forward moment at the very end.
Finally, Murphy clears up a few things which fans might have been left wondering about: when they fly to Avalon on the dragon, Arthur was indeed completely dead. And the hand coming out of the lake was the Lady of the Lake’s, not Arthur’s.
We’ll leave you on a high with McGrath’s vision of the ending, which sounds like something straight out of a fanfic – and we have to admit, we kind of love it: “I had the most amazing ending where Arthur is lying mortally wounded on the battlefield. Merlin comes up and cradles him in his arms. Merlin to Arthur: ‘I have magic.’ Arthur takes Merlin’s face in his hands. ‘I know. I think I’ve always known.'”
What do you think about Julian Murphy’s quotes? Now that you’ve had some time to process, how do you feel about the way in which Merlin ended?
The hosts of Hypable’s Merlin podcast Talks of Camelot share their thoughts on the ending and the final season as a whole on the latest episode of the podcast! Listen, enjoy, and leave us your feedback.