How Merlin Lost Its Magic

WARNING: I know how much I hate spoilers for programs I love, so if you haven’t seen all but one episode of season 5 of Merlin yet (which is most of America), STOP READING NOW. When you’ve seen all of the season, please feel free to come back and let me know what you think. I normally wouldn’t discuss something that will air soon in the U.S. (it’s been painful to keep silent regarding Downton Abbey), but I’m making an exception.

The BBC makes amazing programs and I’m hooked on most of them (like I needed more reasons to be obsessed and in love with Britain). I normally stumble across the programs on my own or Twitter, but I discovered Merlin through a friend (thank you Tiffany!). I binge watched the first few seasons on Netflix and finished just in time for season 4 to start.

Like the title suggests, Merlin is loosely based on the legend of King Arthur and Camelot, but instead of seeing Merlin at his mightiest, we see him at his beginnings, where he’s just a servant to Arthur, and must hide his magic since it’s been outlawed by the King.

Each season has been better than the last, mainly because it’s been awesome to see Merlin learn more about his powers and just how powerful he really is. My other favorite part would have to be the interaction between Merlin and Arthur. They have a serious bromance going on, which actor Bradley James, who plays Arthur, acknowledged:

Ahh, the famous bromance...

When I saw this article, “Why Merlin’s 5th and Final Season is the ‘Most Extreme Yet,'” my heart sank. Season five could have been the best–key words could have been. The first few episodes were tightly written and all hinting at Morgana and Merlin finally meeting face to face as magic rivals. I couldn’t wait for the next episode and pondering just how crazy their meet up was going to be.

Out of the blue, it was announced Merlin was going to be cancelled. I was sooooooo bummed. It’s always tough to hear about a program you love ending, but when the producers and writers promised the series would end with everything fans had waited for (Merlin taking down Morgana) I was relieved. Unlike many other programs I’ve loved over the years, Merlin had a chance to actually end instead of being a cliffhanger forever, and I’d get some closure. Even more exciting: it was a two part finale. In my mind, two parts meant more time to wrap things up nicely (YAY!).

Well, we did get an ending, but the only “extreme” thing was how poorly it ended and how extremely disappointed I was. Like my friend Tiffany put it, “stupid Merlin, being all awesome and addicting, and then sucking right at the end.”

Fans had been waiting for eons to see the massive battle between Morgana and Merlin, as well as the moment when Morgana finds out who Emrys is. What we got was maybe three minutes of battle that felt nothing like a final showdown.

It’s beyond obvious the cancellation caught everyone off guard. I felt like the writing became very choppy and skipped around a lot. For example, Arthur doesn’t notice the love of his life, Gwen is acting all weird for like, two episodes, then suddenly he notices and is all upset? Really? But, the worst evidence of this is seen in the first episode (Arthur’s Bane, Part 1″) when we see the prophecy. That’s right, they showed it to us and then totally screwed it up. Arthur should not have died due to a part of the blade breaking off in his stomach and working its way to his heart–both blades were forged from dragon’s breath and should be incredibly strong and up for some major clashing and spectacular choreographed fighting. I know and am okay with it happening since it’s the way the legend goes, but man, what a horribly weak, unepic (that’s right, it’s so bad I’m making up words) way for him to go out against Mordred, who is also a huge part of Arthurian legend. Mordred’s death wasn’t well done either. Throughout his time in the series, you were set up to distrust and hate him, especially by episode 11 where he goes full on evil, and in all honesty, I wanted to see him go doowwwwwn after a crazy, skilled fight.

I can’t even discuss the bit with Dragon and getting him to the water. How infuriating! Why did Merlin wait until the last second to call Dragon? He’s called him to help when time is short tons of times before–why think carrying Arthur to the water is better? I would even be willing to be “okay” with Arthur dying if Dragon had carried him to the water and he died at the edge. At least the urgency would have been there!

And while we are talking about dragons, I’m disappointed about Aithusa’s exit. She appeared then disappeared. I really wanted Merlin to take her under his wing and help her learn to talk (I think she’s still a baby by the last episode). I mean, it seemed fitting since Merlin hatched her by giving her a name and her being a white dragon meant a good omen for Merlin and Arthur’s destiny. It would have been wonderful to see Aithusa try to carry Arthur’s body to the water, but in her weakened state, not make it. If there had been another season, I would love to think we would have learned more about Aithusa; for a dragon meant to be such a positive force, I wondered why she had such a close bond with Morgana and chose to save her. Did she save her out of pity, or was Aithusa not as innocent and good as I thought?

Having watched the finale again, part of me feels like I would have been happier to see the series end just before Mordred reveals he knows who Emrys is. Yes, it would have left fans hanging BUT if they did a movie like has been rumored, fans and the producers/writers would have gotten the ending Merlin truly deserved. I give the producers, writers and crew credit for doing their best to wrap up everything on such short notice. I’m sure it was very hard to cut storylines and intriguing pieces to make sure all the main parts were taken care of, but there were many issues I felt as a fan, I didn’t get any closure.

Despite it being a let down for me, there were some memorable moments that made watching worthwhile and hinted at what made the program so wonderful:

-Merlin in Crystal Cave: Ah, the birthplace of magic….These scenes in the cave were one of my favorite parts of the finale. Why? They had all the care and attention to details that I wanted from the final episode. Yes, it’s crazy Morgana not only left him in the only place in the world he could get his powers back and didn’t kill him, but seeing Merlin talk with his father was lovely. The lines where he notes Merlin himself IS magic and can’t ever truly lose who he is were the best moments of the whole episode. It reminded viewers just how utterly strong Merlin is and why his destiny would be so influential for Camelot. I knew they wouldn’t kill him off, or really take his magic away, but seeing the butterfly flutter out of his hands sure made me feel a lot better.

-Merlin being badass: I really don’t know how else to say that. Watching Merlin/Emrys use his magic on the Saxons, turning Aithusa away and taking care of Morgana was exactly what I wanted to see in the finale episode, I just wish there had been much, much more of it. My dream moment would have been between him and Morgana, where he unleashed such magic she had a chance for it to sink in just how much more powerful he was before she died, similar to Harry Potter fighting Voldemort, spells flying around them and both of them yelling out spells.

-Gaius seeing Merlin at his best: When Gwen asked who that man on the hill was and if Gaius knew him, I really appreciated the expression on Gaius’ face. He saw how much Merlin had struggled with hiding the fact he had magic, and being overwhelmed with knowing what to do; you could see how proud he was of Merlin and how in awe he was of his magic. Gaius has always been a fun character, and I’ve enjoyed seeing him treat Merlin like his son and while he didn’t have a huge role to play in the finale, I’m glad he had that scene.

-Arthur learning the truth: Well, thank goodness they let Arthur know Merlin had magic. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as long as it needed to be, but it would have been a mistake to leave it out. I can’t blame Arthur for having trouble coming to terms with Merlin not only having magic but using it many times to save his life. It is a pretty big shock, especially when in his mind Merlin is a bumbling servant who can’t have any talents, but it confuses me that he accepted the dream he had wasn’t actually a dream, but can’t get accept Merlin has magic (even after that awesome display in the fire in the woods–how can you ignore that?!). My friend Tiffany reminded me of something crucial though: Arthur has always blamed the sorcerer who couldn’t save his father, Uther; Merlin was that sorcerer. She points out this should have been discussed and dealt with before Arthur could come to terms with Merlin’s magic. At the very least, it should have been mentioned before he dies. I had totally forgotten this part and she’s absolutely right and remembering it makes Arthur’s death feel even worse.

There have been lots of rumors about rebooting the whole program, doing a movie, doing a spinoff….What would you like to see if Merlin comes back? Any actors, writers you’d love (or hate) to see? If they picked up where this version of Merlin left off, I hope they’d give us some sort of hint as to what Gwen did after Arthur’s death, and how the kingdom managed without their king as well as what on earth Merlin has been up to. It’s too early for me to decide what I’d like to see in a reboot or a movie; I need time to get over this version first.