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The Final End,
This review is from: Merlin Complete BBC Series 5 [DVD] (DVD)
*SPOILERS AHEAD* I put off writing this review until I had watched both parts of the final episode again, just to be sure on how I felt about the ending. Because this is the last season, I am going to go over briefly some thoughts about previous seasons as well. I want to get it out the way that this season is definitely not the worst and is by no means bad, but it should've have been better. After reading that last sentence, you're probably wondering why I'm giving the season four stars? Well that's just fan denial and I couldn't bare to give it three, but knowing me, after I've watched the season as a whole again I'll probably be happy with four. Merlin has always been something of a slow-burner, building things up, occasionally knocking them down and without a doubt frustrating a loyal and committed fan base. I think most people can admit that the first season, while strong and entertaining, is by far the weakest, but that's mostly due to it being first and needing time to find it's feet. The second season was much better and was really starting to put the blocks in place. The third and fourth seasons are where the show truly knows what it wants to be and a result come off as confident.
I will now start talking about this current and final season, but I would first like to briefly talk about Morgana's imprisonment between this and the previous season. Before this season started, the creators of the show kept mentioning it like it was of huge importance, but it turned out to be nothing more then vaguely flash backed to in episode 2 and briefly mentioned in episode 8. This went no where in adding to her character or even having any major consequences further down the line, so why bother telling us at all?
I think it's fair to say that the first half was stronger than the second. It opened with a great two parter, reintroducing Mordred, now played by an actor who is obviously taking the role seriously and does tremendous justice to the character (which will reach its peak in the best episode of the season, but more on that later. The Death Song of Uther Pendragon was great, emotional episode and I think everyone was happy to see the return of Anthony Head. The next episode, Another's Sorrow, was, admittedly, an average one, but funnily enough I really do like it. The fifth episode is the worst of the season and absolutely boring, as it is exactly the same as 'The Crystal Cave' from season 3. The Dark Tower is the second best episode this season and if you've seen it I really don't need to say anymore, however the ending sets up the 'Dark Gwen' story arc, which in my opinion is where the season dips and really disappoints. I found it to be filler, unnecessary and should have been done in an earlier season. The Kindness of Strangers is a brilliant episode and has a really shock ending. My favourite episode, The Drawing of the Dark, is just perfection. Alexander Vlahos puts everything into his performance here and really pays off in making us care about him and taking his side, but to be fair Kara had it coming. It also contains that long awaited reveal of Emrys being Merlin to Morgana and it's brilliant.
I want to end this by talking about those last episodes. How were they? Well, they weren't what they should have been, which is disappointing to be sure, but I can't rant about something that didn't happen and have to accept what did happen and examine it for what it was. The first part of The Diamond of the Day is a very good build up, which plenty of great moments, the best of which being the return of John Lynch as Merlin's father Balinor. The scenes between him and Merlin are well acted, emotional and remind you of what you're going to miss when the show ends. It also contains the start of a well choreographed and exciting battle which well sadly end swiftly, if epicly, at the beginning of part two. And part two is where most of the problems lay, so let's get the negatives out the way first. Gwaine's Death (like Allan 'A Dale's in BBC's Robin Hood) was unnecessary and just annoys fans when (again just like Allan 'A Dale) happens to a character who is beloved and has been underused (for 2 seasons). Morgana's death was just stupid. Here in the scene, we have Merlin, the greatest sorcerer to ever live and Morgana, a high priestess, in what should have been a grand battle displaying a full range of their magical abilities is instead reduced to simple taunting and a simple stabbing. I'm sorry, what? Also just the whole episode (after those first ten minutes) just had a very slow pace about it, when really it should have been more exciting and have a more pressing sense or urgency. I mean, why didn't Merlin just call Kilgharrah to take him and Arthur straight to the lake of Avalon? Ok yeah when he eventually does he says that he tried not due to the dragon's injuries and such, but his best friend is dying, surely it was worth the risk?
There's no way I could write this review without talking about the reveal of Merlin's Magic to Arthur. Was it worth it in the end? Was it a moment that should have been the highlight of the entire series? Well, kind of. The fact of the matter is there was no build up to it and just happened. Merlin has been in many situations where Arthur is dying so why now? BUT on the other hand it was so perfectly acted and both Colin and Bradley pitched their reactions so realistically that I can forgive it because it it opens up the best thing about the episode - the intense focus on their friendship. It'd be cruel of me not to mention how superbly every actor plays their role in this show, but these two are by far the best. They are, what I believe, the reason to be why people love this show so much. When Arthur does die, you really feel it, mostly due to Merlin's reaction and clear heartbreak and yes at that point I was crying. And that last scene? I found it kind of stupid, as it isn't quite clear as to whether Merlin is immortal or can just live a really long time, but he's the greatest sorcerer to ever live so I'm he worked something out and as such I found it to be bitter sweet in the end.
I think this is the longest review I have ever written on here and it's easy to see why, I had a lot I wanted to talk about. I, like many, am going to miss Merlin and hope that those talks of a film or two come to pass as I would like a more solid closure (Are people allowed to practice magic freely now or what?), but if not then I'm at least satisfied with what we got. Goodbye Merlin, and thank you.