I think it was a shock to a lot of us when it was announced that Merlin was coming to an end as the family friendly series regularly attracts audiences of over six million and is one of the most popular programmes on the iplayer. It appears as if the decision to end the show was a mutual one between cast and crew rather than via an order passed down from the BBC who seemingly would want to hang on to one of their most popular shows for as long as possible. While rumours of a film abound there’s still the little matter of how the series will end and in tonight’s first instalment of the two part finale.
Certainly in the last two years I have found Merlin has matured somewhat, as I suppose its audience has as well, and this episode proves to be very dark indeed and is one that I feel will scare some small children from the outset. The opening of the episode sees Morgana carry out more devilish mischief as she tricks dark sorcerer Ari into entering her dimly-lit layer only for him to have his magical powers sucked out of him by some enchanted snake. Obviously this experiment was in order to see how easy it would be to zap away Merlin’s magical energy and it didn’t take her long to find out as she set the snake to work in Merlin’s quarters.
Though Gaius was quickly able to dispatch of the beast, it had done its worst and Merlin’s powers had gone however his mentor suggest that he set off to The Crystal Cave where he may retain some of his magic. Morgana and Mordred though had learnt of his quest and the former set off to try and stop Merlin being able to help Arthur with the pair eventually squaring off in one of the episode’s more memorable scenes. Though Merlin wasn’t exactly down for the count after his encounter with Morgana but instead needed encouraging words from an old face that appeared to him while he was in the caves. At the end of the episode, which I don’t want to spoil for anybody, things change forever as Merlin emerges from the caves.
Elsewhere this episode really is all about Arthur becoming a man and finally stepping up to the plate trying to take Morgana down once and for all in order to protect the people of Camelot. Here Arthur easily commands his troops into battle but it is thanks to a vision of Merlin that he knows when exactly to expect Morgana’s troops to arrive and gets his men into battle. Though his relationship with Gwen, who only appears a few times throughout this episode, is obviously the main romantic plot for me the show has always been about the bromance between Merlin and Arthur. This is evident in a scene in which the two play a game of dice together at a local pub and later when Merlin tells Arthur that he can’t join him in battle though isn’t able to explain why. As well as focusing on the good the episode also looks at Morgana’s plans to dethrone Arthur by fronting an army of her own alongside Mordred who is bought along as her secret weapon. As the episode comes to an end the battle draws near and it appears as if we will get a definitive conclusion to the series that so many people have invested their time in.
As I previously mentioned Merlin has grown up a lot in the last couple of years and it shows in this penultimate outing which is full of violence and evil-doing but at the same time has some of the cheeky humour and good nature that kept the show going during its earlier days.
Personally I thought the production values were top notch and this was witnessed best in the final five minutes of battle scenes which were built up so brilliantly ending in all out chaos between Arthur’s knights and Morgana and Mordred’s dark warriors. As the show has grown up so have the actors and I think both Colin Morgan and Bradley James will easily be able to find new roles following the end of the series. Morgan’s Merlin has basically become the moral backbone of the series with the actor easily able to move between knockabout humour, such as the scene in the pub, to the life-altering situations he encounters in The Crystal Cave.
James meanwhile has the tougher role of having to make this spoilt prince somewhat likeable but here he has become a commanding presence and it is easy to believe why his men would follow him. Katie McGrath also seems to be having a whale of time hamming it up as the wicked Morgana and I particularly enjoy her cackle. The only one of the four main cast members who has little to do here is Angel Coulby as Gwen who decides to join her husband on tour but then looks bored the entire time. The one issue I have is with the script which is laden with clunky dialogue and I think this is something that Merlin the programme has always struggled with and perhaps is one of the reasons why it’s never quite become as big as Doctor Who.
Overall I think I’m going to miss Merlin as it is one of those programmes that has traditional values but presents them with a modern twist and also doesn’t insult its audience’s intelligence. I thought the production work on this episode was first rate while the performances on the whole were also great even if at times some of the dialogue really didn’t sit right. Based on what’s happened tonight I really don’t know where the series will end, or if it will lead into that much talked about film, but what I do know is that this first instalment has really made me want to come back for more so I’ll be ready and watching on Christmas Eve to see how this story of Merlin concludes.
What did you think to this penultimate episode of Merlin? Are you looking forward to seeing how it will end? Leave Your Comments Below.