Why oh why did they have to air the end of the series during the holidays?! Don't they know we're über-busy at that time of the year and can't properly enjoy the show or have time to write about it after?! *sigh* Fortunately I took notes while watching, and am just going to combine both episodes together in this one post.
In brief: this is THE END. If you know anything about Arthurian Legend then you know exactly what that means. The epic Battle of Camlann. Morgana and Mordred and their Saxon army against Arthur and his knights. With Morgana finally knowing that Merlin a.k.a. Emrys is the real threat, and so she first takes drastic measures against him. Be prepared, things get very bloody. There will be lots of significant deaths and you will cry!
Be warned: major spoilers from here on down! Read only once you've seen the episodes. Then share your thoughts at the end please!
Let's do this in parts:
Morgana and Mordred:
The magic sucking creature is very creepy! And Morgana using it on one of her allies shows us just how much she has changed since the beginning of this series 5 years ago (9 or 10 for the characters). She used to be very empathetic, now she's cruel! And she's definitely got Mordred 100% on her side, even providing him with his own indestructible dragon-breath sword (like Excalibur). Thing is, other than that and launching the final attack, there really isn't that much interaction between them (or even much for him to do, except for one key moment of course)... until she buries him.
"For Arthur is nothing without Emrys, and Emrys is nothing without magic"
Merlin with and without Magic:
Great magic-less acting by Colin, he makes you believe he feels totally helpless and unsure of himself. You can totally feel his desperation in the cave!
Speaking of the cave... nice touch bringing Merlin's ghostly father back to reconnect him to his roots and help him regain his magic by realising exactly who he is! Bad thing: this whole "Merlin lost his magic" would have been more powerful had it lasted longer and been harder for him to get his powers back! But the Crystal Cave was gorgeous!
VERY cool example of Merlin's magic when he sends the message to Arthur in a "dream" about Morgana's surprise attack. Arthur saying "didn't feel like a dream, it felt..." and then jumping into action was a surprise, but then also shows on a subconscious level how much he trusts Merlin.
When the first episode ended with Merlin magically bursting out of there I was very worried we'd be stuck with "old Emrys" for the rest of the season finale! It was upsetting to see him be the one to save the army using magic, instead of letting everyone there witness Merlin doing the magic and realising what that meant... *sigh* Fortunately it was just for the duration of the battle.
Battle of Camlann:
Wow! They sure put a lot of work into this one! Was very well done (loved the use of Aithusa! Thankfully Morgana never found out Merlin's a Dragonlord!), in my opinion, very thrilling (even Gwen gets involved!), very tense (will Merlin arrive in time to help?!)... but much too short! Basically we've been working up to this battle all season, then all of the penultimate episode... and it only lasted all of a few minutes in one episode and a few more in the next?! *grumble* The shots of both Arthur and Mordred fighting were amazing. And the final confrontation between the two... *sigh* Arthur's moment of weakness cost him his life. Had he not hesitated to attack Mordred perhaps he could have saved himself. Mordred didn't hesitate... at least Arthur avenged himself! But all this happened too quickly... I think barely 5' of the second episode are about the battle! All this build-up and then... poof! Merlin shows up and it's all done. :o(
Was anybody else reminded of Charlton Heston as Moses when magical "old" Merlin (Emrys) was throwing lightning bolts down on the battlefield?
Merlin and Gwaine:
I loved the fact that Gwaine went with Merlin to the caves to protect him, a final "adventure" between the two friends. But I was very upset at being cheated out of a certain conversation between the two concerning Merlin's magic!!! On the other hand, Gwaine's reaction to this speech, his complete trust in Merlin, makes me wonder if he doesn't already know or suspect. I still say he saw Merlin using magic in the caves last season!!! ;o)
"Look after yourself Merlin." (gives him his sword) "You know when to use the sharp end?, right" lol! and "I hope you find what you're looking for." Final interactions between the two?! Lovely and yet... Really?!?!?! *grumble, grumble* We never get Gwaine's reaction to Merlin's secret! grrrrrr...
Merlin and Morgana:
|"I blame myself for what you've become."|
We get two confrontations between Merlin and Morgana, one in each episode. And you can tell they've been a long time coming! Morgana gets the upperhand in the first, and I can't help but wonder if she doesn't verify that he's dead because in a way she still underestimates him. Prophecies or not, it must have been hard for her to believe that the "all-powerful Emrys" was really Merlin (as in bumbling servant)! Anyhow, the final confrontation taught her, too late! Thing is... with these two powerful sorcerers... I was expecting a magical duel of some kind! First time Merlin has no magic, and the second time (when she goes looking for him and Arthur to finish things and avenge Mordred) it's all her overconfidence and her lack of knowledge about Excalibur so it's over before it even begins. No fireworks! :o(
Merlin and Arthur:
The two-parter started out with a great moment between the two, "friendly" game of dice! Pretty much the last truly light-hearted moment in the series, as Merlin teases Arthur while beating him thanks to cheating with magic. Later there's a more emotional moment when Merlin tells Arthur he won't be joining him at Camlann (has to go get his powers back, but can't tell Arthur that!) and Arthur is truly hurt and disappointed in Merlin.
Then about 2/3rds of the final episode is all Merlin and Arthur. As Merlin lifts an injured Arthur up and carries him away from the battlefield (without a second glance at Mordred!). Colin Morgan does an incredible acting job when Merlin finally confesses (in tears!) to Arthur about being a sorcerer. You can feel his sadness, his (justified) fear of Arthur's reaction, and yet at the same time see how he releases his pain, his guilt, his fear... as he finally unburdens himself and can admit who and what he is to the person he cares about the most. And Arthur's reaction throughout: disbelief ("Merlin you are not a sorcerer, I would know!"), anger, rejection! Also very believable, very true to form! Such a painful moment for both of them!
The rest of the episode is basically Arthur coming to terms with this new knowledge about Merlin, about what it means, first feeling terribly betrayed and disappointed, then (with Gaius' help) realising everything Merlin has done for him, seeing him in a new light and finally accepting him ("I don't want you to change."). And Merlin's relief at that... The whole thing was beautiful to behold, and felt very true. It's almost enough to make me forgive the writers for holding out so long for this moment!
I was really hoping Merlin would be able to save Arthur in this version of the story... but he couldn't even get him to Avalon! Why didn't he call the dragon sooner?! *sob* Arthur's final words to Merlin... "Everything you’ve done... I know now. For me, for Camelot. For the kingdom you helped me build. Thank you." *sob!!!*
And so the story ends. With Gwen Queen of Camelot!!! Woah! Uther must be doing somersaults in his grave! :p
|"The King is dead. Long live the Queen!"|
Speaking of Gwen, she put the Merlin pieces together and seemed not all that surprised to learn about his magical abilities, and still trusted him completely to do what was best for Arthur!
And an old Merlin wanders the world (weird!), waiting until the day it will once again need Arthur, the Once and Future King.
|Heading to his final resting place on Avalon. Glastonbury Tor?|
Wow. I certainly went on and on about these two... just couldn't condense it any more, too much I wanted to say! It was both thrilling and sad. And slightly disappointing, like most of this season. So much potential... they could have made this the best season of the series, and they failed (in spite of a couple of truly excellent episodes). This part of the story should have been developed over more than just two episodes! *sigh*
For another insightful take on these two episodes, head on over to Billie Doux (episode 512, 513) and see what Mark had to say about them!
Elements from Arthurian Legend:
- Saxons! We've been getting glimpses of them over the past few episodes, but here they are finally the main army against which the Knights of Camelot must fight! Big difference with all the legends: they're attacking Camelot under Morgana's command, not fighting under Hengist, Horsa, Aelle or Cerdic in order to claim British lands to live upon.
- Camlann: The place of Arthur's death. Only thing is it was supposed to be a "mighty plain", and instead we get the narrowest point in a pass! Strategically an excellent spot to fight Morganan, but inconsistent with previous legends and the show's own prophecy! :p
- Crystal Cave: I have to check other stories, but it features very prominently in Mary Stewart's books (title of the first one!) as the place Merlin discovers his gift of prophecy and a place where he has a strong connection with his magic.
- Gwaine's death: he dies in the end of the Arthurian Legends, usually injured in a shipwreck and convinces Arthur to summon Lancelot (and forgive him for the Guinevere affair) for the Final Battle just before he dies. Here he dies after the battle, after he and Percival have the insane idea of taking on Morgana! That hurt...
- Guinevere: Her ending (just like her beginning) has to be one of the biggest changes this series has done to the Legends. Instead of retiring to a nunnery, Arthur bequeaths her the Royal Seal and the Knights and people of Camelot accept her as their Queen!!!
- Excalibur: Merlin is the one to toss Excalibur in the Lake (instead of Bedivere, a knight who doesn't appear in this series), and a Lady's hand reaches up to catch it...
- Death of Arthur and Mordred: true to form! Although I must say I was hoping this would be one thing they would change and we would get more of this series down the line! *sigh* But no, Arthur confronts Mordred in the Final Battle, Mordred stabs him with his sword, Arthur returns the blow, Mordred dies instantly and Arthur lingers on for a while. Textbook. We even get a little reminder of how Mordred feels: betrayed. "You gave me no choice." Heartbreaking. This Arthur was too young for it to end this way!!! *sob*
- Missing: Arthur never got to be "High King" of Britain! :o(
One of these days I'll write a post with a general appreciation of the series as a whole. Perhaps next summer after I've rewatched all the dvds. Now I'm simply very sad it's come to an end. And very grateful to all those involved for five magically wonderful seasons!