Monday, 24 December 2012

Review: Merlin 5.13 - The Diamond of the Day Part 2


Major Spoilers Ahead

This is it, the ending to the five year run of Merlin, a series that began on a bit of a wobble but culminated in an amazing ending to great last season. The brutal and well-choreographed battle of Camlann concludes at the beginning of the episode with Emrys-style Merlin laying down some serious lighting destruction on Morgana's Saxon army. Soon after Morded and Arthur come face to face in that fated showdown, both running each other through, Arthur mortally wounded and Mordred dead on the ground.

The rest of the episode is a quest of sorts. Merlin has to get the dying Arthur, pierced by a blade forged in Aithusa's breath, to the fabled Isle of Avalon for him to heal. Here we get the moment we've all been waiting for- the magic reveal. This was always going to be a huge moment for the writers, so it's good that they didn't rush this scene. At first Arthur doesn't believe Merlin at all until he gives a quick light show above the camp fire. Understandably Arthur is confused, betrayed and frustrated, leading him to shun his friend for a while. However, as Merlin helps him on his way to Avalon, casting Saxons aside with his magic and tricking them into following different paths through the forest, Arthur begins to understand Merlin's position. This is where we get some heartwarming scenes as Merlin explains how he has only ever used magic for his king and that it's always been his destiny to serve him. These moments are well-written and touching, especially as everything dawns on Arthur.

Meanwhile back in Camelot, the spy who was sleeping with Gwaine for information gets rumbled and subsequently hanged for her betrayal. Percival and Gwaine head off to find Morgana and slay her once and for all - a brave move for just the two of them. Once they find her, they effortlessly dispatch of her Saxon entourage but fall foul of Morgana's powerful magic (no duh!). Gwaine is tortured while Percival is tied to a tree, culminating in what felt like a really rushed but important scene where, after telling Morgana of Arthur's whereabouts, Gwaine dies in Percival's bulky arms. As a fan favourite, it was heartbreaking that they didn't give Gwaine a better send off, and especially one where his last deed was to give secret information away.

Soon Arthur is clearly on the verge of death as he and Merlin arrive at the lake overlooking the isle. They are confronted by Morgana, who after thinking she'd dispatched of the young warlock, proceeded to do her evil talk thing that she likes to do before getting well and truly stabbed by Merlin wielding Excalibur. Merlin summons the dragon to take them the rest of the way but it's too late, after a final "thank you" from Arthur, the once and future king expels his last breath. The dragon explains that, despite what he thinks, Merlin hasn't failed and that Arthur is destined to rise again when Avalon needs him the most. This is pretty much what the stories tell, so it's great that they didn't cop out and keep Arthur alive to run the kingdom. Instead, after legging Excalibur into the lake, where it's deftly snatched up by the Lady of the Lake, Merlin loads Arthur's body onto a boat and sends him out towards Avalon. Back in Camelot they learn of the king's death and Guineviere is sworn in as the Queen.

The final scene is one that I don't think many people will have expected, but one that I had an inkling they might run with. The camera pans on the Isle of Avalon before a truck blasts past, revealing a weary bearded Merlin in what could be fisherman's clothes stopping to gaze at the isle before walking on with a little smile. I can predict a fan backlash against the way the writers ended this, but I liked it. It brings the legend into our reality and sort of gives us some hope that in all these dark times, there may just be a chance that a true leader will rise up and bring us back into a new golden age.

The final episode did have some pacing issues but where the story and character relationships are concerned, it did everything right. The magic reveal was treated with respect and the relationship between Arthur and Merlin had never felt so close. The series, as much as it had been about adventure, has always been about these two men and their relationship that has been growing since the beginning and I'm happy to say that everything works out. There were some silly holes, like why didn't Merlin just summon the dragon in the first place and get Arthur to Avalon in like a day, but otherwise it was a top episode to end a great series.

*****