The epic fifth season of Merlin sees Camelot at the height of its golden age. With Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table at his side, Arthur has never felt stronger. But even as Camelot flowers, the seeds of her destruction are being sown. As the forces of darkness gather, only Merlin stands between Arthur and a fate that has been written since the dawn of time...
A well loved series comes to an end. This has been such a delight to watch. Although the basic story has been told over and over, the characters and individual episodes provided laughter, suspense, sadness, and tears. My only regret is that it ended.
The ending brought a touch of hope. A hope that Merlin and Arthur would one day be reunited. The last shot set the stage for an Arthur/Merlin story set in the 21st century. As to why such a hope was planted, I have no idea. From what I've read, there are no plans for continuing the story in any fashion, be it spin off, sequel, or anything else. Too bad. I do, however, understand the actors' need to move on to other career enhancing roles, even at the expense of disappointed fans. Such a shame.
Many fans have strong feelings about the fifth season of Merlin, me included. However, I still love the show. The original formula was a mixture of fantasy, adventure, drama, and plenty of comedy. Not only are the characters well developed, but there interrelationships are as well. This is a unique version of the Arthurian legend. The powerfulness of Arthur and Merlin's friendship is based upon them both going from being young men with tremendous potential for personal and shared destiny, to finally reaching that point shortly before the series ends in season five. Many aspects of the season and each episode have a rushed feeling. I have wondered if the writers, producers, and directors expected to have another season at least. The early episodes of this season have a similar feel as those in the earlier seasons, especially season 4. Season 4 flows perfectly into season five. The final three episodes feel different. It is almost as if the writers found out that they only had three episodes to conclude the series, not another season. They have to show Mordred do a total about face, join Morgana, and ultimately mortally wound Arthur. The big "reveal" that we had been waiting for, for four and a half years, happens in a minute when Mordred finds Morgana and tells her that Merlin is Emrys. Morgana doesn't even seem surprised that someone she had been so close to, who was thwarting her efforts to kill Arthur over and over again, who she had tried to do away with on numerous occasions, was actually her nemesis. She gives up trying to kill Merlin. She only needs to render him powerless. "Arthur is nothing without Emrys, and Emrys is nothing without his magic". Yes, she thinks that Emrys will die in the crystal cave after she seals with bolders. But, she did not draw or lure him there. He went there on his own. It was only when Mordred suddenly remembered that the place existed, that Morgana went there to make sure he didn't leave. But, she had no idea that Emrys would get his magic back. She did not think that was possible. It is also a little strange that after Morgana had known Merlin for so many years( the storyline occurs longer than the five years that we watched them, years go by between seasons, especially between season four and five. So, she has known Merlin, as Merlin, who had been her friend (before he poisoned her to save Camelot) he was the one who brought her to the Druids to understand that she wasn't going mad, but had magic. With this long and complicated history, Morgana instantly goes from identifying him as Merlin, to always referring to him as Emrys. I thought we would see her catch herself when saying his name " Merlin....oh, Emrys, I mean Emrys". No, he goes from Merlin to Emrys in one fell swoop. Besides feeling that the last three episodes were rushed, I strongly feel that it was a waste of valuable time to spend four episodes on the "Evil Gwen" storyline. One, maybe two episodes, but four!! The longest any single storyline lasted in the whole series had been two episodes. Beauty and the Beast, Tears of Uther Pendragon,The Coming of Arthur,The Darkest Hour; The Sword and the Stone, Arthur's Bane, and The Diamond of the Day. And, one thing that just was not clear at all is how Gwen went from saying to Morgana that she wanted nothing from her, that she would not break her, and would stay in the mandrake root room to all of a sudden she is telling Elyan that the sword had been enchanted by Morgana to protect Gwen. She told him to leave, and not try to fight the sword. Of course he didn't listen, he didn't understand what was going on any better than we audience/fans did at that moment. Then, we are at Elyan's funeral, and at the very end of the episode(The Dark Tower), Gwen sneaks out of her and Arthurs bed to go meet Morgana...she says that she hates them all, Morgana is her only true friend, alway had been. So, what happened? How did we go from a defiant Gwen telling Morgana that she doesn't want to play her sick game, to having her totally in Morgana's power. We had never been asked to take such a leap in this show before. We had always been shown how a character got from a to b. Or, at the very least, we were told of it, even if we didn't see it all. So, something very major happened between Gwen being defiant, and without her own will. Some viewers have suggested that the hallucinations in the Mandrake root room were really Gwen's insecurities, and her fears. Deep down did she believe that Merlin, Arthur, and Elyan mocked her, laughed at her behind her back, and never took her seriously? Is this really the inner workings of a woman who is thought of as strong and wise by her friends, family, and husband? She had enough spunk and confidence to speak up to Agravaine and the council when they were going to close the gates to the lower town to preserve food for those in the upper town and the castle? Gwen wasn't afraid to speak up. She made a great Queen. She was fair and just. So, how was it that the spectres of those she cared about mocking her was enough to loose her backbone? She knew exactly what Morgana was. So, what did happen. Will we ever be told? We knew that she truly loved Arthur. We saw their relationship from the very beginning. She trusted Merlin, and loved Elyan. So, how did Morgana take her will? This wasn't important enough to make it clear. So why was it important enough to use four episodes of the final season? My other concern is about how Mordred jumped ship so easily. His character had been wonderfully developed. It was wonderful to see Mordred in Arthur's Bane. It was great to see that he felt that he owed Arthur the favor of saving his life. He had become an honorable young man. He didn't hold a grudge against Merlin, even though he said he wouldn't forget, or forgive Merlin for trying to stop him from escaping when the Knight's of Camelot descended upon the Druid camp in The Witches Quickening. Mordred says he understands why Merlin doesn't trust him. But, he says that he will earn Merlin's respect and trust. Arthur really likes Mordred, and thinks he has the makings of a fine Knight. All the Knight's seem to like him. It's really only Merlin who knows the prophecies. Kilgharrah tells Merlin over and over again that Mordred will kill Arthur, and it is Merlin's responsibility to prevent this. Even Gaius tells him that it is possible to change, and that not all prophecies come to pass. Merlin holds on to his distrust to the point that one has to wonder if the lack of his friendship, and his suspicion of Mordred actually pushes Mordred to betray Arthur and Camelot. Starting with the Dark Tower, right up to the very end of The Diamond of the Day, one has to wonder if the series would have ended differently if there had been more time to explore the main issues involving Mordred, and his betrayal of Camelot, and Gwen and how she was influenced by Morgana in the Dark Tower. This season was very different from the earlier seasons. There was much less comedy, it was definitely darker. It had to be. If they were to be true to the legend, Arthur would die. There isn't much comedy in the death of a hero.I'd like to imagine what the episodes would have been like if there was not a shortage of time. How could the writers have written the process of Mordred's conversion to Morgana's side. If there is every a sequel, is it possible that they will go back and explain or show us how this all came about in Mordred's mind and heart. I think it was more than his anger at the execution of Kara. Mordred knew what Kara was. Some how he believed that he could influence Kara, he seemed to think that he could get her to stop killing unnecessarily. Mordred had become a Knight of Camelot. He was proud of that, and he admired Arthur. It was a step back to his earlier life, to another time, and his youth. He had grown in many ways. He was more complicated than many of the characters. Yet at the end we see him shown as impulsve, and vengeful. He saw and knew what Morgana was. She was ruled and motivated by hate. He knew what Arthur was. He was motivated by honor, and justice. He identified with Arthur. It would have taken more than Kara to being stubborn and vengeful to change the essence of Mordred. The show was ended prematurely. The networks owed it to the show and the fans to let it conclude with same substance, style, and character that made it such a wonderful well done depiction of the Arthurian Legend.
Merlin as a whole deserves 5 stars. This review is only for the miserable last episode. I'm writing spoilers here, so don't read this until you've watched it all. What was wrong with this last episode? Everything. First of all, it's been the utmost important thing for Merlin to keep his magic a secret. We all waited for the glorious moment when Merlin would reveal who he was to Arthur. I expected it to happen in some sort of epic way. Nope. All of a sudden, for no epic reason at all, Merlin turns to Author and says "I've g..g..g..got Magic!" Huh? And he seems to say it because he believes Author will die, but then 5 seconds later he is convinced Arthur will live. C'mon, there were many dire situations in the past where Arthur's life was hanging by a thread, and yet Merlin didn't reveal to him who he was. Why now? Oh yeah, because it's the last episode! That's called author intrusion or "last episode intrusion". A story should never be forced a certain way just because it's the last episode. It's supposed to be realistic, not forced. In this case, it was obviously forced due to it being the last episode... it was NOT a valid reason for Merlin to tell his secret. Same thing back at the castle with Guinevere. All of a sudden she manages, out of thin air, to perceive that Merlin's old man disguise is in fact Merlin. Again, too coincidental, it didn't seem realistic there either, and yet again I was presented with last episode intrusion. And finally, Morgana! All of a sudden she's invincible to all bladed weapons, except those made in a Dragon's breath. Yet, in an earlier episode she was stabbed by Mordred and she looked like she was going to die, but her dragon healed her. Maybe Mordred's weapon was dragon-breathed, but if so, then that means a dragon can heal even that sort of wound, so why didn't Merlin's dragon heal Arthur? It's conflicting facts. And finally, the most annoying ending possible: Arthur dies. Throughout the entire series it has been said repeatedly by Merlin's dragon and by others that Arthur must not die. Now, he dies, and all of a sudden Merlin's dragon makes light of it as if it is no big deal all of a sudden. Total last episode intrusion there. It just seems to be that every single character in this show suddenly changed their words or changed their behavior to make sure the show "ended". A real ending would require that every character remain true to their typical behavior. Merlin should have never shared his secret... because no reason would really be good enough. So Arthur should have had to find it out for himself, and only then should Merlin have admitted to it. Morgana should have not died nearly so easily, considering that in the past she was always so resilient and difficult to kill. Arthur should not have just stood there and let Mordred run him through, since Arthur was always such a good swordsman in the past. Fact is, if it hadn't been the last episode, would Author have been stabbed? No, he would have dodged of course. Merlin's dragon should have been able to heal that wound, or in the very least should not have made light of Arthur's death, since in the past he always made a big deal of something like that. The characters did not stay true to themselves in this last episode.
Collin Morgan and Bradley James made for a fun acting team. Bradley James(King Arthur) thought Collin Morgan(Merlin) was a fumbling, timid man servant which frustrated Merlin to no end, but Merlin liked guarding King Arthur with his sorcery and the two were obvious friends in spite of what they said about each other.
John Hurt voiced a wise, no nonsense Dragon. I'm sorry that the series only ran 5 seasons. I would find 20 seasons acceptable. All the parts were well written and well acted. (Oh producer....).