After five long years, we come to the end of our journey with Merlin. Picking up where we left off last week on the fields of Camlann, the hour was a roller coaster ride, not because of the action, but because of the emotion. Secrets are revealed, destinies are realized, and not everyone makes it out of the hour alive.
Merlin makes it to the battlefield, and manages to end the fight decisively with some impressive feats of magic. The Saxons start to retreat, but not before Arthur comes face-to-face again with Mordred. After a brief fight it seems that Mordred fulfills the prophecy and deals Arthur a fatal blow, but Arthur returns the favour and runs Mordred through with the king’s own enchanted sword. By the time Merlin arrives on the scene, Mordred is dead, but Arthur has been seriously wounded, and because it’s a mystical wound as well, Merlin will need some extra help in order to save his king.
Taking his cues from Gaius, Merlin departs with Arthur for the Isle of Avalon, home of the ancient magic that will heal the king. But wait! We get ahead of ourselves. Merlin reveals to Arthur that he’s got magic, and it does not go over well. Although Arthur’s been a bit more level-headed on the subject of magic than his father, he still feels hurt and revolted at the revelation that his friend, servant and confidant is, and has been, a dirty sorcerer. Arthur refuses Merlin’s help, but Merlin gives it anyway. It doesn’t help when Gaius arrives and let’s Arthur know that, “hey, I knew Merlin was a wizard the whole time and it’s totally N.B.D.” But soon it’s time for Merlin and Arthur to make their run to Avalon, and in Weepy Tissue Moment #1, Gaius says goodbye to his ward saying that he’ll have his favourite meal waiting for him when he gets back, while knowing full well that this was probably the last time he’d ever see Merlin.
Meanwhile, Morgana’s getting her revenge on. Mordred’s dead, but Arthur’s still out there wounded. She sends her Saxons out to find him, remaining as ruthless and defiant as ever.
As Merlin and Arthur make their way through the still dangerous backwoods, Arthur sees more of Merlin’s magical works. An understanding begins to occur in the king, not just all that Merlin’s hid from him, but everything that Merlin has done for him, in secret, without ever even trying to claim credit. Arthur and Merlin recall the first time they met and the fight with the mace, and Arthur asks why Merlin never told him he was a sorcerer. Merlin says that he never wanted to put Arthur in an awkward position given the laws of Camelot, but Arthur admits that he has no idea what he would have done. But despite the refreshing honesty, and honest bromance, Arthur is getting worse.
Back at Camelot, Gaius returns with news: Arthur is injured, but Merlin is taking him to help. He also gives Guinevere the ring of the dragon, a bequeathment from Arthur and with it the power to rule Camelot. And oh, by the way, Gwaine’s girlfriend Eira is Morgana’s spy. A scheme is set up where Eira sends Morgana the wrong information about Arthur’s whereabouts, and when she gets to that wrong location, Gwaine and Percival will be there to finish her off for good. As for Eira, off with her head!
As for the grand plan, it was somewhat not very successful. While Gwaine and Percival get the drop on Morgana, she still has magic, and thus the upper hand. Morgana tortures Gwaine with one of those truth snakes (Why does it have to be truth snakes?), and gets Arthur’s real location. Percival comes to and after freeing himself he finds Gwaine near death. With his last breath, Gwaine says he fails, and dies. (That was Weepy Tissue Moment #2.) Morgana does indeed catch-up with her half-brother and her mortal enemy Emrys, catching them off guard. Morgana revels in Arthur’s predicament, and taunts Merlin that as a high priestess, she can’t be killed, but oh yes she can. Merlin runs her through with Excalibur saying that he’s to blame for what she became, but it was time for the circle of violence to end. Morgana falls to ground dead.
Having lost their horses, Merlin tries to take Arthur the rest of the way to Avalon on foot, but Arthur is not doing well at all. The king is near death, Merlin is behind himself and here comes Weepy Tissue Moment #3. Arthur tells Merlin that he has something he wants to tell him, but Merlin doesn’t want to say goodbye. “No, Merlin, says Arthur, “everything you’ve done. I know now. For me, for Camelot. For the kingdom you helped me build… […] I want to say… something I’ve never said to you before… thank you.”
In agony, Merlin calls out to the Great Dragon for help, and although he takes Merlin and Arthur the rest of the way par avion, it really is too late. Merlin thinks he’s failed, but the Great Dragon disagrees and gives Merlin some last bit of wisdom. “Though no man, no matter how great, can know his destiny, some lives have been foretold, Merlin… Arthur is not just a king, he is the Once and Future King. Take heart, for when Albion’s need is greatest, Arthur will rise again. It has been a privilege to have known you, young warlock. The story we have been a part of will live long in the minds of men.”
Merlin puts Arthur on a boat and points it towards the island of Avalon. Merlin breaks down in tears as the boat leaves the shore, but he stands and watches his friend sail away into the mist. Meanwhile, back in Camelot, it is announced that the king is dead, and the court rousingly declares, “Long live the Queen!”
Flash-forward to the present day, and a legitimately old Merlin strolls by the water’s edge where he sent Arthur on his way hundreds of years before, still waiting for the time of Arthur’s return.
-Mordred went down like punk bitch, didn’t he?
-That was pretty sweet when the Saxon bursts into the medical tent and Gwen takes him out. It was a nice reminder that Queen Gwen is the fighting daughter of a blacksmith.
-I realize there’s a TV budget constraint, and there was a lot to get to in the hour, but it did seem like the Battle of Camlann was over really fast for such an important benchmark.
-I liked that Merlin took the mulligan for making Morgana what she became. It was kind of alluded to in the past that if Merlin had taken Morgana under his wing when they realized she had magic, they might have mitigated some of those evil doings.
-RIP: Arthur, Morgana, Mordred, Gwaine, and the Great Dragon
-I remember when they announced Merlin’s cancellation there was a possibility mentioned of a spin-off, but now having seen the finale, I’m curious to see what a spin-off would look like. Would it be the adventures of Queen Gwen in a post-Arthur Camelot, or would it be Arthur and Merlin in the modern world solving crimes and other stuff? I really hope that it was the later rather than the former.
Thanks to the cast and crew of Merlin for five great years of TV. It was a helluva ride.