My favourite thing about Christmas is, without a doubt, the television specials. While many people are probably preparing to be wowed by the Doctor Who Xmas special tomorrow, I’m already willing to bet that Merlin‘s ‘Diamond of the Day – Part 2′ was the highlight of the Beeb’s Christmas schedule.
I apologise now for the length of this review, but it is a series finale. Grab a leftover mince pie, settle in and let’s take a look at the last ever episode of Merlin.
I had my doubts before the episode aired, dear reader. I wanted Merlin to go to the battle as young Merlin, I lamented that there wasn’t more time for Arthur to react to the reveal, and, perhaps most importantly, I assumed that there was no way the series would kill Arthur. Sure, it happens in the legend, but Merlin wasn’t known for sticking firmly to the source materials. Heck, it was usually a fluke when the show did. (FYI, it pains me to write about Merlin in the past tense.)
So, I went into the episode hoping for something that wrapped up the important storylines well enough to be vaguely satisfying. I wasn’t expecting forty-five minutes of heartache, angst, love, friendship and — dare I say it — slash, that completely blew me away. I’ve complained about Merlin‘s often lax writing enough in the past, so I won’t bang on about it again here, suffice to say that if every episode had been written with an aim for half the quality of ‘Diamond of the Day – Part 1 & 2′, Merlin as a series would have been ten times as good.
Excuse me while I go all rambling fangirl for this next bit!
It’s really a shame that both episodes in this two-parter weren’t combined into a double length episode and aired tonight. At least the first massive scene — the showdown between Arthur and Mordred — was there for context, even if it may have been better as a closer for ‘Part 1′. It was a fantastic scene. After Merlin blew the bad guys to kingdom come, Mordred swept in and mortally wounded Arthur. Then Arthur slays Mordred and bam, just like that the episode turns from ‘how will Merlin stop Mordred?’ to ‘how will Merlin save Arthur?’
Mordred being cut through was horrifically brutal. If I was ever to pick my favourite scene from Merlin, it may very well be this one. Not a single word was uttered, yet the characters’ facial expressions told us everything we needed to know and more. The performances here were masterful (but more on that later).
If I was to have any criticism of this episode (and please note that I’m burying it at this point of the review because it’s fairly inconsequential now) it would be that Merlin and Arthur traipsing around the forest went on a bit too long. I loved the gist of their scenes and there were some great lines (and again, the slash, guys!), but it got a tad cloying after a while. It would also have been nice to see Arthur accept Merlin’s magic (and his lying — I liked how much that was addressed) without the threat of his imminent demise. Would Arthur have forgiven Merlin, spared him from the noose, if Merlin had revealed his magic while Arthur was hale and hearty? We’ll never know, dear reader.
Stepping away from Arthur and Merlin: How awesome were Gwaine and Percival? I was worried for a moment there when Gwaine was brooding as he watched Eira being lead to her death; it had the potential to become another Mordred mess. But Gwaine proved himself to be loyal to the very end, taking Percival and galloping off to kill Morgana. It would have been nice if Gwaine had a slightly more noble death, though; ending on him being upset because he was forced to give Arthur’s location to Morgana isn’t exactly the ‘yay knight!’ blaze of glory he deserved, but at least the situation treated us to that amazing show of Percival’s strength. (It may be uncouth to say, but Percy’s arms were definitely a highlight of this episode.)
Admittedly, I wasn’t completely happy with Morgana’s ending either; I think it would have been great to see Merlin take her out with magic since, you know, he’s the most powerful sorcerer to ever walk to earth (and aside from some flashes of lightning and more sorcerer-throws, we didn’t actually get to see much of that), but her being killed by Excalibur is poetic justice, I suppose. It’s a shame Arthur didn’t get more time to ponder this sister’s end. His telling Merlin that he’d ‘brought peace’ was sweet, but a bit anticlimactic given that this was Arthur’s sister and mortal enemy.
I think if anything about this episode has the potential to divide fans, it’s Gwen. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her in this episode. She was the only good female who got to kill bad guys — well, one, and he had to come to her, but whatever — so I’d be willing to accept her ending happily no matter what. (In my head canon, she went on to marry Leon and have a couple of kids, one of whom was — naturally — called Arthur. Don’t crush my dreams, fandom.)
But I would understand why some fans may inevitably dislike her ending. As much as I’m happy to go along with it, I do think that it’s a shame she wasn’t pregnant (or at least mentioned as being pregnant) so that there was hope for a little Pendragon on the throne at some point in the future. I’m not saying that Gwen wasn’t good queen material, but any kids she may have had to succeed her probably wouldn’t have been Arthur’s. It’s a quite sad.
But then again, who cares? Because the ending was fantastic and yay, Arthur Pendragon will rule again! I can sort of see why Old Merlin was used in the big battle scene now — he had to be changed from an amusing figure to a wise, powerful one so that this final scene would work. (They probably should have started that process much further back in series five, but still, points for effort.)
The wisest thing about the ending is that the final scene was brief, and aside from a solitary truck and Merlin’s clothes, little had changed over time. It was pitched just right to allow for the scope of fans imaginations: Is this our present day? What will Arthur do once he’s been brought back to life? What place does magic have in this world? What has Merlin been doing for all this time? None of these questions were overtly raised and so none were answered. The fans are free to fill in the blanks, creating their own version of the future for The Once and Future King. It’s almost impossible not to feel satisfied when you’ve been left to write your own perfect ending.
I can’t end this review without mentioning the performances. Absolutely everyone outdid themselves this week. I’m not even going to pick out individual names because it’s probably time we all stopped the perpetual ‘which actor is better’ debates when it comes to this show. Absolutely everyone was wonderful this week and they’re all equally deserving of praise. But none more so than Eoin Macken’s hair and Tom Hopper’s arms. (Oh come on, we were all thinking it! I kid, I kid.)
Thanks for reading and commenting on my Merlin reviews this year, dear readers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat Christmas cake and read future!fic. Merry Christmas!
What did you think of ‘Diamond of the Day – Part 2′? How about the series overall? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!