Merlin Series 5 Finale Review “Diamond of the Day – Part 2″ — The End.

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!

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  • Melly Mel

    I hope they go through with the film (same actors) and pick up where they left off. I am left wondering, what will Arthur do when he returns etc. And I know Merlin will return once Arthur is back. That will really be the true legend. Merlin is actually a lot older than Arthur and serves as an adviser to him. So when it’s time for Arthur to rise, Merlin will return. Can’t wait :)))))))))

  • Erica

    I am hoping the film happens and it picks up with the 2nd coming of Arthur. I agree with a lot you said and the only thing I absolutely hated was Gwaine’s death. One, I didn’t want him to die. Two, he deserved so much more than that. I also think Morgana should have died by Merlin’s magic because Merlin’s magic (and Arthur’s eventual acceptance of it) was such a big part of the episode. Anyone who knew the legend would have guessed Arthur would die, but I think everyone was hoping he wouldn’t. I also would have liked Arthur to say more than “Thank You” in the end. I mean, come on! He loved Merlin. He’d become less arrogant and proud since meeting Merlin and he knew he was dying. He could have sucked it up and just said, “I love you Merlin. You really were my best friend.” Or something like that. I guess asking for sappiness is a bit too much but imagine Merlin making fun of that when Arthur does return.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Avi-Patel/100002076529431 Avi Patel

      i can understand you, but sometimes, saying something simple goes a long way and can be more effective.
      I think “thank you” was perfect.

  • Dzarnett

    Quick question, whose hand caught the sword Merlin threw into the lake?

    • Abby

      The Lady of the Lake

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jenay-Carriere/100002958378724 Jenay Carriere

      Freya

    • http://www.facebook.com/AdamDJTucker Adam Tucker

      it’s was the lady of the lake. as some of you may have read arthur is to return but if this is true then we would know by now. so basically the series will never return as even in the modern day as shown at the end arthur has yet to return. if he does it will be in the present/now. i feel the end although strange made sense. showing you that arthur has yet to return even in the present day and to show merlin/emrys is still waiting for the right to use his magic with purpose.

  • AB2010ish

    The acting was fabulous,no doubt. I was hoping for Arthur to live as ,according to cannon,its old Arthur who dies,after ruling over a peaceful Albion. I was sad at the end, cause I felt everyone that Merlin knew would have died and he now walks this earth alone,waiting for Arthur’s return. This is the though in my head,as you said everyone can make their own ending. Gwen was strong in this episode like I’ve never really seen. I would have liked to know that she was pregnant and their was the hope of a future Pendragon for the throne. It was really good writing and strong acting during the trip to Avalon as we did get to see Arthur run the gamut of emotions to acceptance,and Merlin battle his emotions over his friend. I am so upset with the end,sad really. Hope they can come back with some new show with the same cast,but this probably won’t happen.

    Merlin will live on in my memory (and dvd) I truly did enjoy this show.

  • http://twitter.com/TheBlackBot Black Bot

    “Arthur Pendragon will rule again!” He will rule what? I thought showing Merlin in the modern day took a lot from the episode because there is no magic, no kingdoms, just the rat race in this world. If Arthur comes back, what will he come back to? A 9-5 job?

    • CandiceGrace

      I don’t think we’re supposed to look quite that far into it. ;) I like the idea of The Once and Future King returning and ‘fixing’ his old stomping grounds, but I’m not going to actually ponder how too deeply. It ruins suspension of disbelief.

  • lilly

    does morgana die?

    • CandiceGrace

      Yup — she died when Merlin ran her through with Excalibur.

  • AnnaØ

    I was left with mixed emotions. I wan’t really satisfied with the ending. reading reviews and comments, is making me see the point of the ending. But I have been hoping for several years that the end and the revealing of Merlin secrets, would be in a batle. Like if Morgang is almost about to kill Arthur and his little army of loyal knights, and theres nothing they can do to stop her. then Merlin would step out and saying he’s Emrys, and that this is Morgana’s last. (sorry for the kliché thought!). Then they will have a battle the will amaze Arthur and his knigts, beacuse they’ve never seen him like that before. Merlin will win the batle and kill Morgana. And then I’m thinking that Merlin will use so much power that he probably will die of that. Arthur and him will have a moment where they thank each other, and forgive them And Arthur will return as the once and future king with Gwen on his side. He he will unite the kingdoms and make peace. Arthur he will be the greatest king ever, always thinking of Merlin, the man who made him who he is.
    Dont give me wrong, i did like the intimate journey that Merlin and Arthur goes out on. An that Merlin uses his magic for small things that makes Arthur see the good in him. And I have also accepted the endind with the whole ”Arthur Pendragon will rule again”.
    But one of the things I didn’t understand was the truck and the present. Reading other peoples coments, is making me understand it better. But i just think that it is so, different from the ending that I imagined, that i’m still suprised.
    I was also hoping for a scene where we see both Merlin and Gwen after Arthurs death. They are after all the ones who rules Camelot after.

    I think that if the truck hadn’t been there, i would have acepted the ending. (on the other hand, the truck is a good way of showing the writers meaning of the ending.

    I agree on the actor’s performances in this episode. This was just amazing.I have always thought that they had some fantastic actors, but seing this is like WOW!

    As you others I didn’t like the way Gwaine died aswell. I could have hoped for a more dramatic, then him giving up beacuse he was bitten by the snake.
    Sorry for this loooong comment (and for the spelling) but I just needed to get it all out!

  • Xanana

    Why does everyone assume Arthur never returned? The story was 600 years ago, so Arthur could have easily returned again 50 or 100 years later (a movie would be good!) and Merlin and he would continue the story. Arthur would still be dead in present day, and maybe Merlin tosses him in Avalon each time he dies. Mostly though, it seemed a playful hint to me at the end that Prince William is Arthur rising again. Similar appearances and all.

    • Xanana

      *Meant to say 1600 years ago.

  • Madeleine Maddocks

    I already feel bereft now that Merlin’ has ended. We loved the series and the actors. I confess, though. I was disappointed that Gwen seemed to be the only woman in Camelot (save one or two characters who were always in league with Morgana). Poor Gwen must have been so lonely!

    I was also disappointed that my favourite knight, Gwaine, was tortured and killed off :’( Poor Gwaine.

    We had also been looking forward to seeing Merlin and Arthur united in future episodes working together with Arthur aware of Merlin’s powers and treating him with respect (for a change), so we feel somewhat cheated that this wasn’t going to happen.

    Nevertheless, we look forward to seeing Colin Morgan, who is an excellent actor, on TV and film, as well as Bradley James et al.

    Goodbye Merlin cast you will be much missed.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/eliza.aston.3 Eliza Aston

    I have been a fan of Merlin since the inception of the series. I feel that I have to ask what sort of cynical sadististic “b—–d” of a screenwriter would choose to manipulapulate Arthurian legend to this degree on Christmas eve of all times? If anyone wants a much more gifted, less cynical writer to craft an alternative finale please contact Eliza Aston on Facebook. Xxx

  • Lori Liang

    I like the dynamics between Arthur and Merlin – their relationship is the center piece of the series. But I didn’t like how quickly things happened. How quickly Modred and Morgana was killed. No big show down between Morgana and Merlin with magic. I thought it was dumb to kill off Gwaine, considering he knew how dangerous Morgana was, is he really that stupid to think he could go at her alone with his buddy? But most of all, I was really upset at the end, when Arthur died. Seriously????

  • http://www.facebook.com/colin.mann3 Colin Mann

    I have only just watched the finale of Merlin. I was surprised how affected I was – I have genuinely experienced a few days of mild grief which is an odd experience for a fictional TV programme.

    I think the reason is the excellent acting of the two male leads combined with the fact that the writers displayed the sadness far too much and uncessarily.

    I have no problem with sadness in programmes but it’s best accompanied by a sense of redemption and/or closure neither of which I felt was achieved. Think of The Shawshank Redemption as an example of how to do it well.

    I didn’t mind the small plot holes or continuity issues but the sense of sadness at the end was overwhelming instead of appropriately balanced.

    I think that in the final scene with Merlin in modern times that were trying to convey his love for Arthur, the hope of Arthur’s return (because Merlin and Arthur are linked and if Merlin is alive then there’s hope for Arthur) and a sense that the mission has in fact been achieved because Arthur has not had to return to re-unite the kingdoms again. They were also trying to convey the hope of magic in the world.

    However, what most viewers received is a sense of sadness as we realise that Merlin has been alive for 1000+ years and has seen all the people he’s known and loved come and go with no pending sense of Arthur’s return. Also he’s know alive in a world where his kind of magic is even less accepted than before. Even if Arthur did return everyone he’s known and loved will have been long gone too (other than Merlin).

    They also misjudged Arthur’s death which was uncessary for the plot. Throughout we were promised that he would bring Albion to the land and yet he dies just at the dawn of that age. In the most traditional view of the legend he dies as an older man, having experienced bad times but also Albion.

    Therefore, we are left with Merlin having partly influenced the rise of Morgana and Mordred, having failed to save Arthur and wandering the earth without his friends and Arthur having died before he sees Albion leaving Gwen and the Knights to build the kingdom without him. This is not the ending to the series that most fans would have wanted.

    I do console myself with the possibility that all the characters have been talking together in the spirit world so that Merlin hasn’t been that lonely (after he did meet Balinor as a spirit) and also that Arthur has in fact returned (maybe more than once) before we see Merlin in the last scene.

    Given that the aim of the series was to achieve Albion within the plot lines and to be a type of Smallvile programme in terms of it’s aim then it was uncessary for Arthur to die (after all I don’t recall Smallville killing Superman off before he became the public superhero).

    A better ending in my opinion would have been to remove that final scene and for Arthur to have been saved, return to Camelot to make a noble speece about building Albion, for magic to have been made legal and to enjoy the reactions of the other characters now that they know who Merlin is.

    I would have counterbalanced this by a scene in which we see that Morded has not been fatally wanted and he telepathically says to Merlin that he will return in the future to seek his vengeance (to which Merlin replies ‘not yet’ and turns to join his smiling friends). By doing this we would have had a happy ending and a time of Albion all tempered by the knowledge that it’s not over. That would have given viewers a sense of closure.

    At the least there should be a Christmas special or film to finish off the loose ends.

    Great acting let down by average writing at the end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/colin.mann3 Colin Mann

    I have only just watched the finale of Merlin. I was surprised how affected I was – I have genuinely experienced a few days of mild grief which is an odd experience for a fictional TV programme.

    I think the reason is the excellent acting of the two male leads combined with the fact that the writers displayed the sadness far too much and uncessarily.

    I have no problem with sadness in programmes but it’s best accompanied by a sense of redemption and/or closure neither of which I felt was achieved. Think of The Shawshank Redemption as an example of how to do it well.

    I didn’t mind the small plot holes or continuity issues but the sense of sadness at the end was overwhelming instead of appropriately balanced.

    I think that in the final scene with Merlin in modern times that were trying to convey his love for Arthur, the hope of Arthur’s return (because Merlin and Arthur are linked and if Merlin is alive then there’s hope for Arthur) and a sense that the mission has in fact been achieved because Arthur has not had to return to re-unite the kingdoms again. They were also trying to convey the hope of magic in the world.

    However, what most viewers received is a sense of sadness as we realise that Merlin has been alive for 1000+ years and has seen all the people he’s known and loved come and go with no pending sense of Arthur’s return. Also he’s know alive in a world where his kind of magic is even less accepted than before. Even if Arthur did return everyone he’s known and loved will have been long gone too (other than Merlin).

    They also misjudged Arthur’s death which was uncessary for the plot. Throughout we were promised that he would bring Albion to the land and yet he dies just at the dawn of that age. In the most traditional view of the legend he dies as an older man, having experienced bad times but also Albion.

    Therefore, we are left with Merlin having partly influenced the rise of Morgana and Mordred, having failed to save Arthur and wandering the earth without his friends and Arthur having died before he sees Albion leaving Gwen and the Knights to build the kingdom without him. This is not the ending to the series that most fans would have wanted.

    I do console myself with the possibility that all the characters have been talking together in the spirit world so that Merlin hasn’t been that lonely (after he did meet Balinor as a spirit) and also that Arthur has in fact returned (maybe more than once) before we see Merlin in the last scene.

    Given that the aim of the series was to achieve Albion within the plot lines and to be a type of Smallvile programme in terms of it’s aim then it was uncessary for Arthur to die (after all I don’t recall Smallville killing Superman off before he became the public superhero).

    A better ending in my opinion would have been to remove that final scene and for Arthur to have been saved, return to Camelot to make a noble speece about building Albion, for magic to have been made legal and to enjoy the reactions of the other characters now that they know who Merlin is.

    I would have counterbalanced this by a scene in which we see that Morded has not been fatally wanted and he telepathically says to Merlin that he will return in the future to seek his vengeance (to which Merlin replies ‘not yet’ and turns to join his smiling friends). By doing this we would have had a happy ending and a time of Albion all tempered by the knowledge that it’s not over. That would have given viewers a sense of closure.

    At the least there should be a Christmas special or film to finish off the loose ends.

    Great acting let down by average writing at the end which is a shame.

  • cv2011

    Who hear liked the ending? I didnt like it so much becuase i was hoping it would end peacfully after Arthur knew the truth about Merlin so I was disapointed with this ending and then there was a truck in the present day! So i am a little disapointed. :(

  • Steven Palmer

    the ending sucked… it was sad… we had a lost pulled on us again…

  • wabbott

    Just three words need to be said..Worst…Ending…Ever

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