Contributor: Gregg Wright
As I’ve often said, I think “Merlin” is at its best when it takes itself seriously and focuses on the myth-arc. The comedy episodes tend to fail miserably, and the most of the stand-alone episodes have begun to feel pointless and boring. There have been a few good, mythology-oriented episodes this season that continued the threat from the previous season, and lead up to the finale. But unfortunately, these are in the minority. So in that respect, the season has been pretty disappointing overall. It started out well enough, with the big attempted invasion of Camelot. And now it looks as though it may end on an equally strong note. But the bulk of the season feels wasted. I think what “Merlin” needs to do is to take a hint from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and begin planning an end-game and a direct path to reaching it.
Exactly how many knights does Camelot have? They’re beginning to feel like red-shirts the way they keep getting massacred. Sir Leon seems to be the only knight left alive now, and he’s been the only real knight character (extremely minor as he may be) besides Arthur, so I’m glad he wasn’t killed off. Though honestly, I still don’t understand how he survived the dragon attack at the end of the previous season. I was almost sure that he was killed there, along with what I thought were all of the knights of Camelot, but then Sir Leon appeared to be very much alive again at the beginning of this season. According to a “Merlin” wiki I just looked up, Sir Leon was only injured by the flames. I’m guessing that this is just fan speculation.
There were a number of things I liked about this episode. Bringing both Gwaine and Elyan back to join up with Merlin and Arthur I liked, of course. And bringing back the Cup of Life (which must surely be the Holy Grail) was a nice touch. It was also good to see the Druids again. We don’t see enough of them. I would imagine Merlin/Emrys could learn a lot about his true nature from them. We know that Merlin is the son of a Dragonlord, but is that the sole explanation for his becoming such a powerful sorcerer? There must be more to it than that.
I also really liked that we don’t actually see the fall of Camelot. I think it was a much better and more effective idea to just show us the aftermath of it through the eyes of Merlin, Arthur, and Gwaine. The episode did a pretty good job of building up a sense of dread and hopelessness as all the knights are killed off and Camelot is left defenseless against the immortal warriors. It doesn’t look like they left many survivors in Camelot.
The big worry now is that the writers will use the power of the cup to just reverse a lot of what’s happened, removing a lot of the impact of what’s happened. At least Uther knows the truth about Morgana now. That’s one relatively major change in the story that I can’t imagine them reversing.
And why is the two-part finale called “The Coming of Arthur”? The best I could gather was that it meant that Arthur would actually becoming King of Camelot, or at least some sort of significant change for Arthur. I don’t expect Uther to be killed off just yet, so he’ll probably become King again before the season is over.
The first part of the finale was about as good as one could expect. It’s a good setup for the conclusion. But will everything be characteristically returned to normal? Will I once again be disappointed by “Merlin’s” perpetual unwillingness to affect fundamental changes to its story universe? I think it’s still possible that the season’s conclusion will surprise me in some way, but I’ll try not to get my expectations too high.