Merlin: A five year journey

Well as fans of the show will know our 5 years in Camelot with the legendary Wizard have come to a close. In light of last nights NTA’s I thought I’d give my take on the last 5 years. Congratulations by the way to Colin Morgan a well deserved and much over due win! and as for losing out on best Drama, Downton Abbey? Really? OK I like the show too but BEST drama, really? But I digress.

In the beginning 4 men came together and chucked a much loved legend in a cement mixer and then stuck it back together and cast Richard Wilson (Gaius) and Anthony Head (Uther). Then they added 4 virtual unknowns to play the leads, Katie McGrath (Morgana), Colin Morgan (Merlin), Bradley James (Arthur) and Angel Coulby (Gwenevere) and you know what? It worked!

I remember seeing Anthony on This Morning talking about the show before it began in 2008 and thinking, I love Arthurian legend and I like Tony Head I’ll give that a go. Now I’m usually one of those people who sits in front of a Holmes or Poirot and complains that ‘that didn’t happen in the book’. Well you would be forgiven for thinking that I would hate this new re-branded version of the legend. Surprisingly though I didn’t, I just the opposite, I loved it. I don’t know if that was because the characters and the charm and humour the show possessed made up for it or because the Arthurian legend itself had no one definitive version, it’s myth and it evolves as such. Whatever the reason It soon became one of the few shows I would consistently watch. I remember refusing to leave a hotel room until I had watched ‘a remedy to cure all ills’ in series one.

Well, series one and two were beautiful and engaging, I’m no romantic believe me but Arthur and Gwen’s first kiss was beautiful (sorry Merthur fans) and the heart in mouth moment when you thought Merlin had been consumed by the power of Cornelius Segan. Let’s not forget the humour, the wonderful moment of Anthony Head’s Uther Pendragon getting some troll loving with Sarah Parish’s troll was priceless.

Then came series three the show was getting darker but the humour was still there. Although not a fan of toilet humour I did laugh at evil Morgana getting a bad case of wind. Also Richard Wilson’s portrayal of the goblin was genius especially when slapping a newly bald tyrannical Uther repeatedly. Series 3 was probably for me my favourite series. Colin Morgan’s face when it came to the pixie Grunhilda alone would have made the series for me.

My only gripe with series 3 was Morgana. By the end of series 2 her struggle to come to terms with her magic had lead her to fall in with Morgause’s plans to bring down Camelot. She was confused and scared she was betraying everyone she loved but she was still conflicted. Then came series 3 She’s back after an apparent absence of a year. What the heck happened in that year? Poor scared and conflicted Morgana had turned into a smirking bitch queen! She had gone from hating Uther to hating Arthur, Gwen and poor little Merlin for no apparent reason?! To me and I think many other fans this change was too abrupt and without really enough exposition of what happened in the intervening year to so completely transform her. Obviously we know she could bear a grudge against Merlin he did poison her after all. but she was the vessel for the enchantment to destroy Camelot.

Series 4 what a fantastic opening 2 part episode scary and touching. Merlin’s heartfelt plea to be taken with Arthur, even though he’s on the brink of death himself. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness that is Colin Morgan…. did you enjoy your moment? Good let’s continue.

Looking back on series 4 I enjoyed it more than I initially thought I had. The opening was brilliant the other episodes were good although never quite reaching the same heights, except in the case of A servant of two masters, for which Lucy Watkins the writer deserves a BAFTA, a medal and our eternal thanks. Hilarious and beautiful, speaking from my twitter time-line there were a lot of happy ladies and gents that night. Naked Arthur, Merlin tied up at Morgana’s mercy in a wet shirt, plus a lovely scene between Merlin and Arthur when Merlin is injured. Oh and the embrace got many people excited, I know. The episode also gave the wonderful and frankly under-used Angel Coulby a chance to show some of her brilliant comedy acting. Sadly the character of Gwen was often neglected within the series which is a real shame as Angel is a fantastic actress and deserved more to do!

The one real down side to series 4 was the 2 part finale. When you see the words ‘sword in the stone’ you think now we’re getting to the real detail of the legend and I for one was excited. Enter Tristram and Isolde! in what was probably the weakest pair of episodes in the series. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed them and they were adequate but not brilliant and certainly not a match for the series 3 amazing round table,   screeching Morgana finale which was epic!

I harboured hoped that Isolde, in this incarnation being a sword wielding, strong willed woman, might have stayed on as a female knight of the round table. I know that was foolish of me. The Merlin producers promptly killed her off. Well that was a downer wasn’t it? It seems the show has an allergy to good women as there aren’t many in the series. They turn out to be traitors or leave after one episode or get killed.

Well Series 5 arrived destined to finish for ever on Christmas eve. (Thanks for ruining Christmas guys) Oh dear, what can I say? I thought the last year would be the most amazing yet totally epic. Alas imagine my surprise and disappointment to find out that Arthur had united the lands of Albion and achieved all he had been destined to do since the dawn of time… screen in the three years that the producers chose not to show. Fear not though they’ll make it up to us right? Wrong they gave us instead 4 episodes of their is a traitor in our midst (yet again).  That’s right 4 episodes of evil Gwen. The dark tower was a pretty good episode but the Gwen storyline as a whole was poor.  Angel Coulby, after five years of floating around the castle telling Arthur how proud she is of him and how he’s da man, really deserved better. If you removed those episodes from the series it would still make sense (except Elyan’s death) because they did nothing for the story arc of the show. I can’t help but think that those episodes could have been used for something so much more profound. Perhaps they could have been used to address Arthur’s slowly changing attitude to magic.

The two part finale however was so emotional and utterly hear breaking. Except the last 30 seconds, what the hey? Poor Merlin! Totally ruined the mood for me, but that’s just my opinion. I think there were a few people like me who felt that the magic reveal should have come earlier and series 5 have been focused on the fall out from that so we could see Merlin’s roll change within Camelot. I don’t think the character of Merlin really got a chance to grow into the figure of legend in the way the other characters did.

Looking back on series 5 the individual episodes were not bad episodes really but the series as a whole fell dramatically short. Instead of a sense of closure from the end of the story I felt frustrated that so much had been left unexplored. I personally feel cheated that we didn’t get to see the reactions of everyone in Camelot as they adjust to Merlin as a powerful sorcerer and adviser rather than Arthur’s man servant.

Some of you may agree with me and others will no doubt shout about how it was the best series ever and accuse me of being a hater. I am no hater, these are my opinions and disappointment stems from the fact that I really do love the show and would have liked to see the last ever series achieve the heights it had the potential to.

Thank you for reading my homage and take on things. I hope I didn’t bore you too much.


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