Friday, April 19, 2013

Merlin - Season 5 Review

UK Airdate: October 6th – December 24th 2012

The battle is finally done but who actually won in the end and more to the point, was it even worth it?

The Golden Age: I think in retrospect when I look back at this particular series of Merlin, it’s perhaps not that much of a shock to the system that it would end after five series. I know that Smallville (in which this show was deeply influenced by) managed to last twice as long but as enjoyable as this show was on a Saturday night, I’m not sure if another series when the golden age of magic wasn’t delivered upon would’ve been acceptable to most viewers.

And this is where my biggest issue with the final series of the show lies in – the golden age. Or more importantly, the utter lack of it. Surely for a final year, it would’ve been nice to have seen a Camelot where magic wasn’t outlawed and fanatics like Morgana and her followers would have to have found another excuse for their actions but sadly this wasn’t to be and I think that’s a greatly missed opportunity for the show and the audience themselves.

The biggest missed opportunity however was the poor decision on behalf of the show’s writers to have waited until the last episode for Arthur to finally have learned that Merlin was magically inclined. Yes, the acceptance bit was rather touching as was the Viking style funeral Arthur was ultimately given but at the same time, had the show revealed Merlin’s secret at the start of this final series and we had seen a genuine evolution in Merlin and Arthur’s friendship, I ultimately think the show would’ve benefitted from it.

Instead we get a fair few almost moments (such as the unwelcomed return of Uther in spirit form, clearly proving that the dead really don’t learn much in the great beyond) and the usual blokey banter between both Merlin and Arthur, which was amusing back in the first two series but has grated slightly in the last couple of series we’ve had.

The other missed opportunities in this series as well were both Arthur and Guinevere’s marriage and the Knights themselves to a certain extent. The marriage between our King and Queen is surprisingly explored very little, except during the ‘Hollow Queen’ arc and only then towards the end and the Knights themselves are either for pure totty factor or to make up the body count during the second half of the series.

I know this review is sounding horribly negative, which is strange because there’s actually a lot about Series 5 I did enjoy and I am going to focus on that as well. Morgana’s manipulation of Gwen was probably the most effective thing she’s done during her time of villainy and the fact that she managed to be responsible for bumping off two characters as well made it a little easier to take her seriously as a threat for a while. Even more interestingly was her own demise and her complicated/maternal of sorts relationship with a fully grown Mordred.

I have to say that Alexander Vlahos is an absolute revelation as Mordred. I had some reservations about the character being made older than the last time we had seen him but Mordred is without a doubt the best thing about the last series. He’s a genuine fly in the ointment to Merlin without meaning and his actual conflict when he did turn to the dark side was the very thing the show should’ve done better with Morgana. In fact out of all the people we lost during this series, I actually found myself missing him the most out of everyone and he was certainly better utilised throughout the series than the Knights, Guinevere or Gaius, the latter really being underutilised in the last series.

It’s been an interesting five years for the show, both in terms of the up and down quality, the always likeable cast and the fact that it’s cancellation stemmed more from it’s cast wanting to move on rather a rating slide. In fact, this show’s increase in the ratings for it’s last season has been a delight to watch and while the upcoming Atlantis will ensure that Saturday night fantasy drama won’t be dying anytime soon. I think we should all give this show a round of applause, especially for the audacity of the final scene if nothing else. The timing for the show to end was right but that doesn’t mean that it’s not saddening to see it gone though.

DVD Extras: A really good selection of commentary for most of the episodes but the one I think most people will be interested in is the one for the final episode with Katie McGrath and Julian Murphy. On top of that, there’s the usual array of storyboards, outtakes, deleted scenes, a Super Fans Video and a Making Of Merlin documentary.

Episode Ratings

5x01: Arthur’s Bane Part 1 = 7/10, 5x02: Arthur’s Bane Part 2 = 7/10,
5x03: The Death Song Of Uther Pendragon = 8/10, 5x04: Another’s Sorrow = 7/10,
5x05: The Disir = 9/10, 5x06: The Dark Tower = 9/10,
5x07: A Lesson In Vengeance = 8/10, 5x08: The Hollow Queen = 7/10,
5x09: With All My Heart = 9/10, 5x10: The Kindness Of Strangers = 7/10,
5x11: The Drawing Of The Dark = 7/10, 5x12: The Diamond In The Day Part 1 = 8/10,
5x13: The Diamond In The Day Part 2 = 9/10

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