A 'Merlin' retrospective: The platonic love story of Merlin and Arthur
One Hypable staff member shares their thoughts on the Merlin finale, examining the emotional conclusion of the Merlin and Arthur relationship and why BBC got it exactly right.
I feel like Merlin should have been prefaced with, "This is not a love story. This is a story about love," 500 Days of Summer-style.
I never shipped Merthur. I fell for the Arthur/Gwen pairing the first time Arthur said "Guine-vere" in that way that he did, and I was happy to see them finally overcome the obstacles and get married. But romance was never really what Merlin was about, and I was always more keen on the medieval world, the complicated family ties, the camaraderie of the knights, and the downfall of Morgana. Merlin and Arthur's friendship was great, but I never saw it as more than just another aspect of the show.
But then the finale happened, and I realised that I had been wrong. Because what the show's send-off ended up being was not the epic, fast-paced battle I had anticipated, but rather a quietly personal, intimate string of scenes between the two main characters, with everyone else mainly sidelined or dispatched of without much fanfare (with the exception of Guinevere, who got a beautiful sendoff as she took the throne of Camelot) and that was exactly how this story had to end.
Merlin was never about Arthur and Gwen, or Morgana, or the knights. It wasn't even about Arthur. All of that was important to the story, yes, and to the legend it was based on, but as enjoyable as those elements were, they were not the core of the show. BBC's Merlin was, above all else, a story about Merlin's feelings for Arthur: the friendship, the loyalty, the devotion and yes, the love.
I am not going to psychoanalyse a fictional character and speculate about what Merlin may or may not have been feeling for Arthur at any given time and anyway, I bet there are probably a lot of fans better suited to that particular task than I am. Let's just all agree that he was feeling for Arthur in whatever capacity, and that this, ultimately, was what shaped his path and the direction of the show.
Merlin came to Camelot, met Arthur, and despised him. Merlin met the Great Dragon and thought, damn, I have to protect the idiot who hates me. And Merlin came to slowly realise that Arthur not only didn't hate him, but needed him in his life. He needed his magic, yes, but Arthur never knew about that. From Arthur's point of view, he just needed Merlin. Their destiny may have been written in stone, but their tentative friendship and grudging affection for each other had to come from themselves and we watched them build that up for five frustrating seasons.
Alexander Vlahos (aka Mordred!) described the finale as a "platonic love story" between Merlin and Arthur. And that is exactly what it was. The entire show was like a classic "will-they-won't-they," except rather than building towards some predictable final scene with loud, swelling music and a formulaic kiss in the rain, Merlin was building towards a far more complex conclusion; one which involved both men accepting the other for nothing less or more than what they were, and acknowledging that there was no one they would rather be with, at the end of all things.
And the final episode saw the culmination of that love story, and it was everything it needed to be and more. If this truly had been a romance, it would have been like the end of Casablanca, The Notebook and Pride and Prejudice all rolled into one but it wasn't a romance, it was something far more permanent and all-encompassing than that.
When all else had been stripped away, we were left with Merlin and Arthur. With Arthur dying in Merlin's arms, looking into Merlin's eyes, telling him: "Just hold me!" And instead of goodbye, it was "Thank you!" While there was a lot left unsaid between them, and a lot of things Arthur never got to do, he died peacefully in the arms of someone who loved him.
It was Merlin who would be left alone, just as he had always been, and therein lay the true tragedy. But the dragon brought him that small, tiny speck of hope which proved once and for all that Arthur was the only thing which ever truly mattered to Merlin: "This is not the end. Arthur will rise
And so, thousands of years later, Merlin is still at Avalon. He is still waiting for Arthur. "I was born to serve you," he had told him once, and so it would always be. "Stay with me," he had begged, but Arthur hadn't been able to. Instead, Merlin had stayed with Arthur.
This isn't about shipping. It isn't about romance and whether or not you see it. And if anyone is rolling their eyes thinking, "god, get over the Merthur already," you've been watching the wrong show. There's nothing to read into here, there's no "head canon" or other fandom conjecture. There was only the raw, honest story which the Merlin writers were brave enough to tell exactly as it should be told, and which the actors handled with commendable grace and integrity.
The legend of King Arthur is one of the greatest stories ever told. And Merlin took that story and told it in an even better way. Because it was not just a story of Merlin and Arthur's friendship, nor of knighthood and chivalry and magic and that romanticised, longed-for golden age of Britain.
This was a story of Merlin and Arthur's relationship coming full circle. It was a story of their joint destiny, of the fact that even death could not separate them, and of the fact that they would always find each other. And there can be no greater story than that, nor one more worth telling.
Forget Romeo and Juliet. Forget Jack and Rose. Forget Frodo and Sam. Forget Buffy and Angel. Nothing, nothing will ever be as tragically, beautifully heartbreaking as Merlin and Arthur.
"You're not going to say goodbye," Merlin told him. "No, no," Arthur replied. And neither of them ever did.
I am SO sad to hear of the end of Merlin the Show. This has been the absolute best show I've seen since a long long time. The actors are all excellent, the story is excellent. The liberal artistic license is going to be a problem for purists (as I am on one hand), but it was created for all. It makes the basic story of Arthur and Merlin and Camelot available to all peoples of all ages. Nothing on was desirable to watch except Merlin. My kids (they are older now) and I loved this show and watched them all with great interest. I hoped that it'd go on for another 5+ years. It was obvious that the cast absolutely loved their show. They must have had such a good time making it, and they made us all have a great SO sad it's ended. I can only hope it is brought back and SOON.
It seems sadly that people today need extreme violence, extreme sexual themes and nudity before it's considered "hip". I despair for humanity.
I like everyone else was sad to see the end of Merlin. I am not sure I have a better way to end the series (which I greatly enjoyed) and the bit spent on their final quest was well done both in writing and acting.
In 'mourning' the end, I started watching the series over again. One thing was how the series had changed from the fun, light hearted magical start with various people wanting to kill or destroy to a rather dark and isolated 'revenge of Morgana' story line which was clearly a dead end street - they really had started to decline in series five and the end was inevitable sadly.
It really would be fantastic to start an new story with Merlin but it would need Arthur or something similar perhaps to keep the sparkle.
A brilliant series with a superb cast with a well written script by people that clearly understood that allowing people to have some parts (like chopping off heads left to their imagination would produce better entertainment. I have to be honest, I didn't get what the writers were saying with the last shot, unless perhaps they were leaving an option for a future series of some kind open ....
I loved the series, and I loved the ending. I know; i was sad too, as many other people were. But I do disagree with many of the comments here about the end. I didn't want Arthur to die, and I cried crocodile tears when he did, but there was hope in the end. Merlin thought he had failed, but as the dragon said: "You have accomplished all you set out to do The ending reminded us that there is something bigger than us, and bigger than everyday life. Arthur was, indeed, the "once and future king," and someday he will return. This is in keeping with the legend, and I appreciate that. Some have said it was anticlimactic that there was no big fight between Merlin and Morgana, but I thought the way it happened was perfect. Even Morgana was surprised, which meant she had no opportunity to kill Arthur with magic. Others have said that it was a letdown to have Gwen guess that Merlin had magic, but to me it made sense, because Gaius had given her several clues, and Gwen was no dummy. Other complaints: a short battle. That allowed us more time to really see the relationship between Arthur and Merlin resolve. I thought it was well done. Why didn't Merlin call the dragon earlier? The dragon himself indicated that nothing Merlin could have done would have made any difference; Arthur's destiny was determined. I have a harder time defending the very end, but in my heart I liked it. It let me know there is hope, that someday Merlin and Arthur will be reunited and Albion will be saved when it most needs saving. After all, Gwen was a capable queen, and probably open to magic; Camelot was free of the Saxons and of Morgana until long in the future. Arthur had fulfilled his destiny - until he would be needed again. I know a lot of people are upset about the ending and I understand why, I really do. but to me, that means the show worked. The writers took a chance, and went out on a high. I'm ok with that. Well done.
It broke my heart to watch this show end this badly. At this point, I would buy, accept, and even applause if producers (current or new ones) would use the despicable "it was all a bad dream" technique and fix this awful ending to open another season. Really, I am more than ready to leave this as a product of Merlin's fainting at the cavern, some sort of "this is what will happen if you don't go for Mordred first". I'm sure fans will forgive poor scripting if we can have our characters back. Oh and by the way DO NOT RECAST, you'll kill the movies too,. Re-casting is BAD.
From the very beginning they set the pace of every 4 years. The history books say that Arthur was a full grown King and in his prime when Mordred killed him. You can't really add another 3-4 years by doing another season with Arthur still in his prime. Arthur dies before his prime is over - period.
I love that they kept faithful to the reality because it make it more real and more touching to the heart if the show fades out then it's not a good story.
I have a lot of respect for the creators for finishing when its time.
Thank you creators of this show for giving us this great expirience! All things sometimes end and we have to be ready for it, nevertheless you have done great job troughout 5 seasons. Of course i hope that someday there will be a continuation of a land where magic is allowed and Arthur with Merlin are working side by side to prevent abuse of power!
Think the dragon said something like "all the things you have build will go on" to Merlin, indicating that Merlin and Arthur succeded in creating a new and better Camelot that will last long into the future. None of them failed in the bigger picture.
I would have liked to see Arthur and Merlin working together to make Camelot better for several more years/seasons. However, I really dont think that this ending is negative. As for the signal it sends to kids, I think it is a really positive one. Allways keep fighting, even though you have to sacrifice yourself in the end. The consequenses of your actions will still go on.
It would be great with a spinoff that was set in present day. Somehow Arthur could be needed again, and Merlin (young version) and him would team up again. Merlin would fill him in on all the things thats happened in the world, and Arthur would have to readjust to modern day.
Ok people calm down about the ending. If you don't know Merlin is based off the life story of king Arthur. It's sad but true king Arthur dose die by Mordred. There was no easy way to end it. Maybe if the ratings was better it may have prolong the story to what was always ment to be. great show.
What's with everyone lately making bad endings for everything great? Why would you even think about creating a bad ending? Is the real life not enough? Must you continuously crush our hopes and shove despair down our throats?
When we come home, tired of dealing with a crappy job and crappy people, we want to sit down and watch our favourite tv show or play our favourite game to raise our spirits. But what do the writers do? They fkn kill everyone and destroy everything they've built since the start. What was the damn point of it all if you're just going to wreck it?
Plot twist my bottom, this ending was a failure, pure and simple.
Note to writers: Pray, should an apocalyptic event happen in the near future, we never meet. I'd be forced to be rid of you before your pessimism could completely wipe us out. Damn fools...
any other ending would have surprised me because you can't change history or a legend only to please the audience. Well done and so sad as every time I read or watch a piece about Merlin and the legend of Camelot.
i want to see one more season of merlin using his powers without hiding in the open and see what he can really do the show is great except for all the hidings and secrets and merlin should be promoted or something he is the bravest of them all and risks his neck for nothing
since the networks and cable channels have decided to go cheap on us and make 99 percent REALITY TV shows, wrestling (on sci-fi!!) and are always cancelling great shows... i have cancelled my cable and no longer watch any tv... i download all my shows i like off the internet and have started watching alot of bbc shows from england. I'll not sit in front of the box and watch crap in the evenings after working all day. I want quality or nothing at all from the networks / cable channels. I SUGGEST WE ALL BOYCOTT THE TV for one week each month until the REALITY CRAP is taken off the air. That crap causes brain damage... it's totally unacceptable. No one is stupid enough to enjoy that crap except some inbred bigfoot half-breed. They want to produce the cheapest crap possible and still retain the ratings to get sponsors and advertising dollars. Don't give them the appearance of ratings by watching at all. Turn off you cable / sat and download... NO Commercials!!! and only watch what you want to watch when u want to watch it... been doing this for 4 years now and it's great. Only problem is, running out of shows to watch. Sci-Fi channel, now si-fi (junk now) sold out and became a cess-pool putting on fantasy and wrestling crap... was once the best channel on cable... anyways,
boycott cable / networks and download from internet...
watch ur shows without commercials or interuption...
hope the networks realize they're loosing their loyal viewers because we're NOT dumbing down and
we HATE reality TV crap...
screw u a-holes... you're idiots and you're gonna kill ur networks/channels if you keep on this way
I liked it better when there were interesting different things that Merlin had to over come. This whole FULFILL THE PROPHECY and such is rather annoying. I want some awesome trickery by a goblin or Arthur trying to prove he can win a competition without being king. These episodes were fun and exciting. Where did they go???
It is impossible for me to not love Merlin. the characters are interesting and easy to like. Arthur and Merlin's relationship is flawless, really realistic yet still funny and adorable. Loving all the twists in the plot too. Just fantastic.
This show is really good... However, its not as spicy as the Original show called CAMELOT that was cancelled after the first season. I think they need to add some nudity and it would be flawless... It will become a show that will continue like Y&R... This is why HBO wins all the awards... Just my honest opinion!
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