Has Merlin Lost Its Magic?

December 1, 2012 9:29 pm

I was shocked to discover that one of my favourite Saturday night shows, Merlin, is running its final series this year. The plug has been pulled on the show, despite enjoying continually high viewing ratings of almost 7 million every week. Is it the right time for the series to end or did we expect to see more?

Although Merlin began as a rather light-hearted piece of magical fun for children, as the show has developed, the plot turns have got darker and darker – mirrored by the later air times – and the programme has become gradually more frightening. I was certainly terrified when Morgana locked Guinevere in the Dark Tower! In the current series, Arthur’s fate (and Camelot’s) seems to already have been sealed, with Merlin unable to change the course of events leading to Arthur’s death. It is with eager eyes that I tune in every week to wonder what will cause Mordred to murder Arthur, and whether Merlin will be able to combat such a dire ending…

But the show isn’t all gloom and misery. It’s hard not to love the banter between Arthur and his servant – Arthur’s continual shout of “Merlin!” puts a smile on my face every time. In moments of danger, we see just how much Arthur values Merlin’s wisdom and friendship, reflecting the increasing maturity of both the two characters and the young audience that has watched the show from beginning too.

So why is Merlin to end in such an ‘out-of-the-blue’ fashion? Perhaps even the producers have realised that the plot involving Morgana has gone on for too long. There have been several occasions already where Morgana should have died, and despite the intriguing plot-twist of using Guinevere to take the throne of Camelot, her continual dark plotting and evil pout have filled our screens for far too long. The writers seemed to have missed the opportunity to develop Mordred’s character and explore whether he will decide to support or fight against Arthur this series. Instead they have chosen to focus on Morgana wanting to seize the throne, a plot that was also key to the previous series.

We don’t need to look very far to find examples of shows or films that have been drawn out too long and have consequently ended with a whimper. The original Shrek movie, for example, was sublime in its humour and reworking of a classic fairy-tale, but the quality consistently decreased with each film; I haven’t even watch Shrek the Fourth. Even one of my favourite series of films, Pirates of the Carribean, would have done well to stop after the third film, something that Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom wisely foresaw. There’s only so much that we can take of Jack Sparrow managing to escape from various sticky situations, and the repetition of this will eventually lose its original spark. It’s always the case that producers just don’t know where to stop, and perhaps Merlin has correctly chosen to leave whilst it’s still on top.

I am reminded also of David Tennant’s decision to leave Doctor Who when the show, and his version of the Doctor’s character, was still fresh every week. The decision broke many (mainly female) hearts and there was consequently an uproar about his successor Matt Smith because of the belief that Tennant left too early. Yet, even though I think Tennant’s series were among the best, it was one of the best decisions that I’ve seen – David Tennant’s Doctor will be missed rather than fans being glad to see the back of him.

And even though I still think Merlin has plenty of potential to be taken further (albeit without Morgana), the axing of the show is bittersweet. The show will be missed, and it will mean a massive change to my Saturday night schedule during the winter months, but I’m glad that Merlin will end on a high. Viewers will be satisfied that the show has maintained a consistently high standard across all five series and the finale, I’m sure, will end with a bang. I look forward seeing the actors, who have gained so much credibility in Merlin, move on to new and bright futures.

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