Sadly, the current series of fantasy drama Merlin is going to be the show’s last. After five series, the BBC’s youthful retelling of the Arthurian legend will wrap things up with what the producers call a “natural and dramatic” ending in a two-part Christmas special finale.
Creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy insist that the plan was always for Merlin’s story to wrap up in five series, but multiple factors – including the drama's ratings success and the fact that we’re four and a half series into it and Arthur still doesn’t know about the stupid magic – made it appear as though there was certainly more life to be had in the franchise. (At one point there were talks about a possible Series 6, as well.) Series 5 of Merlin doesn’t even air here in America until January on Syfy (preview); I hope that the Christmas finale will be tacked on to the end of the US broadcast so we’ll at least get to see everything up to the end in one go.
Capps and Murphy had this to say about the announcement of the series ‘end, “This is the series where the storylines truly reach their apex. We always felt the story of the legend was best told across five series, leading to a spectacular finale that draws on the best known elements of this much-loved story and brings to a conclusion the battle for Camelot.”
Okay. Whatever. I’ve not seen any of Series 5 of Merlin as yet, but based on what I’ve heard from British friends this season seems to be struggling quite a bit and, personally, I think it’s because they’ve kept the secret about Merlin’s magic for too long. It’s ridiculous that Arthur’s King now and still doesn’t know the truth – plus that contradicts almost every version of this story in existence. I figured that that was where we were going – that somehow, some way Arthur was going to finally find out and the last season of the show would subsequently involve Camelot dealing with the fallout of that revelation. Because that is the Camelot of legend and fans have waited so long to see what the friendship of Arthur and Merlin would be like once the truth was out.
Alas, it doesn’t look as though that’s to be – there are only a handful of episodes remaining in this series (which have all been filmed) and then the two-part Christmas finale. Obviously, if the magic reveal happens at all (and it had better), it won’t be until the Series 5 finale or the Christmas episodes – a move that is incredibly disappointing given how much time we’ve wasted on Arthur not knowing and how many “best known elements” of the Arthurian legend they’re probably going to have to try to cram into a two-part installment. In the legend: Arthur gets killed by Mordred and spirited off to Avalon and Merlin is trapped/imprisoned/otherwise incapacitated by a person who varies depending on who you read. They are both left waiting for the world world’s greatest time of need to reappear and it’s a bittersweet ending for the dream that was Camelot.
So, it’s going to be challenging enough to even fit in all the necessary plot, let alone do justice to what I consider the necessary emotional beats that those who love the show are probably expecting. Of course, I could be completely wrong – and I hope I am – but I am trying to manage my expectations early. However, it appears that concerns of that sort may be in the minority, as the series’ cast are seemingly at peace with this move, and, as star Colin Morgan explains, are excited for the series to go out on a high note.
Good news: There’s still ongoing talk about the possibility of Merlin movies getting made, though what form such films would take (spinoff? reboot?) is uncertain.