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More Merlin Reaction

Sorry,  I'll shut-up after this, I swear...

But I think I've figured out what my problem is with the finale, and it's actually a problem with the entire direction of S5....

If you start a show and in the first episode you set up the premise that your hero is a warlock, he's living in a country that would execute him for being a warlock, and he's told that he needs to help the Prince of that country unite all the lands into one magnificent kingdom in which magic is restored and the Prince will accept the warlock as a true friend.... then well, THAT'S your quest. Your conclusion SHOULD be the success of that journey. Not something else.

I think the Merlin writers got caught up in the actual Arthurian legend and completely forgot what the point of the show they were actually writing was. 

What S5 should have done was following Arthur and Merlin as they united the lands of Albion, following Arthur's journey as he slowly started to reconsider magic and whether it was truly evil (as he's done throughout the series, except for some reason in S5)... and then the magic reveal would be the climax, with the resolution being that Arthur accepts Merlin and Merlin becomes the adviser to Arthur in a Camelot lead Albion.

Because the only satisfying thing about the finale was the magic reveal, and watching Arthur work through the revelation until he came to accept and love Merlin as he truly was. 

Meanwhile, the fact that a united Albion actually existed was a footnote, and we somehow missed its creation - it happened in the 3 years between S4 and S5, I guess. But that SHOULD have been a triumphant moment for Merlin, that SHOULD Have been the conclusion of his quest. We never did see magic being restored to the land - we could guess, that perhaps Gwen does it, but we don't even get confirmation on that. The truth of the matter is that the way S5 of Merlin was written, it was very much a tragedy...because while Merlin couldn't stop Arthur's death because it was "foretold", he somehow managed to completely fail at restoring magic to the land (that we saw) even though that was supposedly his destiny and very reason for being AND ALSO FORETOLD. So, Merlin failed to prevent the bad prophecies and yet the good prophecies never came true. Everything went completely wrong.

So, yeah, what I'm saying is that I'm disappointed. I mean, most of the episodes in S5 made for good viewing - and some of them WERE on the right track, but over all I'm disappointed. 

We should have seen MORE of Arthur slowly coming to terms with magic, more of him questioning Merlin's odd behaviour and slowly coming to the realization that Merlin was more than he seemed... we should have seen more of Arthur creating Albion with Merlin's help, and then, when the reveal happened, we should have seen Arthur go through the same journey as he did in the actual finale, only the conclusion of the journey should have been him restoring magic to Camelot.

So, yeah, that's my two cents and the reason why I'm disappointed over all. The problem isn't the finale itself - the problem is that the writers equated the end of their show with the end of the actual Arthurian legend, completely forgetting that the premise and overarching quest in their show was DIFFERENT than Arthurian legend, and deserved a different end. Even if the Mordred's sword was still hanging over Arthur at the series finale, I think I would have been more satisfied with knowing that that was years down the road and Arthur and Merlin in the meantime had succeeded in creating Albion and restoring magic. I would have preferred to have left them in a good place rather than a place of grief and loneliness.

/rant.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
nerthus
Dec. 25th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
Makes perfect sense to me!
hells_half_acre
Dec. 25th, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm glad I'm not alone!

I think I'll just disregard the entire S5 (or most of it) and replace it with my own headcanon where the series actually has a satisfying end.

I am glad the show is over though - I'm hoping it frees up the Bradley and Colin to do better written projects, because I really do think it was their acting talent that kept me interested in the show rather than the writing.
nerthus
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
I still haven't watched the finale ep, sigh! Just seeing other peoples' gifs of the death scene had me bawling, so I am resisting putting myself through that even though I do want to see it; later tonight, I guess, after everyone else here is asleep and I can sob to my heart's content! Most of the fan reviews I've read are mixed, each fan liked some aspects of the finale and season 5 in general and had a few gripes as well; but it seems mostly everyone really liked the finale. I tend to agree with you that the writing has always been very uneven and patchy; when other fans point out to me that it is basically a family show and the censorship and guidelines for such are different in the UK than here in the US so I can't expect a more 'adult' version of the show, I always reply that I know that, but that's still no excuse for just plain sloppy writing or writing something stupid to get a laugh from maybe younger viewers. For example, one of my pet peeves was always how STUPID the palace guards are; over and over and over they let themselves be diverted by the slightest noise and ALL of them run to check like idiots so of course the way is totally clear for an escape or to help someone else escape the dungeon or whatever. I mean, why have to THINK of something more complex or a better way of writing the scene, just throw it out there as a cheap, easy plot device that the guards are so dumb they all run off to see what that noise was. That always bugged me to pieces, Arthur is supposed to have the best men and yet they're so lame, sigh. They don't even TRY most times to make Merlin's magic more 'hidden' in certain scenes; instead they just expect us to buy into this lame plot device that suddenly NO ONE can see Merlin's eyes glow gold or magic erupt around him. Clumsy, clumsy. Some of the plots were very good IDEAS but so poorly executed in the writing of them. I totally agree with you that the only reason I've stuck through all 5 seasons is for Colin and Bradley; their chemistry and skill has made what is really a sometimes painfully inept show something almost special to watch. It will be good to see them do other things, but I will forever miss the magic (no pun intended!) of them TOGETHER, and that is part of why that ending is so so emo for me. And I do get that fans are handwaving the whole 'golden period' to be something still to come with a reincarnated Arthur, or some say it already occured but the show just didn't dwell on it; but if that were true, then they omitted a huge part of their own canon based on season 1, ugh. So for me it would logically have to be a future coming together of the two again, but to envision all the knights and Gwen and everyone long dead and Merlin alone so long waiting for Arthur just depresses me, sigh.
hells_half_acre
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
I actually get more emotional about gifs and stills than I do about the actual events in shows - it doesn't make much sense. I have to see the moments removed from context before I can get weepy about them, I guess.

But yeah, you can write a "children's" show and still have good writing - so that's no excuse. And there are plenty of shows on British TV that get past the censorship just fine and have better writing - so that's not an excuse either. The fact is just that Merlin did not have good writers - they came up with an interesting concept, but they didn't have the ability to have that concept reach its full potential.

There's very little emotional follow through - I'm sure the emotional follow through that there WAS was probably more down to Bradley and Colin and the directors than it was down to the writing. Furthermore, once a character became a villain, they became a two dimensional cackling villain. The only exception to this was arguably Uther, who I thought was a fantastically grey villain for at least S1. But, you notice that when he comes back in S5, he's suddenly a two dimensional pure-evil villain.

I guess the real tragedy of Merlin isn't that we never got to see Albion and the golden years of Arthur's reign - but also that SO MUCH POTENTIAL was lost in the show itself. Colin and Bradley were phenomenal playing opposite each other and the idea that this might have been our only time to see it is very sad indeed.
nerthus
Dec. 25th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
Exactly! I thought it was just me feeling frustrated about the lack of any real emotional follow through from episode to episode, as I do tend to get over-invested in my fave characters sometimes; but that was probably my #1 complaint about the whole series, the lack of any emotional consequences to anything that went before. I also agree that by the end Morgana was just a caricature of EVOL, sigh; I couldn't wait for her scenes to be over because they were just so cartoonish and lacked the levels of nuance and complexity which would have made her truly terrifying.
hells_half_acre
Dec. 25th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
I'm in complete agreement.
claudiapriscus
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
It's kind of interesting to me that the problems I'm hearing about the finale are the same kind of problems that turned me off the show somewhere in season 2...not that they magically appeared then, just that my tolerance for them waned. One of the big ones for me was an inexplicable tendency to tell a story that subverted and twisted Arthurian legend and develop characters and storylines along that line, only to later try to hamfistedly force things back to the traditional story. But not the whole story, just some arbitrary aspect of it. It drove me bonkers. (Well, that and their weird discomfort with the fantasy aspects. I cracked up a little bit with the holy grail, when it was all, "it's not some mystical important artifact, okay, it's just a cup that brings people back from the dead. IT'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT, OKAY. Or Excalibur. It's not some magic destiny sword, it's *just* a sword made with the help of the dragon that got chucked in a lake. Magic destiny swords are SILLY, obviously."
hells_half_acre
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
Hahaha...I never quite considered it that way. I liked the fact that stuff like the holy grail was turned into the arbitrary "cup of life" and didn't have christian connotations anymore - it made the series to me MORE fantasy, because it took place in a world without Christianity.

And I liked the fact that Excalibur was made by Merlin and the story of it's destiny was MADE UP by Merlin - because there's a difference between the history we believe and what actually happened, and I liked the fact that Merlin used that to his advantage. I like the fact that Merlin learned to manipulate people through the subversion of history.

That being said, I kind of wish that I had taken the whole Lancelot storyline as a warning of what the end would be. I should have really just stopped watching at the end of S4 and stuck with fic. I mean, there were episodes and aspects of this last series that I enjoyed - but the fact that they were leading up to the wrong conclusion sours them for me now. I wish I could re-edit the end into something better, but alas, the writers didn't even give me enough to work with to do that.
claudiapriscus
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
It wasn't the christian connotations - the holy grail has a lot of mythology that can be viewed in non-christian light, it's just that all through the show, I just got the feeling that the writers were really uncomfortable with a magical/mythic world, because every time one of the more mythic elements came up, there were just this kind of silly "there's no mystical explanation, it's just magic' vibe? I can't really describe it. I kind of had the same reaction (though in a slightly different way) towards Warehouse 13, when I watched the first few episodes and they were all, "it's just a comb from the 15th century that makes people evil via possession by Lucrecia Borgia because of um, vibrations. It's not magic at all! It makes total sense! Science!" because honestly, just going, "yup, magic, whatever" and just going with it is a lot less taxing on the suspension of disbelief than making a big deal out of it, y'know? So I felt kind of that way with Merlin, because they wanted the mythic, the destiny, but then they'd get weird about it. My favorite silly head-canon interpretation of the show (early on) was that it was actually taking place in a dark age in the future, after some sort of disaster that made magic real (which would be one of the reasons there was such a prejudice against it). The dragon would have been an insane AI (it's trapped in that chasm- what is it eating?) that was obsessed with arthurian legend, so it was trying to make it happen, and the "old religion" was Christianity, because they kept making reference to it being old and forbidden and what not while celebrating pagan festivals, and it was why the mentor science guy knew so much...well, science.

Wouldn't that have been a cool kind of AU?

Edited at 2012-12-25 10:40 pm (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
Oh okay, I kind of get what you are saying. I didn't really mind the handwaving of the magical items. I guess it's just come to be what I expect from these sorts of shows "whatever it's magic!" :P

That IS a pretty cool AU idea. Doesn't change the fact that, even with it being a dystopian future manipulated by a dragon AI, the ending still sucked. :P
claudiapriscus
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
I did say it was a theory from when I was still watching the show, right? Heh. But now you can blame the dragon. "Stupid dragon, forcing the story to go illogical places just to fit arbitrary bits of legend."
hells_half_acre
Dec. 25th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Haha, that dragon really was the more unhelpful character ever, really. Save for a handful of times, you just got the feeling that the dragon wanted Merlin to fail. :P
kuhekabir
Dec. 26th, 2012 08:43 am (UTC)
I totally agree. This is exactly my problem with this season too. Either they should've done like you said with season 5 or made a season 6 where they did just that. I mean, focusing on the legend is fine...but at the point where we are at, they can't even claim having done THAT since we never got to see the union of the lands. If Arthur did it, then NO ONE KNEW ABOUT IT!.

And Merlin holds such an important part in the legend, the focus should have been more on them...well, like you said. I haven't watched the last three episodes because, regardless if it was well made or not, I already got pissed off when I saw the trailer for the Mordred episode.

I will watch them eventually when I can stop gritting my teeth and wanting to fling something at the wall. SIGH.
hells_half_acre
Dec. 26th, 2012 08:49 am (UTC)
I'd almost recommend that you don't watch them at all. I mean, the acting is fantastic, but it's such a frustrating experience in the end that I'm not sure it's worth it. I've been kind of wishing all day today that I hadn't watched this season at all, that I had instead written my own season and only used that as canon.

I think they really screwed the pooch in the end. Like you said, if they wanted to do Arthur's death, than they should have done a S6 or not done it at all. It was more important to conclude the story they were writing - ie: Albion and the magic reveal/restoration - rather than the story from the legends.
kuhekabir
Dec. 26th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
I just feel so pissed off for being lied to. They claim to have had a five year plan. Considering what they did, they can't have had a five year plan...so they lied...and I really can't stand TV shows, or movies, where they think their audience is stupid.

I think I will watch it eventually just so that I can write my own versión of it. I do hope this will put vigor into the fandom because I really miss long, good fics.
hells_half_acre
Dec. 26th, 2012 09:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm really hoping that one thing that comes out of this is really good long AU-ending fics.

Personally, I'm thinking of trying to edit a different ending to the series, so that I can actually rewatch with some enjoyment.

I think they may have still had a five year plan - or a vague plan for the ending. So, they might not have lied. The problem is that just because you have a plan, it doesn't mean it's a GOOD plan.

Looking back on it, I should have seen the lack of emotional follow-through and the disservice they did Lancelot as warning signs that the writing wasn't good enough for me to like the ending...but then, I'm often blinded by the potential of something and forever live in hope that it might one day reach that potential. Sadly, it didn't happen this time - but hopefully fanfic writers will take over where the show failed.
kuhekabir
Dec. 27th, 2012 08:35 am (UTC)
It's just when the show was good, it was good...and it kept me watching and hoping...oh well...right now, all my hope rests with Doctor Who.
hells_half_acre
Dec. 27th, 2012 06:14 pm (UTC)
Indeed.

Well, I hope Doctor Who doesn't let you down! I'm on and off with DW, right now I'm in an off period. Which is the sort of relationship I SHOULD have had with Merlin, because I'm not so invested in DW that I care or feel as betrayed by the writers when they do things that I don't like.
mymuseandi
Dec. 27th, 2012 05:29 am (UTC)
I AGREE COMPLETELY WITH YOUR RANT.

I'm still processing the finale, so any thoughts about it will bound to be jumbled up.

Not gonna lie though, I was tearing almost the entire episode. :) Damn Colin Morgan and Bradley James!
hells_half_acre
Dec. 27th, 2012 05:53 am (UTC)
I think I've figured out how to re-edit the finale so that it's actually rewatchable for me. I'll have to use clips from previous seasons of course, but I think if I ever want to rewatch this series, I'm going to have to do SOMETHING.

Colin Morgan and Bradley James really are phenomenal. I hope that their next projects are worthy of them. I'm just super sad that they probably won't be acting opposite each other in the same way ever again.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )