Part 1 (S1-S3)
Part 2 (S4)
Series 5 – King and Advisor
Before I launch into talking about S5, I should come clean about the fact that I had a LOT of problems with S5 – which is part of the reason that I waited so long to talk about it. That being said, one of the only things that I didn’t have a problem with was the Merlin+Arthur relationship. So, yay!
Series 5 opens 3 years later, and we see that although Merlin retains the position of King’s manservant, he is in every way firmly in the position of being Arthur’s most trusted advisor and confidant. There’s really no other place for Merlin and Arthur’s relationship to grow from here – not without the magic reveal anyway, which only occurs in the last episode of the series. So, for that reason, you’ll find that over half this part of the meta is spent discussing the finale. But first, let’s discuss what Merlin and Arthur look like in an unofficial Advisor+King partnership of equals:
Although it would have been cool for Merlin to get an official promotion, it does make strategic sense to keep him in the manservant position for a few reasons: A)As Arthur’s manservant, he can attend him 24/7, B)Arthur trusts him, and given the ACCESS a manservant gets, it’s better for Arthur to keep Merlin in that position rather than open himself up to a possible betrayal by an unknown newcomer, and C)It is easier for Merlin if Arthur’s enemies underestimate him.
We see reason B right away in 4x01 and 4x02 when Gwen’s maidservant, Sefa, uses her access to the King and Queen in order to feed information to Morgana.
But before we get into the thick of things, let’s see what our establishing first conversation is for this season:
Merlin: I’ve searched everywhere.
Arthur: Merlin, it’s not just me you’re keeping waiting.
Merlin: How is it my fault?
Arthur: The queen can’t just disappear?
Merlin: Well, where is she?
Arthur: That’s what I sent you to find out!
Merlin: Do you know how big this castle is?
Arthur: Funnily enough, I do!
Merlin: Then, perhaps you should have a look!
Arthur: Merlin, is there anything you’re actually capable of doing?
Merlin: Putting up with you.
They are arguing like a married couple... and you could make amusing Merthur jokes about that, but the fact remains that married couple’s bicker like they do because they are two EQUALS in a partnership. Merlin and Arthur starting off the series with a bicker tells us that they’re equal in each other’s eyes. Furthermore, when Merlin reports back that he failed in a task, Arthur’s response isn’t that Merlin’s failure is unacceptable, but that it’s unacceptable IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. “It’s not just me you’re keeping waiting” – indicates that if Merlin were just inconveniencing Arthur, Arthur wouldn’t really care. Merlin successfully performing as a servant is important to keep up appearances more than anything else.
The next one-on-one conversation we get is on the journey towards Annis’ land, when Arthur tells Merlin that if Merlin disappeared, Arthur wouldn’t bother trying to rescue him... which, of course, is a joke, since we know perfectly well from S4 how Arthur reacts when Merlin disappears.
Throughout the rest of the episode, we also get to see how in-tune Arthur is to Merlin’s moods and well-being. When Merlin is shown the vision and is upset, Arthur immediately asks “What is it?” and only when Merlin refuses to tell him, does he assume that Merlin is just upset about the dead body. Later, in his chambers in Annis’ palace, Arthur once again tries to find out why Merlin is upset. And again by the campfires on the way to Ismere, in an almost reversal of the scene from 4x03 when Merlin leaves the comfort and laughter of the knights by the campfire to try to cheer up at depressed Arthur, here it’s Arthur noticing Merlin sulking and leaving the fire to try to talk to him.
Merlin does start to confide in Arthur more often, though not nearly enough to prevent Camlann, but in comparison to previous series, Merlin is downright OPEN with Arthur. It might take him two days, but he does eventually tell Arthur (at least partially) what the dead man had warned him about in the destroyed village. Arthur, of course, refuses to abandon his quest to rescue his men – since he’s sworn to protect them just as Merlin has sworn to protect Arthur. And Merlin must accept this, but they lay out their priorities for each other plainly, and they’re the same priorities that they have 12 episodes later at Camlann:
Arthur: I swear I’m going to rescue my men of die trying.
Merlin: And I swear, I will protect you or die at your side.
Of course, one of them will eventually be successful and the other will be a failure in every respect, but that’s another meta for someone else to write. The point I’m making here is that Arthur and Merlin are speaking plainly to each other and, more importantly, they UNDERSTAND one another. (Just in case you didn’t get that from the amount of times that Merlin repeats “I understand” to Arthur during this series. Arthur, of course, remains at a disadvantage for fully understanding Merlin, but he does his best with what he is given.)
5x03 is a great episode for seeing Merlin and Arthur’s partnership in action. From the very beginning, we see how much they work in tandem.
Arthur: What are you doing?
Merlin: Well I assume you want to risk our lives and see what’s going on!
Arthur: Never thought I’d say this, Merlin, but you’re learning.
We also see the change in power within their relationship in the scene where Arthur is contemplating using the horn, and when Merlin knocks on the door, Arthur panics and hides the horn under a bowl before Merlin enters. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that a King shouldn’t care that much about what his servant thinks. But then, when Arthur decides to follow through and use the horn, he still only takes Merlin with him – only trusts Merlin.
And, we see yet again, that Merlin will put aside his misgivings about a decision when he understands Arthur’s reasoning or emotional state about something. In my opinion, this is part of what leads to Merlin’s failure in saving Arthur from Camlann, but again that’s a meta for someone else to write. Let’s just focus on the friendship here...
Of course, seeing your arguably emotionally abusive father again really isn’t a good idea, but thankfully, Arthur DID bring his best friend along and Merlin immediately gets to work rebuilding Arthur’s self-esteem again.
When it becomes apparent that Uther is haunting the castle, Merlin confronts Arthur about it immediately. In past series, I’m not sure that Merlin would confront Arthur, nor that Arthur would believe Merlin so readily, even in this episode, it takes a bit, but I think that’s more because Arthur really wants to believe that his father is good – that Uther values Arthur more than he values his own legacy.
This episode serves to underscore how deep the friendship between Arthur and Merlin has grown though, as by the end of it, Arthur is very honest with Merlin both visually (when he stares at him nearly in tears after banishing Uther) and vocally, when he discusses how he has to accept that he’ll never receive his father’s approval and that he’ll have to learn to be confident without it, and not only that, but that his father actually was wrong in the way he ruled.
Arthur: I want a kingdom that’s fair and just, one where everyone is respected regardless of rank.
Merlin: Does that include me?
Arthur: Of course.
Merlin: So, does that mean that you’re not going to hit me anymore?
Arthur: When do I ever hit you?
Merlin: All the time.
Arthur: That’s not hitting, Merlin, that’s friendly slaps – that’s... horseplay.
Of course, this conversation could be interpreted as indicating that Merlin’s position, and respect level, hasn’t changed since S1, but really, I think the “friendly slaps” are much like Merlin’s constant requests for a day off and Arthur’s refusal to ever grant them – they’re a show that Merlin and Arthur put on for each other and the court, but more than that, since Master-Servant is their base relationship, it’s a way of re-establishing that their relationship is solid and not going anywhere.
If you really think of it, the times when Arthur hits Merlin, or when Merlin starts badgering Arthur for a day off, are usually the times when they need the most reassurance that their friend isn’t going anywhere. In the case of 5x03, Arthur pulls rank and hits Merlin with a spoon when he first asks him to come with him on the very emotional trip to summon his father – and then at the end of the episode, Arthur threatens Merlin again after the traumatic event of banishing his father (and after seeing Merlin pinned to a door with spears about to be killed). In 5x13, we see Merlin seek the same comfort in their base relationship in an effort to convince both himself and Arthur that they won’t be separated.
Really, I could cite every single episode for examples of how comfortable Merlin and Arthur are with each other in S5. The series really is more about the inevitable coming of Camlann than it is about any development of the Merlin+Arthur relationship, we basically enter the series with the relationship fully formed, save for the magic reveal. Any develops are with Arthur beginning to catch hints about Merlin having magic, but even that storyline is aborted with Arthur getting distracted by Camlann and Merlin revealing his magic before Arthur had a chance to figure it out himself (though I’ll talk about the possibility of that in an Aside below).
But really, in every episode, we see Arthur confiding in Merlin, Merlin advising Arthur, and both of them treating each other as equals. The most remarkable change is Merlin letting Arthur in on most of the plots going on in the shadows far sooner than he would have in previous seasons. While Agravane went an entire series betraying Arthur while Merlin suspected, Gwen only lasts two episodes doing the same thing. Furthermore, once Merlin has the proof he needs, he immediately tells Arthur. It kind of kills me that we don’t get to see the actual scene, but we know that Arthur believes Merlin enough to follow him out into the woods in 5x09 and witness a meeting between Gwen and Morgana – and this is GWEN we’re talking about, besides Merlin, Gwen is the very last person that Arthur would ever believe would betray him (to Morgana anyway – he of course already knows that it’s possible that she’d betray him romantically since as far as he knows she’s done so before.)
Of course, Merlin’s new position as Arthur’s advisor does bite him in the ass sometimes. There are times when Merlin quite obviously does not want to be the one that influences Arthur, because Merlin recognizes that his advice would be horribly biased. In those cases, he often tries to default to acting the servant, but Arthur never allows him to fall back into the role, like he has done in the past. We see this most clearly (and tragically) in 5x05 when Arthur is giving the choice, seemingly, between Mordred’s life and keeping the ban on magic, which in turn means that Merlin has to decide between Arthur’s life and restoring magic to Camelot. (Merlin's choice belongs to that other meta that I'm NOT writing.)
5x05 also gives us a view into just how much Arthur has thrown himself into the friendship with Merlin. He knows how to offend him (jokingly) and he takes immediate and concerned notice of Merlin’s moods “I’ve not seen you smile these past three days.” Merlin, meanwhile, is too preoccupied with Arthur’s possible death to really appreciate what he has in that moment... or to realize just how much Arthur loves him. We see this again in 5x08 when Merlin skips town believing that Arthur won’t even notice his absence, only for us to see Arthur obsess and worry over Merlin’s absence until Gwen makes up a cover story good enough to satisfy him.
It’s in 5x11, that we see just how much influence Merlin has over Arthur, when Merlin is able to convince Arthur to give Kara a second chance to escape the hangman’s noose. Arthur has no reason, other than Merlin’s pleading, to do so. Granted, you could argue that he’s doing it for Mordred’s sake just as much as Merlin’s, but judging by the way that he makes sure to catch Merlin’s eye as he speaks one final time to Kara, I really do believe that Arthur is doing it because Merlin asked him to.
When we get to 5x12, and Merlin has to leave Arthur and travel to the Valley of the Fallen Kings to restore his magic – we see just how much the idea that Merlin might not die at his side blindsides Arthur:
Arthur: So, what are you after?
Arthur: Come on, Merlin, you’re the worst servant in the history of the world – now suddenly this. Is it money?
Arthur: No, it can’t be that, you’ve already won all mine. Time off?
*Merlin smiles sadly*
Arthur: No, can’t be that either, you don’t really... do.... anything.
I love the first bit of this conversation, because it re-establishes everything. Merlin is the worst servant in the history of the world, so why has Arthur kept him around? Because he’s far more than a servant. Merlin doesn’t serve Arthur for money, nor does he actually live for anything else BUT serving Arthur, and Arthur knows it, because Merlin has TOLD him over the years – “I’m happy to serve you until the day I die” (1x13), “I swear I will protect you or die at your side” (5x01) – which brings us to:
Arthur: ...Merlin, what do you mean MY journey?
Merlin: I’m afraid I won’t be coming with you. Not this time. I’m sorry. I have an urgent errand to run for Gaius – vital supplies that I can’t obtain here.
Arthur: Vital supplies.
Merlin: Yes. It’s not that I’m-
Arthur: No, no. It’s fine. It’s fine, I understand.
Arthur: You know, Merlin, all those jokes about you being a coward, I never really meant any of them. I always thought you were the bravest man I ever met. I guess I was wrong.
Arthur KNOWS Merlin. He knows that Merlin never leaves his side when he needs him – and despite never telling him about the prophecy, Arthur seems to realize that he is walking to his death when it comes to this battle – and he knows that Merlin, the person who is constantly by his side in danger, despite being utterly defenseless wouldn’t abandon him in his final days, not unless he had changed his mind about dying by Arthur’s side. And changing his mind about dying by Arthur’s side is basically Merlin saying “I don’t love you as much as I thought I did,” which is crushing to Arthur.
Now that we’ve firmly established that Arthur and Merlin are BFFs and Merlin is Arthur’s most trusted advisor and that Merlin is loved by Arthur above all others, except maybe Guinevere (but possibly trusted even more than Guinevere), let’s see what happens when the magic reveal occurs in 5x13:
Merlin: I defeated the Saxons, the dragon, and yet I knew that it was Mordred that I must stop.
Arthur: The person who defeated them was the sorcerer.
Merlin: That was me.
Arthur: Don’t be ridiculous, Merlin. That’s stupid. Why would you say that?
Merlin: I’m a sorcerer. I have magic. And I use it for you, Arthur, only for you.
Arthur: Merlin, you are not a sorcerer, I would know!
Merlin: Look, here
*Merlin does magic*
Arthur: Leave me.
Arthur: Just- You heard- just...
So, things are not so great in the beginning, but we have to remember who Arthur is. Arthur has been betrayed not once, but thrice, by those he loves... and Arthur DID love Mordred, that much was evidenced by his reaction to Mordred’s possible death in 5x05. Arthur’s bane, as the show repeated implies and foreshadows during S5, is the fact that Arthur trusts people too easily and too completely. He’s just been slain by someone he once trusted, who was acting on the command of his own sister who he also once loved and trusted... and now the person he thought he could trust most in the world is telling him that he’s been lying to him for their entire friendship. What I’m saying is that Arthur is not in a place emotionally to realize that this is the finale puzzle piece that he's needed to finally figure Merlin out.
He’ll get there though. 5x13 is all about putting Arthur and Merlin in a metaphorical locked room to work out their issues. Arthur can’t escape, because he’s mortally wounded, and Merlin can’t run away because he wants desperately to save him.
Of course, Gaius makes a brief appearance in our locked room, in order to give Arthur the information that Merlin himself would never tell Arthur – mainly, that Merlin is possibly the greatest sorcerer to ever walk the earth.
I know, Arthur, I know... oddly enough, I think finding out that Merlin is the greatest sorcerer ever to walk the earth makes Arthur fear him LESS... because that doesn’t make any sense to him. Arthur grew up being told that sorcerers were cackling evil villains, and all his experience up until that point had only confirmed that fact. If Arthur had to imagine the greatest sorcerer ever to walk the earth, they’d probably have more resemblance to Morgana than to his clumsy manservant. Why would the greatest sorcerer masquerade as Arthur’s BFF and servant-cum-advisor for 9 years? Why would the greatest sorcerer clean Arthur’s boots, and ride with Arthur into danger, and empty his chamber pot for NINE YEARS (at least)?
From here on out, Arthur realizes that he has the task of figuring out which parts of Merlin were the truth and which parts of Merlin were a lie.
Meanwhile, of course, Merlin’s little heart is breaking, because he’s not only facing the possibility of his friend dying, but also the possibility that his friend may never forgive him – and I’m sure Merlin has already decided which fate would be worse, so he does everything he can to keep Arthur on the road to the healing waters of Avalon.
Along the way, Arthur gets to see Merlin has he truly is. He reacts negatively to Merlin dispatching Saxons with a wave of his hand, because that shatters the image that Arthur had of Merlin being someone Arthur needed to protect, someone who wouldn’t/couldn’t hurt a fly, someone who was incapable of harm.
But then later, they actually use their words:
*Merlin struggles to light fire*
Arthur: Why don’t you use magic?
Merlin: Habit, I suppose.
*non-verbally lights fire with magic*
Merlin: Feels strange.
I love that little exchange, because it puts them, however, briefly, on even ground. They’re both in an unfamiliar situation. They’re both in a friendship that now has to be redefined – or reaffirmed – after a revelation. Merlin establishes exactly what Arthur needs to realize in order for their friendship to not only survive, but be better than ever:
Arthur: I thought I knew you.
Merlin: I’m still the same person.
Seriously, how can you not see magic in this show as a metaphor for homosexuality? :P
And the best way for Merlin to do that is to show Arthur that he’s still the same person, and that means returning to the baseline of their friendship - the Master-Servant relationship. For the first bit of their journey, Merlin defaults to only speaking when spoken to, and attending Arthur as a servant would - basically, reminding Arthur of how their friendship began:
Merlin: You need to eat.
Arthur: Why are you doing this? Why are you still behaving like a servant?
Merlin: It’s my destiny. As it has been, since the day we met.
Arthur: I tried to take your head off with a mace.
Merlin: And I stopped you... using magic.
Arthur: You cheated!
Merlin: You were going to kill me.
The message Merlin is trying to convey is that their friendship is not based on lies. The confrontation with the mace still happened as Arthur remembers, though there’s now an explanation for Merlin’s “luck” and Arthur’s sudden clumsiness during the fight. There’s now an answer to Arthur’s line of “there’s something about you, Merlin. I can’t quite put my finger on it.” What Merlin is saying, and hopefully what Arthur is hearing, is that the very thing that made Merlin interesting to Arthur is in fact, Merlin’s magic. Merlin’s still the same person, because Merlin was using magic back then too – the only difference is Arthur’s knowledge of it.
Merlin: I’m glad you didn’t. I do this, because of who you are. Without you, Camelot’s nothing.
Arthur: There was a time when that was true. Not now.
And what I like about the end bit of this conversation is the fact that Merlin is still clinging to their shared destiny, while Arthur is already coming to terms with it being over. Though, again, that’s a meta for someone else to write...
Merlin: And I also do this... because you’re my friend and I don’t want to lose you.
I love that line, because it’s a very deliberate callback, I think, to what Arthur told Merlin in the tunnels in 4x13.
Now that Arthur has decided that Merlin is still the friend that he knew and loved, he has to explore the next aspect to the betrayal he is still feeling. The fact that Merlin obviously didn't trust Arthur as much as Arthur trusted Merlin:
Arthur: Why did you never tell me?
Merlin: I wanted to, but....
Merlin: You’d have chopped my head off.
Arthur: I’m not sure what I would have done.
Merlin: And I didn’t want to put you in that position.
Arthur: That’s what worried you?
The fact that the reason Merlin lied to him was because Merlin loved him too much to put him in a difficult spot is both adorable, heartwarming, and also infuriating (for me, I’m not sure how Arthur feels about it.)
Merlin: Some men are born to plough fields, others to be great physicians, others to be great kings. Me – I was born to serve you Arthur, and I’m proud of that, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Oh, no worries Arthur, Merlin may be the greatest sorcerer ever to walk the earth, but he’s also your own personal obsessed stalker.
I’m kidding, of course, what Arthur is most likely hearing (hopefully) is that Merlin wasn’t hiding in plain sight for some nefarious propose (like Morgana or Agravane), nor was he lying because he didn't trust Arthur with his life, but rather Merlin was actually content and happy to be Arthur’s manservant... the greatest sorcerer ever to walk the earth actually WANTED to clean Arthur’s boots, and ride with him into danger, and empty his chamber pot. There was no lie in that.
Merlin: They’re long gone.
Arthur: How do you know?
Merlin: I can see the path ahead.
Arthur: So you’re not an idiot, that was another lie.
Merlin: No, it’s just another part of my charm.
I think this is my favourite of their conversations, because it possibly does the most to address Arthur’s fears. Merlin IS still the same person, because Merlin is still an idiot, which, as you may remember was Arthur’s very first impression of him. A brave idiot, but still an idiot. What Merlin is saying here is that Arthur’s instincts about Merlin weren’t wrong – his trust wasn’t misplaced – Arthur DOES know Merlin.
*Merlin obscures their path and distracts the Saxons with magic*
Arthur: You’ve done this before. All these years, Merlin, you never once sought any credit.
Merlin: That’s not why I do it. Come on...
So, now that Merlin has re-established their base relationship, and then re-established their friendship by assuring Arthur that Merlin is still the same person – Arthur can now get to work on realizing just how much Merlin must have been doing for him over the years... and I love that they don't go into specifics, and Merlin doesn’t even bother explaining why he does it. Because even the acknowledgement that he’s done anything is more than Merlin ever expected to get, or wanted.
Arthur: Merlin, whatever happens-
Merlin: Shh, don’t talk!
Arthur: I’m the king, Merlin. You can’t tell me what to do.
Merlin: I always have. I’m not going to change now.
Arthur: I don’t want you to change. I want you to always be you. I’m sorry about how I treated you.
Merlin: Does that mean you’re going to give me a day off?
Merlin: That’s generous.
In this conversation, we have two things occurring. First, we have the acknowledgement of Merlin’s ascension to the role of advisor (the unofficial position that he’s held throughout S5), thus completing Arthur’s journey through the history of their friendship in order to come to terms with the new information. Secondly, we have Arthur’s full acceptance of who Merlin is – that he is still the man that Arthur loves and that if magic is part of what makes Merlin who he is, than Merlin’s magic is also something that Arthur loves.
I think when Arthur apologizes here, he’s not apologizing for the “friendly slaps” or treating Merlin like the servant that he was – but rather, he’s apologizing for the way Merlin’s magic was treated. He’s apologizing for the institutionalized prejudice/racism that Merlin had experienced, he’s apologizing for all those times he spoke ill of magic users in front of Merlin without knowing that he was quite possibly hurting Merlin with his words... that’s what I like to believe anyway.
And, as I mentioned before, we see Merlin jokingly ask for days off, as that coded language that he and Arthur use to basically recommit themselves to each other.
Arthur: Merlin, you can’t... you can’t save my life.
Merlin: I can. I’m not going to lose you.
Arthur: Just hold me, please. There’s something I want to say.
Merlin: You’re not going to say goodbye.
Arthur: No. Merlin, everything you’ve done, I know now – for me, for Camelot, for the kingdom you helped me build.
Merlin: You’d have done it without me.
Arthur: *laughs* Maybe. I want to say something I’ve never said to you before. Thank you.
Merlin: Arthur, hey, no. Arthur? Arthur!
It’s okay, I didn’t need that heart anyway.
For the record, Arthur DID say thank you to Merlin many times in his life, he just never knew the full extent of what he was thanking him for. The fact though, that Arthur is really specifically thanking Merlin FOR his magic here is pretty momentous though.
Of course, in the end, Merlin can’t fulfill his promise to protect Arthur or die at his side. Arthur dies and Merlin, as it turns out, lives up to the name Emrys (from the Latin Ambrosius - "immortal") and is left to wait an eternity for Arthur’s return.
So, in conclusion, S5 DOES give us Merlin in the advisor roll, fully and securely, and in equal partnership with the King, while Arthur begins to slowly solve the puzzle that is his dearest friend... until, of course, the events of Camlann cause Merlin to reveal his magic, and over a two day period Arthur and Merlin re-establish their friendship and emerge closer and stronger than ever and truly become the partnership they were destined to have.
Aside #9 – The AU where Arthur Figures It Out
I fully believe that had Camlann not occurred, Arthur would have actually figured out that Merlin had magic before Merlin got around to telling him. He was well on his way over the course of the series.
Throughout S5, Merlin is getting either more careless with his magic, or just bolder about using it openly. To the point where, by 5x12, Merlin is performing magic while Arthur is staring directly at him.
But it all starts in 5x01 with some juggling...
Arthur: Where did you learn to juggle like that? Honestly, I didn’t even think you could catch.
Merlin: Yes, well, I have many talents. You’ve failed to notice them, that’s all.
And then comes Uther’s interrupted declaration in 5x03, where Arthur almost seems desperate to blow the horn before his father completes the sentence – to the point where you have to wonder if subconsciously, Arthur might already suspect.
The biggest clue occurs in 5x05, when Merlin makes a mistake so classic that it may in fact be my favourite moment of the series. Arthur asks Merlin how he knows that the place they’re in is sacred and Merlin makes the mistake of telling him, not realizing that he might feel things differently than a mere mortal. I think the reason I love it so much is that it’s such a human thing for Merlin to do – to assume that because he experienced something a certain way that everyone else must experience it the same. As a real life example: My brother has mild asthma. When we were young, he had an inhaler but never bothered using it, that’s how mild the asthma was. He didn’t really even need the inhaler... only one day, solely out of boredom, he took a puff from the inhaler. I remember him turning to me with wide-eyes and asking, “is this how easy it is for you to breath all the time?” My brother didn't think he needed his inhaler, because he assumed that it was normal to constantly have just a little trouble breathing. (For the record, I believe my response was "Dude! Use your inhaler more often!")
We see a very similar thing happen between Arthur and Merlin:
Arthur: How did you know this place was sacred?
Merlin: Well, that’s obvious.
Arthur: Pretend it isn’t.
Merlin: Everything here is so full of life – every tree, every leaf, every insect. It’s as if the world is vibrating, as if everything is much more than itself.
Arthur: You feel all that?
Merlin: Don’t you?
*Arthur shakes his head*
*Merlin’s smile drops*
This is something I would have loved them to development more in the show – the fact that Merlin is not-quite human. Merlin IS magic and he experiences the world on a different level than Arthur and possibly even other sorcerers. The fact that this is his first slip up in the nine or so years he’s been with Arthur is quite amazing.
And if that wasn’t a big enough clue, the conversation that follows, in which Merlin nearly breaks into tears while advising Arthur that there can never be a place for magic in Camelot, should have tipped Arthur off, if not that Merlin was magic, but that there was something fundamentally wrong with his advice in that moment. Though, in fairness, perhaps Arthur just thought Merlin was crying because refusing to allow magic into Camelot meant letting Mordred die (or so they believed at the time.)
In 5x06, Merlin is the only one who can inexplicably lead them out of an un-navigable forest. Much like his sudden talent for juggling in 5x01, this way-finding talent not only comes out of nowhere for Arthur, but goes against everything he thought he knew about Merlin’s ability to navigate. Back in 5x01, Arthur has to explain to Merlin that they’re walking north and not south, and yet suddenly here is Merlin leading the way when Arthur cannot.
And yet again, in 5x09, we see Arthur make the connection between Merlin’s “funny feeling” that they were being watched and the fact that Mordred was following them – thus confirming Merlin’s “feelings”... but even before Arthur sees firm proof that Merlin’s “funny feeling” wasn’t unfounded, we get a conversation where Arthur actually QUESTIONS where Merlin’s “feelings” may come from:
Arthur: These funny feelings of yours...
Merlin: Not funny.
Arthur: Stupid, then. Where do they come from, you think?
Arthur: You still there, Merlin? You haven’t gone into a sulk?
Of course, Merlin never doesn't give an explanation, since he conveniently both changes the subject by complaining and then follows that up by falling off a cliff.
By 5x12, as I said, Merlin is blatantly using magic directly in front of Arthur – to cheat at dice, no less – while Arthur is looking straight at him. The fact that he isn’t caught out is astounding. Arthur had already been questioning things, all he would have needed was probably a little mental nudge in the right direction, and I think he would have finally put two and two together and come up with magic. I would have loved to have seen that happen.
Hell, I thought it HAD happened, when Merlin successfully talked to Arthur through a dream in 5x12, but alas.
END OF META!
I hope you enjoyed these meta fun times. If there's anything further you'd like to discuss, please comment! We can have even MORE meta fun times!! :)