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I’ve been holding the vast majority of my comments on the current BBC Saturday night ‘family entertainment’ travesty until the end of the current series.  But honestly, it’s getting harder and harder to bite my tongue.  In the meantime, I’ve been amusing myself by looking at the viewing figures that the ever-informative Gealach-Ros has been posting.  And the comparison to Merlin S1 comparable data just says it all really.

I’m happy number crunching on excel but my brain is more visually-orientated.  So here for any like-minded soul, and your viewing pleasure, are the Merlin Versus Atlantis viewing figures to-date.  It’s a basic chart but I’ll try and fancy it up once the final data is in for Atlantis ep113.

Merlin_vs_Atlantis_viewing_figs_s1_comparison v2

Snark-mode is now definitely on.  I think it’s fitting that coming up to the anniversary of Merlin’s demise, when you (J’s) made the majority of fandom weep on Christmas Eve (and not necessarily in a good way), that you are provided with a similar opportunity.  So here you go, read it and weep, Julian & Johnny :-/

Except… knowing the level of your hubris, you’ll probably just interpret (massage?!) this as a solid fan-base from which improved figures will magically appear in S2, rather than the P45 which should by rights be winging it’s way to you in the post right now.

Dear fellow MMRU members,

It has been brought to our attention that version 5.10 of the drinking game has been failing in its primary requirement for the last couple of episodes.  Therefore, revised version 5.13 is issued with immediate effect.  However, it is embargoed for actual use until 20.00hrs GMT 24th December 2012. Any illegal use prior to this will be met with extreme apathy.  Pursuant to previously issued End-User-Licence-Agreement, applying the rules of the game is entirely at your own risk; the MMRU cannot be held accountable for any misuse, bodily injury or accidental tv damage resultant from its use.

[Read the list here...]
  • Merlin turns 'young' again (phew!!) - 1 drink, it's a given.
  • Arthur/Merlin banter is lighthearted and inappropriate to the overall context of the episode - 1 drink.
  • Morgana defeated...permanently, by Merlin - 2 drinks, because yay! celebrating Merlin being effective at last.
  • Merlin reveals his magic to Arthur - who already knows because he's not a total idiot - 2 drinks, cos we've been waiting so long.
  • Arthur dies - 2 drinks (it's almost given, but you have to raise a glass to the character)
  • Percival dies - 1 drink.
  • Gwaine dies - 1 drink.
  • Leon dies - 1 drink.
  • Kilgarrah dies - 1 drink.
  • Aithusa dies - 1 drink.
  • Merlin cries - 1 drink.
  • Merlin doesn't kill Mordred by the end of the ep - 1 drink.
  • Anti-Magic law is repealed - 2 drinks.
  • Court of Camelot recognises Merlin...finally - 3 drinks.
  • Gwen has a bump / baby / hint of spawn, before the end of the episode - aaarrrgggg!!!!  NO!  2 drinks.
  • Gaius survives (fcuk you too, Cultbox, for wanting him dead!) - 1 drink.
  • Merlin leaves Camelot - 1 drink.
  • Merlin revives Arthur - 3 drinks (feels this is unlikely).
  • Merlin is involved in guiding Arthur on his last journey (funerary boat, Lady of the Lake, Avalon, wherever) - 2 drinks, if you can see the glass through your tear-filled eyes.
  • Final scene is the 'modern' one, we've all heard about - 1 drink....or whatever is left in your glass, depending on how pissed off you are by this point.
  • Any hint of Arwen - 2 drinks if it feels real, 1 drink if it's forced.
  • For every verbal WTF???? you utter - 2 drinks.
  • For every non-verbal WRF???? you think - 1 drink.
  • For every shout directed at the tv / computer screen in anger at J4 - 1 drink (but see previous 2 items, not to be used in conjunction).
  • For every paper tissue you've used by the end of the final credits - 1 drink each.

OK folks.  I tried to include things that covered a variety of eventualities, but in the end the list was way too long, so we're back to the <i>'most likely based on J4 determination to screw us'</i> sub-set.  That's pretty much guaranteed to get you well-oiled and see you through the heartache we're going to endure.  If anyone has any last minute additions, please send them quickly and I'll try to post before 8pm tonight.

I'll be lurking in the MerlinXArthur 513 reaction post, and I'll dump my initial reaction comments on my lj later.  For serious dissection, I'll be heading over to Tanous' lj as usual, whenever it's open for comment.

90 minutes to go before D-Day.  My nerves are completely shot...
OK, I should be packing cos I'm on a plane in 6 1/2hrs...but What The HELLLLLLLL!!!!!!!  Click the link to read...

[Click to Open Spoilers / angry venting...]Magic-sucking slug - oh yeah, another DEM cos they couldn't find a more realistic way to handicap Merlin.  Really!?! Though I actually like Morgana in this scene...for some reason.  And hey, Mordreds chainmail is suddenly black?  Who knew being a turn coat also turned the colour of one's chainmail.

Tavern scene - nice but...come on!  You mean no-one saw the glowy golden eyes?!??!  Tho' it's nice to see Merlin actually AT the Tavern, for real.

BAMF!Gaius with an iron...cooooool!

Why would they kill all the magic-sucking slugs in the Purge?  Surely, that's a useful tool for Uther and the like?

Kinda like seeing Mordred & Morgana doing magics together.

Gwaine saving Eira - come on...everyone knows that's a total set up.  And we know Morgana has a grudge against Gwaine, but waaay weak plot device.

Liked the Gwaine / Merlin interactions on the whole.  A nice throwback to the old Gwaine / Merlin friendship, which TPTB seemed to have totally forgotten recently.

Roundtable planning - poor old Merlin relegated to truly an observer.  Gwen pontificating about not being able to save everyone - WTF?  Has she totally lost her compassion? And everything she saw in Arthur.  No, just plain no.

Aithusa & the sword - why?  Why does Morgana think she needs to provide this for Mordred?  Arthur is mortal - any old blade would kill him.  Pointless. 

The map - anyone got a good screen cap of that?  We might finally be able to work the Albion geography.

'I know him better than he knows himself' Merlin re Arthur.  Really???  Bollocks.  If he did, we wouldnt be in this predicament, and Merlin would have fessed up to Arthur a long damn time ago.

Gwaine is a total blabber mouth.  Loose lips sink ships (WWII posters). 

Arthur to Merlin re not going with him to Camlann - For this, for Arthur inferring directly to Merlin that he's a coward, J4 should be hung, drawn & quartered.  I have totally lost my capacity to comment on this - it makes me so FURIOUS!!!!

Gwen going with Arthur - no way, no how, not ever!  One last ditch effort from J4 to screw the Arwen firmly to the sticking post.  But the enlightened amongst us know that this is total FAIL!

How come Morgana knows nothing about the Crystal Cave, and it takes Mordred to tell her about it?  She's supposed to be a High Priestess of the Old Religion, but she doesn't know about this???  I call Bollocks again (Yeah, I'll be repeating this word ad nauseam for the rest of the reaction post. So sue me!!!)

Merlin / Gwaine at the Crystal Cave - I liked this scene.  Nice to see them being the friends they used to be.  And Gwaine knows.....he just totally knows it's all down to Merlin.  I liked the way he stood up and almost saluted Merlin at the end.  We should have more of this...

Morgana / Merlin in the Cave - suddenly she can flit about and apparate at will????? Where did she suddenly get this level of power?  And if she's that powerful, why didn't she lay waste to Camelot / Arthur / Merlin a hell of a lot earlier.  I call Bollocks.  But yay, Merlin whacked her with the sword!  Not totally useless with sharp, pointy things then! :-)

Merlin at the rockfall - Oh Colin!!!  Nice acting, feel your pain lad, but even you can't save this dire storyline...

Gaius / Arthur / Gwen in the forest - OK, seriously pissed with Arthur now.  He's lost total faith in Merlin in such a short time.  Why?  How?  Frankly, he doesn't deserve Merlin's devotion if this is his reaction.  And Gwen suddenly found a brain cell?  WTF???

The Field Of Camlann - no...not a quarry in South Wales.  It's supposed to be a f'king plain...a field!!!  As shown in the previous 'visions' in the crystals / Morgana's vision.

Balinor - yay!  Though I'm not overwhelmed with the Yoda'esque appearance, John Lynch is good to see.  But considering Balinor had pretty much 2 days to realise Merlin was his son & reconcile himself to that (The Last Dragonlord), he's awfully fast in his devotion to the son he never realised he had in the first place.  And hate hate HATE the portending re  'that you have always been, and will always will be' i.e. eternal immortal Emrys.  Right now, I'm soooo pissed with J4 for turning Merlin into Old!Merlin to get him out of the CC, that I'm losing the capacity to type....  gah! [EDIT : on reflection, see comment below.]

Arthur / Gwen pre-battle pep talk.  Gah!  More Arwenisation.  It's puke making.  Arthur can only find his hope and way forward because Gwen says she believes in him.  And that bridal carry....should have been in a much earlier ep, where it was credible.  They've been married for almost 4 years....no, not still newlyweds.

Morgana sends her 100 best warriors - 'cos of course someone might send their 100 least effective warriors otherwise.

Merlin in the CC - suddenly gets his magic back...because while he was unconscious, he remembered 'hope'.  yeah...whatever you say J4.  Oh, and he's suddenly found the capacity to scry through the crystals without being overwhelmed per previous visit.  However I might carry a little hope from this, because there seemed to be a vision of young!Merlin, which might possibly imply that old!Merlin isn't the only sight we seem of him next ep.  Then again, it could just be flashbacks to previous visions and episodes and J4 continue to fuck with us.

Love the fact that Arthur actually 'hears' Merlin in his dream and wakes up with Merlin's name on his lips, whilst clasped to Gwen's (fully clothed) bosom.  LOL.  Merthur for ever!!  And he actually acts on the advice. 

Bradley's 'Henry V' audition piece - go BJ, and I look forward to seeing him in a Shakespeare play sometime soon.    And that whole 'future of the United Kingdom's' reference - you know that's J4 telling us this is going to end up in modern UK.  Sigh.  Can it get any worse?  That's a rhetorical question, of course...

Balinor to Merlin - 'Your journey has only just begun...'  Uh oh.  So we're going to get some form of Emrys in modern times.  Cos this  Dark Ages!Merlin is just the beginning of his looooooong journey.  'Only in the heart of the Crystal Cave will your true self be revealed.'    You've asked us (and the casual viewer) to invest time in watching Merlin as a boy and a young man grow into a caricature with stunted, blocked, emasculated potential but his 'true self', and the only way he can come fully into his powers, is to become be an 80 year old man, and you want us to just accept that...   J4, I SO hate you right now.  [EDIT : on reflection, I can live with this, as a way for Merlin to get himself out of this sticky situation....just.  But only if he's chosen old!Merlin as a disguise for his adventures on the battlefield.  If it's the only way he can tap into his 'true' power, then I'm still pissssssed.]

'I will always be, as you will always be' - yet another moment for Balinor J4 to remind us that Emrys is immortal and undying...and going to turn up in modern times.  Shiiiiit.

Slo-mo sword fighing...is good in short doses, people.  And whilst Bradley does look truly heroic in these scenes, you need a lighter touch on this, folks.

Uh oh...old!Merlin is pisssssssed!!  Much like me.

And I'm sure everyone noticed that the 'I'm a sorcerer. I have magic' quote had NO visual, so that J4 can keep us guessing for 48 more painful hours as to how Merlin reveals this and whether he's old or young, and precisely who it's to... Whilst it seems to me that the voice was a young!Merlin, I would rather they hadn't included that voiceover in the trailer frankly.

So J4, fcuk you very much for this episode.  It lived up down to my worst expectations.  And I'm just counting the hours till I can call it quits with all this bollocks and return to the happy land of fanfic. 
We're screaming towards the inevitably traumatic ending.  There are plenty of opportunities to exercise the negativity in various live journal discussions (and I'll admit I've dived in head long and with passion in the criticism / critiqueing - it's just too easy, and it's great as a pressure valve).  So I thought I should try and balance all that - just for a moment.

Let's not forget that there are reasons why we got sucked into Merlin in the first place, and why so many of us have stayed the course (no heckling from the peanut gallery, you know it's not just to see the inevitable demise...or the pretty boys).  So here's my contribution - 10 positive things I've got from Merlin, in reverse order :
Under a cut, for length of whaffle...Collapse )
I think that's likely to be the end of my positivity streak for a while, given what's coming up in the next couple of days.  
I now return you to your regular programming...and inevitable doom & gloom.  90 minutes to go...(sigh)
So, I've just read some incontrovertable 'spoilers' for 513, from a source that is reputable and has, apparently, not be wrong in the past.  As such, I'm ditching my 'positivity' for a while, to post this.

For any of the UK viewers who have the energy or desire to lodge a complaint to the BBC after this debacle is over, here are the pertinent details : 

  • BBC Complaints phone line : 03700 100 222 (UK phone number, 24/7, charged as 01/02 geographic number. Comments are recorded).
  • BBC Complaints / Comments online : http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/complain-online/ [This is an online form to complete, which directs your included comments to the 'right' department.]
  • BBC Points Of View email : pov@bbc.co.uk [You can send emails and video'd comments here. LOL]
  • BBC Points Of View messageboard : http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbpointsofview/NF1951566?thread=5828556&skip=9300 [Actually, I wouldn't bother with this since it just seems to be a discussion thread on the episodes, rather than a place you can raise COMPLAINTS and FEEDBACK.]

The POV email and the BBC Complaints phone line are the most effective, IMHO, as they're more likely to get aired on POV, assuming a high volume of similar feedback.  As has been pointed out, the BBC take the audience log (the phone line) very seriously.  For the POV complaints, they tend to like to give a balanced argument on air, but if it's overwhelmingly negative, they can't ignore it.

I'm specifically aiming this at UK viewers, because that's who the BBC will listen to.  If the number of UK complainants are overwhelmed by International viewers, they can dismiss the comments as a 'net-based fandom reaction from a bunch of over-obsessive fangirls.

For the International viewers - I strongly suggest you contact the local in-country channel that airs Merlin wherever you are (eg SyFy in the USA), and route your complaints and comments through them.  It will carry more weight that way.

As an aside : I'm a UK television license fee payer and, for the first time ever, I seriously think I might have to give some feedback on how they've used my money so heinously.

Merlin 511 - initial reaction

Ok, not totally hating the episode.  

We all knew Mordred had to turn, and this was the only opportunity left in the ridiculously truncated timeline we've been given.

Merlin was antagonistic initially, but then he knows something no-one else does of course, so everything he does has to be seen in the light of that.  But he tried, he tried to persuade Mordred, and Arthur.  At least he tried to help...and it was good to see his disbelief when Kara stuck the final nail in her own coffin.

And Arthur gave Kara the opportunity to dodge the bullet noose. She chose not to take it.  In the dungeon, talking to Mordred, said that it was her fault - and I choose to believe that.  If she hadnt tried to stab Arthur, if she hadn't been brutal in her escape, if she'd taken the lifeline Arthur threw her...it would have turned out differently.  But then it was never going to be a happy outcome, because Mordred has to be by Morgana's side at Camlann.

Alex Vlahos was excellent in his portrayal of Mordred - conflicted, distraught and then...then...you just knew he was going to go straight to Morgana and dob Emrys in to her.  It had to happen this episode.

Morgana - minimal screen time, but nicely underplayed (finally) in her interaction with Mordred at the end.

So...the trailer for next week?  Oh dear :-( the Crystal Cave for Merlin, and everything goes to ratshit, as we knew it would.

I will leave more comments over on Tanous LJ tomorrow, when I've slept on it all.  Hey ho, 90 mins left.  

Some attempt at Merlin positivity - post 1

I have a couple of posts that I'm trying to put up before tonights episode airs, because I speculate that I may lose the will to live - or rather to contribute anything positive on the subject of Merlin - in about 3hrs 30mins.  So here's the first semi-positive comment from me - it's more of a hope, albeit it one I'm sure is in vain.


This picture is my reference visual for what I sincerely want to see in the final episode.  Yes, it's from 4.13, but just try to ignore that for the time being, and stick with me here.  I know that everyone will have different interpretations here, but this is what I choose to see in this picture...

Merlin is standing in the Great Hall, in the front ranks of the assembled masses of Knights and Courtiers.  He's not several rows back or standing by the wall, in his usual place as the King's manservant.  Arthur insists that he's front and centre for this, and the Knights are there to ensure that Merlin doesn't try to hide himself further back.  He's surrounded by his friends - Leon, Percival and Gwaine all have satisfied smiles on their faces - as far as they are concerned, this is long overdue.  

Gaius keeps looking at him from the side, a worried expression on his face.  He knows that this is not the joyous occasion everyone appears to think it is for Merlin.  He knows the burden that Merlin has had to bear, the sacrifices he's willingly made, to ensure that Arthur is safe on the throne, that Albion is united and that magic is once again legal.  He knows that Merlin carries the weight of untold deaths on his shoulders - some of his decisions have not ended happily, even with the best will in the world.  And yet the young warlock has continued to strive, to move towards this day.  

Merlin himself is dressed in new court apparel.  Arthur joked about giving him a hat as well but Merlin knew, when it came down to it, his King would provide something suitably understated but that would befit his new role of Court Sorcerer.  He knows how uncomfortable Merlin is with what's happening and has magnanimously decided not to make him feel any worse than he already does. The red velvet surcoat is undoubtedly the finest piece of clothing Merlin's ever worn, but it's functional and comfortable, albeit it bit longer than he would have preferred.  But there is no arguing with Arthur in this matter - this sort of cloth is expensive and usually cut to the smallest amount of excess for those with little money to squander.  The long length of the jacket is Arthur's way of showing that Merlin is important in his court and to be treated as such.  Merlin gave up that argument, but refused to relinquish his blue neckerchief, which is now firmly in its usual place, peaking between the collar of the surcoat.  He caught Arthur's wry smile on seeing that, when he was ushered to the front of the assembly.  They both know that there are some arguments that can't be won.

The King and Queen are on the dias facing the Court.  Guinevere is sitting on her throne, a small smile on her face - she knows what's coming - as she looks out over the courtiers and knights, trying to judge what the feelings are.  Arthur stands at the front, in full battle dress and with crown firmly on his brow.  He's dressed to make an impact on everyone who is here, to make sure they understand that the King of Albion is speaking and he will be heard.  As Arthur's story, which is actually Merlin's story, is laid before everyone, Merlin can only look at Arthur.  Only Arthur.  Because it is for him that everything has been done.  Merlin's gaze is intense, and Arthur feels it upon him, even as his own gaze ranges over the assembled crowd, making eye contact with those nodding their heads in understanding and knowledge, and with those for whom this is news.  Merlin's face has been a study in stone until this point, but as Arthur begins to shepherd his tale towards the conclusion and everything Merlin has tried so hard for comes to fruition, the smallest of smiles graces Merlin's face.  It's not happiness or joy, or even satisfaction - it's tempered by everything that has happened for good or ill over the last 10 years, and for all those who are not here to see this day arrive.  It's recognition, and thank you, and relief, a burden lifted.  And finally a sense of being home at last, to be known for everything he is and has done, in service of his King.  And to be accepted.

Phew!  Better people than me can write the fanfic on this one - indeed, many already have - but I wanted to share my thoughts on what I'd like to see, come the end of 5.13.  And this picture (ignoring dead!Elyan) captures it for me.

I still have hope...
Since I started the entry below this on 10th Dec, we've been deluged by a load of teasers, some of which are duplications and some seem directly linked.  There have even been and even some 'spoiler-free' reviews.  Instead of editing the other entry, I've decided to just bring them all together here.  If you want  to see specifically which site said what, please visit Cultbox and Cultbox again, InsideMediaTrack.com, SpoilerTV, SFX, CultFix and DigitalSpy pages directly.

Here you go :

[Teasers & comments (click to open)]
"I'm the best tracker here!"
"I knew he'd come round."
"I'm only sorry I failed."
"There must be a simple explanation."
"I need not remind you we are at war."
"If it hadn't been you."
"He's beguiled you, he's beguiled you all."  Merlin to ...?
"I'll clean it."

"She is brazen."
"I fear you're wrong Arthur!"
"What right have you to question me?"
"No matter what he preaches, he is no different from his father - a tyrant, brute..."
"There are some parts woven so deeply into the fabric of the world Merlin, that nothing can be done to change them!"
"I will not rest until you are dead and your kingdom is no more!"
"Then she is more foolish than I thought."
"What of the bond between Knights?"
"You took me in, I will always remember that...and everything you've done for me."
"You can do as you wish.  It will not stop Morgana's uprising."
"Please Arthur, you have to listen to me."
"Use your magic.  Do it!"

"I can't believe you'd say that"  ?...to Mordred.
"Your secret is safe with me. You have my word."  Merlin to ...?
"Please, I mean you no harm."   Kara to ...?
"In your words, I hear the voice of Morgana."   Arthur to ...?
"She has always lived inside my heart."   Mordred to ...?
"I'd never let something like this ruin our friendship."   ?... to Mordred.
"Tell me you wouldn't do the same, for the woman you love."   Mordred to ...?
"We will leave Camelot and never return."   Mordred to ...?
"How will one more death bring about the peace we long for."   Merlin to ...?

"You will be taken from **** **** and ******."
"You would have killed me!"
"He is no different from his father."
"Do not stand in my way.  I don't want anyone to get hurt."
"It's nothing you haven't done yourself a hundred times before."
"If you ****** your ******, I will ***** **** ****."
"Your doom is near."
"It is you and Camelot who shall pay the price."
"You're a druid, you don't belong in Camelot."
"I've made a terrible mistake, haven't I?"

A Mordred-centric episode with a series-best performance from the fantastic Alexander Vlahos.
Episode is big on druids, crucial turning point on both a grand & personal scale.
An episode that has you questioning who's the real villain...Even Merlin comes across a little cold at times.  Prepare to have your sympathies divided, we didn't always side with Merlin this week.  Merlin is openly antagonistic towwards Mordred, not just untrusting.  He's almost the aggressor at times, and there are flashes of Merlin's ruthless streak as well as his compassion, as events spiral out of control.  Gaius calls Merlin on his actions and questions whether Mordred is committing any worse crime than the young wizard has done himself on countless occasions.
Allegiances & loyalties shift and bend in many surprising ways. You may think you see where things are heading but the route there may not be the one you expect.
Telepathic speech is used a lot in this one.
Merlin compares himself to a swan; Arthur compares him to a head louse.
Will Arthur be doomed by his own actions?
This episode is not a barrel of laughs.  Nor is there a lot of action, or magic. One of the most dialogue-driven eps ever. Full of tension, shocks and drama.  Not an episode for the children.
Emphasis on the politics of war.
Some big questions are asked.
A head will roll.
Many people have to consider the consequences of their actions. Or their inactions. Or their slavish adherence to beliefs.
Much will be made of tracking skills.
Someone will help themselves to Gaius' supplies.
Someone will try to pass off a girl as a deer.
Merlin catches something.
Not a lot of Gwen.  Or the Knights.
Morgana receives some very exciting news.
Arthur has a 'Bear Grylls' moment.
Merlin realises his horse may have been a bit high.
There will be more hooded noctural wanderings from Camelot.
Someone will soil their own breeches and someone else's.
Someone gets a bump on the head in the nick of time.
A timely punch is delivered.

There's an emotional outburst that causes huge ripples.

The last line is a cracker, with knobs on.  /  The final line is a  killer!  [Ed : that's their exclamation mark]  / The final scene will leave Merlin fans across the land with jaws agape.

Trailer Teaser : "NOOOOOOOO!!"

The bits I've put in bold?  My worry points.  I get that Merlin has inside info on Mordred, but I'm pretty tired of him being the one shepherding both Mordred & Arthur towards the dreaded Camlann.  I get that Merlin has to be ruthless - just read some of the source material - but it's being written so OOC, with thought only to moving us towards the confrontation between Arthur & Mordred.  Merlin is the huge honking Deus Ex Machina - literally, because the Old Religion folk keep telling him what to do and who to trust, and his consequent actions are almost entirely responsible for where we've landed, and not in a good way.

That final jaw-dropping scene?  I'm guessing an Arthur & Merlin confrontation, and not leading to a nice place.

One final note, at this point - the description from the BBC for the final episode says :

'...Merlin faces his moment of destiny.  Can he find the strength to save the man he made a King; the Camelot they fought to build; and the brotherhood they shared?'

If I'm wearing my Rose Tinted Specs, I take from this the following :
  • This IS the time of Merlin's destiny - not some spurious time in the (modern) future.  So if he doesn't succeed in this instance, regardless of the 'Future' aspect of the OAFK legend, he's failed.  Which would suck big time as a wrap on this show.
  • I find it hard to believe that either the BBC or the writer/producers of this show would feel they were successful in all they wished to achieve, if the answer to the 3 questions above is 'no'.  No, he can't find the strength to save the King.  No, he can't save Camelot.  No, he can't save the brotherhood they shared (though I have to ask what brotherhood they're talking about - since we're still getting a King/manservant relationship albeit slightly more relaxed than most).  So if the answer is a big fat 'no', then Merlin as a character has failed, and 'Merlin' as a show has failed, because it's a depressing tale to show your children - try, try, try your hardest in life, but you'll most likely fail.
Nah, I can't believe the Beeb would want that sort of ending for a successful Saturday evening family show, but I've been wrong before.

I'm just an invested viewer, what do I know.

Side note : I understand 'disposable income' is a key part of the demographics that production companies consider when targetting audiences, cos they're all about the merchandise nowadays.  Well, me and my disposble income were all ready to invest in the full dvd sets (for me) and some other items for nieces and nephews.  That's all on hold now, folks.  If I don't get an ending that I find substantially satisfying, my hard-earned money will be spent in Middle Earth or the 23rd Century.  I won't need any painful reminders of what 'could have been'.
OK, so the teasers for the next episode have started to appear on various websites.  Here's the list so far, with some speculations on my part (or just plain snark) :

[Potential Spoilers (click to open)]
Cultbox.co.uk offers the following, all dialogue teasers : 

"I'm the best tracker here!"
Percival? Or Gwaine - in reference to tracking the nearest tavern? (I miss the good old days of happy-go-lucky, tavern-bound Gwaine.  Where did he go?  He's just so damn OOC serious all the time).
Or Mordred trying to cover his GF's tracks in a totally unsubtle way.

"I knew he'd come round."
Fantasy answer : a reference to Arthur's sudden and unaccountable acceptance of magic-is-just-a-tool-and-can-be-used-for-good. 

"I'm only sorry I failed."
Merlin, finally accepting his / Arthur's fate.
Mordred's GF, on failing to stab Arthur.

"Your secret is safe with me.  You have my word."
Mordred to Merlin, just so he can look arch-evil when he swiftly dobs Merlin in to Morgana.
But seriously - Mordred to his GF or Merlin.
It won't be Merlin uttering those lines, because we all know he keeps his word, and this is crying out to be a broken promise.

"There must be a simple explanation."
ROTFLMAO.  Oh how we have wished for this REPEATEDLY.  Yes, of course there's a simple explanation, Arthur.  But you're not going to hear it from your manservant for at least another 90 minutes, under peril of his death-by-pyre or other dubious reason-of-the-week.  Arthur to Merlin.

"I need not remind you we are at war."
Arthur to....Mordred, Merlin, the assembled Knights?  Because obviously the casual viewer has forgotten the final pronouncement from last week, that Morgana has declared war (because apparently everything up to last week was just a little sibling rivalry).

"Tell me you wouldn't do the same for the woman you love?"
Mordred to Merlin - why, yes - let's rub salt into the wound called Freya.  Another opportunity to reinforce to all viewers how much Merlin has erroneously sacrificed on his road to complete and utter failure prevent Arthur's demise.  Then again, it could be Mordred to Arthur, just so we're all reminded of Arthur's flip-flopping approach to magic when it comes to someone he loves.

"If it hadn't been you."
Hmmmm....more thought required, too many variables.

"He's beguiled you, he's beguiling you all."
Beguiled...I like this word. But which of the characters would use it?  Given the fluctuating way the characters have been written (a hint of intelligence one week, rampantly stupid the next), it's actually hard to pin down who might use the word.  It sounds like Gaius, but could just as well be Arthur, Merlin, Mordred...  But not one of the Knights, methinks.
Mordred to those assembled, regarding Merlin.
Merlin to everyone within shouting distance, having finally given up on the subtle approach to Mordred.

"I'll clean it."
Merlin to Arthur - regarding his sword (get your minds out of the gutter, people!)

From InsideMediaTrack.com, 14 teasers, all dialogue again : 

"She is brazen."
Why is it when I see the word 'brazen' I assume the writers just silently add 'hussy' whenever they hear the dialogue??  Why can't we ever have a brazen bloke??  Obviously about Mordred's GF...would assume it's one of the Knights or Arthur.

"I fear you're wrong Arthur!"
The possibilities are sooo numerous, but I'm going to plump for Merlin.

"What right have you to question me?"
I'm going to guess (hope) this is a Merlin/Mordred conversation.  But it could be Arthur.

"No matter what he preaches, he is no different from his father - a tyrant, brute..."

"There are some parts woven so deeply into the fabric of the world Merlin, that nothing can be done to change them!"
Gaius to Merlin, or is that too obvious.

"I will not rest until you are dead and your kingdom is no more!"
Mordred to Arthur - but that's possibly too easy.

"Then she is more foolish than I thought."
Arthur, re Mordreds GF.

"What of the bond between Knights?"
Mordred to Arthur.  Or the other way round, when Arthur finally wises up.

"You took me in, I will always remember that...and everything you've done for me."
Merlin to Gaius.
Mordred to Arthur...? Nah.

"You can do as you wish.  It will not stop Morgana's uprising."
The GF or Mordred, to Arthur or Merlin.

"Please Arthur, you have to listen to me."
Merlin, for the umpteenth time.

"Use your magic.  Do it!"
Oh, how much do I want this to be Arthur to Merlin, out of the blue.  But I highly doubt it.

From SpoilerTV - more dialogue teasers :

"He's beguiled you, he's beguiled you all."
Oh fergadssake, if you're going to give us teasers, then at least coordinate amongst yourselves.  Nul point for repetition! (see Cultbox above).

"I can't believe you'd say that"
I'd like it to be Richard Wilson Gaius, but I reckon Merlin.

"Your secret is safe with me. You **** ** ****."
Come on guys, we've already got that one from Cultbox (see above).

"Please, I mean you no harm."
Mordred to the GF.  Or Merlin likewise.

"In your words, I hear the ***** of *******."
In your words, I hear the death of freedom - Mordred to Arthur (still sticking to the party line of hang-em-high) or Merlin (bottling it once again).

"She has always lived inside my heart."
Mordred re the GF...to Merlin, or possibly Arthur in a heartfelt plea to save her from the rope/pyre/axe.

"I'd never let something like this ruin our friendship."
Honestly Mordred, how many ways can Arthur show you that you're his bestest knight eva and now you want him to just release the 'brazen hussy' your girlfriend??  Please be realistic.
Since Mordred would have to be delusional to think he has a friendship going with Merlin, it's going to be between Arthur & Mordred.
Ooooon the other hand [puts Rose Tinted specs on], if Arthur suddenly yells to Merlin to 'Use your magic. Do it!" (see earlier), I could totally see this being the follow-up with a forgiving & understanding Arthur.

"Tell me you wouldn't do the same, for the woman you love."
Seriously guys, you need to coordinate your teasing efforts more - see above.

"We will leave Camelot and never return."
Mordred to Arthur, when trying to extricate the GF from the clutches of the tyrant, brute OAFK.

"How will one more death bring about the peace we long for."
Merlin trying to persuade Mordred back from the Dark Side - for the love of god knows why :-( 

Trailer Teaser : "NOOOOOOOO!!"
Yeah, right, not trusting any of the spoiler sites on this given that their idea of a stonking cliffhanger last week was what...?? Morgana declaring war, Mordred getting in Merlin's face in the trailer for the coming episode.  Could be anyone, for any reason. Come to think of it, isn't that the combined screams of a fair proportion of fandom in the face of what's unrolling...???

ETA 11-Dec-2012 : SFX teasers are in the form of a conversation between two characters.  Distilling it down, we get the following : 

Episode is big on druids, crucial turning point on both a grand & personal scale.
It has to happen - Arthur hasn't exactly been overly supportive of the Druids, regardless of his child-like devotion to Mordred.

Allegiances & loyalties shift and bend in many surprising ways. You may think you see where things are heading but the route there may not be the one you expect.
What's surprising about Mordreds jump to the Dark Side? We all know it's coming.  The rest is just sleight of hand, to keep the sofa-viewers watching.

Not a barrel of laughs.
Have any of the recent episodes been?

Many people have to consider the consequences of their actions. Or their inactions. Or their slavish adherence to beliefs.
The birds come home to roost for Merlin & Arthur...finally

Not a lot of action, or magic. One of the most dialogue-driven eps ever. Full of tension, shocks and drama.
I have abso-bloody-lutely no problem with this. Bring it on, I say. Time for some meaningful exposition, so we can have the reveal.

Not a lot of Gwen.
Cry me a river.

Emphasis on the politics of war.
Arthur considers the number of allies he can count on and suddenly realises he doesn't have a hope in hell of beating Morgana...unless he can miraculously find a friendly super-powerful warlock and somehow manage to persuade him to ignore all the magic-users blood on Arthurs hands, to side with him against Morgana because...well...she's evil, and she keeps trying to kill him for some reason.  It's a bit of a tall order, but I'm sure Merlin knows just the person you're looking for, Arthur.

Some big questions are asked.
Merlin, why didn't you tell me about your magic 10 episodes ago? Why didn't you kill Morgana when you had the chance? Why are you so bloody ineffectual?

A head will roll.
another hapless magic user, possibly a Druid, forcing them to choose/change sides against the brute, tyrant Pendragon.

Merlin catches something.
...a clue perhaps?

Morgana receives some very exciting news.
Mordred spills the beans to her about Emrys.

Arthur has a 'Bear Grylls' moment.
I look forward to watching Arthur drink his own pee.

Merlin realises his horse may have been a bit high.
What...the...?  High off the ground? He's been riding him for 9 years and he's only just realising this now?
Or has Dobbin been at Gaius' potions again.

The last line is a cracker, with knobs on.
yeah, you implied the same last week and look what it brought us.

ETA 11-Dec-2012 : From Cultbox - there are duplications from above entries, so here are the unique ones : 

Much will be made of tracking skills.
Pick a knight, any knight...but I'm changing my previous theory to Mordred.

Someone will help themselves to Gaius' supplies.
I'd say Merlin, but that's too obvious as the physician's apprentice.  How about my fall-back answer for this week - Mordred.

Expect analogies to both a bird and an insect.

Someone will try to pass off a girl as a deer.
Mordred trying to help his GF.

There will be more hooded noctural wanderings from Camelot.
Mordred clandestine meetings with his GF.

Someone will soil their own breeches and someone else's.
Mordred.  Merlin, because we can't miss an opportunity to remind everyone that he's the King's manservant first and foremost.  

A timely punch is delivered.
Merlin knocking some sense into Arthur?
Merlin gives up the subtle approach to blanking Mordred with shifty eyes, and shows him what he really thinks of his skullduggery?
Gwaine saves Merlin's neck by punching Arthurs lights out before he can finish the sentence "You have MAGIC?!! You've betrayed me all these years!! I sentence you to de..."

More later...
Spoilers all over these comments, so don't click the link below if you want to avoid them...

What did I get from this episode???

[Spoiler ahead...]Merlin/Arthur banter, albeit drapped around a number of Arwen scenes (just to remind everyone, lest we forget, that Gwen is back on the good side and everything is hunky dory in Arwen-land, no Gwen guilt in sight).

Merlin knows that magic (big magic) has been practiced simply by looking at the tree. Yeah, suddenly competent!Merlin has arrived. Or possibly just a short term aberration for the storyline – that's more like it.

Helva? First time we've heard of it. Last time we'll hear of it.

Finna's camp – she's a powerful sorcerer (from what we see later) but she's left all the incriminating evidence in her camp when she fled.

In all Merlin's training, he's still not competent to read Catha??? And even Gaius apparently has a hard time deciphering it.

A forced disagreement between Merlin & Gaius, all based on Gaius' guilt and the need to have the plot put Merlin in faux-jeopardy, when the Knights are sent out to find Finna.  And allowing a fairly limp reconciliation between Merlin & Gaius later in the story. And some fairly HUGE leaps to conclusion (yeah, not even a jump) by everyone, starting with Gaius. And Merlin is waaay too forgiving of Gaius' actions.

Since when is Merlin's disagreeing with Gaius deemed to be him hurting Gaius or his feelings? Crap writing, merely there to add to the tension in the faux-Merlin/Gaius break-up.

A fairly nice sleight-of-hand over whether Finna is working for Morgana (sic. her command to the Raven-Express).

Gaius being sneaky??? Ok, he's done it to some extent in previous eps, but this is downright underhand. And since when has he ever employed this tactic in the past to protect Merlin? Answer – never!

Knights pratting around in the Camelot armoury – ok, I get it, nice to see the brothers-in-arms are still a bunch of...brothers-in-arms. But I would value this scene more if one of our esteemed (named) Knights was then the victim of Morgana's machinations at the end (more later).

Finna – Sorcha Cusack, what's not to like.

Mordred can't tell that he's chasing the great Emrys??? Seriously, where are his druid powers now? Like a bad broadband connection - intermittent, I suppose.

Alator is an idiot. I mean seriously – you get a secret Raven-Express delivery in your jail cell, but you don't bother to dispose of the evidence???? Duh!

Morgana proves she can actually kill someone properly with her magic, rather than pissing around with slow-acting poisons that faaaiiiillll. It's only taken her 4 series to work it out.

Merlin actually takes a sword with him for protection. The guy who can barely use a sword to save his life, has taken a sword with him, rather than just relying on his magic. So we all know that the sword is going to be used for 'something' (more later).

Incredulous Knights finding Merlin in the forest and being capable...good for them for not letting Merlin waltz off. But fairly light use of them, otherwise. And Mordred....sigh....just not going to comment on him at the moment.  And this is where the Knights should have split up, to allow one of them to be captured later by Morgana for her 'message.'

The tree markings – seriously, if Finna was a High Priestess I would expect her to be able to hide the markings so only Emrys could see them. Honestly :-(. Nice to see Merlin using his magic without worrying about who's watching, but Finna fails at protecting her Lord? Also nice to see someone recognising Merlin as the important person he's supposed to be, and his embarrassed reaction.

Oh, that's what the sword is for – a walking stick!

Merlin / Finna : “It won't always be like this. Things will be better.” “That is why I was sent, to help you make it so.” So some of the magic community still believe in Emrys' destiny. Good to know. But I have a feeling they're all Brown Coats (Firefly / Bushwhacked: 'May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one'.)

Finna to Merlin : “For hundreds of years the Catha have guarded their ancient knowledge...and now the time has come to pass it on. To you, Emrys, because only you can carry their hopes into the great battle that itself.....Here. Guard it carefully, it will help you in the dark days to come.” I expected this to be something momentous and helpful, but... see later comment.

Finna : “Do not make the same mistake as Arthur. Do not trust the druid boy.” Like we needed any further reinforcement of this! And Merlin doesn't trust him already...so why do we need this reiterated again? Oh, I get it, cos Mordred's 'turning' next week, and those with short memories need to be reminded, so it doesn't shock them too much.

And another guest-star redshirt (Finna) bites the dust.

Merlin whump – yeah, I'm a sucker.  And I'm looking forward to the oodles of fanfic off the back of this.

Nice to see the dragon in action again, even if it is a rehash of the serket scene. And Merlin is miraculously saved, without Arthur knowing. Again.

Merlin / Dragon : “What will I do without you?” “You will remember me...” Given the dragon hasn't been much in evidence this season, and Merlin has been handling everything on his own, does it really matter if the dragon bites the dust, after he's done his last fire-breathing duty in the final episode???

And suddenly Gaius is fluent in Catha – having stated earlier that it was difficult for him to translate Finna's writings, he suddenly translates the whole of the prophesy without recourse to any books or dictionaries. Yeah, right. And the supposedly important info that Finna needed to pass on to Merlin to help him in the dark days to come? What????? WTF?? How can the prophesy of Camlann be the 'help in the dark days to come'???  Camlann is Arthur's end – and this is what this entire episode is about – getting this message to Merlin. Merlin being told that Camlann is IT. I'm sorry, perhaps I've missed something here, but how is this supposed to help him, rather than just reinforcing all that Merlin is dreading will happen.

And the final scene – a Camelot Knights' demise – by Raghaid(?). Would have been much more powerful if it had been one of the Knights of the Round Table, rather than a nameless Red Cloak.

What did I take away from this episode?  It was simply to get across the following :
  • Morgana has declared war on Camelot (seriously, was there any doubt already???)
  • Camlann is the big smack-down for Arthur.
  • The dragon is dying – but does this really matter to the greater story??

If I view this with the RTG's* firmly in place, this was a benign episode which gave Merlin a critical piece of information that he no doubt needs, but does little else.  It has a nice whumped!Merlin quotient for those that need it.  But it was still spinning the wheels.  And with only 3 episodes left, I expected the plot to move further along.  Given the next ep is going to be Mordred-based, that leaves us with 2 episodes for the reveal, Camlann and the 'heart-wrenching ending that will leave us all satisfied'.  I'm not hopeful, folks.   I'm off to read some fanfic :-/

Next week – Mordred 'turns' in just one episode, notwithstanding any long game he's been playing.  Seriously, you're asking us to believe that it takes only 1 eppie for Mordred to turn Dark Side and that Merlin is almost entirely responsible???

(* Rose Tinted Glasses - guaranteed to alleviate any and all plot discrepancies, lazy writing and character-diminution)



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