Though not unexpected, it is sad that hear that Series 5 will be the final hurrah for Merlin.
To be fair, the production had always suggested that this would be a five year show, but in many ways there is still a lot of untapped potential for the characters given their relative youth. As each year has progressed, the show has increased its both production values and ambition. Series 5 has been a world away from where Merlin started and has become essential Saturday night viewing, holding its own against The X Factor.
This year, with the institution of the Round Table, the death of Elyan in ‘The Dark Tower’ and the reintroduction of Mordred at the start of the series, it was clear that the stakes were increasing. Also, the recent news that actor Eoin Macken (Gwaine) was doing a US TV pilot seemed to indicate that at least his character would not be coming back.
In most versions of Arthurian legend it is Mordred who kills Arthur in battle, often perishing also. For the BBC’s take on the story, which has cast Mordred as a young Druid who possesses magic, he is a mirror for Merlin. We suspect that his desire to live in world free to use his abilities may be the key to Arthur’s undoing. Merlin, on the other hand, has continually put his dreams aside for what he believes is the greater good.
While Arthur’s fate has been foretold, Merlin’s will doubtless be the more surprising. In Malloy’s Le Morte d'Arthur he is the victim of a sorceress named Nimue, whom he adores. She learns everything she can from him but then tires of his affections and leaves him entombed forever.
Of course, Numueh was Merlin’s big bad in the first series, but in other versions of the tale that character is known as Vivien, Viviane or Niniane and sometimes she is the Lady of the Lake, or Morgana’s mother. Her trap is variously a rock, an ice cave or an invisible tower. Either way it doesn’t look good for Merlin! It’s worth remembering that this sow has a penchant for giving us a fresh take on legend, so perhaps they will provide something completely different.
And after the series ends, what is next for Merlin?
There has been talk of a potential Merlin animated series, but executive producer Julian Murphy told CultBox that this could only really be considered once the TV series had ended. We imagine one avenue to explore is the tales of Merlin after the fall of Arthur, or perhaps such a show could occupy series gaps and fill in detail.
On the positive side, this could allow the chance for the central character to breathe, free from the show’s constraints, and have some solo adventures which would be unlimited by budget. Alternatively, such an animation might feel hampered by knowing the specifics of the characters’ ultimate fates, or worse still, it might be restricted by being aimed at an even younger audience than the show currently enjoys.
There has also been the suggestion of a movie trilogy, an idea first mooted at this year’s Comic Con in San Diego by the show’s co-creator and executive producer Johnny Capps. He indicated there were a couple ways this might pan out, either as a reboot which could restage certain key elements of the show’s five year run, or perhaps as a continuation of the tale. Either would be interesting, though we wonder what might sustain a Merlin movie trilogy without the key points of Arthurian Legend to underpin it?
What next for the cast?
Away from the story itself, Merlin has been a superb launching ground for its young cast who will doubtless take their fan base with them onto new projects;
Colin Morgan (Merlin) has two movie credits to his name already, Parked and Island, while Bradley James (Arthur) starred in this summer’s Fast Girls. Tom Hopper (Pervical) also has two upcoming film credits, Grace and Danger and Knights of Badassdom, as well as the role of Billy Bones in a US Treasure Island prequel series Black Sails.
Adetomiwa Edun (Elyan) is currently appearing in BBC Two’s The Hour and Angel Coulby (Gwen) can soon be seen in Stephen Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge, the tale of a black jazz band in the 1930’s.
Alexander Valhos has been cast in Privates, a mini-series following National Service conscripts in 1960, as well as taking the lead role in Big Finish audio series The Confessions of Dorian Gray.
Katie McGrath (Morgana) will be starring in Labyrinth, a mini-series based on the best-selling Kate Mosse book. John Hurt (the Voice of the Dragon) is also involved in the project, which will be shown in the UK on Channel 4.
Whatever happens, we can expect plenty of action to be packed into Merlin’s remaining five episodes. Merlin still has to deal with the threat of ‘Killer Queen’ Gwen, and we can expect the return of at least one more familiar face before the story can move on to its epic two-part finale.