MERLIN: The Little Show Stealing Hearts On Both Sides of the Pond (2011)

The British fantasy series MERLIN not only delivers sweeping romance week after week, it continues to sweep millions of fans off their feet — both in the U.K. and the U.S.  And last week, as its third season came to a masterful conclusion, fans finally got what they have been waiting for: Arthur and Guinevere, Excalibur, the Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot, the Lady in the Lake and the rise of the evil sorceress Morgana.

In the coming-of-age story of a young teenage boy hiding his remarkable magical abilities in order to guide and protect a young prince who would one day be the greatest king to rule Camelot, MERLIN has seen the fledgling magician struggle beneath his incredible legacy.  In turns an odd mixture of the classic “ugly duckling” fable intertwined with fantastic elements of any Disney adventure tale, MERLIN has always been a delightful family show that enchanted viewers with a new take on an old story.

So as fans watched the young sorcerer apprentice fine-tune his skills and master both the magical arts and the finer arts of social camouflage so that his secret would not put him in the cross-hairs of a vengeful King Uther who has banned sorcery and will behead anyone practicing it, the saga slowly drew out the story in such a fashion that fans have followed each breadcrumb to see where it took them.

In the third season finale aptly entitled “The Coming of Arthur,” their faithfulness was rewarded.  While in no way the end of this magnificent journey, it was the culmination of many glorious moments.  The episode was jam-packed with as many pivotal and awe-inspiring scenes as possible — all of which are key elements of the classic tale of Arthur and Merlin.  To see each so intricately woven together was a testament to the fine craftsmanship of the writers who endeavored to make the episode as epic as possible.

From the opening scene of Morgana sitting on the throne and demanding allegiance from the Knights of Camelot to the final moment with Merlin placing Excalibur in its rightful stone, “The Coming of Arthur” was awesome to behold.

Oh MERLIN, let me count the ways I love thee:

The Friendship: At the heart of this lush adventure tale lays an unexpected friendship that transcended the propriety of class status.  While romantics may quibble that the story of Camelot is about Arthur and Guinevere — as fans of MERLIN have seen, it is actually the story of two boyhood friends that came to rule a powerful kingdom.  It is the tale of Merlin and Arthur.  By destiny and happenstance, the most influential person in Arthur’s life is Merlin; and it is Merlin who helps Arthur see that the barriers of class status are meaningless.  It is their friendship forged through a multitude of trials and tribulations that stands the test of time that will ultimately unite them to bring peace and prosperity to Camelot.

The Romance: In addition to the power of a friendship that endures a lifetime, an unexpected romance blossoms for a prince destined for greatness.  Through her natural grace, beauty and inspiring belief that he will be the salvation of Camelot, Guinevere catches the eye of a prince and captures his heart along the way.  Just as Arthur needs Merlin’s guidance and friendship, Arthur also needs Gwen’s love — for she makes him want to be a better man, not just a great king.

The Villains: Then just as Arthur would be nothing without the powerful influence of friendship and love, Arthur would nothing without the villains who helped shape his destiny — his unforgiving father King Uther Pendragon, his evil half-sister Morgana and the diabolical sorceress Morgause; and as any great leader must be tested and prove his ability to lead and protect, Arthur had to learn not only to distinguish enemies outside the gates of Camelot, but those that lurk within its walls as well.  It is only as each layer is slowly peeled back on the fallacy of human-nature that Arthur discovers the dark secrets buried within.

The Knights of the Round Table: Because Camelot is a vast kingdom, Arthur cannot rule an entire kingdom simply with a sorcerer by his side. Accordingly, the men Arthur chose to bestow knighthood is the lens by which his people shall view his reign. His choice of Lancelot, Sir Leon, Gwaine, Elyan and Percival as the first Knights of the Round Table are the prefect reflection of the type of ruler he will be.  The fact that Arthur chose four commoners, that normally would never have been able to attain such standing in their lives, was not only wise but also a gesture of good faith to men who fought bravely at his against immeasurable odds.  He chose according to their worth as men, and not just their title  –and a  true king should assess people by their hearts, and not by their wealth.  Thus, with each shackle Arthur throws off of the stale Uther Pendragon monarchy, he guarantees a better future for his people.

The Lady in the Lake: Like Arthur who would be but half a man without a good woman at his side, Merlin would also be but a pale reflection of himself without having discovered love in his life too.  While Freya may not have lived long as a mortal, she lives for eternity as the Lady in the Lake and will always be there for Merlin throughout the days of his life.  In the classic tale, Merlin may be known for his amazing wizardry, but without knowing true love, he would never have understood the power of love and how it can strengthen even a mortal man beyond his natural abilities.  Like Gwen is the woman behind a great future king, but Freya is the woman behind a great future sorcerer.  She completes Merlin and gives his life purpose beyond his destiny to protect a king.

And last, but not least, there is the Great Dragon Kilgharrah — for what would any grand adventure tale be without a cool dragon.  In this case, Merlin would be simply a sorcerer.  But with Kilgharrah at his beck-and-call, Merlin is a dragonlord — and Kilgharrah is not simply a dragon, he is the last dragon.  He is a magical being that chooses who it will serve and he chose Merlin.  There is no greater gift to bestow than that which the Dragon gave Merlin — his love, respect, and loyalty.

As the tapestry of this tale of “sorcery and magic, kings and queens, dragons and destinies” continues, there will surely be more surprises and rewards.  But for fans already watching, there was no finer moment than in “The Coming of Arthur” as Arthur finally emerged from under his father’s shadow to overthrow Morgana’s treacherous reign of Camelot.  With but only a handful of loyal men, a loving woman by his side and one sorcerer masquerading as a servant, Arthur rescued his father and took back Camelot.

This may sound like it was only due to Arthur’s efforts that all was saved.  But as was seen, it took the combined efforts of Merlin wielding Excalibur, Lancelot leading the way to the Cup of Life, and Merlin’s mentor Gaius distracting the sorceress Morgause, while the rest of the Knights and Arthur fought Morgana’s immortal army — that the kingdom was saved in the end.  Wars cannot be won by one man alone; wars are won on the shoulders of many.  It took a strategic team effort to save the day.  Even Guinevere played her part by breaking out Sir Leon out of the dungeon and giving Arthur hope that all was not lost —  that the people of Camelot stood behind him every step of the way.

MERLIN is not just an adventure tale, nor a romance.  It is the story of two young men who rise up to lead a great nation.  It is about friendship, love, loyalty and discovering the true value of human life.  It may dazzle us with magnificent magic, beautiful costumes, and a parade of delightful guest-stars, but at its heart, it reminds us of everything we want in our lives: we too wish for friends that would die for us, lovers who would inspire us to be better people, and a destiny that calls upon us to live amazing, joy-filled lives.  This is the gift of a truly remarkable show:  may MERLIN inspire you to live such a life.

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