Well, I am a huge “Merlin” fan. I enjoy the fresh take on the Arthurian legend, the engaging cast and the beautiful visuals the series provides.
While the show’s narrative pacing has always been admittedly a bit erratic, and the character and relationship development not always linear from episode to episode or even from one season to the next, I watched with the knowledge that this was an origin story making the segueway to an epic adventure tale. Always there was the promise of the great “Magic Reveal,” and of a bright shining Camelot lit by the shared destiny of Merlin and Arthur.
One day, Merlin’s magic would be revealed.
One day, Merlin would take his place in the court and at Arthur’s side, Camelot’s secret weapon against the forces of mystical and mundane magic levied against the kingdom by its enemies.
One day, the lies would end.
And yet we find things four episodes into Season 5 much the same as Day 1. While Arthur has come into his crown and rules a realm no longer bound by Uther’s tyrannical hatred of magic, the ban still remains. This is despite the fact that a friendly mage would no doubt be invaluable as the kingdom’s enemies regularly themselves use magic to try and topple it.
Further, even Arthur himself is wielding magic to speak once more with his departed father (“The Death Song of Uther Pendragon”). If even the king is dabbling in magic, it seems both hypocritical and counter-productive to the plot to continue the farce of concealing Merlin’s magic.
But quite frankly, the continued delay in revealing Merlin’s true nature to Arthur does more than stymie the plot; it undercuts their friendship. The series has always been about the Merlin/Arthur friendship as much as the fate of Camelot, and has emphasized the ways in which Merlin and Arthur help each other become the great men they are destined to be every bit as much as it focused on Arthur’s ascendance to the throne.
In still hiding the truth from Arthur after so many years, Merlin has crossed the line from hiding a truth from his liege to lying to a friend and in the process left rather a bad taste in the mouths of many viewers.
Not to mention, Merlin’s continued refusal to do magic in Arthur’s presence or inform Arthur of his abilities has endangered them both, as well as the majority of Camelot’s vanguard knights. Gwaine, Percival and the others trapped in a mine and at the mercy of Camelot’s enemies? Sounds like a good time to break out a concealment charm to aid in their rescue (“Arthur’s Bane”). Captured by Morgana’s allies, being transported to their likely deaths and facing hypothermia in the interim? Seems a bit of sorcery would have been put to good use to liberate Arthur and save the future of the kingdom (“Arthur’s Bane, Part 2”).
Fleeing with Arthur from a multitude of soldiers lead by a man with a personal grudge against Arthur, culminating in Arthur and Merlin trapped and surrounded? An excellent time to break out a spell to whip up a rolling mist, or send their pursuers to sleep (“Another’s Sorrow”).
By not revealing his magic, Merlin also places Arthur in the position of needlessly endangering himself to try and protect Merlin because he doesn’t know Merlin can fend for himself. What’s worse, this happens time and time again. I can’t help feeling that at this point in time, continuing to hide his magic is almost spiteful.
Don’t get me wrong; I still love Merlin and I still plan to faithfully watch. I’m just growing more and more afraid that the showrunners allowed themsleves to become so committed to their original premise that they failed to recognize when it was time for everyone’s destiny to be realized.
Ironically, at the end of the day it seems that Merlin may well be Arthur’s “bane” far more literally than Mordred could ever hope to be, Arthurian legend or not.
New episodes of “Merlin” air Fridays, 10 p.m. ET, on Syfy.