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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 :

10. OK, so there were supposed to be 10 things...but I couldn't find a tenth item.  And I've wracked my brain for 2 weeks on this.  If anyone has any suggestions on what to fill in this spot, let me know and I'll update.

09.  Re-awakening my interest in Dark Ages / Middle Ages history & Arthur/Merlin legends

I read Malory and Stewart yonks ago (they've been on my kindle for several years).  I used to have tomes of Dark Ages / Middle Ages history books on my shelf.  Michael Wood (BBC : 'In Search of ...' history series) was my history-buff hero.  But that was 25 years ago, and I had somehow lost that love of history in the intervening years.  Not quite sure why; RL happens.  But Merlin (and all the discussion around it online) has helped to rekindle the interest.  On my short holiday in October, I spent 2 days walking round crumbling mediaeval castles in the West Country, breathing in the history, and flexing the imagination.  It was lovely.  And grounding.  And I started re-filling my bookshelf.  And the catalyst was Merlin.  I know it's all myths and legends and I wasn't anywhere near where Arthur would have lived, (if you choose to believe he was a real person), and the castles weren't old enough.  But that doesn't matter.  Merlin reminded me that I used to enjoy this stuff, and still do.

08.  Bromance

Well, what can I say.  Never really paid much attention to this in other fandoms (if it even existed), but once I started lurking here, it was obviously a major piece of the plot.  I'm not a fan of RPF and avoid it like the plague, but it's been quite nice to see the two lead actors being so pal-y in reality. And how that translates to their interactions as characters.


07.  Fandom

Have lurked on the periphery of multiple fandoms almost since the inception of the net (Due South, KFTLC, Quantum Leap, STV, XF, Farscape, SG1, SGA, ...oh the heady days of 8.75kb dial-up, and coding webpages from scratch).  This is the first time in a long, long time that I have actually stepped back into the activity, and it's because it's been such a pleasure to watch all of you playing in this sandbox.  The intelligent conversations & dissections; the creativity - pics, manips, ani gifs, icons, fanfic; the welcome you give to newbies, and the lack of judgement you show (on the whole) for your fellow fans indiscretions; the feeling that 'we're all in this together' as we reach the final length.  Your passion in whatever form it takes, for the show, the characters and yes, the actors, brings a smile to my face (except for rabid fangirls asking inappropriate questions at conventions, and adding more ammunition to the actors need to leave this all behind...sorry, that wasn't positive, but that's something I'M passionate about).  Anyhow, I treasure my short time as an active member of this community, I'll be back to lurking fairly soon, but I'm still watching you creative-types - after all, the fandom doesn't finish when the last episode airs.  You're going to continue to be creative and inspriring for a while yet.  And I thank you for that.

06.  Cast & Guests

I have genuinely enjoyed watching pretty much all the cast and guests through 4 seasons.  Some standout guest performances for me were Charles Dance, Sorcha Cusack, John Lynch, Lindsay Duncan, Harry Melling (Gilli), Mackenzie Crook, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan, Nate Parker (hamming it up as Agravaine), Janet Montgomery (Mithian)...to name but a few.

For the main cast - I've liked watching them develop as actors and characters (some more than others) and how they've all played off each other.  Bradley James has definitely increased in my estimation as an accomplished actor.  Eoin Macken just IS Gwaine...and it will be difficult to see him in other roles.  Tony Head, Richard Wilson - what's not to like and to appreciate - the gravitas & rock solid acting they brought to their respective roles.  Though I'm not a fan of Gwen (or least they way she's been written latterly), I've liked Angel Coulby's interpretation of her, and I think she has a good comedic streak, as well as some serious acting skills as well.  Katie will always be the weakest of the main group, but even she has developed over 5 seasons...albeit being hamstrung by J4's requirements for OTT!Morgana.  It's nice when she manages a little subtlety, rather than the scenery-chewing she's usually required to do.  

And I'm purposely not mentioning one particular person...cos he gets a number all to himself :-)

05.  There was some gold amongst the dross...

For all that I tear into J4 et al for their writing, OOC, plotting (holes), pacing, vanity ending, flip-flopping approach to use of canon (or even previously shown details) when it suits them, emasculation of main characters, cockblocking....I could go on and ON, well, you get the picture.  Anyhow occasionally they have come up with some gold amongst the lead.  Ignoring the over-reliance on certain cast members' acting skills to elevate scenes to a more profound level than what's written (and there are many many instances of this), here are just a few of the scenes that will stick with me :
  • Merlin revealing his magic to Gilli's and the consequent discussion - this was just wow.
  • Freya's death / Merlin lighting the funerary boat.
  • Merlin explaining the 'sword in the stone' myth to Arthur (yeah, it's tell not show, but Merlin's face...and the music....sigh)
  • Merlin & Arthur meeting Gwaine - it's light relief, but I like it.
  • Lancelots 'you are the bravest' talk with Merlin...and the first round-table gathering (the only time where Merlin is sort of included in the proceedings, damnit!)
  • Merlin confronting the Fisher King
  • Merlin confronting the Cailleach and Lancelot's self-sacrificin
  • Merlin waiting for Arthur overnight outside the door of Uther's lying-in-state
  • Dragoon trying & failing to save Uther (poor Merlin's face when he realises he's failed twice over)
  • 'There can be no place for magic in Camelot.'  Sob, sniff.  Not my fave ep, but that campfire scene was powerful...if only it had been an earlier episode.

Yes, there's a theme here - the show is called Merlin, after all  (Though J4 seem to forget that with increasing regularity).  Anyway, there are a number of others scenes I could add but I want to keep this entry within the LJ word limit. This still doesn't mean I approve of J4 being in control of any future creative endeavour on TV.  Frankly I will be running in the other direction the next time I see any of their names attached to a project.  But I will give them (and the other writers) their dues - they did manage to produce a few good scenes along the way.

04.  OTP / sub-text is not sub / fan reviewers

The show where the OTP is front and centre, and where the sub-text is not Sub.  Thank you to SO many reviewers, not least RedScharlach, for bringing this to my attention.  How I could have overlooked this in the first couple of series is beyond me.  When I look at those episodes now, in the light of all the fantastic comments I've seen, it's all really bleeding obvious, isn't it?!  I will admit that I like a good OTP in each of my fandoms, and that a significant proportion of those OTPs tend to be the two lead male characters (JohnLock, McShep being 2 main ones for me).  And now Merthur. <3  Redscharlach's reviews, in conjuction with Footloose's excellent 'Loaded March' series of stories were what did it for me.  I have had so much enjoyment from watching the episodes through a pair of slash goggles... actually that's wrong, I didn't need the goggles, what am I saying??!  It's all out there for everyone to see quite plainly.  And yes, I will thank the writers for letting us have this, even if they did it unwittingly. [That will be one of the few times I thank the writers for anything, however].  Anyhow - Red, Lamardeuse, VoldyThing, HopeIsAThreat, Tanous - all have provided me with laughs or thoughtful insight / deconstruction on episodes.  And I thank them for the time & effort that it's taken to post their reviews of the episodes.

03.  Merlin OST

The 4 seasons of sountrack that have been issued so far have been played sooo many times in this household that I'm surprised the digital files haven't corrupted.
Sigan's Revenge, Freya, the Sword In The Stone, Knight Valiant, Gwaine's Bar Brawl, The Burial, the Witch's Aria, The Burial, The Fisher King, - there are too many tracks that I like to name them all here.  From light jigs to crashing melees, from sorrow-filled strings to epic battles, all are excellently represented by the score, and enhanced.  And whilst you can hear some repetition of some elements across the tracks, it's not unwelcome, and is appropropriate for the scenes they were paired with.  I hope there will be a series5 OST, so I can complete the set (and it's possibly the only piece of s5 merchandise I will buy), but I'm content with just the 4 if that's the way it pans out.  So my thanks to Mssrs Gosling, Lane, Pavlicek & Stevenson for the extra layers of emotion they've brought to each episode.

02.  Fanfic

I see J4 as the worst kind of fanfic writers - take an established canon, turn it totally on its head, pick bits you're interested in, screw the rest, ignore the rampant plot holes / OOC, it's only for their own enjoyment after all, and readers/viewers feelings don't count.  But...thank the GODS for real fanfic writers, who care about the characters, the story arc, the plot holes, the pacing.  Who put warnings on their stories, so you can avoid if you think it's going to cause undue or unnecessary heart-ache.  Who can carry IN-character development even into totally whacky AU settings.  Who care about their established and passionate readers, and build up a loyal following because of this.  

I have been collecting Merlin fanfic since I stumbled by chance on Footloose's Loaded March stories on AO3.  Since then I've tried to grab copies of as much as I can find, so I have something to tide me over in the long-term, after s5 ends.  And so I have a serious stash of stories that will help me forget the travesty that we're going to end on. Apologies, my negativity is rearing it's ugly head again.  But seriously, as with all fandoms there's a breadth of quality in Merlin fanfic but, on the whole, I've been overwhelmed by the excellent quality I've found, in both canon and AU settings.  There are waaay too many to make recommendations, so I'll just say that some of the authors I'm following right now include Judin, KriadyDragon/Stealthdragon, KeelieThompson1, Bohemia, Loopstagirl, AnalystProductions, DiamondMask, SFSF, and of course FootLoose/LoadedMarch.  

One caveat - I can't read RPF...not in any fandom.  I'm all about the characters I've seen on the screen, not about the actors...however much I might appreciate the bromance.  So I can't speak for the quality of Merlin RPF - I'll leave that to someone else.

01.  Colin Morgan

What can I say, that's not already been said by thousands before...?   But it bears repeating.  I'd noticed Mr Morgan already, in one of my favourite episodes of Dr Who (Midnight).  Jethro wasn't a huge part, but it was very well acted, and he held his own in a claustrophobic setting against 7 other strong performances.  Merlin has let us see just how good an actor Colin can be when he's given a broad range of scenes to play, with a band of young actors who are also developing their acting skills in leaps and bounds.  I think that he's certainly the strongest actor amongst the 'youngsters' and easily equals Tony Head, Richard Wilson or any of the 'older' guest stars they've had.  Katie McGrath recently compared him to a young Daniel Day-Lewis - I'd agree with that, and I look forward to seeing what he's going to do in the future.

His portrayal of the various aspects of old!Merlin is almost flawless - you get the overly crotchety Dragoon played more for laughs in general, and the Emrys persona (serious and channelling all that has been foretold) and then you get the 'real' Merlin who's still inside the skin of an 80yr old and not quite so confident, or who forgets he's supposed to be 80.  They're all distinct and obvious in Colin's portrayal.  And yeah, even the Dolma - shudder - though I cringe when watching it, I can appreciate that Colin has a great comedic skill in playing her at the beginning and end of the scene, and the gravitas required in the middle.  I just would have appreciated her more if she appeared in an earlier episode, like s4.

The scene where I became a real CM fan is i 'Lady of the Lake'.  It was at the end, when he's standing on the shore, with his hand outstretched, about to set light to Freya's funeral boat.  He starts to utter the words for the spell but has to stop and compose himself, tears streaming down his face, and then tries again...and his head tips to the side slightly, as he manages to say the words.  I know, it was a little late in the day to become a true devotee, what can I say.

And I will admit to an inappropriate fangirl moment, wanting to ask him - was his changing physique something that was planned, in order to underline Merlin's development from c.16yr old to 26yr old?  Or was it happenstance.  Because frankly he seemed wraith-thin in Season 2, to a degree that was quite worrying, but then he started to put on some tone and eventually we get to s5 where he's all buffed (possibly too buffed?  I could do with a bit more of the 'gangly' lean young man.)  Or perhaps it took him 2 series to get Craft Services to understand what a vegan can & can't eat on set.  Who knows.  I'm just insatiably curious...  I will say, however, that I was quite grateful when he stopped looking so much like an anorexic 16yr old - now I don't feel quite such a skeevy old woman :-/
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)

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khaireddin

December 2013

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