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...