Weeks of preparation to reach this point, nothing left to chance to make this the best ever Christmas for my boys. The work is done, the presents all bought and wrapped and now we can enjoy the festivities. A battle of giants has been fighting it out to claim the Christmas number one ratings with writers, producers and directors working hard for months to outdo each other with their showcase Christmas production.
We settle down for the final ever episode of Merlin; comfortable in the knowledge that Merlin will finally overcome the dark magic of the once dear sweet innocent Morgana and Arthur will eventually discover Merlin’s secret then allow magic to return to the kingdom of Camelot. Too much hatred, violence and evil had happened over the years to allow even a flicker of hope that Morgana will turn back to the good side. However her brooding flashes of evil, her sensual good looks and body-hugging dresses had coaxed many a dad to sit and enjoy the show with his children on a Saturday evening.
In the words of middle Son, who left the room angry and unimpressed with the BBC “What is the point?” Words I might even utter myself; allowing Arthur to die in the last scenes was not on the schedule of Christmas indulgences. As a devotee of the program aimed at children I felt the ending too brutal. We have seen the young Merlin arrive in Camelot unaware of his hidden powers, he has grown in magic and loyalty to the Pendragon’s despite their fear and intolerance of magic, to his final acceptance of the accolade of greatest sorcerer to ever live. Here in the final episode could we not have a happy ever after. Could Merlin with all his powers save his king one final time. Could Arthur return to Camelot and allow magic to once again be practised. There were unanswered questions left hanging which can not now be remedied. Arthur never knew, and I am not sure we ever heard the full story of the bargain with magic Uther entered; resulting in the loss of his wife in exchange for Arthur’s birth. A back story which may have helped Arthur understand his father’s attitude and changed his attitude.
They could have kept the ending with the old Merlin still traveling modern roads but left Gwen and Arthur together in earlier times. The legend may state that Mordred kills Arthur but it also says that Morgana despite her enmity towards Guienevere was the one to take him to Avalon to heal him. The program had veered far enough away from the legend that to leave them in our imaginations living happily ever after together would have brought a closure of peace and goodwill over this Christmas season, for my children at least.
Maybe the Christmas day Dr Who would placate my saddened children and replace my tear filled eyes with a sparkle. Again great fans of the time traveller and still saddened by the end of the last series, we were optimistic for a new companion to join the Dr. Cast back again in time the Dr appeared in sombre mood as he refuses to help this planet of ours. Scared of commitment following the sad loss of Amy and Rory at the end of the last series, he hides himself away on a cloud just above the curious goings on in the dated dismal streets below. Goings on that include a green lizard lady and a soltarian warrior taking to the everyday town to investigate strange events.
Predictably there is a girl who follows the doctor and convinces him to save the world, also predictably she tugs at both his hearts’ strings and is given the key to the tardis. Back on course for a miraculous saving of the world followed by them travelling away to live happy every after or at least save other lesser known planets.
The final scenes are at the grave side of the poor unfortunate girl who had ensnared the Dr back to his usual altruistic self. I realise from the trailer and the Dr’s upbeat mood at the graveside that this is part of a deeper story which will see Clara reappear in future episodes as his sidekick. In the reworked words of Christopher Ecclestone’s Dr “for once why can’t everybody live”
As we settle down for the evening with plates of snacks and nibbles, the children enjoying their hot chocolates and yet more sweets. Dabbing the dampened tracks of my tears the evening calls for a bit of seasonal cheer as we tune into Call the Midwife, hoping for a more upbeat cheery ending. We are not to be disappointed there is a happy ending; the girl gets to keep her baby, the old woman is remarkably cleaned and treated having come to terms with her tragic past. Now able to help sew the wonderfully detailed costumes for the scouts and brownies as they put on their seasonal production of the nativity; everyone is happy. My eyes still appear somewhat dampened but the sparkle is working its way through.
I do however wonder about the sense of putting on such graphic viewing at such prime time. I don’t remember this level of explicitness in the series normally. Wonderful as it is for a baby to come into this world healthy and alive, to show it at such a prime time when children may still be watching is a little audacious. No 1 Son’s comment “who would ever have a baby this is absolutely disgusting!”
By the end of the program and finally our happy ending all three boys had surreptitiously vacated the room and gone to find entertainment of their own in other rooms. Even Sexy Sporty Dad had retreated to the kitchen for tea and further nibbles.
So I am left to indulge in my favourite Downton Abbey. Settling in to a comfy seat and warmed by the flames of the fire I cast my mind back to the closing scenes last Christmas where Mary and Matthew finally after two series actually get together as the snow settles in front of the magnificent lit Abbey; a warm glow creeps over me in anticipation.
Having lost Sybil earlier in the series, it is worrying as Mary has twinges throughout the program. Surely they could not repeat the emotive loss. Have the family and their loyal watchers not been through enough, are we not entitled to a little bit of joyous emotion on this festive night. My heart lifts as I watch the antics of the upstairs and downstairs relationships now merging together, losing the class distinction that was once so sharp. As the final minutes of the program climax we are rewarded with the safe delivery of Matthew’s long anticipated son and heir. A second joyous moment in the evening’s television viewing. The relief is palpable, at last my happy Christmas cheer, the Downton family are rejoicing, their staff relieved and Mary’s smile is contagious as my eyes water and my smile widens.
It is not to be. Moments later we leave Downton with the image of Matthew lying dead under his overturned car; news not yet divulged to the cast. Another beloved character killed off this Christmas season. Trying to convince my disbelieving children that the red eyes and sniffs are only part of this never ending cold, I finally leave the my warm cosy chair to find a good book.
Is the news of floods and car accidents, war torn Afghanistan and Syria not sad enough. Please can we have some happy programs. What happened to the myth – go out on a high note, yes we know with period dramas all the characters will be old and wrinkled if not dead by now. We also know that they are only characters and if you watch them on I-player they will be alive again but so much anticipation and expectation are channelled into the Christmas scheduling of treasured favourites that negativity is not really required.
I note that another old favourite is revisiting our screens for one final time this coming weekend. Dare I tell the children that Wild at Heart is back. I have a forlorn feeling low down that the outcome may not be a happy one. The memory of Danny returning to Leopards Den at the end of the last series was a great ending and one that should have lived in our hearts forever.
I hope your Christmas was filled with good cheer and happy emotions, surrounded by the ones you love and cherish. Hopefully the only sadness tugging at your heartstrings this season was like mine lived out through the television.
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