A Popular Fantasy Series Is Leaving Netflix

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

British fantasy series, Merlin, is leaving Netflix on December 15th. Long-time subscribers to the service are used to shows and movies leaving Netflix as licensing deals run out, broadcast rights are renegotiated, and studios change leadership. The reason for the pulling of one of the most successful re-imagings of Arthurian legend, starring Colin Morgan, is unknown as the show is currently available on other services.

Merlin first aired in 2008, with Morgan as the title character, joined by Bradley James as the future King Arthur, Angel Coulby as Guinevere, Katie McGrath as Morgana, John Hurt as the voice of Kilgharra, a great dragon that befriends Merlin, and finally Richard Wilson as Gaius, Merlin’s mentor. The main cast was supplemented in later seasons with the arrival of the future Knights of the Round Table, including Sir Gwaine (Eoin Mckawn) and Sir Percival (Tom Hopper). The British series is not the first re-telling of the famous legend, nor has it been the last, though it was the longest running.

Ending in 2012, Merlin spent five seasons chronicling the burgeoning friendship between Merlin and Arthur, which slowly developed over a series of adventures. Halfway through the series, Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, causes Morgana to turn to the path of evil, changing the focus of the show from the adventures of two young men into a battle between Arthur and Morgana’s forces. The whole time, Merlin struggles to accept his destiny, protecting Arthur from harm and ensuring that the once and future king can ascend to the throne.

Colin Morgan and Bradley James in Merlin.

A smash hit in England, Merlin averaged 6 million viewers for each episode during its five season run. The show also earned 29 award nominations, with star Colin Morgan winning four Best Actor awards during his time as the court wizard. Three small mobile games based off of the show were launched while the show aired, two of them were browser-based on the BBC website, while the third was a Facebook title.

Merlin is a success story in the long history of Arthurian adaptations, which has some all-time classics and some historical box office flops. One of the best of all time is Excalibur, the 1981 film starring Nicol Williamson as Merlin, Nigel Terry as King Arthur, and Dame Helen Mirren as Morgana. Unlike Merlin, Excalibur took place years into the reign of King Arthur, though an earlier hit, Disney’s Sword in the Stone, was about a young King Arthur and an old Merlin.

As for adaptations that did not reach the heights of Merlin, fans of Arthurian legend can watch Charlie Hunnam in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword or the allegedly more historically accurate King Arthur starring Clive Owen that came out in 2004. As with the other English legend, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Merlin tend to have more disappointing adaptations than not, making the loss of Merlin on Netflix a blow for fans. Thankfully, the series is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, though depending on the rationale for the Netflix removal, the series may leave other services in the near future.