For previous installments:
The main foe throughout Series 1 is the High Priestess of the Old Religion, Nimueh.
Nimueh, for various reasons, is all too similar to later characters, such as the troll in Beauty and the Beast, Morgause throughout Series 2 and 3, and Dark Morgana throughout Series 3 to 5. All of them use magic, having this extra boost of power that is not used by the male characters (except Merlin, of course), in order to attempt to take over Camelot from King Uther Pendragon, and later, his son, King Arthur.
The Mark of Nimueh, The Poisoned Chalice, The Gates of Avalon, The Beginning of the End, Excalibur, and Le Morte d’Arthur
In brief pieces:
- The Mark of Nimueh first introduces the sorceress, Nimueh, in which she sends a plague to Camelot;
- The Poisoned Chalice saw Nimueh wanting to get revenge for the previous plan foiled, so she posed as a handmainden named Cara, within the court of Lord Bayard of Mercia, in order to get into Camelot, and cause discord. During one particular scene, Nimueh attempts to seduce Merlin, making her an Evil Demon Seductress (see Feminist Frequency‘s #4) for that period of time;
- The Gates of Avalon is the first inclination we see of Morgana having magic;
- The Beginning of the End is the story which introduces Mordred;
- Excalibur sees Nimueh reanimate King Uther’s brother, Tristan de Bois, who had sworn to avenge his sisters death. She was again defeated and fled Camelot; and,
- Le Morte d’Arthur is the first finale the series has, with Nimueh, of course, as the main foe.
According to the Den of Geek review of The Mark of Nimueh:
It’s taken three episodes, but Merlin at last gets a nemesis when Michelle Ryan, her ofEast Enders and the defunct Bionic Women, is introduced as the Witch Nimueh. It’s suggested that she’s been tweaking King Uther’s tale for some time, and continues this good work by releasing a type of Gollum into the Camelot water supply.
People start to become ill and then die from the unsanitary nature of having magical creatures mixed with drinking water. They then jump to the obvious conclusion: Gwen is a witch and they better burn her!
Actually they search the city looking for anyone with the word ‘magic’ tattooed on their forehead. And find nobody. But then Gwen’s father becomes ill, Merlin saves him using his skills and Gwen gets the blame.
Seeing Gwen thrown in jail made me chuckle. Just the idea of her ultimately marrying Arthur and them having a conversation about the ‘good old days’, when ‘your father nearly had me burned as a witch’. You know, the typical conversations married people have. But let’s be honest, this show’s not got the legs to get to that conversation, has it?
Anyway, feeling responsible for Gwen’s predicament, Merlin must act!
Enter the part – which they’re been pushing all week in the trailer – where Merlin announces to King Uther that he’s a sorcerer, which they take seriously until Arthur tell them he’s an incantation short of a spell. This is one of the dumbest scenes yet, because if they don’t believe Merlin, obviously any example of magic would have convinced them. Instead Merlin just argues that he’s a warlock without attempting to prove it once. Doh!
As that didn’t work, Merlin goes off to talk to the entirely unhelpful Dragon, for whom it’s now transpiring they could afford very little CGI. Apart from some oddly lip-synced close-ups, we’re being presented with same footage of the Dragon each week, and I’m getting bored of if rapidly.
The Dragon gives his usual cryptic messages, which Merlin is actually able to decipher this time. The resolution is a murder-in-the-dark where Merlin, Arthur and Morgana go monster hunting. It’s a difficult hunt because the effects department don’t really want to show you the monster, so it stays in the shadows. The lovely Miss Ryan curses Merlin and declares she’ll get revenge!
Although I’m still entirely unconvinced by Merlin, there are actually a few improvements this week, notably in the character of Arthur, who seemed less like a twit. This was also possibly a much better-paced adventure than the first two, but we are still talking degree of rubbish here.
The trailer indicates that Nimueh comes back next week and gets her way by killing Merlin. I’d love to think that the BBC has come to their senses and made this an entirely alternative take on the Arthurian legend, but alas I spell a very obvious plot twist in the wind, and another eight episodes after that one.
According to the Den of Geek review of The Poisoned Chalice:
This week’s medieval malarkey was called “The Poisoned Chalice”, and involved the lovely blue contact lens-wearing Michelle Ryan as Nimueh, a nasty sorceress trying to get revenge on Merlin for getting in the way in the previous story.
To do this, she infiltrates the castle as a servant from another Kingdom come to celebrate a union with an exchange of gifts. There’s no real back-story here as such: Camelot wears red, they wear blue, it’s a 3.30 kick-off and each bench looks relatively injury-free.
After getting Merlin’s attention with an excessive cleavage deployment, she then executes a McGuffin on him that made some of the more extreme Mission Impossibleepisodes look entirely credible. She tells him that the chalice from which Arthur is about to drink is poisoned, and off he goes to warn his master.
Uther’s reaction to this is to make Merlin drink from it – as if that made any sense. If you could predict so brilliantly how people might react in any given situation, then Nimueh’s plan would entirely work – though the story goes on to prove that it doesn’t!
Merlin is dying, and the only way to save him is to use the leaves of the plant employed to poison him, and this turns out to be yet another ‘Arthur-is-a-fairytale’ scenario: ignoring the entirely irrational Uther, Arthur sets off to get the plant and save Merlin (who’d actually just saved his life, if anyone was counting).
When Merlin gets to the cave where the plant grows (we’re all familiar with the concept that flowers grow underground, obviously) he’s confronted by a reject from Walking With Dinosaurs and the alluring Nimueh doing her damsel-in-this-dress routine. He kills the whatever-creature and then goes into to the cave where he’s set on by giant spiders. In the meantime Nimueh muses about ‘destiny’, since John Hurt’s CGI ‘Dragon’ – who usually performs this task – is apparently having a week off.
Arthur’s goose is effectively cooked until the now-delirious Merlin sends a magical ball of light to guide him to safety. He gets back to the castle and is thrown into the dungeons by mad-as-a-box-of-snakes Uther, before Gwen gets the flower from him and Merlin makes a miraculous recovery from the death that was shown in the trailer. What a pile of manure.
Initially I though the appearance of Michelle Ryan in this show was a shot in the arm, but after this episode I’m now less convinced. The way her character’s name is pronounced sounds rather like the chorus of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, making me think they’re about to break into song every time she’s mentioned. But actually her character is indicative of so many characters in this show, in that they’ve got no back-story whatsoever.
We’re four episodes in and I know no more about Gaius, Morgana, Nimueh or Merlin himself than I knew when they first appeared. Telling stories is fine, but these characters aren’t actually established in any meaningful way yet.
It’s painfully obvious that Nimueh’s origin is a reveal for later in the season; maybe she’s Arthur’s mother…? I find it hard to give a damn. There is also this ‘destiny’ guff that keeps being spouted by everyone. Uther, Nimueh and the Dragon all know Arthur’s ‘destiny’, but none of them seem to think it worth revealing to anyone – especially not Arthur. If he’s destined to do these things, telling him won’t actually alter anything will it? But no, this is one of those special ‘secret squirrel’ destinies. Please!
My first reaction to this series was that it had some way to go to be as entertaining asRobin Hood. Four episodes in, it’s actually heading in the opposite direction.
The closing trailer reveals that next week Arthur and Merlin have to fight some mystical creature made redundant after the credit crunch hit the Harry Potter productions. Be still my beating heart!
According to the Den of Geek review of The Gates of Avalon:
Until Saturday I lacked confidence that I’d ever write these words. But episode 7 of Merlin was actually quite entertaining in parts. For once the concept actually clicked, and presented an adventure that was ‘magical’ at last.
But before I get overly enthusiastic, it should be pointed out that any reference to the Lady of the Lake inferred by the title and imagery of the trailer is oblique at best. This game of appearing to drive towards a known piece of Arthurian lore only to swerve at the last moment is becoming rather infantile, but it’s what they enjoy doing on Merlin it seems.
That said, “The Gates of Avalon” did address some of my complaints about the lack of magical atmosphere that’s been the hallmark of this production so far.
Morgana has a dream of Arthur being drowned by a flaxen haired young woman, and a day later Sophia and her father Aulfric turn up at the castle. She’s suspicious of them, and so it Gaius. I had mine too, because they’re carrying obviously magical staffs with them. A strange fact that everyone but Gaius, including magically-paranoid King Uther, fails to notice.
Soon Sophia has cast a spell on Arthur, who she intends to sacrifice to her brethren, the Sidhe (pronounced ‘She’, but sadly not accompanied by the Charles Aznavour classic). For this she’ll be allowed back into their magical kingdom, Avalon.
This is all revealed when Merlin follows her father Aulfric to the lake where he summons the Sidhe Elders, who resemble nasty blue fairies. This sequence is really nice and they even supported the mystical mood by providing some suitably super-natural music.
Back at the castle, Merlin confronts Arthur, Sophia and Aulfric, but they use their magical staffs on him and escape with the now entirely-entranced Arthur. Merlin comes around in time to run after them (he’s not allowed a horse it seems) and rescue Arthur from a watery grave. He achieves this by getting hold of one of their staffs, and using it on them. Unfortunately he’s never used one before and can’t find the ‘stun’ setting, so they both get blown to pieces. There’s then an epilogue ending where they convince dim Arthur that Merlin hit him over the head, and none of what happened, err…happened. Which amazingly he buys.
What worked in this adventure was that the story was relatively straightforward, and had magic at its heart. They also made good use of the Morgana character for once, and her ‘Seer’ ability is clearly a plot hook they’re going to use from this point onwards. At the end there appears to be some progression in the greater narrative, which was in desperate need of attention.
Where it didn’t work is in the delusion that Merlin is a source of humour, with a running gag about his lies for Arthur resulting in him being thrown in the stocks. It was dumb the first time, and bloody annoying on the third cycle. As a pointer for script writers of medieval set dramas, Lycopersicon, lycopersicum or the tomato wasn’t common in the UK until the 1700s, and it didn’t arrive before the late 1500s.
It might seem less anachronistic if they started talking about America and the Crusades. Besides, given that it’s meant to be a punishment, being struck by a high velocity root vegetable might knock some sense into the terminally stupid Merlin.
Anyway, next week the plot rotates around a moral dilemma, when a boy must die so that Arthur’s destiny can be fulfilled. Or so the trailer suggests.
According to the Den of Geek review of The Beginning of the End:
I might be jumping the gun, but Merlin is looking decidedly like it’s turned some kind of corner. Following last week’s magical episode, this week there isn’t much sorcery, but they still manage to throw a reasonably well plotted story and even chucked some real Arthurian lore into “The Beginning of the End”.
A Druid and his son come to Camelot, which is a very big mistake since the place is run by mad Uther, who doesn’t like magical people, even kids.
The father is caught but the boy escapes, and his telepathic calls for help are heard by Merlin, who takes the injured boy to Morgana. This involves a dangerous plot to keep the silent boy safe, with Merlin, Morgana and Guinevere the conspirators.
Meanwhile, Uther is doing his irrational best to find the child, so he can give him the same haircut as his father. Anthony Head is obviously having scream playing the fruit-loop Uther, though I don’t find his version of insane quite as convincing as the one John Noble is parading in Fringe. But the bizarre twist this week is that on this particular occasion, he’s actually right for once.
Merlin is concerned for the magical child and heads down to see the Dragon. Usually he gets a cryptic message from the scale-head, but he’s refreshingly direct this week, ‘let the boy die’. If he wasn’t confused before he went, he was afterwards.
Morgana decides to take the boy out of Camelot through a secret door, but is caught by Arthur, much to Uther’s rage. Then Arthur decides to do the same, except he’s got another secret tunnel to the outside. With all these ways in and out, this Camelot has got more holes than pre-drilled Emmental.
The Dragon convinces Merlin not to help, but eventually against his better judgement he does, and Arthur takes the boy back to his Druid buddies. And if you hadn’t already guessed the name he gives when asked at the end is Mordred. Yes, the very person that will kill Arthur ultimately. When Mordred uses his telepathy trick he calls Merlin ‘Emrys’, which is a reference to the earliest Arthurian welsh tales where the wizard was called Myrddin Emrys.
I did enjoy this Merlin outing even if the Mordred reveal was telegraphed like bad news in a western. The episode avoided people being stupid, including Merlin for once.
My only complaint is the ‘destiny’ argument that the Dragon and Merlin keep having. Merlin doesn’t believe in it, while the Dragon keeps saying it can’t be escaped. But surely if the Dragon really thought that, why tell Merlin to let Mordred die? He knew all along he wouldn’t, because he’s destined to kill Arthur. He either believes in destiny or he doesn’t, there isn’t a ‘destiny-ish’ position as such is there?
Next week they stop messing obtusely with the lore, and introduce Excalibur. About bloody time.
There is also a black knight, who’s already dead but doesn’t let it slow him down, and the lovely Michelle Ryan as Nimueh is also back.
This show works when they avoid poor comedy routines and use some of the legendary events and characters we associate with Merlin. Hopefully we’ll get more magic, and a less crazy Uther from here going forwards.
According to the Den of Geek review of Excalibur:
As the title of Merlin‘s latest episode suggests, ‘Excalibur’ is about the sword, although this story is more about explaining why Uther is such a complete nutter when it comes to sorcery. In fact, at no point in the proceedings does the name ‘Excalibur’ get mentioned; it’s just a sword as such here.
It all starts with the blue-eyed Nimueh up to no good deep in the catacombs beneath Camelot, resurrecting a long dead knight to go and take vengeance on Uther.
The knight then acquires a long dead horse, and all his old equipment (we know not from where) and turns up at Arthur’s crowning as prince to lay down his gauntlet. As we’re all experts in chivalry, this obviously means he wants ‘single combat’. Which translates as they get to beat each other with swords till one dies, or grows old.
Arthur is meant to pick up the glove, but one of his quicker knights picks it up and accepts the challenge. At this point, they think he’s just a black knight, who comes through stained glassed windows, not doors, and wears old, obviously badly kept gear, and sounds like he’s got a throat infection.
But when he dispatches the knight the next day, some suspect that he’s more than just a surly dark dresser. This has overtones of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a late 14th-century poem, although Sir Gawain isn’t one of the knights who fails to kill this undead warrior.
After the second knight bites the dust, it becomes apparent that being impaled on a sword has no impact on this enemy, only magic can strike him down.
The motivation for all this sequential dying? The dead knight is Sir Tristan Dubois, brother of Igrayne, Uther’s wife and Arthur’s mother, killed by Uther. For those not paying attention, I won’t be drawing a family tree. Sorry.
Uther fought him after the death of Igrayne giving birth to Arthur, for which Tristan blamed Uther. That wasn’t entirely unjustified, because it turns out that Igrayne couldn’t have children, but Uther got Nimueh to cast an enchantment that allowed Arthur to be born. She turns up to explain to Uther (and us) that the magic has a ‘balance’, and with one life given, another must be taken away. She also explains that all these nasty things she’s been doing are in vengeance for casting her and her magical buddies out of the court, although this does seem a little extreme for the medieval equivalent of being banned from your local pub.
Merlin does some research and discovers that enchanted swords do the trick, and goes off to make one, as you do. This sword is for Arthur, who’s next for the chop after foolishly picking up the gauntlet.
He gets a sword from Gwen (her father conveniently makes them), and takes it to the dragon to be ‘burnished’. In this instance ‘burnished’ is a nice word for magical dragon phlegm, because that’s what the dragon does with it; he gobs on it. Note to self, avoid dragons when they have a heavy cold.
Of course the dragon doesn’t spit on any old sword for any old reason. He tells Merlin that the sword is for Arthur only and no one else.
And this is where things go slightly wrong, because Uther has decided to take his son’s place and had Gaius drug him to make sure he’s not there at the appointed time and place.
Uther takes the magical sword, and Sir Tristan explodes in a highly unspectacular way when it’s stuck in him. I was sort of expecting more from Excalibur, but he’s dead-dead now I guess.
Merlin, in the meanwhile, goes back to the dragon and tells him that the simple instructions he got given weren’t followed, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t please him. He tells Merlin to take the sword and put it beyond the reach of mortal man. In Merlin’s very limited imagination, this equates to throwing it in the lake. No hand catches it, because they never introduced the Lady of the Lake to do that. And by definition, the whole ‘Sword in the Stone’ bit of Arthurian legend is toast too, it seems.
I’ve mixed feelings about this episode, because on one level this show is better when it gets a little dark, and it is here. It also worked to better explain Uther, although he might well be back to being bonkers next week.
What disappointed me was that in a single episode they effectively used up ‘Excalibur’, without even calling it by name. Given that there are so few symbolic parts of the legend they’ve included, to use one of the best up over a single story seems less than frugal. My other complaint is that very little magical happened yet again, in a supposedly magical series. Perhaps most of the budget got blown on John Hurt’s voice…who knows. We kept being told how powerful the sword was, but saw very little evidence of this.
The trailer reveals that next week Merlin and Arthur are attacked by Dr. Julian Bashir, who’s probably very annoyed that he’s not in the new Star Trek movie. And it hints that for Merlin to beat the superior technology of the Federation, he is forced to show Arthur his magic powers. But then,after the terrible ‘new Doctor Who’ rubbish the BBC foisted on those viewers who watched Children in Need, I won’t actually believe that until I see the show.
According to the Den of Geek review of Le Morte d’Arthur:
I don’t think I’m being especially brazen to say up front that the one thing that happens in Le Morte d’Arthur (the death of Arthur), is that he dies. And that was obvious from the outset, because, as much as the writers of Merlin have enjoyed snubbing their noses at anything remotely associated with Arthurian legend, I couldn’t really see that they’d really kill him off. The title Le Morte d’Arthur is borrowed from the first Arthurian stories in print, Le Morte Darthur, assembled by Sir Thomas Malory. What this actually has to do with what happens this week isn’t obvious to me at all, but then maybe I’m looking for connections where none exist.
It starts with Merlin, Arthur and other nameless red-shirted knights hunting a creature in the woods which is actually more than a match for them. As the CGI abominations we’ve been subjected to go, this is actually one of the better ones, even if the concept of a cobra head on a giant leopard body is entirely preposterous.
Sir Johnny-run-slowly is killed, and everyone else breathes a sign of relief that it’s not them who gets to scream out of shot.
They report back to mad King Uther who rejects the concept that this creature might be magical, despite being told this with some authority. He directs Arthur to go back and kill it this time.
Meanwhile, Morgana is now having visions in her dreams again, the ones that she didn’t have last week when they would have been useful. Morgana now looks like she’s been moonlighting as Ophelia, with sunken eyes and wild stare to match.
She tries to stop Arthur going, but he ignores her. In retrospect, this is a strong theme of Merlin as it’s happened in almost every story. A tells B not to do something, usually with good reason, B does it anyway – chaos ensues. As a child nobody ever warned Arthur never to run with scissors, knowing that he immediately would.
Arthur and Merlin go to despatch the ‘Questing Beast’, and find the creature in his favourite cave, where a fight starts. And this is the point this week where, without fail, Merlin manages to annoy the heck out of me.
Arthur is stuck and mortally injured. Merlin then uses his magical powers to kill the beast with Arthur’s sword. Notice I said ‘stuck’, in reference to what happens to Arthur. But from this point onwards everyone says he was ‘bitten’. In fact even in the synopsis of the episode on Wiki it says he was ‘bitten’, Gaius examines the wound and says, “He’s been bitten.” I’ve reviewed the footage 10 times and he’s never bitten unless the Questing Beast had little jaws on the tips of its frickin’ toes!
Clearly the script said ‘bitten’, but the CGI people confronted with doing that didn’t like that idea, so ignored it. If you can’t get simple stuff right like that, what chance has the rest of this rubbish?
They drag unconscious Arthur back to Camelot, where everybody gets depressed that he’ll soon die, as there is no cure for being‘bitten’ by CGI creatures.
Merlin feels responsible; I’m not sure why. It wasn’t like Uther or Arthur actually listen to logic. He goes to see the Dragon who tells him of the Isle of the Blessed where those of the old religion might help him, for a heavy price.
He’s been warned, so he ignores that and goes anyway. When he gets there, which doesn’t seem to take long considering how far away it is supposed to be, he finds the alluring Michelle Ryan in her bluest contact lenses, going by her recent nom de plume of Nimueh. She tells him she can help but there will be a price, because magic is a balance thing, apparently. Merlin offers his own life to save Arthur, but Nimueh explains that it doesn’t quite work like that. It’s more like magical Russian roulette. She gives him water from the cup of life which he then uses to save Arthur, but not before mad Morgana has warned him this is “only the beginning”. No, please…it’s the last episode…it must end soon!
Everything seems fine until one dark night Merlin’s mum turns up dying of acne, which is a horrible way to go, I’m sure.
Merlin is very annoyed and goes to file a formal complaint with the Dragon. I’m not sure why; the Dragon did explain the rules of this game quite clearly. There’s an exchange of words after which Merlin tells the Dragon he’ll never be free and the Dragon tries to barbecue him in return. This is a relationship that might need some quality time to patch up, but on the upside, they resist the temptation to show the dragon flying upwards one more time.
Gaius decides to intervene and sacrifice himself to stop Merlin’s mum dying, and goes to Nimueh to strike a deal. Curiously, she’s entirely forgotten what she told Merlin about it not working that way and immediately makes a ‘Gaius’ life for Merlin’s mum’ agreement. As Gaius is dying, Merlin turns up and we have a sorcery battle, at last.
This one turns out to be a bit short and one-sided, but it was what the budget allowed, I guess. Merlin takes a half-hearted shot, Nimueh shows him how it’s actually done and thinks he’s dead. Merlin gets uber-annoyed and gets a giant thunderstorm to strike her with lightening. She jigs about like a marionette and then explodes with a scream. The balance of the old religion is restored. Gaius lives and presumably Merlin’s mum survives, although we don’t actually see that. What we do see is the Dragon, who is none too pleased and when he cries out it wakes Morgana. Quite what the implications of that are, I’ve no idea, but it was dramatic, I guess.
And then the words that sent chills down this reviewer’s spine appeared on the screen – Merlin will return. Oh bugger!
Over the 13 weeks I’ve said some jolly unkind things about this show, most of which I’ll stand by. It was so poor in places that it had me getting somewhat nostalgic for Robin Hood and its curiously modernistic styling. Merlin’s biggest issues always came from the lack of attention to detail that was paid at the scripting stage, making people seem more stupid or mad than was reasonable to accept on occasion. I also grew increasingly tired of the way that they played with my expectations in respect of Arthurian source material, going tantalisingly close to something recognisable only to veer away at the last second. This soon became increasingly childish as the writers tried to out Arthur each other for presenting things that people might recognise and then undermining them.
At times I also felt for the cast, presented as they were with some horribly hokey dialogue and entirely duff character development. Angel Coulby must have been really excited when she got the part of Guinevere, but the ways she’s been used, like some sort of Medieval girl-next-door, has been quite excruciating. Katie McGrath as Morgana fared better, after being almost completely ignored in the early stories. Colin Morgan is obviously a talented actor, but it must be frustrating to be continually asked to play someone who’s as stupid as Merlin has been presented at times. The same is also true to a degree for Bradley James, who must be entirely sick of playing Arthur the total pratt. This was blatantly revealed in a short scene in the final story where Merlin tells Arthur he’s a pratt, which he is. With all the will in the world, I can’t actually stomach another 13 episodes of him being that, and Merlin hiding his magical nature for budgetary reasons.
Ironically the biggest issue Merlin has is magic. If you have a TV series called Merlin, then you’re putting magic on the ingredients in that particular tin. To therefore then try to hide behind a plot device for not delivering that is exceptionally poor form, and even those that like the show have complained it’s not remotely magical enough.
Personally, I’d have been happier if the BBC had ended this experiment here, but someone in BBC commissioning likes it, apparently. So we’ll get some more, but this reviewer won’t be at the front of any queue to lambast it for another thirteen painful episodes, I can assure you.
A Remedy to Cure All Ills
The episode, A Remedy to Cure All Ills, was my least favorite of the episodes during the first series, but still not as bad as Beauty and the Beast.
According to the Den of Geek review of A Remedy to Cure All Ills:
Dark and devious forces turn up at Camelot this week, but it doesn’t take much guessing as to who it is, as they’ve given this week’s nemesis a big scar covering half his face. But actually the main focus of this week’s Merlin episode is Gaius, and his previous sins along with Uther which return to haunt him in the hideous guise of melting-mush Edwin played by Julian Rhind-Tutt. He turns up at Camelot claiming to have a ‘Remedy To Cure All Ills’, which is ironically the title of this episode.
That’s not so strange because he’s already used magic to remotely attack Morgana so that she becomes ill and falls into a coma. So Uther decides they need someone with those sorts of medical abilities, even if he does look like he’s a failed fire breather. They also need him because Gaius doesn’t realise that the cause of her ailment is magically induced, and why she’s not getting any better.
Edwin arrives, and once he’s removed the source of the disorder, Morgana is fine again. I felt for the actress Katie McGrath who plays Morgana in this story, and not because her character was targeted by some hideous sorcerer with a fascination for bugs. But because reading the first page she must have assumed she’d get more screen time, but alas once she’s well that’s almost the last we see of her. What we do get plenty of is Richard Wilson, who does his best befuddled and wizen schtick in the series so far. He knows that Edwin doesn’t just look bad, but can he work out where he’s seen him before more dark magic is unleashed?
Crazy old Uther likes Edwin, presumably because they’re both barking mad and manically twisted. Merlin’s magical powers give away his abilities to Edwin, who does his best to avoid all the key phrases between Darth and Luke without actually saying ‘and together we will rule the universe’. But he gets darn close. When Gaius finally works out whom Edwin is, it’s knowledge of Merlin’s power that he uses to avoid being exposed.
Out-manoeuvred by Edwin, Gaius is forced to leave Camelot, or have Merlin’s powers made public. In the meanwhile, Uther finds out just how big a mistake he’s made when Edwin drugs him and puts one of his brain eating bugs inside his head. Luckily, Gaius returns and with Merlin’s help saves Uther and gives Edwin a splitting headache. Actually we don’t actually see what happens to Edwin, because it was all too graphic for tea-time audiences. He’s hit by an axe magically thrown by Merlin, but we never see it hit or what happens to him. It could be a shaving injury, or an especially nasty paper-cut.
Amazingly Uther doesn’t realise that magic was used to save his life, so Merlin uses sorcery again without it ending in a short sharp chop. End of story, Julian Rhind-Tutt can resume a normal life once more.
My problems with this show are many and varied, but this week it was dialogue that stood out as especially weak. When people from a distant time (whenever this is actually supposedly set?) start using terms like ‘cerebral haemorrhage’, I’m inclined to think those writing this don’t actually give a stuff. Or maybe they’ve take a week off writing Holby City for a change of scenery.
The only glimmer of light I’ve seen for a while comes right at the end when we get a slice of the next episode. That appears to include someone remarkably like the Lady of the Lake, which by association also means Excalibur. Or am I desperately grasping at the brittle straws known as Arthurian lore, in the vein hope that some might actually turns up in this series?
I regret to say, very possibly.