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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Merlin: The Tears Of Uther Pendragon (part one)

A darker Merlin returned to our screens tonight with the first part of what looks like it could be the best story so far in the show's short history.

Although the playful, homoerotic bromance between young Merlin (Colin Morgan) and Prince Arthur (Bradley James) continues, The Tears Of Uther Pendragon (part one) was heavy with doom-laden foreboding.

Picking up more than a year after Morgana's disappearance at the end of season two, a troop of soldiers, led by Arthur, stumbled across Morgana (Katie McGrath) in the wild (after a great ambush/fight sequence); she claimed to have escaped the bandits who had been holding her.

However, secretly, she is plotting with her sister,
Morgause (Emilia Fox), to magically drive Uther mad, thus weakening Camelot for an invasion by the Aragorn-like King Cenred (Tom Ellis).

Morgana's scheming is quickly discovered by Merlin, but before he has a chance to alert Arthur, he is captured by the wicked sisters.

Already this season appears to be pushing the envelope of what's acceptable family viewing, following in the well-trodden footsteps of Doctor Who, with a couple of pretty scary moments (for tea-time viewing), such as Uther's magically-induced hallucinations, and some CGI giant scorpions that, even on a BBC budget, were far more convincing than those of this year's ridiculous Clash Of The Titans remake.

With a lot more casual and ritual magic in the story, as well as the giant scorpions and the return of the dragon (John Hurt), Merlin is also inching its way slowly (or not so slowly maybe) towards being the closest thing we might ever get - particularly on British TV - to a live-action Dungeons & Dragons programme.

And if this wasn't enough, next week Morgana raises an army of the dead and Cenred's forces attack Camelot... and it's only the second week of Season Three!

One has to wonder how much longer Uther can hang on to his throne. I'm slightly worried that Merlin will follow the Smallville route; painfully stretching out and padding its story to prevent the main characters (ie Arthur and Merlin) from taking the first steps on the road to their epic destinies.

That said, I can't see how next week's episode can possibly hit that big "reset" button to restore the status quo - as Morgana's wickedness should be blatantly exposed. It looks like things in Camelot will never be the same again.

The Tears of Uther Pendragon is the show I was looking for from the start, but now I can understand why we needed the earlier seasons to round-out the characters and maneuver them to where they needed to be for this storyline.

4 comments:

  1. Well, I take back what I said a few days ago. This episode was very good! Very exciting. It felt like the penultimate episode of the season before the big final episode - not the first episode of the season.

    Three minor criticisms though:
    (1) I'm still not sure on the humorous bits between Merlin and Arthur (and Arthur's obligatory topless scene),
    (2) Merlin seems a little too happy to use his powers in public and risk a severe dunking from Uther,
    (3) I felt the end of the episode should've maybe come a minute or two earlier just after Merlin has been stung by the scorpion. That way they would have ended on a cliffhanger. The bit with the dragon could've waited until next week.

    Still, overall a good start to this season. Next week, it's skeleton sword fight time!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Although I rave about the episode in my write-up, I agree with your points (1) and (3) 100 per cent.

    Sadly (1) is almost certainly pandering to its young (and possibly not-so-young) female audience (the Twilight Generation) and (3) is possibly a question of timing across the two episodes (however, I believe the effects of the sting on Merlin are a key element in episode two).

    As for point (2) I believe this is simply Merlin becoming more confident with his magic and his ability to use it discretely.

    He is still very aware of the potentially fatal consequences of his actions, if caught (as demonstrated in the conversation with Gaius), but is braver now than he ever was and realises that more often than not he needs to use magic to fight magic and protect Arthur.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Re: (1) - Arthur's topless scene (and, having read an interview in SFX recently, it is obligatory and shameless) is probably also aimed at Merlin's gay audience too.
    Re: (2) - I suppose it means Merlin gets to use his magic more so we see more 'special' effects. Which is a good thing. Still, using it just to get back at Arthur (and thus get him a morningstar - or whatever it was - in the gut) seems a little blase.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Re: Re: (1) Yes, their whole relationship comes across as a bit more than "master and servant" ;)

    Re: Re: (2) Yes, the "getting back at Arthur during weapons practice" was a bit OTT - but perhaps there will be repercussions later in the series for such flagrant use of magic? These days I'm willing to cut them more slack than I did in the first season, as now there seems to be an intelligent overarching story in place.

    ReplyDelete

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