Saturday, 6 October 2012

Review: Merlin 5.1 - Arthur's Bane, Part One

The BBC haven't put their images up yet. Can you tell?
The last two series of Merlin have filled me with endless hours of entertainment as I picked them apart, exposing every weak plot point, every stupid recycled plot from a previous episode, and every point where the direction the series was heading in made no honest sense. As in in response, Series Five has opened on an episode that eschewed many of its former formulas and instead provided 45 minutes of brilliant entertainment. It wasn't perfect, and there were still some of the old problems that required fixing, but this is by far an improvement upon the averages of Series Three and Four. By far. Spoilers always follow.
     Morgana's not being very imaginative, so she's pallied up with a druid king named Ruadan (a post-Outcasts Liam Cunningam doing his best) to organise an attack on Camelot. They've taken in a patrol that contains Gwaine and Percival, who are sent to work in the mines looking for something vaguely magical. Ruadan has decided that old habits die hard when it comes to evil schemes and so has installed his daughter Sefa (Sophie Rundle) in the castle as Gwen's maid to go and tell him about their plans. When Merlin and Arthur head off to the west to try and catch Morgana unawares, Sefa goes and tells Daddy, and the patrol gets ambushed, with only Merlin and Arthur managing to escape. Sefa, despite having massive moral qualms with what she's done, gets sentenced to death for Treason by Gwen regardless. After Merlin and Arthur get trapped by poachers, they're saved by a weird looking man that Merlin had previously seen in a prophecy killing the King - a man who turns out to be the little druid boy (and harbinger of doom) Mordred.
     The whole prophecy aspect of the plot had me undergoing flashbacks, but it's something common to both Merlin and to the original Arthurian legend. It speaks to their casting that I knew who the character was the moment I saw him - it's definitely not the same actor as before, more years have passed in-story than in real life. However, I think that the massive drums that played whenever he was onscreen led to a little bit of overkill. The same cannot be said of new characters Nuadan or Sefa, who if anything suffered from too little screentime. Both of them seemed like they had the potential to be very complex characters, with Nuadan's allegiance one of desperation in the pursuit of knowledge and Sefa's actions being constantly under her own moral maelstrom.
You know, the image captions are my favourite part of these
reviews. So here's Merlin, once again randomly extending
his arms for no apparent reason.
     Another thing that's gotten drastically better was the direction. While there was still some silly choreography and slo-mo during the fight scenes, the whole thing felt a lot more epic from the very start. There's just something about the way it was shot and themed that made the aesthetic instantly more pleasing, even though it was clear that some shot arrangements were robbed from the previous year's premiere. Altogether, it made my attitude towards the episode a lot more positive from the outset, so it's really something they should keep doing.
     It was wonderful to see how far it feels Merlin has come compared to the start of the previous series. The Darkest Hour had some fun ideas, but it was still stuck in a similar scenario to previous' series. Series Five is starting off by making sure that pretty much all of the formulas that plagued the previous series are over and done with, and if the writers can manage to produce a string of 13 episodes as well-written and as original as this, then we'll have no problem whatsoever. Long live Merlin Series Five, and all who ride with her!


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