Saturday, 10 November 2012

Review: Merlin 5.6: The Dark Tower

After a season of neglect, Angel Coulby's Gwen
got a hell of a lot more to do.
Usually I can tell if an episode of Merlin is good or not within the first 15 minutes. The Dark Tower presented something all over different, and for the vast majority left me incredibly confused as to whether the story was absolutely first rate genius or tripe of the most smelly and unpleasant kind. Julian Jones' characters seemed to have gone all weird on us for some reason, but unlike last week's shitstorming stupidity on the part of Merlin, the characters were different in annoying subtle ways. Frustraingly, this actually helped the story do what it was trying to do character-wise, and for once Morgana's scheme turns out to be absolutely brilliant.
     Gwen and the Knights, sans Arthur and Merlin, head out to pay respects to the Queen's dead father. On the way back, their troupe is ambushed by a fairly resourceful Morgana, who poisons a few of them with magic vision-giving venom and takes Gwen to the hallucination-inducing Dark Tower, a place of legend that Knights are taught to fear. While Merlin is suddenly super-confident and helps Arthur get through to the Tower,
Morgana tries to make Gwen like her by leaving her alone in a chamber that shows all of her friends laughing at her. Elyan drives forward through the traps despite Arthur and Merlin's cries for him to stop. In a fight with a magical flying sword, Elyan is fatally wounded, and dies in Gwen's arms. As they return to Camelot, it is revealed that Morgana's mindfucking has turned Gwen into what Morgana was in Series Three.
     While I was pretty pissed when I read the synopsis for next week about how Morgana's got a spy within Camelot (for reasons that I'm sure I'll spell out in full detail next week), I do love how we can see Gwen's slow turn to the Dark Side. For once, Morgana actually used psychology is a good way and the way it mirrors her own transformation is actually pretty awesome. Their interactions, beyond the slightly slashy tone to it all, were by far this episode's best quality.
Seriously, these guys have zero security.
Morgana keeps ambushing them, it's something you think
they'd catch on to.

     Meanwhile, the guys on the team seemed to lose their normal characterisations, especially Merlin. It was really baffling for me, especially as this is written by series-creator Julian Jones. Merlin stopped being the slightly nervous yet brave young man and instead spent the episode as the tough-faced action hero who speaks in heroic and prophetic statements. I think it was a mix of the writing and something that Colin Morgan had perhaps eaten that week, but it threw the episode off completely and left me wondering what exactly was going on.
     This episode left me both optimistic about what Merlin is able to accomplish with its characters and pessimistic about how weird the characters seemed to be even under the leadership of the series' creator. At the moment, the final series seems to be hovering on the edge of a few good ideas, and even though next week will be an advancement on a plot idea that's literally been used in 50% of the series' stories, I still don't know if Merlin has lost its momentum or is simply hiding it.


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