Saturday, 24 November 2012

Review: Merlin 5.8: The Hollow Queen

The delightfully evil Sarrum
This week was a little more interesting than last week. Last week I was pissed off because the series had reverted to Series Three territory. While it wasn't as revelatory as the first few episodes of this series, it did a lot of things differently and instead of feeling like a cliche, characters tended to act realistically in the given scenario. It was, as we saw a bit in Series Four, a well-done take on one of Merlin's classic plots, and for that I am grateful - we're finally seeing some development.
     A boy claiming to be a druid, Daegal, guides Merlin out into the woods on a fool's erand and he's subsequently poisoned by Morgana, who instead of finishing the job proceeds to just walk away. Back at home, and Gwen is using a visit by mad king The Sarrum to once more off Arthur, planning to use him to kill the king and then to double-cross him at the last second. The Sarrum is an enemy of Morgana's, the once responsible for her captivity prior to the series and the reason why the dragon Aithusa is permenantly disabled. Daegal, feeling guilty, goes back and manages to patch Merlin up in a few minutes; they then head back to the castle and get there in time to completely stop the assassination attempt, at the expense of Daegal's life.
     The Sarrum, played by the wonderfully named John Shrapnel (whom I swore had been in Merlin before), was this episode's highlight. Characters like him have certainly been on the show before, but Shakespearan actor Shrapnel manages to imbue him with a delightful sense of cunning and sheer malificence. He enjoys his work; he almost seems excited when he describes the extent of Morgana's torture. He's someone that we have reason to hate, and for once we can see, to some extent, why Gwen is doing what she's doing.
Merlin rushes in and saves the day as usual.
      The episode's premise, basically wondering what would happen if Merlin disappeared for a while, is fundamentally ok but is badly executed for a number of reasons. The first is the show's insistence upon having Morgana just leave Merlin behind to suffer instead of actually just offing him in a permenant way. Morgana's biggest problem is that she's either ridiculously incompetant or, when she does display some skill or talent, she ruins it at the last second by making a stupid mistake. Adding to that... why the hell did Morgana, after only using some of the most powerful stuff in existence last week, try to off Merlin with a poison that can be remedied by a single, easily-made potion?
     But still, this episode was enjoyable at a base level. There wasn't really anything special going on, and we were still left with that annoying status quo at the end, but it was an ok way to waste an hour and it looks as if next week will see the end of this terrible, terrible Traitor!Gwen subplot. For now, though, we'll have to make do with an episode that was fun despite its formulaic structure, and hope for even better next week.


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