Tuesday, 25 November 2008

TV Snark - Merlin: The Moment of Truth OR Robin Hood: Merlin

The tenth episode of Merlin was all too familiar for my liking. It kept reminding me of another BBC show based on a medieval legend, a show I have covered in the past over on livejournal. That's not a good way to curry favour with me.

So Robin Hood begins with a band of scruffy looking bandits attacking a village. The peasants mill around a bit and look worried as Dr Julian Bashir and his bandits search for food to steal. Dr Bashir manages to slap around Bearded Farmer and Merlin's mum, he then shoots a guy with his crossbow to show how evil he is. He promises to return in a week for the rest of the harvest. Merlin's mum decides to pop across the road to Camelot to visit her son.

The opening titles roll, after they've finished Merlin's mum has an audience with Uther. Uther refuses to help as the village in question is in another kingdom and he doesn't want to start a war by crossing the border. Merlin's mum should've told him the bandits used magic, he'd have been over there in a shot. Merlin decides to head home with his mum to protect her and for some reason Morgana and Gwen go too. Because this is the episode where they really couldn't think of any motivation or activities for the girls so they turn into kick-ass warrior women. Sigh. This is exactly what happened with Maid Marian in Robin Hood and that didn't end too well.

Merlin and the girls head across the road to the village (it takes them a day and a bit to cross the border, Merlin's mum made the journey during a scene change) and are joined in the night by Arthur because he couldn't leave Merlin to the bandits. I assume Arthur came up with some cunning ruse for his absence otherwise Uther would tear Camelot apart looking for him. He'll probably burn Gaius Meldrew out of spite.

The bandits reappear at the village and Dr Bashir threatens to chop off Bearded Farmer's head but Arthur rides to the rescue. It's at this point that there is a Robin Hood arrow sound effect as a sword hits the wooden post next to Dr Bashir's head. Arthur can throw a sword as straight and fast as an arrow! Wow, that's really... stupid. Arthur then fights a bandit wearing a full mask. I assume it's in case any of the villagers call the cops and need to ID him out of a lineup. Why does this guy wear a mask whilst his leader, Dr Bashir doesn't? What makes him special? Oooh, is it because he actually lives in the village and has taken to moonlighting as a bandit? Could he be robbing his own food stores? Sadly we never find out as Arthur hits him a couple of times and he falls over.

Merlin gets into a swordfight with a bald thug. Just as Merlin begins to lose, he makes the bandit's sword into a Ready Brek sword which gives the bandit such a warm glowing feeling that he drops the blade. Merlin then runs him through and admires his blade with a grin. Sociopath.

Morgana jumps into a fight with her sword and kills off one of the bandits. No show, stop it. I know the show is trying to be sensitive to today's need for strong female characters but can't they do it whilst using some ingenuity. Morgana doesn't need to be a swordswoman to be shown as a capable character. She's supposed to become a powerful sorceress so why not have her use her intelligence to hatch cunning plans rather than have her run around like a cut price Keira Knightley?

Merlin meets up with his old friend Will who turns out to be a socialist. As a peasant Will has ideas way above his station. He sounds a lot like Dennis the repressed peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Will the socialist peasant wants to hand over the food to the bandits like a stinking coward. The peasants don't like the idea of starving to death and decide to rally behind Arthur and fight for their home and pies.

Merlin tries to tell Will about how awesome Arthur is but Will points out that Merlin hasn't shared his magic secret with Arthur yet, so they can't be that close. Arthur and Merlin do a bit of talking and Merlin explains that he left home because he needed to find where he belonged rather than the true story that his mum effectively sent him to live in a castle with a mad king who hates magic.

Arthur decides to initiate a training montage to teach the peasants basic sword and stick fighting. Arthur also sends Bearded Farmer out as a sentry, he's to ride back if there's any sign of the bandits. He's doomed. Morgana still insists she can fight along with the other women in the village to bolster the number of defenders. Arthur doesn't want smelly girls in his army though. Arthur can't see the power of Girl, erm, Power!

Bearded Farmer rides back into the village. Unfortunately he's totally dead. Guess he didn't spot the bandits before they spotted him. Will the socialist moans some more about fighting and he decides to run away from the fight. Merlin decides to tell Arthur why Will is such a whiny jerk. Will's dad was killed fighting for the local king and Will has harboured a grudge against nobility ever since. Surely a peasant would accept the fact that his king could call him up to the army at any time and that he may die in service of his lord? Once again, it's as if the peasants of Merlin don't understand the feudal system...

Arthur tries to order the women and kids out of the village so they can hide in the woods during the fight. The women refuse so Arthur accepts them into his ragtag army and gives them a speech about fighting for their right to party. There's some stirring music, it's all very teen Braveheart.

Gwen tells Arthur off for refusing to eat peasant porridge. This is the first time that Arthur and Gwen have exchanged more than two words in an episode. Finally! Nothing much comes of this conversation though.

Merlin and Arthur suit up for battle and prepare to meet the evil forces of Dr Julian Bashir. Merlin almost tells Arthur that he's the Magic Man but Morgana interrupts to tell them that the bandits are approaching.

The bandits ride into an ambush but Morgana messes up the trap as she can't light a fire. So Mr TV Show, is she a competent warrior or a useless girl who can't set off a trap and needs Merlin to come along and do it for her? This little scene does seem to undermine the whole equality angle the episode has been building up. Merlin finally sets off the flame trap which sets off a ring of fire that looks like it was made by petrol. Or maybe it was pitch, after all Robin Hood taught me that pitch is the most explosive substance known to man.

Will returns during the fight and saves Merlin from a stab in the back. He's going to totally die now. Merlin has a Saving Private Ryan moment as the battle slows down and the sound gets distorted and drowned out. Merlin summons a small twister, or hurricane, which knocks a couple of people over and knocks a bandit off his horse. Fearsome stuff.

Arthur then fights mano a mano with Dr Bashir and handily kills him. Arthur then demands to know who was casting magic during the fighting but just as Merlin is about to reveal his secret Will is shot by Dr Bashir last gasp crossbow attempt on Arthur's life. Will claims to be a sorcerer as he lays dying, saving Merlin from having to reveal himself. Will takes ages to die as Colin Morgan (Merlin) tries to summon some tears for this scene. He tries squinting really hard but that doesn't seem to work to well.

Will gets cremated and Arthur is very disappointed that Merlin didn't trust him enough to tell him that Will was a magic user. Merlin's mum then effectively tells him to bugger off out of the village. Charming.

Next Episode - Arthur kills a unicorn, the dick.


Doc Hall said...

No obvious Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai reference?

More than somewhat disapointed with this as they could really have made more out of what's effectively a pretty standard medieval fantasy plot.

At least the Robin Hood version would have been funny.

Aaron said...

There was only 4 of them. But yeah it was a cut price version of that story but without the drama.

Robin Hood would've at least had Panto Sheriff and Goth Guy.

Doc Hall said...

I'd have gone with "Awsome Foursome".

The sad thing is, at the start of the season I defended Camelot 90210 from the accusation that it was just a generic fantasy show painted in Arthurian colours. How wrong I was.

Aaron said...

Don't worry, I'm sure they'll go back to shouting out Arthurian references before the end of the season.