Sunday, 14 December 2008

TV Snark - Merlin: Le Morte d'Arthur OR The End Of Season CGI Spectacular

It's the final episode of Merlin so grab your hankies, dry your tears and feast upon my snark.

The episode starts with Arthur and an entourage of Redcloaks wandering through the forest on a hunting expedition. For some reason Arthur has brought along Merlin who is always useless in this situation. Arthur should probably hire a proper squire rather than using his clueless servant for every task. But hey, he hasn't learned this after 13 episodes so he probably never will.

Suddenly a large CGI monster bursts out of the woods and surprisingly it doesn't look too bad. It's a cross between a snake and erm, a lion or a tiger? It does look a bit like something that would appear in World of Warcraft only more expensive. Anyway whatever it is it charges after the knights who promptly decide to RUN AWAY! Unfortunately Sire Bedivere is a Redcloak so he gets eaten by the beast. Arthur and Merlin don't really look that bothered about it.

The titles roll for the last time, enjoy the sights of the various dodgy monsters and lots of CGI fire.

Back at Camelot Gaius dips into his Monster Manual again and starts to waffle on about the Questing Beast. It seems this monster is a herald of upheaval and the last time it appeared was when Uther's wife died. Uther doesn't heed the warning though as he's an arrogant douche. Gaius tells Merlin that the Questing Beast's bite will cause death and there is no known cure.

Later on Morgana makes a scene when she has one of her rare and unused-unless-it's-vital-to-the-plot prophetic dreams. She panics in front of Arthur's troops during Arthur's rousing speech about monster killing. She warns Arthur not to go on the hunt but he ignores her crazy wailing.

Arthur takes Merlin along again (to be used as monster bait?) and they track the monster to a cave. At this point Merlin hears a hissing sound, "What's that?" he asks knowing full well that the Questing Beast HAS A SNAKE FOR A HEAD. I hope the Questing Beast kills Merlin instead of Arthur then we could focus on the adventures of Gaius Meldrew instead. It'd be like a fantasy version of One Foot In The Grave, think about it, it'd be awesome.

The creature manages to sneak up behind the bumbling duo and Arthur promptly waves his sword at it. As it's a fight between an actor and a piece of CGI there's no real contact between the two so the fight is pretty lame. Arthur is eventually swiped aside by the creature's talons. Merlin uses his telekinesis to thrust Arthur's sword into the Questing Beast's neck which kills it.

Unfortunately Arthur has been poisoned and will die. For reals. Honest. There's lots of angst, teary expressions and the traditional body-being-carried-by-someone-who-eventually-drops-to-their-knees scene.

Arthur isn't quite dead though, so Merlin tries some magic which doesn't work. He decides to expand the budget on the episode by visiting the John Hurt CGI dragon. The dragon tells Merlin about the 'Old Religion' and that it is the key to finding a cure for Arthur. The dragon advises Merlin to visit the Isle of The Blessed to find a cure.

Merlin informs Gaius of his plan to visit the magic isle but Gaius warns Merlin not to go as the price will be to high for Arthur's life. Gaius Merldrew can't stop Merlin from going so he gives Merlin a lucky rabbit's foot which was a gift from Merlin's mother. Why Gaius didn't give him this foot earlier during the many other dangerous missions isn't explained. Maybe Gaius has been using it at the bookies?

Merlin sets off to the Isle to the tune of John Hurt's voice. Meanwhile Gwen visits Arthur and tends to his comatose form. She starts to talk to him about the 'man inside him' and some other sentimental nonsense about destiny. At least she's talking to Arthur now, this hasn't been "will they, won't they" it's been more "do they know each other at all".

Merlin reaches a shore and can see the CGI isle. He jumps in a boat with no oars. Luckily for Merlin he knows telekinesis otherwise he'd have to swim. Merlin floats around the moat of some old castle until he finds a stone circle and Nimueh (Michelle Ryan)! Nimueh asks the question, "Do you know who I am?" Of course he does! You tried to kill him in an earlier episode! I guess the question is for the audience so those who have very short memories or are watching Merlin for the first time can be reminded or informed. Still, it's a very clumsy way of doing it.

The Bionic Woman produces the Holy Grail (sorry the Cup Of Inconvenient Life) and gives Merlin some magic water to use to cure Arthur. Unfortunately the deal is a life for a life so Merlin offers his own life and then merrily rides off thinking that he has nobly sacrificed himself.

Merlin delivers the cure and Arthur recovers. Morgana decides to act all weird again (because the writers haven't given her anything to do) and she tells Merlin that "this is only the beginning". Well, that was vague enough to mean something and yet nothing. Arthur tells Gwen that he heard everything she said while he was in a coma but Gwen becomes embarrassed and runs off.

Gaius is suspicious of Merlin's deal and Merlin is concerned as he hasn't dropped dead yet. A cloaked, hunched figure wanders into Camelot later that night (the guards don't bother to stop or question it, making me think they're exchange guards from Robin Hood). The figure turns out to be Merlin's mum and she's covered in boils. It seems that Merlin's deal was twisted by Nimueh and it's now Merlin's mother who will die instead. Oh well, his mum did abandon him and banish him from his home so it's not like she's Parent of the Year or anything.

Merlin visits the dragon who informs him that he couldn't allow Merlin to die so he made sure that his mother would perish instead. Merlin doesn't take this news well and vows to ensure that the dragon will never be released from his subterranean prison. The dragon then decides to breathe on Merlin:

That looks expensive doesn't it? Anyway, Merlin uses Fire Shield to resist the dragon's breath and vows that he'll never see the dragon again. Sounds like they've broken up.

It's at this point things get a bit silly as Merlin wants to go back to swap his life for his mother's. The druids on the Isle of the Blessed must get really tired of people visiting, trading their lives and then other people turning up and counter trading. It must get very complicated.

Merlin says his goodbyes to Arthur and calls him a prat. Unfortunately Arthur does not respond by kicking Merlin's ass. However, whilst Merlin has been getting teary eyed over Arthur, Gaius has sneaked out to the isle instead of Merlin. Merlin discovers a note left by Gaius and decides to ride after him so they can fight over who will sacrifice himself.

Gaius talks to Nimueh and offers his life which is surprising to Nimueh as she apparently would never have foreseen it. Guess she doesn't watch the show.

Merlin arrives just in time to see Nimueh seemingly finish the ritual over Gaius's prone, dead form. Merlin is all angry and stuff so he casts Magic Missile at Nimueh. She responds by offering to team up with Merlin so that together they can rule the galaxy (sorry world, it's just that this scene seems to have been lifted from Return of the Jedi). Merlin refuses so Nimueh zaps him with a Fireball spell. Merlin responds by casting Lightning Bolt and disintegrates Nimueh.

Merlin finds Gaius's body and cries, "NAAAAWWWWWWW!" He messes up the traditional cry of "Noooooooo!" I don't believe it.

Don't worry though because Gaius is miraculously okay. Hurrah!

The dragon isn't happy though and throws a tantrum. His shouting and crying awakens Morgana...

So that's the end of Merlin series one. It wasn't a terrible show by any means and sometimes it had some interesting ideas and themes. On the whole though it suffered from being formulaic and predictable. There are some solid foundations for the future of the show and hopefully next time it will be more ambitious. Next season's dynamic could be interesting if Morgana becomes the new protege of the dragon and starts to learn magic.

TV Snark will return next year when Robin Hood's third season begins, and boy am I looking forward to that! I'll be filling the time between then with my usual collection of reviews and comic panels so stay tuned.


Jon Evans said...

No, actually it was a terrible show. Arthurian legend should be inspiring and uplifting not tawdry and badly written. Arthur is supposed to be a reluctant hero not an obnoxious cunt and Uther is supposed to be dead by the time that Arthur is a grown man... that's kind of the whole point.

If they'd done something ambitious they'd have done Merlin: The Early Years or just followed the normal plot but done over a series instead of a film.

Excalibur... awesome. Merlin: The Emo Years was shite.

Aaron said...

So you liked it then?

richard said...

NIMUE: "Shit! Why didn't I just kill Uther instead?"

Aaron said...

You know how it is, someone offers a life for a life and you need to make a quick 'ironic' decision...

richard said...

Yeah, but she screws it up /twice/.

Aaron said...

It's almost as if the writers forgot that she had a grudge against Uther.

richard said...

Well, it'll be good practice for forgetting the whole 'Merlin just got the power of life and death' they fell into at the end of the episode.

Dan said...

To defend it as best I can: I don't think Nimueh could kill Uther, because that wouldn't be a forfeit to Merlin personally. It would arguably HELP him, actually. But killing his mother, or Gaius, fit the bill much better. She has to bend the rule, not make her own up and target a random like Uther 'cos it suits her.

Mind you, I have to admit that I didn't get the impression Nimueh was totally EVIL until this finale. I had assumed the death of Igraine was a cosmic balancing act she had no actual control over (and it shocked her just as much), but Uther blames her for it. If anything, Nimueh has a genuine reason to hate Uther for not hearing her side of the story, and instead slaughtering fellow "magicals". It was a shame the finale just reverted to the cliche that she's just an Evil Sorceress.

Aaron said...

I understand from an 'emotional' standpoint that Merlin's mother made a more effective victim. If Uther had been chosen the characters would have thought, "Oh well, bye bye King Gitbag." The choice of Merlin's mother didn't logically make a whole lot of sense though, I guess at that point they needed a bit of exposition to clearly define the terms of the whole life trading deal thing and who could be traded for who. Hell, even having Nimueh telling Merlin that she changed the deal because she hated him for meddling with her assassination attempts would have worked.

richard said...

"She has to bend the rule, not make her own up and target a random like Uther 'cos it suits her."

Which works up until the point where Merlin kills her and saves Gaius, effectively getting a two-for one deal - saving someone he loves, and dispatching an enemy in one go. Anyway, nobody says Uther actually has to die. It wouldn't be the first time Merlin broke his word...

Doc Hall said...

Well, you could make the argument that unlike Merlin, Nimueh (De-de-de-de-de a-Nimueh) didn't have control over the power and as a result had to work within the rules.