Monday, 28 September 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: The Curse of Cornelius Sigan OR Mackenzie Crook Should Really Say No To Saturday Evening Television

It’s the return of Merlin and the return of my late, snarky, and slightly crappy recaps! Will the show improve on its first series? The pieces are in place: decent performers, good costumes, adequate CGI monsters. It just needs good scripts to make the show tolerable.

Does the second season opener offer a good script to go with guest star Mackenzie Crook?


Oh well. Let’s take a look at what happened then.

Uther has commanded his peasants to dig beneath his castle to find buried treasure left behind by previous rulers. I can only assume that Uther is a bit strapped for cash having spent all of his money on building enormous funeral pyres for witches and sorcerers. The peasants hack at the tunnels beneath Camelot until they find a hidden chamber covered in treasure. Unfortunately the peasants fail their Spot Trap check and one of them is killed by a poison dart. The rest flee like superstitious native in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Gaius Meldrew later ventures into the chamber and sets off the same trap but Merlin reminds the audience that he is MAGIC and uses telekinesis (again) to save Gaius. After a bit of research Gaius realizes that the chamber is the burial site of an ancient wizard who promised to return from the dead to destroy Camelot and so warns Uther against looting the dead. Uther doesn’t believe in this curse because he erm… he hates magic. There’s no logic to this, Uther just decides for the sake of the plot to ignore Gaius’ advice and take all the treasure, despite the fact that Gaius IS ALWAYS RIGHT ABOUT MAGICAL ENEMIES EVERY DAMN EPISODE.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie Crook plays a… crook (this is a vast improvement on Demons where he played Galdiolus Thrip, the teddy boy vampire/demon with a beak). He wants to get his hands on the treasure beneath the castle and soon learns from a very Welsh builder that the treasure is kept locked away. Apparently only Prince Arthur has the key to the chamber and so Mackenzie hatches a plan to become Arthur’s new servant at the expense of Merlin. Mackenzie sabotages Merlin by loosening the saddle on Arthur’s horse, taking credit when Merlin saves Arthur’s life with magic when Arthur is attacked by a boar (Arthur is such a n00b, he should totally have enough levels to deal with a boar by now), serving a sumptuous breakfast to Arthur, and finally making Merlin fall asleep in horse dung via knock out gas. Arthur promptly dumps Merlin as servant (again) as the show seems to have ignored the character development between the two from the end of last season.

Look! He's fallen in the poo! Hahahahahaha!

With Merlin out of the way Mackenzie can now steal the key to the treasure chamber of come-uppance, and steal it he does. Mackenzie starts to loot the chamber but then spots a large heart shaped sapphire on top of the evil mage’s sarcophagus and decides to lift that instead. Mackenzie is instantly possessed by the old mage and becomes Sigan.

Mackenzie/Sigan enacts his plan of revenge by summoning gargoyles from the battlements of Camelot itself. The gargoyles are unstoppable killing machines as they stumble around menacing screaming peasants in that charming cheap CGI way where they don’t physically interact with any of the actors. Arthur and his red shirt knights (remember, they wear red cloaks to display their disposability) fall back under the assault of one gargoyle and all seems lost. Merlin wants to help but Gaius is being very pessimistic this week and he states that the only thing that can stop Sigan is the magical power of something older and more powerful – John Hurt’s CGI dragon! Yes, the dragon that Merlin said he’d never speak to ever again in the season one finale. Time for the relationship reset button.

The reconciliation isn’t played out for long; it’s almost resolved with the speed of two kids who fell out in a playground. The dragon forces Merlin to promise to free him in the future in exchange for a new powerful spell which will probably only ever be used once. Merlin reluctantly agrees and the dragon breathes magic on him. Yeah. This scene is very short and is almost a white washing of last season’s finale when the dragon actually tried to kill Merlin with his fire breath. FORGET LAST YEAR. IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. LOOK AWAY FROM THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

Merlin, now armed with a new spell, wanders into the courtyard to find Sigan/Mackenzie posing amidst the destruction. Sigan decides to tempt Merlin with the whole, “together we will rule the galaxy as father and son” speech from The Empire Strikes Back but changes it a bit so that George Lucas won’t sue. Merlin refuses so Sigan decides to possess Merlin instead and this leads to some gurning from Merlin as he fights off the possession and saves the day. Yay for magic dragon spells that conveniently save the day!

Dare you face Mackenzie Goth?

In the aftermath, Uther decides to block up the treasure chamber despite the fact that the evil sorcerer has been defeated and now no longer poses a threat to his looting. Idiot. No wonder his economy needs to be supported by dungeoneering.

Oh yeah, Morgana and Gwen were in this episode but Morgana appeared for all of a minute while she had a bad dream and Gwen flirted a bit with Arthur. Nice to see the ladies have expanded roles this year.

For an alternative view, please head on over Richard Cobbett's site for his own unique take on this episode.

If you want to watch the episode then you can visit here. Unless you're a foreign type, in which case the BBC doesn't want you to see it yet.

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