Wednesday, 25 November 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: The Witchfinder OR She Turned Me Into a Newt!

It's another recap. Another one! Twice in one week! I've decided to power through the backlog of episodes in an attempt to at least not be so many episodes behind the schedule. This episode spends all its money on Charles Dance and the Expensive-CGI-Dragon. Is it money well spent?

The episode begins with Merlin collecting wood in the forest. He soon becomes bored with this menial task and decides to sit and amuse himself by manipulating smoke from a nearby fire into a horse shape. Unfortunately Merlin has once again failed to check if anyone is nearby (like last episode when he failed to check if anyone was in a room before he started snooping around) and his horse cloud is spotted by a hysterical peasant. Luckily for Merlin she didn't see him casting the magic but the smoky cloud horse is enough to terrify her into running to Uther and declaring that a sorcerer is running amok. ARGH! It's a non-threatening cloud that looks like a horse! AIEEEE!

The peasant woman regales the court with her incredibly lame tale of petty magic and cites Merlin as a witness but he obviously, but not convincingly, plays dumb. Uther reacts with his usual calm and grace under pressure and summons a ruthless Withfinder. It should be Vincent Price but as he's quite dead we get Hollywood star Charles Dance instead. He has a duster and a hat just like in the movie Van Helsing.

Oh dear.

His name sounds like Rhydian.

Oh dear.

Arthur asks when he will begin his search for sorcery and I guess straight away what he's going to say and say it simultaneously, "I have already begun." After a triumphant air grab, I once again think, "Oh dear."

Charles Dance (Aredian is a stupid name, so I either call him Rhydian or use his real name) begins his investigation. He interviews Merlin first as he was at the scene of the crime and hasn't exactly smooth talked his way out of trouble so far. At this point I notice that Charles Dance is so evil, he uses a human skull as an inkwell.

That's pure evil. Also handy for completing tax returns.

Merlin manages to make a mess of things and incriminate himself further by not backing up the peasant's story or calling her a hallucinating mental. He tries to be Mr Nice Guy and ends up neither lying or telling the truth. Charles Dance is not impressed.

Charles Dance later brings forth more witnesses to witchcraft and sorcery and they give testimony before the king. Their tales of magic are chilling:

Peasant1: "I was drawing water from the well, sire when I saw them. Faces. In the water, sire. Terrible faces. Like people who were drowned. Screaming. Screaming. *sob*

So she saw her own reflection and had an anxiety attack when presented with her own sobbing, peasant face? Charles Dance is pleased with this unconvincing tale of TERRIFYING MAGIC and moves on to the next witness.

Charles Dance: "Tell them what you saw."
Peasant2: "A goblin. Dancing on the coles, it was dancing in the flames and it spoke, sire. My heart near stopped for fear of it!"

So she got drunk and sang Blackadder's goblin song?

Another witness is offered forth.

Peasant3: "There was a sorcerer, sire. In the square, there were creatures jumping right out of his mouth."
Charles Dance: "And what manner of creaturrrrre?" (He said creature in a very silly fashion)
Peasant3: "Oh toads, sire. Great, green, slimy things as big as your fist!"

Wait a minute, what? The picture that this evidence paints is of a sorcerer with the mental age of a 3 year old. He seems harmless enough, he just casts minor illusions and likes to lick toads for fun. Let him live, I say.

Uther finds the testimonies truly, truly, terrifying. Charles Dance finishes his presentation by accusing Merlin despite having no real evidence. Uther decides that the crappy peasant stories are enough to allow Charles Dance to search Gaius's chambers to look for actual evidence.

The Camelot guards trash Gaius Meldrew's quarters in an effort to find evidence of sorcery. Merlin is locked away in the cells while this happens. Charles Dance directs the ransacking, "You there, upend that stool!" That's my favourite dialogue from this show, ever. Eventually Charles Dance finds an ordinary amulet in a jar of dust. Apparently it's magic despite the fact that it doesn't do anything vaguely magicky throughout the entire episode. Gaius decides to take a bullet and says that the amulet is his. Merlin is freed from jail whilst Gaius is thrown into a new cell.

Uther remembers that Gaius always solves the monster of the week dilemma and is worried about his loyalty. Charles Dance suggests torture to determine the truth and Uther considers it for a couple of seconds before endorsing the Jack Bauer treatment. Why do people serve Uther?

Luckily for Gaius, Charles Dance's torture is family friendly and just seems to consist of using a bucket of cold water, asking questions in a montage, and refusing to give Gaius a glass of water when he claims he's thirsty.

Merlin decides to ask the John Hurt-CGI-Dragon for advice but the dragon has become as snarky as I have and basically insults Merlin and states that Gaius doesn't matter to him. The dragon offers no help because it would be a short episode if he gave Merlin a spell called, Dismiss Charges of Witchcraft (Greater). Maybe Merlin should actually do some investigative snooping instead of looking for a quick fix.

During questioning Gaius slightly incriminates Morgana when he talks of the treatment he's offered to the royal court. Charles Dance questions Morgana briefly, allowing her to have a few lines in the episode. Very gracious of the writers, that.

Charles Dance then convinces Gaius that he should confess to witchcraft to save Merlin and Morgana from being burned at the stake. Gaius is a gullible fool and makes a confession before the court and is sentenced to burn to death. Oh well, it shows Gaius is all lovable and noble and shit, yeah?

Charles Dance later rubs it in by saying that he's going to burn Merlin and Morgana soon anyway. MWAHAHAHA!

Gaius and Merlin meet in the cell and compare notes, it seems the amulet didn't belong to either of them. Shock. Now Merlin can finally get around to figuring out that Charles Dance is corrupt. Merlin enlists the aid of Gwen because, well she hasn't got anything else to do in this episode.

Here's a picture of the skull inkwell again. METAL.

Merlin breaks into Charles Dance's room and discovers a quantity of belladonna amongst his possessions. Merlin figures out that belladonna is used as make-up and can be used to cause hallucinations, which leads him and Gwen to the only cosmetic shop in Camelot. The make-up salesman folds under the intense whining of Merlin and Gwen and admits that Charles Dance gave him some belladonna eyedrops to sell to the peasant women.

Merlin thinks that he has enough evidence to incriminate Charles Dance and stop the Gaius burning but Gwen points out that they may need something a bit more compelling. Merlin doesn't have any other evidence so he sneaks into Charles Dance's room and uses magic to cheat, he casts a spell on a cupboard and on Charles Dance himself. Quincy never used magic to cheat. I miss Quincy.

Gwen manages to delay the burning of Gaius by totally guilt tripping Arthur about executing her innocent father last season (ooo - continuity, Merlin fans!). The court is hastily reconvened while Merlin presents the belladonna evidence. Uther decides to search Charles Dance's room to find any other signs of cheating and then things go a bit mad.

It seems that Merlin has used a duplication spell on the 'magic' amulet as when the guards open Charles Dance's cupboard, it's full of amulets. Charles Dance is mortified but as he tries to explain a toad comes out of his mouth. Charles Dance then takes Morgana hostage but Merlin somehow manages to cast a spell (without anyone noticing) and heat up Charles' knife, which causes him to stumble backwards out of a window to his doom.

Later on, Uther visits Gaius and basically says, "So, we cool now? About the torture and burning thing? No one got hurt so no harm, no foul, right?"
"Sir, we are NOT cool."

Don't worry though, Merlin and Gaius are still best friends and laugh over the frame job that Merlin put on Charles Dance. The morale of the story is, if someone is cheating you - outcheat them. Hahahaha.

NEXT EPISODE: Arthur's mum. Blah, blah. Someone tries to kill Uther. Again.

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