Merlin (Ep 4)

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‘Merlin‘ is a 13-part series produced for BBC One by Shine Limited. It focuses on the teenage years of the wizard Merlin from Arthurian legend. The series was conceived by Julian Murphy and Johnny Caps; the creative minds behind Sky One show Hex.

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  • Colin Morgan as Merlin
  • Bradley James as Prince Arthur
  • Richard Wilson as Gaius
  • Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon
  • Angel Coulby as Guinevere (Gwen)
  • Katie McGrath as Morgana
  • John Hurt as The Great Dragon
  • Michelle Ryan as Nimueh

Brief Plot Summary: The Poisoned Chalice – As the kingdoms of Camelot and Mercia sign a peace treaty ending years of strife between them, Nimueh uses her powers to poison Merlin, setting the kingdoms at odds. Arthur risks his life, and his father’s retribution, to find the cure to the poison. In doing so ensuring the peace treaty is adhered to and the two kingdoms remain at peace.

There is a fundamental problem at the heart of this episode, which really does take all the fun out of it. We know Merlin isn’t going to die, and we know neither is Arthur. Because of this, a storyline that places both in supposed mortal peril simply has no tension, as we know both will survive. Tension comes from the possibility of failure, where they may very well die. When you know they won’t, then the tension the episode strives for is lost.

As for the performances, the old guard wipe the floor with the competition. The younger cast cannot compete with Head or Wilson and Michelle Ryan, whilst undeniably beautiful and talented, is reduced to being the pantomime villain. Great to hiss and boo at, but not really one to inspire awe and dread as befits the legend of Nimueh that the show is trying to build up.

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“No, really. I AM the bad guy.”

In the end the episode is just running on empty. Shallow characterisation, weak acting (other than Head and Wilson, who are merely adequate), linear plot progression and all too predictable twists and turns. For the
supposed scale of the project, it is a project with little in the way of genuine ambition, and that is criminal. What could have been an epoch making show is reduced to average fare, to the detriment of the viewers who happily feast on the bread and water it provides, but would crave a more substantial meal if given the chance.

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Episode 5: Lancelot airs on BBC One on the18th October at 17:55.