Merlin (Ep 5)

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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

Basic Plot Summary: Lancelot – Merlin is attacked by a Gryphon, but is saved by a young man called Lancelot who is eager to become a knight of Camelot. Sadly, Camelot’s rules forbids all but noble born from becoming knights. Using magic, Merlin forges a seal of nobility for Lancelot and he passes the tests. The deception is discovered and despite Arthur’s pleadings, Lancelot is jailed. The Gryphon attacks Camelot, and Arthur frees Lancelot. Discovering only magic can kill the creature, Merlin aids Lancelot to slay the beast. Lancelot vows never to reveal Merlin’s secret and, rather than be the cause of strife between Uther and Arthur, Lancelot leaves, much to the upset of Gwen.

And so Lancelot arrives at Camelot, throwing yet more legend out of joint. I do wish the writers would stop messing with a beautifully complex legend but having started, they have obviously decided that nothing is sacred. As there is no romantic spark between Arthur and Gwen (indeed there is more of a spark between Arthur and Morgana and with Gwen and Merlin) the great love triangle that is one of the most enduring parts of the Arthur legend is rendered useless.

The CGI is also extremely ropey this episode. The trick to any good special effect is not to make it look like a special effect. In the case of a fantastical creature like a Gryphon, it is to make it look like it is actually there even though we know it’s not. This requires good directing, good acting and good special effects from the CGI team. So when the Gryphon looks so cheap, and the actors are clearly striking thin air, you know something has gone wrong somewhere in all of this.

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However, if there is a bright spot in this episode, it is Santiago Cabrera’s performance as Lancelot. Leaving all the other young cast to their usual sub-par performance, he adds subtlety and layers to his character and comes off incredibly sympathetically. In fact, of all the characters who appear in Arthurian legend, his performance of Lancelot is the closest yet to that of the legend.

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Episode 6: A Remedy To Cure All Ills airs on BBC One on the 25th October at 17:50.