Servant of Two Masters
Merlin was silly this week, but I like silly. The old “Mind control” trick has been used a couple of times since the start of the show (The one where Arthur was bewitched with a love potion and the troll romancing Uther for example) but the show does it well, so it still manages to work.
It was an interesting take on the theme, having Merlin being bewitched to kill Arthur. It also gave Colin Morgan an opportunity to use his excellent comic and slapstick skills — Merlin obviously can’t actually kill Arthur, so he had to be a spectacularly rubbish assassin. Any and every attempt he made to kill Arthur failed ridiculously, usually in a way that involved much falling over.
Morgan does this very well. He is a quite astonishingly good actor. If you look at the difference in his real-life personality and Merlin’s this becomes clear, but he also manages to tackle anything the Merlin writers throw at his with aplomb. Be a useless servant? Sure. Love scenes with a half-woman half-scary creature? Why not! Scary scenes, funny scenes, scenes as an old man, bromancey scenes, touching scenes, sad scenes, he can do them all. This show wouldn’t be half as good without him.
It was also nice, after last week’s gripe, to see Gwen being herself again. Smirking at naked Arthur, bashing Merlin over the head with a pot, helping Gaius operate on Merlin, these are all things that simpering Gwen of recent episodes would not do. I approve.
But, I still have gripes about the fact that no-one with magic will do anything apart from blast enemies back off their feet. When Merlin/Emrys is cornered by the Knights, he blasts them back off their feet. When Merlin/Emrys is fighting Morgana, he just blasts her back off her feet. Even when he summoned the big whirly thing it only blasted her back off her feet. Fair enough, maybe he doesn't really want to hurt them.
But when Morgana fights back that’s all she does too — twice!. Morgana is evil and hates Emrys, she would have set him on fire or something. Basically, magical duels in Merlin are a bit rubbish. You don’t get this in Harry Potter, it’s all flames and conjuring poisonous snakes from thin air and shoots of light. Basically, I want Merlin to go a bit Harry Potter.
The plot holes and things that generally just don’t make sense are starting to grate slightly, too. Why didn’t Gwen and Gaius just tell Arthur that Merlin had been bewitched? Why didn’t they ask the Knights for help when they ran into him looking for Merlin? Why didn’t Merlin use magic to escape when he was tied up? Why did that pot melt when Merlin poured the dissolvey stuff in it? Why is Gwen still a servant? Arthur would surely have just made her a lady or something. Besides, she’s the sister of a Knight. Surely she’s some sort of nobility, now?
But these are just small gripes. Overall the episodes so far this series have been strong and the show is very enjoyable. Roll on next week.
You can see this episode of Merlin on the iPlayer, or find more about the series on the Merlin section of the BBC website.