Arthur's Bane

Merlin, the best bad show on telly, is back for its fifth series, and I am very happy about it.

A lot of people get frustrated with Merlin, and I can see why. The mixture of gaping plot holes, occasionally questionable writing and truly terrible special effects means that you have to suspend all sophistication when watching it — but I still maintain that, if you can do so, it’s one of the best shows on TV.

At the end of last series, Gwen and Arthur finally got married after four series of will-they-won’t-they (that managed to avoid becoming a cliché because of twists such as Gwen being turned into a deer that Arthur then had to hunt. Yeah. It’s that kind of show). This series sees Gwen acting as a truly queenly Queen, sentencing handmaids to death for treason and plotting for war. Oh, and looking truly awesome in her new royal clothes.

Meanwhile Arthur and his knights are off being knightly, going on quests and getting captured before heroically escaping and freeing all of their fellow slaves. There’s an absurd amount of beefy male toplessness in this episode — I know that half-naked Arthur is a staple of Merlin now, but still.

How about Merlin? He’s still doing his Merlin thing — getting premonitions of Arthur’s doom and trying to sort it out but actually making it worse, getting called Emrys by anyone with even a drop of magical blood in them, hiding his magic from a clearly-by-this-point idiotic Arthur, frowning intensely, the usual. Oh, wait, no, he juggled in Part One. So that was nice.

The supporting characters in this episode are probably what’s most worthy of discussion. Mordred, who according to the dragon is destined to kill Arthur, is now firmly in place as a Knight in Arthur’s court even though he’s all druid-y and stuff. Plus, Mordred and Merlin totally don’t trust each other because of the aforementioned destiny and the fact Merlin tried to kill Mordred when the latter was a boy. That’s going to be an interesting relationship!

Sefa, the maid revealed to be a traitor, was well played and is now perfectly set up to be a good character turned bad — but vengeful towards Gwen rather than Arthur or Merlin. Her father was played to evil but relatable perfection by Liam Cunningham, and it’s almost a shame that he died so early on. But then again, if Sefa is going to turn into a kick-ass baddie his death was necessary...

And really, it’d be nice to have a kick-ass baddie. I’m getting fed up of Morgana. I really hoped that when Mordred stabbed her that’d be it, that’d be the end of her. But no. She’s been killed so many times and always manages to come back. I’m beginning to think she’s immortal.

But she’s so stupid. Why did she not think that the knights, the best warriors in the land, would escape her guards? How the hell has she managed to make a dragon — a bloody dragon — so weak and timid that it looks and acts like an abused puppy in a cheap Halloween costume? And how does she not know that Emrys is Merlin, when every other magical being knows it just by looking at him?

Merlin still has the dodgy effects, gaping plot holes and questionable writing of previous series. But I still love it. And I always will. I live in hope for the episode where Arthur discovers Merlin has magic, but I’m more than happy to sit it out until then. With Sefa and Mordred, and the return of Uther next week, this series has the potential to be brilliant.

Watch previous episodes of Merlin, or just find out more about the series, but going the BBC website.

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