The Magic of “Merlin” was not quite magical

merlin

Colin Morgan as "Merlin" - Image courtesy of NBC.com

Yesterday, June 21, 2009, was the series premiere of “Merlin” on NBC and I have to say…I wasn’t quite impressed. The trailers and clips made the show seem “magical” so I was a bit underwhelmed after watching the premiere. Coupled with the premiere of “Merlin” was the promise of showing an exclusive clip of the upcoming movie, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”. Unfortunately, this was not exactly a “new” clip – it was just an extended clip of a scene from the movie’s many trailers that was shown at the MTV Movie awards recently. The scene is the memory of Dumbledore’s first meeting with the young Tom Riddle for which he wants Harry to see. For those who missed the clip; it can be seen here.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD**

“Merlin” begins with young Merlin (Colin Morgan) arriving in Camelot. There he seeks Gaius (Richard Wilson), the court’s physician, and Gaius takes Merlin in and acts as his mentor/guardian. King Uther (Anthony Head) has banned magic in Camelot and anyone who exhibits magic will be executed. Merlin tries to keep his magic under wraps but is so tempted to use his magic when he encounters Prince Arthur (Bradley James) for the first time. Needless to say, the encounter was not that pleasant and they get into a little spat. Unaware that Arthur was the crowned prince, after their encounter, Merlin is thrown in jail. While in jail, Merlin hears a voice which we later discover is a talking dragon (voiced by John Hurt) that lives beneath the castle. The dragon reveals to Merlin his true destiny. It is Merlin’s destiny to help and protect Prince Arthur, as there were many enemies to come that would like to see Arthur not assume the crown for it is he (Arthur), who would unite the Kingdom with the world (so to speak) in the future. Merlin finds this news to be laughable as he and Arthur did not exactly get off on the right foot (plus he thought Arthur was an imbecile), but Merlin soon discovers that Arthus indeed has enemies and starts to believe that his destiny is intertwined with Arthur’s.

The “Merlin” premiere was not actually bad, but it wasn’t exactly great either. The costumes and scenary were detailed, and some of the special effects were big for a TV series premiere. It makes me wonder if NBC will continue to produce expensive special effects throughout the course of the show (i.e. CGI talking dragon). The show is like “Merlin” meets High School, without the classroom. I like the concept that Merlin knows how to use his magic but yet he still has much to learn. Merlin is the new kid on the scene and Arthur is the popular jock/bully type who picks on Merlin. After Merlin’s encounter with Arthur, we meet Gwen (Angel Coulby) who shows compassion toward Merlin. Gwen is not a member of the court yet, in fact, she is Morgana’s handmaiden. Morgana’s (Katie McGrath) role is the popular girl whom everybody wants to be with or at least in her presence. I found it funny that McGrath’s Coulby’s character hates Arthur when in fact she will become Arthur’s wife in the future. Typical teenage drama, girl hates boy, boy hates girl, girl and boy fall in love later. I also liked the fact that Morgana’s character hasn’t discovered her own powers yet, but we begin to see signs of what is to come. For those not familiar with Arthurian legend, Morgana is a sorceress who is Arthur’s sworn enemy. Speaking of Arthurian legends, Meg Cabot (author of the Princess Diaries) wrote a book called “Avalon High” which is an interesing twist on the story of Arthur. Imagine the characters of Arthur were real and they all went to the same High School. Will legends still hold true, or can they be altered? If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it. It is really cute and when you think you figured it out, there is a twist that will definitely catch you by surprise.

What worked?
Like I mentioned before, the costumes, scenary, and special effects were done quite well for the small screen. The slight character changes were an interesting twist which opens a lot of possibilities for character development and different storylines.

What didn’t work?
The premiere was split into two parts that lacked continuity. Perhaps it’s just me, but I felt like there was a scene missing that would’ve transitioned the first and second part a little better. There is a line said during the show – “many enemies lie ahead” which indicated what the show format may be like. Both the first and second part of the premiere, there are different characters that want to kill Arthur. If the show follows this pattern (where every episode there is someone who wants to kill Arthur), I feel like the show may become predicatable and boring.

Final Thoughts
Being that this is only the first episode, I am optimistic that the show will improve. There are some parts that worked and some that didn’t, but all in all, it was ok. Not stellar, but not bad either. To see both parts of the series premiere of “Merlin” – watch it online at NBC.com or Hulu.com.

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5 Comments

Filed under Books, TV

5 responses to “The Magic of “Merlin” was not quite magical

  1. danielle

    I found it funny that McGrath’s character hates Arthur when in fact she will become Arthur’s wife in the future.

    Hu? In every version of the Arthurian legend that I have read, Guinevere (Gwen) becomes Arthur’s wife, not Morgana.

    • MKC

      You are absolutely right, Danielle! A bit of a typo on my part. I meant to say “Coulby’s character”, but I accidentally wrote “McGrath”. My post has been updated to reflect as such. Thanks for the catch! 😉

  2. Penny-Anna

    You should know that the two episodes weren’t intended to be one story. In the UK, the pilot was The Dragon’s Call, and Valiant was broadcast a week later. Hence there’s no ‘connecting scene’. They are two distinct episodes.
    And also, I should hope you’d be pleased to hear that the ‘someone tries to kill Arthur, Merlin saves him’ formula gets broken up very quickly. There’s only one other episode which follows it that I can think of.

  3. Ary

    I didn’t really see ‘girl hates boy, boy hates girl’ teenage drama going on between Arthur and Gwen, and I’ve watched the whole season. Romance is far from being the focus of the series and remains quietly in the background (in a distinctly non-soap opera fashion).

    To echo Penny-Anna’s words: don’t worry, the series quickly breaks away from the pattern of Merlin saving Arthur. It’s gets better.

  4. Did it improve for you?

    We like the show. Despite the fact that they could not match season one, it is still fun (usually – if you do not count troll episodes) to watch.

    Here is our take on Merlin season two with lots of pics and a little wit if you are interested:

    http://fortresstakes.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/merlin-2009-bbc-season-2-13-episodes/

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