TV Review – BBC’s “Merlin”

While the show does not air on TV any longer, for a long time Merlin was one of BBC’s most popular shows. It tells the tale of Merlin, a young magician. Every episode of show starts with “In a land of myth, and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name… Merlin.” (Boy was changed to man later on) Merlin leaves his hometown and goes to Camelot, where his mother hopes he will be safe. He lives with and works for Gaius, the court physician, who immediately finds out that Merlin has magic. And Gaius knows how dangerous it is. Why? Because in the kingdom of Camelot, magic of any kind has been outlawed by the king, Uther Pendragon. Anyone found practicing it will be killed. So Merlin must do his best to keep his amazing abilities hidden while serving in the king’s court. It doesn’t take long for Merlin to get into trouble however, by insulting Prince Arthur himself. The first episode sets up the relationship between the pair, by the end, Merlin has saved Arthur’s life and is granted the “honor” of becoming Arthur’s manservant. Of course, neither one is happy with the arrangement. Over the next 5 seasons of the show, Merlin saves Arthur’s life more times than I can count, forges new friendships, and becomes the greatest sorcerer the world has ever known, while getting into a few scrapes along the way.

For starters, I will review the content. Language is at a minimum. The worst I ever heard was the “a” word, and it was used rarely. So that was good. Sexual content was also low, with the worst being some kissing and such. There was one weird episode with a troll… But that would be a spoiler. I think the only things I can recall in terms of sexual stuff is that in the season 3 episode, Castle of Fyrien, we do get a glimpse of a man’s backside. Fortunately, it only lasts for a second, and I knew it was coming so I was able to look away. The other is in season 4 episode, Servant of Two Masters, where Arthur walks from behind a screen quite naked. Thankfully he is adequately covered, but the scene is awkward nonetheless (though I did laugh pretty hard at one particular aspect of the scene). Violence is pretty mild all things considered. Most of it is implied. People are wounded, but we rarely see the wound, just a bit of blood. Battle scenes are very intense, with some pretty dark stuff in there. And the show has some scary moments. Skeletons walking around, screaming ghosts, serpents, and Gwaine crunching an apple. (That last one was sarcasm)

The storyline was an excellent one! Each episode brings something new, as does each season. The changes in Merlin and Arthur’s relationship were pretty neat to watch over the seasons, and I loved the romantic storyline of Arthur and Guinevere(better known as Gwen). I think my one complaint about the story was that there were some unresolved plot points by the end of the series, like how does Gaius have magic, did Arthur ever find out about the bracelet Gwen was enchanted with when she “fell in love” with Lancelot, what happened to Percival, and what exactly happened to Merlin? I did hear that there was a movie in the works at one point, so they might have left the questions unanswered on purpose. Obviously, the plot is not accurate to all the legends, but I think that makes it a lot more fun.

Now for my favorite part: the characters. I can only think of a handful of shows where I have come to love the characters as much as I did in Merlin. In fact, there are only 4 or 5 out of the many shows I have seen. Merlin is a great character, lovable and kind hearted. He serves Arthur, even when Arthur treats him like a jerk, and never asks to be thanked for it. (weeeell maybe once or twice) The development of his character was excellent, and I loved seeing him learn to use his magic. 🙂 Though sometimes he would do something stupid and I wanted to throw a shoe at his head. Arthur was also a great character, despite his flaws. When we first meet Arthur, he seems to be a selfish bully. And in some ways, he is. But he changes, and it is obvious that he has depths of kindness that no one can see at first. He often disagrees with Uther’s harsh ways, and sometimes goes against him in order to do the right thing. And despite the fact that he calls Merlin an idiot and is constantly picking on him, Arthur sees Merlin as a true friend, and treats him well. Guinevere is definitely one of my favorites. Unlike the legend, in which she falls in love with Lancelot, in the show Gwen falls for Arthur. There are many obstacles to their relationship however, chief being that Gwen is a servant, and Uther frowns upon Arthur’s relationship with her. But in the end, Gwen and Arthur show that true love can overcome all. They have rocky places in their relationship, but their love remains steadfast and true. Morgana’s character broke my heart. At the beginning of the show, she is a gentle, kindhearted woman who hates to see the pain of others, often going against Uther, of whom she is the ward and secretly daughter, to stand up for those who need help. But when she discovers that she has magic, everything changes. Morgana knows that Uther will never accept her if he finds out, so she turns to evil magicians who teach her to use her power for evil. One of these is Morgause, who is Morgana’s sister (somehow, another unanswered question). By the end of the show, Morgana has attempted to destroy Camelot numerous times, killed thousands of innocents, and dies at the hand of Merlin.

Uther was definitely a cruel king, and I never liked him. He was so dead set against magic of any kind that he killed those who would use it to save his life. By the time he died, I felt only a little pity for him. Mordred was another character whom I never liked. He first appears as a young boy whom Uther wants to kill because he is a Druid. Merlin, Arthur, and Morgana, knowing that the Druids are a peaceful people, help Mordred escape. But Merlin is warned by the Great Dragon that Mordred will be Arthur’s doom. He appears later for a second time, when Morgana seeks out the Druids for help. He does not appear for several more years, until he saves the lives of Arthur and Merlin. Now a man, Mordred is made a knight of Camelot, and serves faithfully. But he turns against Arthur when the woman he loves dies at Arthur’s hand. He goes to Morgana and fights with her, and later dies, but not before he stabs Arthur with a sword forged in a dragon’s breath, sealing Arthur’s fate.

Other honorable mentions are the Knights. Leon, who seems to be immortal (he survives literally EVERYTHING) is a faithful friend to Arthur and Gwen, even helping Gwen when she is crowned queen. Lancelot is a brave and true knight who dies to save the lives of Arthur and Merlin, but later causes some trouble. Elyan is Gwen’s brother, who is saved by Arthur from the clutches of an evil king named Cenred, and is later made a knight. Sadly, he dies saving Gwen’s life. Percival is a tall, quiet man, who joins Arthur when he comes with Lancelot. It is not known what happened to him. And last but not least, my personal favorite, Gwaine! 🙂 Gwaine first appears to save Arthur and Merlin when they are accosted by some bullies in a tavern. His troublemaker’s lifestyle gets him in trouble, and he is banished from Camelot after saving Merlin’s life, even though he did nothing wrong. He later comes back to help Merlin rescue Arthur from the realm of the Fisher King, where Arthur is on a quest. They part ways again, but meets Arther and Merlin again when they are all three held in the dungeons of a slave trader. After escaping the dungeons and retrieving, then losing, a valuable artifact called the Cup of Life, Gwaine stays with Merlin and Arthur when they see that Camelot has been taken. Gwaine is later made a knight, and serves Arthur faithfully. The character also serves as some great comic relief! 🙂 Gwaine met his end when he and Percival attempted to kill Morgana in the final episode. Morgana captures them both, and tortures Gwaine past the point of human tolerance, his screams giving Percival the strength to break free from his bonds. Sadly Percival was too late, and Gwaine died in a tear inducing scene. (I was literally sobbing into a pillow at that point in the episode). And I will admit, I may have had a teensy crush on Gwaine… But how could I not? 😛

Overall, I give Merlin 4 and 1/2 stars out of five, the half taken off for the small amount of content. I would recommend the show for preteens and teens. Now I know one thing some people who know me will ask: What about the magic? Well, when I was younger, anything other than Lord of the Rings and Narnia that had magic, I refused to watch. Now that I am older, I have discovered it is not so much the use of magic itself, but the way it is portrayed. If I feel a strong conviction that the magic is not right, then I will stop. With Merlin however, it was very similar to Once Upon a Time. Merlin is often warned about the price of magic, and is counseled not to use it lightly. And magic used for any reason other than to save lives is shown to be evil. It is, of course, for the individual to decide, but I had no issues! One warning though, the final episode is HEARTBREAKING. I was, as I said, sobbing as I watched it. So if you get easily emotional over fictional characters, you will want to have a box of tissues handy.

Oh, and the ladies will probably like the abundance of charming, chivalrous, honorable, and handsome men in the show! (Making me long for knights in shining armor and chivalry to make a comeback).

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Magic in the Media – What’s a Christian to Do? | Thoughts From a Nerdy Girl

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