Published On: Mon, Oct 8th, 2012

Merlin: episode 1 – review

Merlin is a B.B.C drama series loosely based on Arthurian legend, which is currently its fifth series. The producers have modernised the myth, presenting viewers with a young Merlin (Colin Morgan) and an oblivious King Arthur (Bradley James).  Returning in October for the Halloween season and comprised of 13 episodes, Merlin has taken over the B.B.C One prime time Saturday slot from Doctor Who until the festive period.

The B.B.C has been promoting the series with enticing trailers, using Muse’s resounding rock single Knights of Cydonia to tempt viewers. Indeed, the first episode has not disappointed in terms of action and drama. In many cases with a B.B.C series, the downfall of the series is the quality of the special effects, but Merlin is exceptional in that the CGI and set are impressively realistic. The acting is convincing and the chemistry between Merlin and Arthur is both endearing and amusing.

As a series Merlin definitely offers something for every member of the audience; there is Morgana (Katie McGrath) an Ice Queen character, who is both sensual and evil; Arthur is the typical muscled hero; whilst Merlin is the sexy but nerdy intellect; the CGI dragon (voiced by John Hurt) is an insightful, exciting, novelty probably more targeted at the younger audience and, of course, battle scenes for the thrill seekers. Merlin is keeping his magic a secret from Arthur and the rest of Camelot which is interesting. So far Merlin is funny, serious and action packed.

Now that Arthur is king of Camelot (after the death of his father in the previous series) the plot is more convincingly like the Arthurian myth which is so well known. The episode starts with the introduction of the round table, further reinforcing the idea that Arthur is now the Arthur Pendragon of collective imaginations.

Merlin encounters ill-omened prophecies, which encourage the viewer to continue watching. Merlin and Arthur have a few moments together which are enjoyable to watch; it is charming to see each man protecting the other while believing himself the stronger man. The particularly Narnia-style beginning with Morgana and her wolf drawn sleigh is both beautiful and bizarre.

The two mysterious plotlines show the audience there is more excitement and intrigue to come further into the series. The only dull character is the somewhat confusing Queen Guinevere or Gwen (Angel Coulby), whose decisions seemed to be based on nothing at all. She spends the episode sulking and pining because Arthur is away.  The episode ends on a cliff-hanger, encouraging us to stay tuned for more Merlin exhilaration.

Overall the episode has excelled all expectation; there is more action and better special effects than previous series. The acting is good and the script is entertaining. There is so much going on that the audience is constantly intrigued. Anyone who has never watched Merlin could easily follow the storyline starting with this episode. The only negative of the episode is the sparkly clean effect which comes with the sanitised look of the characters and the lack of realistic violence, which would be expected in an authentic medieval TV series. However, this couldn’t really be shown on prime time television and would be something perhaps more suited to a late night Channel 4 series.

You can watch the next episode on Saturday 13th October at 8.25pm or catch up here.

Image from B.B.C website.

About the Author

- Vicki is a classics student in her final year at UoL. When she's not sitting in front of a screen she's running in Sefton Park or shopping in the city centre! She loves films of all kinds and drama TV series. Originally from south of London she is also interested in travel and food.