Season two continues BBC’s all-ages reinterpretation of the Arthurian legends. Old threats return, new ones are introduced, and some major changes happen in a show that continues to entertain even though it’s not my preferred take on the legend.
A new foe arises in the character Morgause—a sorcerer knight with mysterious ties to both Arthur and Morgana. Intent on destroying everything that Uther has built, Morgause unleashes frightening magicks upon Camelot, backing Merlin into a corner and forcing him to make a possibly disastrous decision in order to save his friends.
The main theme of this season seems to be the revelation of secrets. Morgana learns more about her past and her magical inheritance thanks to Mordred and the Druids, driving the final wedge between her and Uther. And both Arthur and Merlin discover the secrets of their respective parentage.
Which isn’t to say that this is all heavy drama. There are quite a few silly, whimsical episodes that break the tension: in particular the two-part “Beauty and the Beast” where Uther is tricked into marrying a troll, and “Sweet Dreams” where Arthur and a visiting princess fall victim to a love spell. Surprisingly, those episodes were my favorites from this season because they were just the right mix of silliness and light comedy. “Beauty and the Beast” in fact, were particularly good because of the physical comedy of Sarah Parish as Lady Catrina. Her mannerisms when she turns into a troll are wonderfully exaggerated like the best silent movie stars of old.
On the more serious side, one of my other favorite episodes was “The Witchfinder” where Uther hires a witch hunter to stamp out the last vestiges of magic in his kingdom. The episode centers mainly on Gaius—who happens to be my favorite character in the series—and he really gets put through the wringer, giving him the chance to show once more that he’s the noblest, smartest, and bravest man in Camelot.
As I’ve mentioned before in my review of season one, Merlin isn’t my preferred take on the Arthurian legend (My favorite adaptation is still Excalibur if that tells you anything). By focusing on the main characters as teenagers, it has a whole Smallville or Dawson’s Creek vibe that really doesn’t appeal to me, but I’m also not the target audience, so that’s all right. Merlin is intended primarily for teens, and taken in that vein, it’s quite a good show. It’s a series that children and their parents can enjoy together, and honestly the writing, acting, and directing are good enough to win over even viewers like myself who want something a bit different from our King Arthur stories.
“The Curse of Cornelius Sigan”
“The Once and Future Queen”
“The Nightmare Begins”
“Lancelot and Guinevere”
“Beauty and the Beast”
“Beauty and the Beast II”
“The Sins of the Father”
“The Lady of the Lake”
“The Witch’s Quickening”
“The Fires of Idirsholas”
“The Last Dragonlord”
Each episode is presented Fullscreen in 16×9 aspect ratio with the audio in Dolby Digital Stereo. In terms of quality, the show looks and sounds fine with no discernable problems.
The special features here are your standard fair with nothing really standing out as particularly worth watching unless you’re into DVD extras. If you are a fan of extras, though, there is quite a bit here to watch. I did like the fact that the words the show uses for spells are taken from Old English. To me that’s a nice touch that links the story to its cultural past.
Cast and Crew Introduction to Season Two
Cast and Crew Audio Commentaries
Behind the Scenes
The Making of Merlin
I think I would enjoy Merlin more if I had kids. I’m at the age now where the follies and concerns of teens are far more annoying than sympathetic. That said, this is still a fun show with lots of action, sword fights, and magic to please a fantasy fan like myself. Recommended.
BBC presents The Adventures of Merlin (The Complete Second Season). Directed by: David Moore, Jeremy Webb, Metin Huseyin, and Alice Troughton. Starring: Colin Morgan, Angel Coulby, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Anthony Head, Richard Wilson, and John Hurt as The Great Dragon. Written by: Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Howard Overman, Ben Vanstone, and Lucy Warkins. Running time: 571 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: January 18, 2011.
Tags: BBC, John Hurt, Magic