"When I was born good fairies clustered round my cradle, showering me with wit, beauty, grace, freedom from dandruff, natural piety and other great gifts, but the Wicked Fairy Carabosse (who had not been invited to the party) crept to my side and screamed "Let him be cursed with Inability To Do Little Jobs Around The House", and so it has always been."
-- Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks
But enough frivolity, for tonight marks the return of Serious Telly Business, in the form of the second series of Merlin.
Here are a few thoughts about the awkwardly-named-but-I-guess-it-doesn't-m
- The episode begins with a terrific banging that resounds through the castle, and then we see this:
So, business as usual, hooray! Of course, the scene is actually completely innocent: Arthur's just yelling for Merlin to come and check that he still looks good with his shirt off. (But he's clearly an insecure boy, since he'll be taking his shirt off several times later too, just to be sure.) Anyone fearing that this series would be moving away from the gratuitous slash content has very little to worry about, it would seem.
- Okay, so the plot of this episode is that beneath the castle lies the tomb of a horrid dead sorceror, who keeps his soul in a glowy blue heart, like an evil Care Bear. His tomb is protected with leftover effects from the Indiana Jones movies, including very slooooow-moving arrows which can easily be stopped by Merlin's less-than-speedy tea-tray telekinesis. Meanwhile, a nasty man called Cedric is plotting to worm his way into Arthur's private chamber, and this means engineering a lover's tiff between Merlin and Arthur so that Merlin won't get in the way when Cedric makes a grab for Arthur's
- The jewel-filled tomb is "tighter than the king's coffers", apparently. I shall look forward to that simile turning up in approximately 700 fanfics before the year is out.
- Pehaps the special effects people overheard Arthur saying that hunting in the woods was a huge bore, and gave him a huge boar instead? By the way, has the CGI improved this series, or am I just in a generous mood?
- Uther's "war against sorcery": hee, bit of politics there! Get it? No? We'll keep burning witches until you do.
- Meanwhile, Morgana wakes up sweating in the night, terrified that she's not going to get to do anything this series apart from wake up sweating in the night. Gwen comforts her with the thought that at least they get to have copious girl-on-girl hugging scenes this way.
- I note that no one comments on the fact that Merlin would never have deliberately chosen to take a nap in a pile of horse poo, not even Merlin himself. Perhaps he's so used to being misunderstood that he doesn't even bother explaining things to himself, in case he gets the wrong end of the stick.
- A "clot pole"? A "clot pole"? This will never catch on as an insult, surely. It doesn't sound nearly rude enough.
- Ah, Cedric is possessed by Sigan and becomes Volde-Cedric. I note that his To-Do list for evil sorcerorhood is: a) go to Eddie Eldritch's Dark Wizarding Emporium (or Hot Topic) for some suitably EVIL robes; and b) release the flying gargoyle monkeys! Prioritizing is SO important, isn't it.
- Ha, Gwen and Arthur fall on the ground and have a Jack/Ianto moment. Clearly gargoyles are just as good as pterodactyls for creating gratuitous bursts of sexual tension.
- So the only way to save the day is for Merlin to get what few men have ever been given: i.e. blowback from a dragon. Ooookay.
- That climactic confrontation in full:
SIGAN: Join with me and know what true power is, yadda-di-yadda!
MERLIN: You know, someone said exactly the same thing to me at the end of the last series, and I wasn't tempted. Plus she had much better legs than you.
SIGAN: But Arthur will tremble at your voice! He will kneel at your feet!
MERLIN: But I like it when he's all masterful with me...
- Whuh? That ending was a bit of a cheat, wasn't it? What happened between Merlin snorting up Sigan's vapours and seemingly being possessed, and suddenly everything's fine and Sigan's back inside his novelty heart-shaped paperweight? Did Derren Brown wander in through the mist and switch paperweights off camera? I think we should be told.
- Uther comes on and declares that he's been too soft on these evil sorcerors and has decided to come down really hardcore on magic-users this series (because all the burning and executing last series was too good for them, apparently). Gaius rolls his eyes and hopes that this plot will go somewhere, rather than just being repeated every single week.
- You know, I'm sure the innate slashiness of this show is intimately connected with the massive amount of time the cast spend flat on their backs. How many times did Arthur end up on the floor this week? I lost count: perhaps it would have been easier to count the scenes where he was standing up.
- So, a solid start to the new series, with all the pleasures of seeing a bunch of old friends for the first time in ages. Merlin is still a sweetie; Arthur is still amusingly full of himself and pulls hilarious facial expressions; Gwen is showing a bit more gumption (and quite a lot more cleavage); Morgana still doesn't really have much to do apart from waking up in a tizzy and having lovely hair; Gaius is still sorting out the plot on his own while the young people run around falling over. It's still an undemanding delight.
- Will its charm last for a whole new series, though? Well, the "coming soon" trailer showed jousting (yay!), burnin' of witches (boo!), and Lancelot with slightly disappointing hair (oh noes!). And I for one will be tuning in to see what it all means.
And later this week, new Heroes. I fear my brain may overload on silliness. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen...