Red Scharlach (redscharlach) wrote,
Red Scharlach

Throw off your mental Banes

It's that time of year, folks. Time to oil your manservant, practise your Convenient Bouts of Unconsciousness and use your anachronistic Wonderbra to hoist your bosoms up around your ears, because Merlin's back for a new series!

Arthur, Gwen and an anachronistic laptop

This week, we begin with what may be a spurious Camelot remake of The Dark Knight Returns. Apparently Merlin's Batman, Morgana's Catwoman, and Arthur's Bane (Part 1):

  • Ladies and gentlemen, Arthur has convened a meeting of the Round Table to explain this week's most important plot points to the viewing public, and they are as follows:

    1. We actually HAVE a Round Table in the castle now. Nice, innit?

    2. We have spent most of this year's costume budget on new frocks for Gwen, because she is the queen now. The rest of you are just going to have to go shirtless when your chainmail's in the wash. It'll be tough on the viewers but I'm sure they can handle it.

    3. The Lovely Gwaine, Percival and a flailing bunch of redcloaks have got lost in the snow. We need to go and rescue them before they get stuck in a low-budget remake of that film where Liam Neeson wrestles a wolf. Whoops, too late, they already are.

  • Meanwhile, there have been several changes in Morgana's life. Firstly, she's got herself a pimpin' new ride, in the form of a sleigh pulled by wolves. (Note: do NOT tell her that it makes her look like Santa's Evil Little Helper, even though it does.) Secondly, she's got a classy new henchman who can deliver expositiony bits with conviction, rather than the pantomime gurning that Agravaine often brought to proceedings. And thirdly, she's moved out of her hovel into a broodingly Freudian tower. Admittedly, it looks a bit cold and minimalist on the inside, but it has underfloor heating provided by a horde of shirtless men swinging their massive tools. Yep, it's GOT to be hot in there.

  • The rest of the Camelot costume budget was either spent on a new wig for Gaius, or some VERY dodgy hair-straighteners for his old one. Either way, he gets very little to do this week, other than scowl darkly from beneath its badly conditioned locks. Better luck next week, old chap.

  • Look everyone, Gwen's had an idea: the rescue party should travel via Queen Lindsay Duncan's lands. After all, she brought a bit of class to the last series, and this show could do with a second woman who actually has the faintest idea what she's doing. (Watch and learn, Morgana.)

  • Under Morgana's floor, Gwaine and Percival and their non-speaking crowd of shirtless chums are looking for a key, apparently. I'm glad they told us this, because it could easily be mistaken for Percival pulling hilarious sexfaces while yanking at a big stick, while Gwaine auditions for the All-Albion Hair-Swishing Olympics.

  • While the rest of the rescue team are playing tickle-the-dead-peasant, Merlin wanders into a cave and meets a druid seer with some important FORESHADOWING (TM) for him. The prophets speak of Arthur's Bane! It stalks him like a ghost in the night! (Actually, if it's something that's always right behind him, are you sure they didn't say Arthur's Bum?)

  • Anyway, the druid conveniently dies next to a puddle of YouTubium, a magical liquid that shows carefully selected teaser clips from the future. Before Merlin can yell "NO SPOILERS!", he's watching Arthur meet Mordred on a big fiery battlefield and get nastily stabbed! Oh noes! Teary-eyed Merlin runs off to yell for the Slash Dragon to explain the prophecy to him. "Seems legit," says the Dragon, "But you're the bloody wizard, you sort it out. Some kind of bromantic road trip, that usually works."

  • Gwen is so upset about being left at home with nothing to do that she can't eat her anachronistic tomatoes, but perks up at the chance for a bit of girlie bonding with her new maidservant. Unfortunately, Sefa the maid is secretly the daughter of Morgana's new henchbloke and she's desperate to scurry outside to tell her dad this week's plot, so she can't really commit herself to chatting about boys OR Gwen's valiant attempt at femmeslashy handholding.

  • At a much better dinner party, Queen Annis is keen to get Merlin to entertain the troops. For a moment, I feared he might be going to attempt a striptease, or possibly a heartfelt karaoke rendition of My Heart Will Go On. Instead, he opts for a little magic-enhanced juggling. Camelot may not have Got Talent, but Merlin's certainly got the Eggs Factor. (And in case you were wondering, Colin Morgan was really juggling. Bless.)

  • Oh no, it's time for a slow-motion ambush in the woods! You'd think it would give them extra time to get away, but nope. Instead, Arthur gets a thwack on the head and wakes up flat on his back with Merlin staring down at him. "What happened?" he groans, rolling his eyes as if this is a brand new experience for them both, when we all know it's not. Merlin just wanted to get you away from the battlefield for some quality man-on-man time, Arthur.

  • Elsewhere, Gwaine and Percival demonstrate a much more adventurous way to wake up flat on your back, i.e. side by side, in a cave full of loads of other half-naked snoozing men. This is surely what the Radio Times preview referred to as "hilariously gratuitous bare-chestedness". I was loudly cackling whenever the camera lovingly panned over them both as if they were particularly picturesque bits of landscape. Still, Gwaine spots a glowy thing down a tunnel and decides to go plunging into it, because this show hasn't yet reached its weekly quota of spurious Freudian symbolism.

    The Merlin Guide to Posing for the Paparazzi

  • Meanwhile, Merlin and Arthur are nobly plodding on with their two-man rescue exhibition, deep into Bromance territory, complete with desperate confessions, oaths of loyalty and awkward snuggling in the night, with a side order of dead bunny rabbits. Aww.

  • So where are Leon and the rest? They've gone home to Camelot, where Gwen uses her amazing powers of deduction to work out that there's a traitor in the castle. Since all the cast regulars can be eliminated from enquiries, it must therefore be the only other person with a speaking part! Bad luck, Sefa. Seems like they've raised the subtlety bar for betrayal since Agravaine's reign of elephant-in-the-room villainy came to a sticky end.

  • Oh dear, Gwen gets all hardcore and sentences Sefa to death! Elyan and Gaius give each other the side-eye and file the incident under Unexpectedly Right-Wing Royal Policies That Will Probably Get Reversed Next Week In A Fit Of Remembering That This Is Pretty Much What Happened To Your Dad.

  • In probably the most dodgy development of the day, Gwaine gets fondled by a glowy Conehead alien from Planet WTF. I'm guessing that this is probably the magical "key" that Morgana's hunting for, but frankly, it looked more like something that had got lost on the way to the set of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

  • So who's this striding through the woods, rescuing Arthur and Merlin from some beardy henchpersons? Yes, it's Mordred and he's brought his own ominous background music! Of course, the previous mini-Mordred has wandered off to become an international film star, but never mind. The various time jumps mean that we can now get a grown-up hottie as Mordred instead, and nobody will stop to question exactly how many years have passed because they'll be too busy watching him working the black-suede-and-wolf's-fur look that all the evil hipsters will be wearing this season.

  • Mordred says "Hello Arthur" and Merlin gives him a Hard Stare (TM). Nobody rampantly says hello to his boyfriend and gets away with it, destiny or no destiny. But that clanging noise you hear is the Cloister Bell of Arthurian Fate (TM), and Arthur, it clangs for thee!

  • In conclusion: Thirty-seven flavours of scenery, a wide range of scowling extras, dead furry things a go-go, and everything but the kitchen sink: Merlin's back in style and is laying down a spectacular manifesto of Oncoming Arthurian Doominess for the rest of the season. That's all well and good, but they also find time for male bonding, Bradley James's fabulous facial expressions, and a startling range of eye candy to please almost everyone. A great start, so let's hope this is how they mean to go on...

  • NEXT WEEK: Ice, fire, swords, nipples. All the good things in life. Hurrah!
Tags: merlin
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