Sunday, April 10, 2011

Merlin - Season 3

In a way it's amazing how consistently Merlin manages to squander any potential it has to be an exciting show. So many good ideas wasted by sloppy plotting or overacting in search of comedy or absolutely atrocious computer effects or just not taking things as far as they should go. And most essentially, the central premise is just beyond annoying at this point. If you're doing a hidden identity story where the main character has a secret no one can know, and it's still a secret to your second most important character after three seasons, you're doing it wrong. People finding out shocking things about someone who's been close to them for years? That's good drama. Merlin saving Arthur's ass with magic but covering it up somehow, resulting in Arthur making a snide comment about Merlin's uselessness for the umpteenth time? That's extremely boring.

The whole anti-magic thing just makes for an eternally frustrating series. Interesting ideas could be explored by having something as potentially devastating as magic be outlawed, and having good and bad people on both sides of that line, but all it results in on this show is alternating between stories of Uther punishing innocent people because they use magic and stories of evil people using magic to punish Uther for punishing innocent people because they use magic. Much like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it's hard to enjoy storylines where the main characters try desperately to save an authority figure who is essentially a bad person, and whose death would ultimately push the whole plot forward in an intriguing direction (or in Clone Wars' case, stop the third through sixth movies from happening). There are hints that the fourth season might move away from Uther as the ultimate power in the series, but since I won't be watching it, I don't care about those baby steps.

And with every good thing the show does, you have to take a couple bad things with it. Finally establishing Morgana as a real villain is good. But the way she operates through the entire season is extremely irritating, manipulating events and then overly obviously smiling evilly in front of people when their lives are going horribly, and the whole dynamic where neither she nor Merlin will reveal the truth about the other is one of the most boring and nonsensical stalemates I've ever seen. I don't want to be too hard on the show, because I can see why someone would still like it after everything that's happened. At its heart, it's a simple, family-friendly fantasy adventure with a couple laughs and maybe an interesting idea or two every week. It's just not my kind of series - the plots are simplistic and inconsistent, the characters are static, and there simply hasn't been nearly enough progress in three years to keep my interest. The occasional nods to recognizable Arthurian legend come off as only there to remind people that this is somewhat, loosely, vaguely, occasionally based on it, and it has this weird issue where whoever happens to be taking the lead role in an episode comes off as less interesting than they do in a supporting capacity. I still don't hate it, but I've definitely had enough of Merlin and Arthur's faces at this point to safely call it quits without losing any sleep.

No comments: