Listening to an exceptional collection courtesy of Warren Ellis’s The 4am vol 17 compilation while trying to work out what Sergio Leone western movie titles could be retooled for a steampunk Verne theme. So, yes, obviously busy.
Merlin, I wrote somewhere but blowed if I can remember, should expect a call from J K Rowling’s legal team. This was based off what I saw from the trailer and I admit that I may have jumped the gun on that one. For sure Harry Potter was invoked when this series was being pitched to the BBC but it’s not actually Rowling that should seek litigation, rather it’s Alfred Gough and Miles Millar of Smallville acclaim that should lawyer-up.
There is, I’ll wager, a piece of paper that has a table with two columns: One lists the ensemble of Smallville, the other the other the cast of Merlin and there are lines drawn between each as to indicate what role the characters will play in the Smallville Formula. Clark Kent being Merlin, Lex Luthor being Arthur, Luthor’s Dad being Arthur’s Dad, Lana Lang matched with Guenivere… Not sure yet whether Chloe could match with Morgan Le Fay though I think Chloe gets turned to the Dark Side much later in the series so some comparison maybe. At any rate…
Merlin has strange powers that he can’t explain but have always been present, a strong father figure is present to help guide him and also keep his powers secret from the magic-phobic ruler of Camelot, Uther. Merlin saves Arthur’s life, has romantic feelings for Guenivere (she the same) even though we know it won’t end up like that way… Uther manipulates and goads Arthur, while Arthur recognizes that he will one day have to lead as king, and Merlin meets and defeats evil magic users de semaine.
Historical accuracy? Don’t even hope. Aside from the general cleanliness of medieval times beset in most movies/tv shows, we have the invention of glasses and anti-venom. Guenivere is a handmaiden to Morgan Le Fay as well as the Blacksmith’s daughter — which makes marrying Arthur something of a problem especially since the second episode is all about the inequality of nobility and commonfolk. A Goddamn Mongol is allowed to combat in a tournament against actual knights! Merlin starts off with being able to move things with his mind at a whim and after reading a magic book, seems to require invocation to accomplish the same feats– seems like a step back particularly if you’re being clandestine about your powers and apparently you’re naturally gifted enough to not need to speak magic words.
So, why would I keep watching it. Well, suspension of disbelief is pretty strong in that I’ve accepted that magic and dragons exist in this world. And that seems to be what the writers are banking on as well. Anthony Stewart Head does what he does best, which is chewing scenery with gusto as a bad guy (Best performance you’ll find of Tony Head is the guest star on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, YouTube it!). Guenivere, and Morgan are kind of a bit-characters but hoping they’ll come into their own. And John Hurt is being somewhat underused (And the dragon stock footage overused) as the Yoda character dispensing riddle-laden advice about Merlin’s destiny. But it’s John Hurt and that man could read mail and still fill a theatre.
But the main reason I would keep watching it is for Merlin and Arthur. Both actors carry of their roles really bloody well – which they should since they’re in most scenes – but more importantly, the relationship between the two characters is solid. Even, and especially, at this stage where both characters are antagonistic toward each other. Both invest a lot in their respective roles and it shows.
Will keep watching it until it either falls into the ennui that Smallville did for me or until it gets cancelled. Even money on both outcomes.