To cut a long story short, episode two does not improve things where Merlin is concerned.
Why? First of all you know how Doctor Who has ‘cheap’ episodes? You know, the ones like Turn Left or that dire one with Peter Kay in it. Well, it seems Merlin has cut the budget already and gone straight for that episode, the one where they have little or no money spent on. No monsters. No great dragon. Nothing. Not one drop of CG or money is shown on screen and while a stripped down character-driven story could have worked in fleshing out the flimsy wafer thin cast, really this is a wasted opportunity.
The story this week focuses on a tournament in which Arthur wants to compete on an equal setting with the rest of the Knights involved, neither wanting special treatment nor an unfair advantage for being royalty. So, concocting a story about patrolling the outer borders of the kingdom, he sneaks into the tournament, disguises himself and enters as a unknown knight – however, leaving out one important factor: Merlin obviously helping him through the entire tournament.
As Merlin is well known and people know Merlin is Arthur’s servant, the entire endeavour of this elaborate story is meaningless and the entire disguise is as convincing as Bugs Bunny dressed as a woman.
So with a scheme you could drive a bulldozer through, the plot revolves around Arthur learning what it’s like living as a commoner and getting to know Guinevere a little better by using her house as a hide-out (again, really, really obvious). And while the episode could have made for a great piece of interaction between these two main stars of the show, building character and having intimate flirtatious hidden glances and such, the entire thing is acted out in a huge chunky fashion that puts the romance of Padme and Anakin to shame.
Surely it doesn’t take much to write a half decent script and even less to act with a little bit of personality? However, this proves too much and Arthur spends a lot of time with his shirt off again, keeping specific elements of the demographic happy (see Dave Hill’s recent Guardian article) and made me feel like I was losing the will to live as the plotting, script and acting is so basic it’s like watching a bad episode of Thunderbirds. It surprises me that the actors are not full of splinters due to the amount of wooden acting.
With the half-hearted attempt at concealing his identity, Arthur’s feeble disguise is seen through by what I guess was supposedly written for a ninja-like assassin character, with cool skills, a razor sharp mind and cunning that would, in a Shinobi-like way, sneak up and dispose of Arthur. However, the character’s use of cool shadow-like skills was as subtle as Kung Fu Panda, as the assassin uncovers the ‘cunning plan’ by noticing the blooming obvious and just sees Merlin helping out a Knight who has the look, build and exactly the same face as Arthur.
So, either we are to assume that the entire court of Camelot consists of the audience of the Jeremy Kyle Show or the assassin JUST USES HIS EYES to see through this plan? I am not too sure, but really, the writers show that all the skill needed by a medieval hitman is to see through a plan which is as difficult and complex as a GMTV quiz. It’s just insulting to the viewer.
Unless this episode was some sort of competition open to the under 12 viewer-ship of Merlin with the prize being you can write an episode, then the script guys should hold their heads in shame as truly this is so blooming stupid, obvious and trite that the writers of Demons are sniggering at just the basic level that this garbage was written for.
In fact, I am so frustrated and angry even just thinking back to the fact that, after watching this, I will never get that 45 minutes of my life back (I guess I would have wasted it) that I will quickly wrap things up by saying that Arthur sort of learns a lesson, the bad guy gets his just desserts, Guinevere fancies Arthur a bit more and Merlin uses magic on the sly, that’s it.
Dull boring and just badly written, this week’s show actually made me look forward to the beginning of Strictly Come Dancing.
Read our review of episode 1 here.