2.5 Beauty And The Beast (Part 1)
With an episode entitled Beauty And The Beast, the subject matter of this week’s episode is self explanatory with the writers not even bothering with wry, witty or clever titles and saving all their skills for putting together the first episode in the series I have actually enjoyed.
The reason being is that, for the first time since the inception of the show, Merlin fully embraces that it’s a kids’ fantasy show with monsters, silly stories and daft characters.
Chock full of thinly disguised fart gags, gross creatures and wobbly drool-covered special effects, the episode is in some ways a nod to the Slitheen episodes of Doctor Who, containing all the things that kids like and, as such, works a lot better than the usual plots that take themselves too seriously.
With a spin on the original concept of Beauty And The Beast, (only without talking teapots and candlesticks) the plot focuses on a hideous Troll, played perfectly by Sarah Parish who once again is happy to sit in the prosthetic chair for her art after her performance as the Empress of the Racnoss in Doctor Who which disguises itself as the beautiful Lady Catrina with the intention to woo Uther.
And, well, plot-wise that’s it. Pretty basic stuff, really, but then there doesn’t need to be anything else; it’s a simple premise that works within the usual Merlin framework of the ‘more stupid characters don’t believe Merlin or Gaius and then are proved wrong’. But this time revealing the bad guy is a little trickier than usual.
With Lady Catrina and her manservant Jonas getting their feet under the round table of Camelot’s court, both Merlin and Gaius suspect straight away that things are wrong. However, with the help of a beauty potion and an enchanted pendan, the Troll/Catrina completely captivates Uther and, even when Uther states that the two of them are to wed Merlin, is incapable of stopping them. It’s all sort of like Shrek only with thinner and less well acted characters.
Unlike other episodes, Merlin’s magic doesn’t prevail. The usual yellow eye glow and wiggly finger routine is all but useless and having a bad guy that can match him in magic who cannot be defeated in one episode is really something we haven’t seen before.
We even get a bit of double-crossing with a plan that, for the dullards of Camelot is probably the best ‘cunning plan’ ever devised, which is a relief as we have had such basic plotlines over the past few weeks having a character or two with a bit of guile and depth to them is a relief.
With Camelot in trouble, Merlin not being able to counteract the powerful magic and, potentially, the most charismatic and best played character in the show so far (even though they are evil and look like me in the morning) ready to take the throne, we are left with a cliff-hanger and ‘to be continued final’e for next week.
While the episode does not really warrant two parts (that’s one and a half hours worth of TV focusing on a rubbish eating Troll bad guy) it will be worth tuning in to see where they go with this episode and what Maguffin Merlin will use to reveal Lady Catrina’s true form.
Overall, better than usual and actually quite good fun, a new story format and Sarah Parish’s character acting really make this episode.
Read our review of episode 4 here.