2.6 Beauty And The Beast (Part 2)
After last week’s episode that, for the first time since the series started, actually had me enjoying Merlin, it once again delivers on the fun. While this is the first attempt at a two part episode it could be said that the story was drawn out and a little thin on the ground to warrant a two part story. But all is forgiven courtesy of the superb work put in by Sarah Parish whose repugnant Lady Catrina Troll, whose laugh-out-loud lines and mannerisms made what could have been another contrived and basic story into a really great enjoyable episode.
With the cliffhanger from last week focusing on Uther and Lady Catrina finally betrothed and happily married, Merlin and Gaius are at a loss as to prove to Arthur that the new love of his father’s life is, indeed, a troll. And, with strong magic at play in the liquid form of a shape-changing potion and an amulet used by Catrina to confuse Uther’s mind, their job of finally showing Catrina for what she really is proves to be a whole lot more difficult.
With Catrina poisoning Uther’s mind, suggesting higher taxes and gold to fill the coffers, Arthur, too, becomes suspicious of Catrina’s motives and when Uther even goes as far as to change the linage of succession, cutting Arthur out of the line to the throne, he, too, begins to see there is something wrong.
It would have been easy to have just written the story like that, with Arthur finally finding out Catrina was a troll, a bit of fighting ensuing and a finale. However, instead of going the lazy route, which is what has happened in so many episodes in this series, the writers have some fun.
So they have Merlin expose Catrina within the first few minutes of the episode, replacing her transformation potion with a substitute that finally show her true form. The episode has Catrina ripping off doors, sitting on a round table meeting in a pile of dung and, even worse, having a very dubious romantic scene with Uther while everyone in court is able to see her. Uther, still trapped by the amulet and still besotted with her, even goes as far as to promise to cut off courtesans’ heads if anything is said about his new bride.
There is, of course, the obligatory need for assistance from the great Dragon and the usual mystical thing that Merlin needs to do to break the spell, but the generic and mildly dull clichéd ending doesn’t take away from the sight of seeing Anthony Stewart Head in a romantic embrace with a swill-covered monster that has, by far, got to be the best scene of the entire series, as everyone plays things so straight. And while the farts and burps carry on around him, Mr Head does a fantastic job of keeping a straight face in what looks like a really fun scene.
Add to this final revelation that his bride was a troll, plus his conversation with Arthur at the end of the episode when his son wryly asks questions about what was done in the marital bedroom, and we have a real winner of an episode.
And this, it seems, is what makes these past two episodes actually work. They have a sense of fun with the script, crew and, indeed, actors actually having a good time with the work they have been given.
In an episode where the monster is a drooling bag of wind, the situation ludicrous and the entire thing played for humour, the show finally clicks into place and it all works, as a fantasy show that is aimed for kids actually doing what it is supposed to do. It finally shows that Merlin as a show is supposed to be entertaining.
While I’m sure that the rest of the series will live up to the fun heights of this cracking two part episode, we can look forward to Charles Dance next week a Matthew Hopkins- like medieval Witchfinder General.
Read our review of episode 5 here.