Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Merlin - Season 3 Review

UK Airdate: September 11th – December 4th 2010

The third series of the Saturday drama sees Morgana finally making her choice as both Merlin and Arthur seemingly get closer to their respective destinies and Uther’s relationship with Morgana changes forever.

One Year Later: You have to admire this show, don’t you? It can be the epitome at times of adopting a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix’ approach to storytelling while every now and then making some little changes and ending with some big ones that will hopefully pay off in the long run. And that is also the show’s third season in a nutshell too.

Doing a year long time jump has its pros and cons and often, it’s usually the latter that are felt. By skipping a year, it’s like the writers have skipped a vital part of Morgana’s development as a character. The Morgana of old would’ve shown traces of conflict and unease with turning sides but the version we’re left with this series is sadly devoid of those qualities.

It’s almost a shame to see that because not only does it make Morgana too black and white as a villain but it also seems odd that everything she seems to despite with Uther are the very things that she embraces a little too liberally here. From her open hostility with Merlin throughout the season through her various attempts of putting both Arthur and Gwen’s lives in danger, I’m not sure I like this Morgana all that much. Katie McGrath is on fine form though but not only is Morgana too narrow as a villain, she’s also one at times that is rather incompetent too.

The psychological warfare she inflicted Uther too in the opening two parter, “The Tears Of Uther Pendragon” was fantastic but her failed attempts of trying to murder him in “The Crystal Cave” were laughable by comparison.

It’s only in the two part finale, “The Coming Of Arthur” (minds out of the gutter, people) that both her and Morgause seem to be a match for the good guys and actually manage to run Camelot for a short time period before both of them are defeated by Arthur and his newly appointed knights of the round table. Here is hoping that by next season, both sisters of evil are more capable of realising a scheme without being stopped by the totty brigade.

Morgana aside, this is also a season for Merlin. Not so dependant on the dragon (whose reduced appearance are a help rather than a hindrance), it’s nice to see him mostly go it alone and get it right. He’s the guy who still puts up with Arthur’s putdowns but is getting better at delivering his own and he’s the guy who is still saving people, even if they’re unaware of it at the time.

He’s also getting seemingly closer to his destiny with various episodes in the season working his progression quite nicely and it’s not just him. For every time Arthur acts like a berk, he’s given reason and moments to prove that when he does get Camelot, he will be more than a worthy king to the land.

As for Gwen, well I’ve always liked her and Arthur as a couple and I love that this season finally progressed it to the point where Arthur stood up to Uther for her but I also loved the inclusion of her brother, Elyan and her own role in helping the guys take down Morgana and Morgause in the finale. When given the right material, Gwen certainly seems to shine and hopefully next season continues that too.

People who get to shine less are Uther and Gaius. The latter has two big episodes but they’re a mixed bag. “Goblin’s Gold” is horribly unfunny but “Love In The Time Of Dragons” is quite moving, given that Gaius manages to get himself a love interest. It’s just a shame that said love interest incurred Uther’s wrath but that man is so easy to get on the wrong side nowadays.

This leads to my main issue – Uther. I think Anthony Stewart Head is wonderful and while there are times where I feel bad for Uther, they’re becoming few and far between. Uther seems to be turning on people too quickly and I have a feeling that thanks to Morgana holding him prisoner and admitting her hatred for him (despite the show revealing that Uther is her actual father), Uther will probably continue to harden but then again, maybe I’ll be proved wrong.

In terms of guest characters this season, this is something of a strength. Okay, Morgause could’ve used better and Cenred’s not as nasty as he could’ve been but with the nice formation of the knights of the round table with Sir Leon, a returned Lancelot, loveable rogue Gwaine, Gwen’s brother Elyan, hunky Perceival, this show does work out nicely in that respect.

DVD EXTRAS: With all of this season being released on DVD together, shortly after it finished transmitting on BBC1, the extras are reasonable. There’s a good making of feature for the season, bloopers, deleted scenes, commentaries from cast and crew as well as download wallpapers and character profiles.


3x01: The Tears Of Uther Pendragon Part 1 = 9/10, 3x02: The Tears Of Uther Pendragon Part 2 = 8/10, 3x03: Goblin’s Gold = 4/10, 3x04: Gwaine = 8/10, 3x05: The Crystal Cave = 9/10, 3x06: The Changeling = 8/10, 3x07: The Castle Of Fyrien = 7/10, 3x08: The Eye Of The Phoenix = 8/10, 3x09: Love In The Time Of Dragons = 8/10, 3x10: Queen Of Hearts = 9/10, 3x11: The Sorcerer’s Shadow = 8/10, 3x12: The Coming Of Arthur Part 1 = 9/10, 3x13: The Coming Of Arthur Part 2 = 9/10.

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