I should start off by saying that this is my first Merlin review in quite some time. I’ve not had the opportunity to watch it much since X Factor went into overdrive, but tonight I caught up with the last few episodes.
I mention this because the two episodes which preceded Lamia showed substantial storyline development. The plot involving Morgana had moved ahead, to the point where she’d enchanted Merlin to kill Arthur, then in the next episode, Gaius was made to give up the secret of the old sorceror who’s actually Merlin in disguise. But what was most impressive about these episodes – for me – was how the cast seem to be much more settled in their roles this year.
Katie McGrath is clearly revelling in her role as “Evil” Morgana. And by evil, we mean exposining a lot more cleavage than she did when she lived in Camelot! Even Gwen has taken a more prominent role now that Uther’s dead and buried and unlikely to object to a commoner snogging his beloved son. And of course, the dream team bromance between Arthur and Merlin has taken on new life as the writers seem more content to play to the desires of the fans.
Tonight’s episode was disappointing in that it moved away from the arc of the series and onto a standalone story. And it’s one we’ve seen in fantasy literature before. A sorceror enchants the men around her, turning them against each other and systematically picking them off. Technically, Lamia bears all the hallmarks of a succubus, though this being a family show they’ve played down the lustful elements.
What happens is that a terrible pague befalls the men in Gwen’s old village, prompting an old neighbor to visit her pleading for help from the King. Oh, that’s Arthur. I keep forgetting he’s king now. But because Gaius is busy dealing with an epidemic inside Camelot, he suggests that Arthur send Merlin instead. Which I loved because it’s Gaius helping to get his pupil taken more seriously.
So Merlin is sent off with a guard of knights (some of Camelot’s finest, actually) and they encounter a young woman called Lamia who swiftly turns the knights against each other and against Merlin. It’s obvious that she has some magic power and that she reacts to Merlin in a bad way. However, to make matters worse, she sucks the life force out of those she kisses. Suck-U-Bus, gettit? But can Merlin and Gwen stop her before she devours all of the knights? Of course they can, but naturally they drag it out to the very last minute.
What I Liked:
- The camaraderie between the knights, especially during the fight scene in the forest. Obviously this served to contrast with them being at each other’s throats, but it was nice to see the much talked-about “brotherhood” acting like brothers!
- The character of Lamia might have been an old trope, but its execution was intriguing enough for a family show. I loved how the knights slowly became crankier to the point where they were dangerous toward Merlin and Gwen.
- When Lamia turned into a hideous squid monster, the CGI effects were top notch.
- Gwen saving Merlin’s life, then that kiss at the end of the episode which I’m sure pleased a lot of fans! But things move a little bit too quickly – Arthur proposes next week?
- Gwen starting to suspect that there was something special about Merlin. I wish he’d just come out and reveal his secret to her already!
- Took Merlin and Gwen long enough to work out that Lamia was to blame for the knights’ strange behaviour.
- Does anyone else wish that for once a magic battle didn’t involve a person being thrown backwards into a wall by “an invisible force”? I think it was Dan Owen who first pointed this one out!
- I could moan about this being a monster-of-the-week episode, but it was still reasonably good. I think I’m learning to relax my attitude toward Merlin and just accept that the show is starting to embrace the myths and legends in its own time. On the plus side, at least the story of Merlin and Arthur is starting to move forward!