The British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, started a show based on the legends of King Arthur in 2008. The focus of the story is the sorcerer instead of the king. Hence, the show is simply called “Merlin”.
The show strays from the original legends quite a bit. They kept many of the original names from the tale and whether they’re good or evil, but that’s about it. I recognize there must be variation to keep the audience hooked, but there are some ridiculous changes. In this version, Merlin is an attractive young man instead of a wise, wrinkled geezer with a two-foot long beard and a pointy hat. Not to mention the fact that Merlin isn’t Arthur’s adviser, but he’s his servant. It’s quite surprising at the beginning for a new audience member, but the shock eventually wears off as they grow used to the drastic change. Also, Arthur grew up in the household of his father instead of being raised by another family. Since he was pampered while growing up, he is arrogant as they get.
In spite of the modifications, the writers go about as if everyone watching the show already has the context of the original legend in mind. They mention Mordred, a character who in the original story was Arthur’s downfall, towards the beginning of the show and act all dramatic about it, but they didn’t set up his character correctly.
With the show being set in a time of kings and queens, we get to see a lot of sword fighting. I am in no ways an expert, but I thought it was done well. It’s slow enough to tell who was winning but fast enough to be stimulating and exciting. The action was well-integrated into the show.
The main characters are three dimensional and grow throughout the duration of the show. The fact that none of their personalities revolve solely around one trait makes the show more entertaining. Seeing their experiences change their views on the world and new sides of them revealed makes you get more attached to them. Their justification for why they change, whether it be for good or for worse, seem like valid motivation. They remain relatable despite their situation being completely different from anything we’d ever experience.
The personality differences lead to some quite entertaining conversations. Arthur and Merlin, relentlessly tease each other for each other’s faults and slip-ups. They’ve invented some unique insults, including dollophead and clotpole. Their sarcasm and one liners are all with the best intentions, and it’s just fun to watch. They keep you laughing with their witty banter.
The actual plotlines of the show aren’t bulletproof, but they’re captivating. I found myself immersed in this world of magic and monsters. I didn’t really realize how weird some of the storylines were until I was reflecting on it later. However, considering that magic is a critical aspect of the show, some of the outlandishness has to be forgiven.
The ending of the show is inconclusive to say the least. The viewer is left with many unanswered questions that arise within the last episode. The series of events leading to the end of the show was inevitable, but it still could have been done better. While it has to be recognized that the show was cancelled, leaving the writers scrambling to finish it off, the viewer is left with many questions after the end of the fifth season. It seemed badly paced and rushed.
Despite the imperfect ending, the show was amazing. There was plenty of humor, heartbreak, and happiness. It was well-constructed, and I’m glad I watched it.