Merlin Viewing Notes

April 13, 2009 at 5:58 am (Don't Touch That Dial) ()

Yes, I watched it. No, these aren’t all my notes. Yes, beware of spoilers for pretty much the entire first season. No, I didn’t watch every single episode, mostly because I wanted to skip to the slashier ones and then didn’t feel like going back to see the other two.

I’d put up the extended notes, but I’d want to put them into some semblence of order first, and Merlin seems to have been a hothothot-cooooooold fandom for me. Le sigh.

(Format cribbed from Copperbadge’s various “3 Things About –” posts.)

1×01: The Dragon’s Call

1. Country-boy-in-big-city Merlin is so freaking cute.

2. Merlin has the self-preservation instinct of a retarded gnat.

3. The writing is kind of awful and it’s so full of plot holes (witch lady, if you can teleport and steal faces and kill with a touch then why didn’t you just save your freaking son?) but uh, I kind of like it. If only because I’m floating on kawaii kawaii Merlin-chan~ <3

3a. Tinkly sound effects are tinkly. XD

1×02: Valiant

1. Arthur in armor is hot. Arthur fighting with a sword while wearing armor? Even hotter.

2. Despite the fact this show and this episode all focused on Merlin, I like how Arthur’s actor kept Arthur’s own mini-storyling moving subtly in the background. Or maybe characters trying to live up to expectations is kind of my narrative kink.

3. I love how magic is kind of goofy when it comes to Merlin, like it’s his own personalized expression. I don’t know. Good magic is dorky, maybe?

3a. Why the fuck was there a vaguely-Mongolian-ish knight? A black knight I can believe because we’ve got Gwen in a position of honor as Morgana’s servant. But Mongolian?

1×03: The Mark of Nimueh

1. Arthur looks so good in that trenchcoat, and yet I just can’t get over how very anachronistic it is. And how he didn’t take it off even though he was going to fight an evil beast. I mean, what?

2. Oh Merlin. You try so hard to be good, but still, you are like a retarded gnat when it comes to self-preservation. Thank goodness Gaius is there to help you outgrow your retarded gnat tendencies.

3. ALCHEMY, not SCIENCE. Writers, get your words right. >(

3a. I think the dragon LIKES making cryptic statements. His interactions with Colin are like this little meta-nod to how frequently the Wise Benefactor gives uselessly cryptic advice. I dunno, I really like it. John Hurt is cool. :D

1×04: The Poisoned Chalice

1. You know as good as Arthur looks in a trenchcoat he looks EVEN BETTER in that short little jacket I mean unf baby. (He’s neither younger than me nor an effeminate prettyboy. THIS IS SO WEIRD.)

2. The magic use is inconsistent and this makes me angry. So is the wearing of Arthur’s crown/coronet/circlet/thingy. Grrr!

3. The plot is as holy as Swiss cheese, the writing is Cheddar and Parmesan combined AND YET I FIND MYSELF LIKING THE SHOW.

3a. I bet while Arthur was imprisoned he was thinking something along the lines of “Merlin better appreciate my missing a meal for his sake or else there will be consequences for which I cannot be held responsible. *grumps*”

1×05: Lancelot

1. Arthur is such. an ass.

2. Okay, just. I am going to assume that Lancelot was like, a mercenary or something and had to sell his mercenary armor (or wasn’t allowed any armor) until now because just, yeah.

3. Notice how Arthur goes from insulting to complimentary in like five seconds without ever actually changing his train of thought?


1×06: A Remedy to Cure All Ills

1. Uther is so outwardly affectionate to Morgana, but with Arthur he’s all…”Okay so maybe you didn’t mess that up entirely.” I wonder if Arthur ever gets jealous?

2. I find myself kind of liking Edwin, actually. It’s not like he doesn’t have a legitimate reason for wanting revenge; the whole parents-were-evil thing feels kind of shoehorned in and you know, the study of dark magic doesn’t make you evil, per se. Plus, he did box Gaius in pretty well by forcing him to choose between Uther and Merlin, so that was pretty cool.

3. Note how Morgana calls Uther Uther and Arthur calls him Father. In a strange way Morgana has a more equal relationship with Uther despite being a woman. Iiiiiinteresting.

3a. I dislike the magic words on this show intensely. It’s like they just mumble random syllables and hope it all sounds vaguely mystical.

1×07: The Gates of Avalon

1. Gaius continually patronizes Morgana and abuses his position of trust as her court physician. It was really hard to like you in this episode, Gaius, I hope things improve. Or not.

2. Theory about Arthur’s strangely unbesotted behavior: emotional constipation. He doesn’t have a mother to help him out, he can’t go to his father about his crush, Morgana would tease him horribly, and he can’t talk to Merlin because Merlin’s–well–Merlin. So he was just kind of, “I like this pretty girl but wtf do I do now?” It’s not like tumbling a chambermaid, after all. And assuming any of his knights were relaxed enough around him to joke around with him–I highly doubt their stories about women would’ve been very helpful in Arthur’s attempts at Courtly Courting.

3. I think maybe Uther’s “Arthur, you’re too young.” was really more of him trying to say “Marry you off to the daughter of a king so weak he let his kingdom be overrun by raiders? Uh, NO.” without actually saying it and offending his guests. I mean…Arthur’s at least twenty. He’s plenty old enough to be married, esp. in those times.

3a. OMG SPECULATION: correlation between big sweeping coats and evil? Arthur’s big sweeping trenchcoat = irrational witchhunt without questioning his father’s orders, Edwin’s big sweeping hooding coat, Sophia’s ridiculously huge velvet cloak. Sweeping cloaks are the new goatee, baby, and what’s more they’re not gender-dependent! Rock!

1×08: The Beginning of the End

1. At first I found it kind of lolarious that the director was trying to make Mordred seem all ominous and stuff by associating this scared, injured little boy with OMINOUS MUSIC but then towards the end? I don’t know, maybe it was just the bad acting, but he started to creep me out a little. If I were ever to write him, I suspect his past would be a lot like Gaara’s — they have the same creepy pale-blue eyes.

2. Oh Morgana. She’s such a good person, doesn’t hesitate to take Mordred under her wing when Merlin foists him on to her, and unlike Arthur is willing to act without prompting to do what she believes to be good, even if it means defying Uther. She’s actually rather impulsive, I think, but no less noble than her foster brother. When she has to apologize — she’s forcing herself in to the role expected of her and it’s hurting her so, so much.

3. Arthur! Struggling with his loyalty to Morgana, his sense of right and wrong, and his desire for Uther’s approval. I think pride is one of his primary motivations, but tied up with that is of course the theme of expectations which, as you probably already know, I love. I can’t help but wonder if he’s ever jealous of Morgana: Morgana, who is on much more equal footing with Uther than he is despite not being related to him by blood; Morgana, who isn’t afraid to act in defiance of Uther when she believes him while he holds himself back out of fear. Bet that hurts the testosterone.

3a. When Morgana was sneaking out with Mordred — I couldn’t help but think of Little Red Riding Hood and her basket of goodies, taking Mordred back to granny who lives in the woods. I guess that makes Arthur the Big Bad Wolf — though by the end of the ep, he’s become the Woodcutter. Hasn’t he?

1×09: Excalibur

1. I appreciate the show trying not to rely on CGI for all things but seriously, that ring of fire was just sad. It’s not even touching the victim, how the hell can it hurt them! Plus it was totally transparent how they were doing it, too. *shakes head* And I can’t think why Merlin thought it would be useful–it couldn’t even kill Gaius who is already a skeevy old man; how on earth is it supposed to kill an undead knight who died in his prime what what? And why exactly did he think a big ol’ ring of very obvious fire was the spell to cast while the knight was standing in the middle of the courtyard of a king who hates magic?

2. More of Gaius abusing the trust people place in him to administer their drugs! I wish I could find the plotbunnies this fact is giving me, just so I can kill them dead. Seriously. Drugs and abuse of trust and pretty young things? Never a good combination. *buries face in hands*

3. Lots more about the relationship between Uther and Arthur! Expectations and their (lack of) fulfillment are one of my narrative kinks, so. I think we see why Uther flip-flops in his treatment of Arthur–first he has those little proud smiles when he officially names Arthur his heir, and then he’s all cold and “Just let the knights fight and die for you, Arthur, it’s not such a big deal” when Pellinore took up the challenge. And it’s because he is ambivalent towards his son! On the one hand, he loves Arthur and is proud of him. And on the other hand, he loved Ygraine and it was Arthur’s birth that, quite literally, killed her. So he doesn’t always know how to react to Arthur and hence, emotional constipation. Arthur, meanwhile, just thinks that he’s not good enough.

3a. I see what my friends say about the actors doing the best with that they were given. Because that father/son bonding scene post-fight? Awkward as hell. Even so, not without its good points. Arthur was clearly astonished and then uncomfortable with the entire situation and what he said; Uther was cool and collected and convicted and totally in control. And then it was all diffused by NO HUGS AT ALL WHAT and Arthur not daring to touch his father the king and then the little jokes to make all the awkwardness go away. It was like Arthur was a little kid again! Which may be why Uther looked a little sad after Arthur left; his baby boy’s all grown up now, coming into manhood while Uther is just getting older and wrapped up in his hate.

1×10: The Moment of Truth

You don’t get commentary for this one because I’m not watching it. I just don’t feel like dealing with anachronistic feminist themes with what is likely to be very clumsy execution right now, even if the episode will probably reveal more about Merlin’s background. Maybe some other time.

And, okay, maybe I want to get on to the slashy potential of the next episode. SO SUE ME

1×11: The Labyrinth of Gedref

1. I hated Anhora. Every time he appeared on screen, every time he opened his mouth, I had this irrepressible urge to beat his fucking face in. I call bullshit on every line he spewed about not wanting to hurt Camelot and having no power over the curse.

2. Some nice Arthur moments in this one. I mean, first he reverted to being a complete prat (which makes me wonder what happened–did they plan for this one to aired earlier on in the season, maybe?) but then he got better. Despite the magic and responsibility denial, he did own up to it in the end, and when he did, he was committed to it.

…you know, now that I think on it, this should’ve gone before Excalibur. Excalibur is where they resolve some of the issues Arthur has with his father and his expectations as prince and eventual heir. This episode was (partly) about exacerbating those issues. It would’ve worked so much better, and would’ve meant that Arthur’s sudden prattishness wasn’t quite so mystifying.

3. You know you can totally tell the unicorn’s not actually dying. The horse is just lying there on its side while the strange two-legger says strange two-legger words and pets its face.

3a. Bradley James is so, so pretty. *___* That one moment when he’s telling Merlin to flush out the unicorn? And then lying on his stomach after confronting Anhora and presenting a view ofhis ass? Oh yeah.

1×12: To Kill the King

There is no review for TKTK, because I’m saving it for later. If you thought I was skipping the less Merlin/Artur-centric ones, why YOU’D BE RIGHT.

I’m totally going to get back to it, though, as well as The Moment of Truth. Once I’ve seen Le Morte d’Arthur.

1×13: Le Morte d’Arthur

1. Oh, Uther. First the Question Beast took his wife, and now his son. All those bits with Anthony Head looking at an unconscious Arthur, trying to carry him to his room–to be strong. Ohhhh Uther…

It’s funny but Uther’s the crazed purger but I actually find him more sympathetic with Gaius–probably Gaius comes across to me as really passive and self-serving and ugh.

2. Time scale as all fucked up in this episode–from Merlin’s actually days-long journey to the Isle and back and then Arthur only being healed overnight and then Merlin’s mother conveniently shows up and starts dying of a mysterious disease.

On a related note, that conversation between Merlin and his mother? OUCH. Just. They were talking about two completely different things, and. Yeah.

3. I totally have my own little canon for Nimueh, Morgana, and the Old Religion now. Might get some fic out of it, who knows~?

3a. Overall I felt that the writers were pretty clumsy (like, moreso than usual) buuuuut all the actors put in some really great performances, which pretty much rescued the script from doom.


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