CliqueClack TV

Merlin – A whole lot of nothing

After the epic failure of last week's 'Merlin' episode, this week's was cautious and bland - and maybe exactly what we, as an audience, needed.

- Season 4, Episode 10 - "A Herald of the New Age"

Guys, I have a confession to make, which is probably the worst confession a television blogger/reviewer can ever make: I don’t have an opinion on this week’s episode of Merlin.

Well, maybe that’s inaccurate, because I have an opinion on everything. What I mean isn’t so much that I don’t have an opinion so much as my opinion is in the place that everyone whose job it is to have an opinion fears: the terrible meeting point between “mixed reaction” and “totally lacking in the confidence to feel what I actually feel.”

On a normal week, I’d just give this episode a mixed review, generally leaning towards favorable. Pros: endearing knights, vague attempts at logical plot coherency, actual callbacks to previous episodes, backstory, some of the absolute finest acting work ever to come from Bradley James, ever, tons of eyecandy (hello, Sir Elyan!). Cons: blah storyline, the tone of Arthur and Merlin’s interactions was far more teasing and mean-spirited than it’s been all season, which seemed oddly regressive (though I’d buy the argument that that’s just what boys do when they have a lot of feelings and don’t know how to communicate them), and can we have some other way of being creeped out besides a dark-haired, large-eyed boy that only one person can see walking around dripping water? And I’m just plain old not sure how I feel about the fact that both Elyan and Arthur were presumed to be in cranky moods because of Gwen, but then it turned out that, in fact, what was upsetting both of them was wholly tied up in the Druid camp. On one hand, I liked Arthur’s actual reasoning and backstory far, far more than I’ve probably liked any bit of backstory ever, but on the other hand, uh, isn’t Gwen supposed to be Elyan’s sister? Wasn’t Arthur supposed to be super in love with her? So is it just me or is the fact that apparently both Elyan and Arthur were too consumed with their own personal manpain kind of demeaning to what little storyline she has been given?

The thing is, though, that besides Arthur’s tearful confession at the Druid camp, I had no emotional investment in this episode. I sort of had feelings and opinions, but they weren’t stronger than the opinions I have on, say, what flavors of ice cream are better than others. Which is weird, because it’s Merlin, and I don’t think there’s ever been an episode of Merlin that I’ve ever had this little feeling about. The only possible reason I can come up with for caring so little is that after last week’s epic failure of an episode, I’m somewhere between burnt out of emotions and afraid to care about the show ever again.

I’m sure by next week I’ll be back to having more feelings and opinions than I possibly know what to do with, but maybe I needed a vacation this week from that. Maybe we all just needed an episode like this, an emotional palate cleanser, something we can watch, go “that’s nice,” and move on from. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There just isn’t anything really right about that either.


Photo Credit: BBC

Categories: | Episode Reviews | Features | General | Merlin | News | TV Shows |

13 Responses to “Merlin – A whole lot of nothing”

December 5, 2011 at 9:37 PM

I think I can empathize with what you said about the bland reaction or feelings for this episode and I was not comfortable with the mean attitude of everyone from Arthur, the knights, and then down to even Merlin and Gauis. Some of the jokes were sarcastically funny, but earlier on in the episode everyone was just so mean, you know, and the jokes were not nice. Although Colin delivered a lot of dark humor and really funny lines (great acting as usual), there were times when I felt that it was stilted somewhat. Like he was trying to cheer up a rather dull and gloomy episode? I love the episode watching it the second time, but the mean thing was really uncomfortable even the second time. You are right about the lack of emotional investment Elyan and Arthur has over Gwen. It was only Leon who really cared and perhaps Merlin. Merlin has always been a weekend treat for me and my family, especially for me. Ever since the A/G epic (sarcastic) love has been put into focus, I’m not sure if I even want to watch the show, but I am persisting because of my love for Colin – Merlin, Gauis, and the dragon. The rest is just, well, they could just go away. Honestly, I don’t give a crap about Arthur anymore, especially if his story lines are interspersed with Gwen’s. I watch this show for MERLIN, not Arthur and Guinevere and since the writers think they are giving viewers a treat by giving as an overdose of this barf-inducing story line, I am feeling very cautious right now about this show, even to the point of dread.

December 5, 2011 at 10:58 PM

This episode feels like a missed opportunity. The writers think that giving the knights a few lines about Gwen`s absence is a nod toward continuity.Elyan confronting Arthur about Gwen should have been the emotional back bone of this episode`s story line.A whole episode was devoted to Elyan but still we know nothing about his feelings toward his sister`s banishment.That is rather disappointing.If this theme was used as the heart of the story then the episode would have been so much better.

December 6, 2011 at 3:30 AM

Let me rant some more…why can’t just the writers focus more on Merlin? The first time I watched this show I got the impression that this was really not about Arthur, he’s the secondary character and he’s important merely because of Merlin. Everyone bloody are important ONLY in relation to Merlin. The writers can surely be very creative about Merlin the character, and then his supporting characters? But these sodding supporting characters should not run amok and rule over the show. Morgana, for example, was right to be focused so much earlier on in the series because she is Merlin’s opposite, or so that’s what they said. Look at how she’s been developed now? Arthur and his love life needs to take the backseat and shut itself up. Watching the trailer for the next episode really gives me a freaking headache. *huge sigh* And really, is Merlin going to play the love guru or something? Can they give him something more important to do? Like save Camelot or something? Blood hell! Of course not! They need to stall a bit for episodes 12 and 13 and probably ending again with epic freaking love between A/G. *runs off to barf*

December 6, 2011 at 9:57 AM

“Arthur and his love life needs to take the backseat and shut itself up.”LOL

I agree. The writers seemed to have switched gears. Earlier on the focus was on Merlin trying to change Arthur`s views on magic. I was hoping the story line would ultimately lead up toward Merlin`s reveal as the season four finale. However episode nine derailed the hopes of that happening. I think the writers are making the romance between Arthur and Gwen more important then it should be.Merlin`s romance with Freya was handled in one episode while Arthur`s love life takes the center stage of many episodes.The lady of the lake was an important character but the writers were quick to be rid of her.I guess we will have to wait until the season finale to see Merlin do something big. The whole conflict of Arthur accepting magic is being somewhat overshadowed by the romance of Arthur and Gwen. I hope the writers are somehow able to pull everything together in the end. They have their work cut out for them.

December 6, 2011 at 9:59 AM

I think you’ve encapsulated my feelings perfectly, Julia. On the one hand, A. Edun is a very beautiful man who might actually be able to act, and he deserves a lot more love from the fandom. On the other hand, the episode left me feeling depressed because everyone, with the possible exception of Gwaine, was so god!damned! bitchy! this week. Arthur’s “You’re as stupid as you are ugly” comment in the final scene made me angry and miserable and kind of ruined everything else.

December 6, 2011 at 2:01 PM

I agree with you, Arthur´s last comment was really inappropriate and mean… Hello I mean Merlin and ugly?? Lol he didn´t mean it anyway

December 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM

I was really hoping all this ‘trust’ talk through s4 was setting up for a reveal. I’m afraid now, with s4 coming to a close soon, it’s to set up Merlin being made advisor, as the ‘trust’ topic could elude to that. I hope I’m wrong because I really want the reveal this season. In past seasons, I’d resigned myself to it not happening. This season made me quite excited (and terrified) for the angst of it all BECAUSE of all the set-up. As much as I don’t want s4 to end this way, and as much as it pains me, I think the wedding will be the ‘highlight’ for s4.
This season started off so well. It hit a few bumps, but I thought this ep was pretty good. Bradley was phenomenal. The snark between M/A was a bit harsh at times. I was very surprised Merlin teased Arthur about his feelings during the final scene. That seemed quite OOC. That time could have been used to further the ‘magic is good’ scenario and more M/A bonding.
During the entire ep I thought the distress felt by Arthur and Elyan was never down to Gwen, but the shrine/enchantment. Why do the writer’s do this? Are they messing with us? It demeans Gwen’s character. I’m not an A/G shipper, but I’m shocked they played it that way. We’re supposed to believe in this epic love, and when TPTB do this, how can we? Seriously? HOW CAN WE???? How I wish TPTB had done Gwen justice. Not just this ep, but throughout all 4 seasons. That part of the legend is what started me watching Merlin. Obviously, it’s not why I stayed.
We shall see what the next few weeks brings. After the A/G/L DISASTER, I have lost faith in the creativity of the writers. I still love my Merlin, but recently it’s been tempered with sadness.

December 6, 2011 at 7:18 PM

For once I don’t completely agree Julia, I dont think… in that I felt quite a bit about this episode; some of it positive, most of it negative.

Positive first – in terms of plot structure this was a cut above the norm for the series I thought. We were given a clue to Arthurs state of mind near the start – his uncharacteristically spooked reaction to the site in the woods- and then we were thrown a whole shoal of red herrings about his state of mind, all of which I followed blindly because I confess I’ve come to expect nothing more from the series. I believed he was pining for Gwen because the other characters told us he was and because of the producers obsession – but amazingly it transpired he was actually remembering his own terrible misdeeds. That was good plotting and good writing. I was genuinely surprised by Arthur’s confession that he was the culprit because – well …Prince Arthur Charming, the war criminal? It doesn’t have a ring to it does it? (Im sure Gwen would have told him to follow his instincts.) It was a jarring and hugely welcome touch of realism anyway after the Disney embarrassment last week.

It was a subject that certainly deserved to be addressed- Arthurs complicity in Uther’s brutal reign. Watching him leading Dragoon to his pyre without question or qualm made me think he must have alot of innocent blood on his hands. And Bradley whacked it out of the park. What an amazing performance that was – in one instant he wrenched the character of Arthur out of the tramlines we’ve seen for 3 and a half seasons and suddenly he was more human and real than he’s ever been – showing all his vulnerability, crying with guilt and shame, almost hyperventilating as he waited to die. He showed us Arthur behind the mask and it was amazing. But it went no further. No more discussion. When the ghost absolved him I suppose that was supposed to be the end of the whole issue – all the things he must have done, wont be talked about again?

Which leads me to the negative. The scene after that should have been fantastic and revealing. Arthur and Merlin could have talked about what happened; touched on the guilt Arthur must be carrying for the things he’s done for Uther to magic users. It could have been amazing. But …not this Arthur and Merlin. This Arthur and Merlin weren’t close enough to talk about anything much or communicate without mutual loathing- they were Arthur and Merlin from the very beginning of S1 – or perhaps S3 at its determined worst, as it doggedly worked to break down the A/M relationship to try to build A/G. The way the producers portrayed Arthur and Merlin in this ep was for me horribly like watching alcoholics eagerly falling off the wagon- back to square one, with a very sour taste left behind.

Of course the whole atmosphere this ep was less fluffy than usual. I’ve seen it suggested that the knights were deliberately portrayed as casually violent and a bit thuggish to illustrate the culture which Arthur would have tried to fit into. But then, this is meant to be a new age in Camelot so … does that fit?

Ive also seen it suggested that Arthur was behaving as if he viewed Merlin with utter contempt and borderline loathing from beginning to end because he was pushing away the person closest to him. I cant say Im convinced. can we imagine him behaving like that to Gwen? It wasn’t snappishness with someone close; it was complete reversion to arrogant intolerant master and insensitive, blundering servant constantly saying the wrong thing. There was no hint of softness or amusement; no break in the relentless, impatient dislike. It was the beginning of S1 and the worst of S3 condensed in one episode – the Mean to Merlin trope at its worst. The hammering Arthur set up from from the knights in punishment for Merlin’s teasing was horribly jarring – it wasn’t in fun – Arthur’s cold gleeful nastiness, his lack of concern when Elyan clearly hurt Merlin… weren’t we meant to have left that behind long ago? This is Arthur’s trusted friend? Really?

Every time Arthur spoke to Merlin in this episode it was cold, arrogant & hateful and Merlin in turn was an insensitive imbecile to Arthur, suddenly completely unable to read Arthur’s mood. Again Ive seen it suggested this is to show Arthur is pushing Merlin away because he’s ashamed – but it didnt feel like that – there wasn’t a single moment to suggest closeness or gentleness or regret or shared humour. And after the spirit was exorcised and Arthur supposedly released, the relationship was shown in an even worse light. Merlin mocks Arthur’s tears and Arthur tells him he’s ‘as stupid as he is ugly’ – which actually made me gape – the nastiest thing I think I’ve heard him scripted to say to Merlin ever, which is saying something after S3. Im actually amazed how few people were upset by it. When Merlin hit back by asking sarcastically for the hug, Arthur looked almost homicidal, as if he genuinely wanted to hurt him. For me this episode took the A/M relationship so far back from the beginning of this season, it was actually jaw-dropping.

So – why? Did the writer simply not understand the Arthur Merlin dynamic? Did he think the A/M humour is based on barely suppressed mutual dislike? Didn’t anyone send him the memo that S3s delight in Mean to Merlin eps has supposedly morphed into Respect for Merlin? I cant help wondering if this was the producers nervous reaction to an episode – this one *single* episode – in which Gwen isn’t hovering as Arthurs lover interest. One single episode. Did they want to make sure the Arthur/Merlin relationship was as distant and hostile as we’ve seen it just to make sure the A/M relationship isn’t shown as important or nurturing in A/Gs absence – even for that one single ep? The hostility in the relationship was so coldly over the top and so unnecessary that I cant think of another reason. It didn’t add anything; in fact it detracted from the story. Unless the writer really doesn’t get A and M at all and the producers & actors didnt think to point that out?

As for Merlin’s role – well in the tradition of S3 episodes in which this would have fitted beautifully, was well-meaning but blunderingly ineffectual and his magic was next to useless apart from the odd party trick (the greatest sorceror the world has ever seen eh?)

Next week – the return of Gwen the Suffering Heroine, as Arthur supposedly woos a princess he of course isnt interested in. So utter predictability is back on the menu as if it never left. This ep – it had such potential. The awful treatment of the characters ruined it IMO, but I could say that about the last 3 episodes. After the stonking beginning to this season its all becoming incredibly depressing. And I don’t think next week is going to improve anything going by the look of the trailer and Gwen’s improbable glittery dress. Still it looks like Angel is going to have her turn at a bit of scenery chewing. Im beginning to wonder though if the producers will ever let up on their Arthur and Gwen obsession long enough to remember Merlin and his magic are meant to be the centre of the show. :(

December 8, 2011 at 7:13 AM

Your comments are eloquent and true thank you for putting it into words so clearly. Remembering the start of series 4 it is so sad to see how the producers have taken all that promise and hope and just twisted it out of recognition. I was and I would still like to be a besotted Merlin fan, but I am now awaiting the last three episodes with dread not anticipation – only the outstanding performances keep me watching

December 6, 2011 at 10:34 PM

All I can say now is that Bradley and Colin should move on and take further step into their career. Merlin is just too childish for their talents and chemistry. How can a show ruin the chemistry between Bradley and Colin? It is a disater waste on one of the most precious thing we’ve ever seen in this industry.

December 8, 2011 at 7:26 AM

When they cast Bradley and Colin the producers were gifted with Pure Gold, but since then they have periodically forced out scripts that in a weird reverse alchemy try to turn that gift into lead. The closing scenes of Herald of the New Age were the most horrible of the entire Merlin series – even worse than the abomination with the bucket in series 3. I am truely bewildered and cannot comprehend why the producers constantly try to reset the Merlin Arthur friendship to a new low point – worse than at the start of the series, which makes no sense in the context of their shared history.

December 8, 2011 at 12:09 PM

I feel the producers really want to utilize B/C chemistry as they clearly knows that is their best asset. However, they just think too much and not pure at heart anymore. Then what we get sometimes is really weird.

Anyway, they haven’t put some violins into their scene. I am very relieved, to tell the truth. The violins are like the constant “Ahhhh…” in porns (to creat fake esctacy).

December 9, 2011 at 6:58 AM

First, english is 2nd language here (don’t trow bricks at me).

I think the same as gryffin, I am watching the show only for Colin <3 and the friendship (ok bromance…) between Merlin and Arthur.

Because the plot is awful most of the time, and the characters grow is below adverage, specially with Morgana ("I'm eviiiil, just evil, I kinda forgot I want the same thing as Merlin, which is the right to be myself and to use magic without fears", she is making me sad with her nonsense, she was a character I really liked before she gone mad. And Gwen well…I let you figure it out what is missing with her.

Oddly in that episode, the relation between Arthur and Merlin was like in season 2 (meaning : childish). I thought they were mature enough now… So they should act like adults maybe ? just saying…

And Merlin ugly !? Ok, I laughed…I couldn't help it. It was too much. (He is not ugly btw)

Like other people said here, I also want Merlin to reveal his magic to Arthur. I think we can keep dreaming. But to choose to do not, ever, would not only disappoint a lot of people, but it would be like a treason, because we are waiting for this, and it must happen.

And can we focus on Merlin now please writers (and bromance of course) ? It is the name of the show after all, right ? Because with that episode it is not like I get to know Elyan any better than before, so what was the point ? I'm still wondering… and no, the boy was not creepy at all btw. But it was funny to look at him dripping like that, he died by drowning ? (I don't think so).

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