Merlin 3 (2011)

Reviewer: Rissi C.

   
This is the little series no one expected anything of. BBC’s take on the legend is different than most, taking it back before Arthur is king and Merlin is still a young man learning how to cope with his secret life. Re-airing in the states on SyFy, the series has really taken off in the U.S., garnering a following the cast and crew did not expect. This is definitely the darkest we’ve ever seen Merlin but snippets of silliness still peek through.
 
Camelot and its people are in turmoil. There is a war being fought only it has nothing to do with two kingdoms at odds with one another but a man in turmoil over his own conscience. King Uther (Anthony Head) is not about to call a halt to the search for Morgana, knocking down whatever walls he must in the process to see her safely back under his protection. From his perspective, she was snatched from Camelot and he will stop at nothing to see her return. His impetuous son Arthur (Bradley James) comes across a group of renegades fearless to fight the prince and his men... and a dazed Morgana (Katie McGrath) wondering aimlessly in the wood. What Uther and Arthur don’t know is that Morgana hasn’t been missing…  but living in hiding with her bewitching half-sister Morgause (Emilia Fox).

  

Merlin (Colin Morgan) knows that Morgana is from an ancient line of witches who possess the potential to practice evil magic, the one thing Uther cannot abide in his kingdom. As a young wizard himself, Merlin’s position relies on his ability to use his magic for the good and protection of Arthur – and all without being discovered. But Uther sees nothing amiss. His world is right again with Morgana back under his protection but when he is left senseless, Gaius (Richard Wilson) cannot fathom what could possibly be the matter with Camelot’s ruler other than the use of magic. In his weakened state, the king is in no position to rule, so when they are attacked, Arthur must become the leader everyone needs... or Camelot will fall.
 
I was actually really impressed with the two-part season premiere of Merlin. It was dark and dangerous without the usual dose of frivolity the series is known for. It has a reputation as a “cute” family series and that is still firmly in place but I think it has finally found a happy medium between a sappy fantasy teen saga and a solid series. In the second season I was more than happy at the changes it underwent but I think it is justifiable and safe to report that the show is still no historical genius. What is so interesting about this season is the emphasis it places on Arthur’s coming-of-age under the thumb of his sometimes tyrannical, unreasonable father. So much has changed in each of the characters and the focus is more on Arthur’s future reign than the four young protagonists easy-going friendship from days long past; everything reinforces the future of the legend. Gwen (Angel Coulby) is rarely in it but she learns the secret of Morgana’s evil. In a fun twist we are introduced to a new recurring character named Gwaine (Eoin Macken) and re-introduced to Lacelot.

  

For anyone questioning the amount of magic in the series, it is primarily the same as in prior seasons; although there is a lot of darker material this time. Merlin saves Arthur a number of times using some form of magic (he only uses it for good). Many attempts are made on Arthur or Uther’s lives and a number of people die in the finale. Elsewhere there are magicians who harness a magic from the “old” religion to use for evil purposes; one woman has been forced into it. Swords are driven into enemies although it is rarely of a graphic nature. Creatures terrify citizens and murder people. This is really where the series still is suffering... that and its excess plotting. The special effects are pitiable. They could use a much bigger budget but instead it seems to be something the filmmakers skimp on. Nonetheless it does not detract from the fun. As a fan, I am not just looking forward to the continuation bit also where writers take the show... will it show Arthur’s reign and the symbolic Knights of the Round Table? Or will its run come to a close long before that? Only time will tell but I for one, am anxiously awaiting its return.