Wednesday, December 28, 2016

TV Review: Merlin- The Darkest Hour Part One (S04E01)

One problem I find in modern television is the inability for a programme to change and grow, to allow the worlds created and the people and creatures who populate it to act like they are actual living beings and change. For us, change is inevitable, a part of life that is coming no matter what whether it be significant change caused by life's many twists and turns or the simple undeniable and unstoppable change of our body's yielding to the passing of time.

Television of course can sometimes forget that change can be used to freshen up what has otherwise become a dull and predictable cycle of the same old character in the same old setting doing a variation of the same old plot. It is for sure why The Simpsons have become less stellar as the years pass, as Bart and Lisa never age and nothing shifts. Compare this to what I consider to be the ultimate 'mover Doctor Who, the design of which allows for a completely different setting each and every time as well as a new face on the title characters if need be.

Merlin I am pleased to say has indeed gotten the idea that after three years of watching amusing banter between Arthur and his servant hero Merlin and waiting for King Uther to take a step back and let his son shine, that we are ready for the next step. This was already put into motion when Morgana left Camelot for good but does not really sink in till a few minutes after the titles have rolled on The Darkest Hour, where the usual shots of the daily goings on in Camelot are replaced with a kingdom on the verge of changing it’s own identity.

All of the regulars from Merlin to Arthur to Gwen to Gaius have seemed to have moved on since the close of series three, you get the feeling that past events have actually affected them, something as said that way too many shows do not take into account in today's world.

Of course the real trick is to not only move our characters forward but to do so while still bringing out an entertaining plot that is gripping and exciting. Here it is a mixture of new blood and old hat that rules the day as we are confronted with more traitors in Camelot's court in the form of Agravaine, Arthur's uncle who has come to help in the kingdom's time of need. Although this has been done before it can be excused as it is a take not only on Arthurian legend but also age old King's court drama. This makes it tolerable if not desirable, but it is the true force behind the chaos that lies ahead that is the real threat and interest anyway.

Not only did Morgana lose the protection of being able to hide in plain sight in Camelot while she hatched her plans, but she also has now lost her mentor in Morgause, which makes her seem more dangerous and threatening. She loses her only friend in a bid to tear apart the veil between the world of the living and the dead and in doing so becomes more deadly with each sacrifice.

Progressive moving scripts are my favorite kind, as they leave you wanting nothing and briskly move the story forward with very little waste and neatly doing everything to make you want to tune I next time.

Here, Merlin's apparent demise (What is it with the BBC trying to Kill it's heroes at the start of new series this year?) at the hands of the Dorocha, who are terrorizing the land as we leave Camelot to wait till next week to see how it all plays out. Really this was a great and excellent series opener and if this is inductive of the quality we are to see over the next twelve weeks then we are really in for a series that may be the best outing yet for Merlin in its four year run.

-Thomas Spychalski

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