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Back to work. (sigh)

Sunday (Christmas with the family, pt.2) was mostly okay, if a little stressed, because I spent the morning baking my grandmother's traditional Mohnstrudel. No fights, presents were generally appreciated, my sister's family's new Labrador puppy is completely adorable, only peed on the carpet once and spent much of the time sleeping with its head propped up on my brother-in-law's stretched out leg (poor guy is clearly the ersatz mum and spent a lot of time sitting on the floor...), and my father at least didn't seem to actively dislike it or freak out over it. (The niece, as much as I love her, seriously needs to get over her princess phase, though. Or more precisely her I-am-the-queen-ordering-around-my-lowly-servants phase. It's only a game, but still. Are there any books about the French Revolution for five year olds? And where does she even get that from? Kindergarten? Because it's certainly not from her family. Even the fairytales she watches/listens to don't really support that kind of thing...)

No family yesterday, finally a day off from everyone and everything, thank god. I was planning to go for a walk, but managed to sleep through two alarms and a phone and only woke up at the time when I was already supposed to be on the train, so I stayed home, read, and finished the first season of the SJA, most of which I'd actually already watched once, years ago when it aired, but found a bit too children-orientated for my taste back then. Maybe I've changed, or maybe it's because I've buried myself so deeply in this universe in the meantime, but I genuinely enjoyed most of the episodes this time round. I liked this cross-generational version of the chosen family theme, especially the close relationship between Sarah Jane and Maria, and the show's insistence that these are equally important as blood relationships... In Eye of the Gorgon there's that one scene with Sarah Jane, Maria and Bea, the old lady suffering from Alzheimer's, and there are these three women, three generations, talking about dealing with, and living with, the weird and the wonderful... it's quite brilliant and really moving.

You shouldn‘t be upset. The Talisman didn‘t cure Bea, but it did something amazing all the same. It gave her peace. (from Eye of the Gorgon)

That's Jack and the Blessing in MD in a nutshell, isn't it?

Also watched the Merlin season finale over the holidays. Oh, (sigh), what to say. I barely posted anything about S4, although I did start to write several entries, because in the end I never cared enough to finish any of them. Other than apparently everyone else in this fandom I didn't love S4 all that much, although I guess objectively speaking it was a step up from S3. Arthur had some good moments and finally some consistent character growth, but I'm not happy with the general direction the show has taken.

In the end, I can't forgive them... maybe not even so much what they did to Morgana (although that they destroyed her and Gwen's friendship comes close), but how they did it. Uther did horrible things, but he always remained a complex and fairly fascinating character. Morgana was never allowed this level of complexity; her tragedy, the fact that she was effectively sacrificed for the bright future Arthur's reign was supposed to bring about, was never acknowledged, and probably never will be acknowledged on the show. In S1's The Moment of Truth there were two guys and two girls who were friends and fought to make the world a better place. Since then Morgana self-destructed largely because of the obsession/necessity to keep magic secret at all cost, and Gwen's arc revolves almost entirely about Arthur. With Arthur acquiring his cheerleading squad knights at the end of the last season, and Morgause killed off at the beginning of this one, the balance is so blatantly unbalanced towards the male side it's become actively irritating instead of just vaguely annoying. 4.10 managed to make do entirely without female characters. I was hoping against all hopes that Isolde would survive the season, but I can't say I was surprised in the least that she didn't.

And Merlin... From what I gather, everyone seems to be happy with the direction the relationship between him and Arthur has taken this season, but while it's clearly a step up from S2/3, for me it does come with its own problems.

What I'm mainly unhappy with is that they put off the reveal of Merlin's magic once more. There were two moments in the last episode where I expected Merlin to come clean, first right before the final battle when Arthur says that they have nothing to counter Morgana's strength, and then when Isolde was dying. Actually, Merlin very publicly saving Isolde through magic would have been a neat cliffhanger. But it didn't happen, and the whole issue has become bigger and more complicated with every season, every episode the reveal was deferred, and at this point I'm beginning to wonder if it hasn't become more complicated than this show is willing/able to deal with.

Arthur would very likely have understood and quite easily forgiven Merlin lying to protect his life. But then there was the lie Merlin told at the end of Sins of the Father, partly to protect Arthur, and partly to ensure that Arthur wouldn't start his reign with the guilt of killing his father haunting him. With that things got complicated, and it's the first lie that I think Arthur will find hard to forgive, because he already had the truth, only to be told it was a lie, which massively diminished his agency and effectively made him an accomplice in the death of everyone Uther had killed for practicing sorcery after that. IIRC there weren't any major witch-hunt plots after that episode, but it's still an issue.

And it never really stopped after that, the manipulations only got worse. Until S4 I thought Merlin would eventually just tell Arthur the truth, but now I don't think he'll ever be able to come clean completely. He'll never be able to tell Arthur that he was/is the old sorcerer, and he'll never be able to tell Arthur how he staged the 'miracle' with the sword in the stone.

But even if he doesn't—once Arthur finds out, he's still going to question every odd or even slightly unusual event that happened to and around him over the last few years. Arthur already doubted himself and his qualification for kingship because he misjudged Morgana and Agravaine — how is he going to react to the fact that his servant-cum-(sort of)-friend has lied to him for years, even if it was for benevolent purposes? If he starts to realise that he's been manipulated with increasing frequency? A while ago, maybe as far back as S2, Bradley James said (probably not in those exact words, but iirc that was about the gist of it) that he thought Arthur not noticing Merlin's magic for so long made Arthur look stupid and incompetent as a (future) king. What I liked about S1 was that it seemed like a happier, less doomed Smallville; at this point I'm tempted to take SV over Merlin, because Lex at least wasn't portrayed as a complete fool, and knew when he was being lied to to his face. Merlin, however good his intentions may be, has started to effectively turn Arthur into his puppet. The mind-control in 4.12 wasn't funny in the least, even if it was played for laughs, and Merlin of all people should have known that after Morgana used him to kill Arthur earlier this season. Merlin's got too much into the habit of manipulating Arthur, making decisions for him when he should be talking to him, and I wonder if he won't eventually regret that.

Actually, after S4 I've started to wonder if the reveal of Merlin's magic and Arthur's reaction to that isn't going to be the overreaching arc of S5. There were three betrayal plot-lines centred around Arthur in S4: Gwen, Agravaine, and Morgana. Gwen was forgiven, but she only betrayed Arthur once, and he was clearly hurt. Agravaine and Morgana's betrayal made Arthur question whether he was fit to be king. Merlin lied longer and more than either of them, and it seems unlikely that Arthur will simply handwave that, especially since Merlin continued to lie after Uther's death.

I've always had a weakness for Merlin using his power, and the confrontation with Agravaine in 4.13, the quiet composure, the utter certainty, was very compelling. But it also came across as dangerous. Arthur spent much of S4 learning how to be king, how to use his power responsibly; Merlin already dealt with these issues in S3 to an extent, but I think he might have to deal with them again in S5.




( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 28th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
I've really enjoyed Merlin over the last few years, the chemistry between Bradley James and Colin Morgan is fantastic and the show has a lovely mix of humour, drama, dark fantasy and sentimentality - with a little character growth in each new series.

But there are two things that are starting to dissapoint me a little now, the first like you say is the constant putting off of the big reveal of Merlin's magic. It has the potentional to bring new drama and humour to the show through Arthur's very mixed feelings on the matter, including feeling betrayed as you mention. I've enjoyed seeing Merlin's slightly darker side this series, including the scene in the final when he seemed to kill Agravaine with hardly any thought or emotion. To then see the character go back to being Arthur's mere servant - however much Arthur likes and respects Merlin - was a bit awkward to me.

The other problem with this series is the poor writing of Gwen. I like Gwen as a character but I don't LOVE her, find her that interesting or even see that much chemistry between her and Arthur. If she isn't in an episode, I don't miss her. Whilst I've never loved Gwen Cooper as a character, I've certainly never found her boring and I can see why Jack loves her - this is the major difference. Gwenivere is a very nice character but 'nice' doesn't always mean interesting and she doesn't induce any strong emotions in me.
Dec. 29th, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
To then see the character go back to being Arthur's mere servant - however much Arthur likes and respects Merlin - was a bit awkward to me.

Definitely. And it's unfair to Arthur too, in a way, keeping him in the dark like that. He was worried about looking like a fool in this episode; he's definitely going to feel like one when he finally finds out, and he isn't going to like that.

I completely agree about Gwen. For me the problem is that she has no arc beyond '(future) queen' and occasional voice for social justice. Even the thing with Lancelot only happened because of Morgana's intrigue, which is a pity, because she had rather more chemistry with Lancelot than with Arthur, so that angle might have been worth exploring. I wonder, what are they even going to do with her next season?
Dec. 30th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
With Gwen now being Queen in the next series, I wait to see whether the writers finally allow her to grow away from Arthur and Lancelot - and I agree she has more chemistry with Lancelot than she does Arthur.

Gwen to me wouldn't look out of place in a more sexist era of television drama - dispite her ability to sword fight every now and then - and it doesn't help that her friendship with Merlin has been all but dropped in the last series. Like you say, she's all about the guys and being a future Queen - how often has she told Arthur that he'll "make a great King one day" since series 1? :)

Morgana this series? More a pantomine villian than a complex character with shades of gray... The show definately writes better for the boys than the girls - not that I mind seeing lots of Merlin and Arthur.. :)

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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