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Merlin – “The Curse of Cornelius Sigan” (2.1) / “The Once and Future Queen” (2.2) – review
BBC’s Merlin returns to US viewers on Friday nights on Syfy. This week aired the first two episodes of the second season…let’s get caught up.
Workmen unearth an ancient tomb beneath Camelot filled with treasure and strange carvings of ravens. A worker reaches out to touch a magnificent, glowing jewel on the sarcophagus and drops down dead. When Gaius and Merlin investigate, it’s only Merlin’s magic that prevents Gaius from being killed by the same trap. Gaius begs Uther to seal up the tomb, fearing it belongs to Cornelius Sigan, a terrifying sorcerer from local legend. The all-powerful Sigan cursed Camelot as he faced death, swearing he would return and raze the city to the ground. But Uther is too taken with the treasure to indulge Gaius, insisting Sigan is just a fairytale.
Merlin returns with an acceptable but not outstanding season opener. Merlin’s character and resolve to keep his secret are put to the test. Under threat of a dark sorcerer possibly returning to seek revenge upon Camelot, Merlin must also deal with a thief trying to win Arthur’s confidence only so he can gain access to the tomb of Sigan and the treasure within.
The continued painting of Arthur as an overbearing prat and his constant bashing of Merlin is becoming a bit routine, much like Uther’s pursuit of destroying all magic from season one. There was a boar hunting scene this episode which dripped of deus ex machina as Merlin, with magic, used Arthur’s thrown spear to kill the raging giant boar. How Arthur would not recognize his own spear is quite baffling. I think this episode truly fell down in the lackluster battle scene between Merlin and Sigan, a finale that held great promise. Sigan was a man who had defeated death; he was, however, dispatched rather quickly by a wizard in his rookie phase. I understand Merlin received great knowledge from the Great Dragon, but it was a bit weak by the writers to wash over what could have been a great wizard battle.
Despite all its flaws, one cannot deny the great cast of this show and how well the get into their parts. Perhaps the anticipation of awaiting the return of a great series put my expectations a bit too high. I had fun watching the episode but wished that it was better executed by the writers. The most interesting plot twist this episode was Merlin’s promise to one day release the Great Dragon, in exchange for the knowledge to defeat Sigan. The day of the dragon’s release shall prove quite interesting, indeed. The CG animation was superior this episode when compared to last season; I guess a bigger budget helps.
King Odin wants Arthur dead. He commissions the deadly assassin Myror to do the deed. Meanwhile, Arthur is convinced that the other knights are going easy on him in jousts. He pretends to leave Camelot but, with Merlin’s help, secretly returns and enters the jousting tournament. Much to Gwen’s discomfort, Arthur hides out in her home. It quickly becomes clear that the prince won’t be able to shake the habits of a lifetime as easily as he did his princely robes. Yet things are about to change for Arthur and Gwen.
The assassin, Myror, made this episode pretty awesome, and the attempt to give depth to Arthur this episode was well received. I am big fan of assassins and other roguish type characters; they come in second place right after wizards for me. So to have both elements in one show–well, that is almost plot nirvana for me. This episode was well done, and having Arthur off on a personal quest made it even better. My only beef this episode was Uther’s lack of concern for Arthur being out on a hunt with an assassin loose in the city. I get that he wanted to eliminate the the problem before his son returned, yet would he also not send out a party to check on his son in the field? Maybe I am just nitpicking here, but it it did strike me as odd, considering Uther’s tendency to make sure Arthur is safe–after all, he is the future King.
Arthur’s desire for glory and his hiding at Gwen’s house were good plot elements. I enjoyed that Gwen told Arthur that he was a prat and that he needed to remember that being a King means more than enjoying the perks of his royal upbringing. She put a mirror up to the Prince figuratively, and it worked. The relationship between Gwen and Arthur finally peaked in an unexpected kiss, and I am sure fans of the show had been awaiting this with bated breath. Arthur is injured during the jousting final bout by Myror in disguise, and it proves to be an intense joust both times as Arthur and Myror clash. When Arthur wins and allows the impostor knight whom Arthur fought as, to accept the award instead, it shows great depth and humility in Arthur’s character. In this episode’s final minutes we see Arthur tell Gwen their budding love can never be, and he once more treats Merlin like a dog by dumping his armor off to be cleaned. Does this mean that Arthur remains unchanged? No, I think this means his journey has only begun and that it is quite difficult to shake old habits as the son of the overbearing Uther Pendragon.
I think episode two should have opened the series, since I thought it quite better than episode one. However I am not the series writer, so maybe they have their reasons for the order. Things promise to be both fun and exciting this season, and episode three looks to be very interesting. Let’s hope the magic stays with us all season long.