THE ADVENTURES OF MERLIN:THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The second season the BBC’s new series about the life and times of a young Merlin, serving Prince Arthur in Camelot, continues on DVD while the third season is underway on Syfy in the states. This season sees Arthur’s relationship with Guinevere blossom with only a small threat from Lancelot. Also, we see a rift start to form between Merlin and Morgana as King Uther continues his quest to rid the kingdom of magic. Finally, the dangerous relationship between Merlin and the captive Dragon comes to a head and threatens to destroy Camelot.
WHAT I LIKED
I remember years ago as a child watching BBC productions and marveling at how great they were in spite of their almost embarrassing low budgets. However, in the last decade or so, the BBC has really stepped up their game, providing the usual stellar writing and acting along with higher production values and a neat look. At the very least, these productions have reached the level one might expect from original series broadcast in syndication and on Syfy. (Let’s face it, pretty much everything has a long way to go before they can reach the quality of the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series.)
“The Adventures of Merlin” is one of the more impressive series, and its look actually comes across better than most domestic (and Canadian, of course) fantasy shows here in the states. It may not be as visionary as “Doctor Who” or “Torchwood,” but it is better cast and flows much better than the “Robin Hood” series that came out a few years ago.
Whether you know a lot about the Arthur legends or not, you can enjoy “The Adventures of Merlin.” Taking a nod from many origin stories, series and movies, this show looks at the relationships before they become the iconic figures of historical fiction most are used to. And, to be fair, even that historical fiction isn’t always consistent among the legends.
There’s a neat dynamic between Merlin and Arthur, with one appearing more powerful while the other is really in control. And yes, the dynamic between Arthur and Gwen is neat too, though I’m not wild about the actress who plays her. More interesting, I feel, is what’s going on with Morgana, who is portrayed as a very sympathetic character, and with the changes she faces through the season, we see some real drama ahead.
Having enjoyed quite a few BBC series over the year, this is one of my favorite genre series the network has produced in a while.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There is a certain set-up that the shows must all follow. At times, it feels like we’re just marking time for Arthur to eventually become king, just like fans of “Smallville” have been waiting a decade for Clark Kent to put on the Superman suit.
On a grander scale, like the “Star Wars” prequels and knowing that hero Anakin Skywalker will eventually become Darth Vader, it’s not comfortable getting to like the character of Morgana knowing she will evolve into Merlin’s nemesis. But this is where the drama is found, of course.
There’s actually some great special features in this set, including cast and crew audio commentaries and a 13-minute cast and crew introduction to season two. There’s also basic features like a photo gallery and wallpapers, as well as a 20-minute general behind-the-scenes of the second season.
Most impressive, however, is the short “Behind the Magic” featurettes for each episode on the season. It’s not often that a television series gives making-of detail for each episode, and this is very welcome and plays right into the fans’ adoration.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who might have ever contemplated going to a Renaissance Festival.