Merlin – Series 1

So here you are, ready to watch Merlin.  Presumably you’ve heard something about it, like, “This is not your mother’s Arthurian legend!” or “The CGI is almost not so bad you cover your eyes in embarrassment!” or “I did not know Arthur and Merlin were in love with each other, you learn something new every day!”  But you don’t really know what you’re getting into, and within a few minutes you’re confused because where is the old guy in the dunce’s cap, and why is Giles from Buffy wearing a crown and making people cut off each other’s heads?

Here are a few things you need to know about the show before you start watching:

1.  Merlin, besides not being an old dude in a dunce’s cap, is also not a bald dude or a guy in a tinfoil hat who has sex with Morgan le Fay.  Well, maybe.  He could end up being that guy, we’re not going to judge his private life or anything, but this is a family show.  Anyway, he’s not old and he doesn’t live backward or hang out in a tree.  He’s a young dude (and let me just say this now, definitely an adult despite the opening credits’ attempt to make us feel like creepsters by saying that “the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy”), and he’s Arthur’s manservant.

2.  Arthur’s not the king yet, and he’s kind of a buttface.  But a really hot buttface, which Merlin seems to appreciate a great deal, especially when there’s jousting going on.

3.  Guinevere is not a princess.  She’s a maid to the Lady Morgana, who isn’t Arthur’s enemy and isn’t Mordred’s mother.  Lancelot’s not a knight.  Up is not up and left is right and Jay Leno is funny in this universe, okay.

4.  Oh yes, and magic is outlawed by King Uther (who is played by Anthony Stewart Head, aka Giles from Buffy).  In other news, Merlin’s life sucks dragon…whatever it is they have instead of balls.

Now it is time for the magic!

Episode 1:  The Dragon’s Call

This is where we learn that Merlin’s mother secretly wants Merlin dead, because magic is banned in Camelot but she sends Merlin there anyway.  Like, right under King Uther’s nose.  King Uther, the guy who shrieks “Saucery!” and sends people to the gallows for having warts on their chins.  We later learn that Merlin’s mother is really nice and everything, but this is a façade.  She totally wants Merlin to die.

So Merlin goes to work for Gaius, who is the King’s physician (right under the King’s nose, dude), and he stays out of trouble for about thirty seconds before he runs into Prince Arthur and picks a fight with him in order to see if Arthur will take his shirt off.  At least, we presume that’s why.  Lurking on the internet is the original script for this episode, in which Arthur tears off his shirt and is described as being “ripped like 50 Cent.”  This was scrapped when they realized Arthur didn’t need to have bullet holes in him, and also that tearing off his shirt was slightly homoerotic, although they left in the lines “I could take you apart with one blow,” and “I could take you apart with less than that.”  Hmm, tearing off your shirt like a Chippendale dancer?  Or blowing?  Chippendale, blowing, Chippendale, blowing.  Is it any wonder poor little Merlin is confused?

The Dragon's Call

So they don’t get off on the best foot, but luckily for Merlin an evil sorceress (played by Eve Myles from Torchwood) shows up at the court and tries to kill everyone.  Merlin does a nifty thing where he stops time, which we hardly see again, and he saves Arthur from the very magical knife thrown at him.  This prompts King Uther to give Merlin a reward:  he will be Arthur’s manservant!  Arthur protests, but his daddy issues are as big as his desperate need for medieval orthodontia, so Merlin does, indeed, get to put Arthur’s clothes on and take them off again.

Other things that happen:  there’s a dragon chained up under the castle who keeps bothering Merlin when he’s trying to sleep; Lady Morgana is really pretty and we will just ignore the terrible acting lalala; and Merlin meets Guinevere, who says everyone calls her Gwen and that she doesn’t like Arthur because he’s a bully.  If only, Gwen, if only.

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