More fool me. I was really looking forward to the first half of this finale, as Merlin usually does a good job with episodes requiring straightforward action and development of its core mythology, but "The Coming Of Arthur – Part One" disappointed me in too many ways. It was reasonably entertaining and ended on a provocative note (spoiled by promotional material, nevertheless -- see above), but it was largely another example of how repetitive Merlin is.
It seems the crackerjack two-part premiere spent half the budget this year, as many action sequences occurred off-screen here; from the opening murder of Uther's knights, to the invasion of Camelot by a torch-wielding militia. While I can understand neither was necessary to see, strictly speaking, I couldn't help feeling shortchanged considering this is the finale. But there were other, bigger annoyances to contend with -- like the baffling emptiness of Camelot after its storming, the ridiculousness that Gaius (Richard Wilson) survived the ordeal by hiding in a pantry, and proof that Cenred's character has been a colossal waste of time when he was offhandedly killed. Uther and Cenred (sworn enemies we were constantly told) didn't even get to share a scene together.
So where does this leave us going into next week's conclusion? Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine and Elyan (Adetomiwa Edun) will most likely rescue the imprisoned Uther, Merlin will summon the Great Dragon to help, I'm guessing there'll be a fun role reversal with servant Gwen (Angel Coulby) as the "mole" in Morgana's new regime, Merlin's vial of water from Avalon will probably defeat Morgause, and Part Two's trailer (see below) confirms the return of Excalibur (to defeat the immortal army?), together with the introduction of the Round Table. Sounds fun, but hopefully everything won't unfold as predictably as I'm fearing it will. Or is that too much to ask with Merlin?
- Can you imagine the look on actor Rupert Young's face when he opened his script and read that his character, Sir Leon, is dead on the first page? I hope he read on without immediately calling the producers to complain that his longstanding supporting role came to such an abrupt end!
- If Star Trek has "redshirts" (nameless members of the crew that usually die on away missions), does Merlin have "redcapes"?
- Did anyone else notice how chubby the stuntman playing Merlin was, in that shot where Merlin and Arthur are riding horses on their quest? They tried to obscure Colin Morgan's double with trees, but you could tell. Are there no stuntmen thin enough?
- If you're sniggering at the episode title, are you too old to be watching Merlin? Let's be honest here.
- I can't help feeling series 3's finale lacks the human touch of series 2's, with Merlin meeting his father. There's nothing comparable to that here.
- Tom Ellis looks so uncomfortable in that black leather. Seeing him reminds me of a time I saw my history teacher wearing motorbike leathers. It's just not right.
WRITER: Jake Michie
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Webb
TRANSMISSION: 27 November 2010, BBC1/HD, 7.45PM