Sunday 1 November 2009

MERLIN 2.6 - "Beauty And The Beast - Part Two"

Sunday 1 November 2009

[SPOILERS] Unusually scripted by a different writer to part one, Ben Vanstone picks up the "Beauty And The Beast" baton and concludes this two-part story in fine style. However, this remains a tale I'd preferred to have seen condensed into one episode...

Following last week's marriage of King Uther (Anthony Head) to incognito troll Lady Catrina (Sarah Parish), the duplicitous monster plots to takeover Camelot; first by removing Merlin (Colin Morgan) by accusing him of stealing a family heirloom, then by raising taxes to extortionate levels so that Arthur's (Bradley James) forced to defy his father's wishes and face disinheritance. Lady Catrina steps forward as the new heir to the throne and, despite the fact Merlin succeeds in expose her as a stinking monstrosity by replacing her shape-changing potion with a useless imitation, Uther's loyalty to his wife is assured thanks to the magical amulet he's wearing round his neck...

Despite my general indifference to this mid-series tale, this was undoubtedly a jaunty and amusing two-parter. Sarah Parish was clearly having immense fun shuffling about sniffing her own farts, and sequences where Uther continued treating Catrina as a beautiful swan when she resembled a human toad were often hilarious; from Uther noticing Catrina's fragrance and being told it's dung, to planting a gruesome kiss on her tusked lips in bed. Such scenes undoubtedly provoked laughter from both young and old audiences.

The episode fell down in its formulaic use of the sanctimonious Dragon (John Hurt) in telling Merlin how to break Catrina's spell (the king must cry genuine tears of remorse, so they plan to fake Arthur's death), but otherwise there wasn't too much to complain about. Arthur was more receptive to Merlin's warnings than he was last week (for storytelling purposes) but you still get the impression the level of trust between the pair changes according to what the plot demands.

In terms of its influence on the bigger picture this year, Gwen (Angel Coulby) was gladdened by Athur going against his father's outrageous tax increase, the Dragon reminded us that Merlin owes him his freedom, and it was interesting to hear in the denouement that Uther believed these events only go to prove how dangerous magic is. Interesting because, when you stop and think about it, Uther's half-right. While magic can be used for good by benevolent people, if it didn't exist there'd be far less trouble and at least everyone would be on equal footing.

Overall, "Beauty And The Beast" was definitely a pleasurable and funny story, but not the kind of thing I respond to particularly. It'll be forgotten in no time because nothing of consequence really came of it. These episodes were aimed more at young fans -- and, while that's not a problem in itself, it's a pity there wasn't a touch more for adults to chew on. Fart gags and saying the word "dung" every five minutes can only carry you so far.

Personally, I found more satisfaction in a final scene between Merlin and Arthur, which again carried traces of homoeroticsm, as prudish Arthur shied away from Merlin's hug. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps Merlin really does have sexual feelings for his master, given the fact he's has barely looked at a girl in nineteen episodes. Of course, I doubt the writers will take things in that direction for family viewing purposes, but there's certainly an undercurrent that Merlin's homosexual, or bisexual at the very least. With the majority of female guest-stars turning out to be evil sorceresses, hideous trolls, or malevolent fairies – no wonder poor Merlin has mild gynophobia.

31 October 2009
BBC1, 6.15pm

written by: Ben Vanstone directed by: Metin Huseyin starring: Colin Morgan (Merlin), Sarah Parish (Lady Catrina), Anthony Head (King Uther), Adam Godley (Jonas), Richard Wilson (Gaius), Bradley James (Arthur), Angel Coulby (Gwen), Katie McGrath (Morgana), Michael Cronin (Geoffrey of Monmouth), Rhys Rusbatch (Guard), Rupert Young (Sir Leon) & Brian Peck (Eldred)