The second season of Merlin arrives with a lot of promise,
but is largely a repeat of the first season.
That's not a bad thing; the first season was good (if you were
unlearn everything you ever knew about King Arthur and Camelot) and had
entertaining episodes. I was just hoping
for the series to grow a bit and flesh out the characters a bit more,
really didn't happen for the most part.
What we're left with is a set of 13 entertaining shows that
start off a
bit slow but build to an exciting climax.
The show centers around a young version of Merlin (Colin
Morgan), the person who would grow to be King Arthur's most trusted
advisor. In this series however, Merlin
is still a young man. He travels to
to be trained by the royal physician, Gaius (Richard Wilson) a man who
knows something about magic. Gaius soon
discovers that Merlin's a very special person indeed.
While all magicians have to spend years
studying and must chant spells to perform the most basic incantations,
can do amazing things silently, and without any training.
He can slow down time with just a gesture and
move objects with but a thought.
The only problem is magic is outlawed in Camelot. The King,
Uther Pendragon (wonderfully portrayed by Anthony Head, best known as
Giles on Buffy), fought long and hard in his
youth to rid the land of black magic, as well as dragons, and now has
any use of magic on pain of death. So Merlin has to hide his abilities.
Added into the mix is the King's son, the arrogant Prince
Arthur (Bradley James), Uther's ward, Morgana (Katie McGrath), and
servant girl Guinevere (Angel Coulby). After
saving Arthur's life, Merlin is awarded the position of being the
manservant and the two slowly start to become friends.
Though magic is outlawed, that doesn't mean that it isn't
practiced, and Uther has made many enemies when he cleansed the land of
evil. These foes turn up on a regular
basis to take their revenge on either the king or his heir, and it's up
Merlin, added by Gaius and with the cryptic advice of an ancient dragon
up in the catacombs beneath the city, to keep them, and the kingdom,
This season there is a bit more continuity to the show,
which is nice. The Druids pop up again,
a couple of times, and Morgana's dreams which can foretell the future
more frequent and worrisome. Over the
course of this season Morgana comes to believe that she may have magic
abilities and Uther's persecution of anyone with magic starts to really
From Uther's point of view, he's fully justified in killing
anyone who practices magic. Throughout
this series he's attacked from every angle by evil magic and though
about always saves him by using incantations the King is unaware of it. Is it any wonder that he sees magic as only
used for evil purposes?
The other big plot that winds its way through this season is
the budding romance between Arthur and Guinevere. The
love plot is done well, with Lancelot popping
up once again too, and could really take off next season.
The biggest flaw with this season as a whole is the lack of
suspense for most episodes. While the
stories are entertaining, they start to fall into the same pattern: something odd happens, Gaius and Merlin
discover that magic is behind the event and try to stop it, they fail,
goes to the Dragon chained beneath the castle who tells him exactly how
break the spell or defeat the creature.
This was fine in the first season when things were just
starting, but it
happens with a bit too much regularity in this set of episodes. In the shows defense however, they have set
it up so that season three won't fall into this trap.
The first couple of installments of this season were just
so-so, but as the year wore on the quality generally improved. Standout episodes include The Witchfinder,
where Uther summons a man to root out all of the magicians in the realm. The man he hires isn't above deceit and
trickery to find magicians, and he has Merlin in his sights. The last two episodes are also excellent
entertainment and end the season on a high note and forever change the
of the show.
Even the weak shows are fun to watch however, and that's
largely due to the strong cast. Easily my
favorite actor on the show is Anthony Head.
He does an outstanding job as the king.
He's regal but also mean and ruthless, just as a king during the
ages would likely be. He knows he can't
afford to make mistakes and that lives hang on his every decision, and
the errors he has made come back to haunt him.
Bradley James is also excellent as the young Arthur.
He has striking good looks and a cocky
attitude that reminds one of the popular jocks in high school. His character grows and develops over the
course of the show and James does a great job of making those changes
natural and realistic.
The show arrives on five discs that are housed in a fold out
folder with two overlapping discs per page.
This show comes with a stereo soundtrack that's pretty
dynamic. While a 5.1 track would have
been preferred, the show makes good use of the front soundstage and is
during some of the more intense battle sequences. I
just wish there was a LFE channel when the
dragon is around.
Like the first season, the 1.78:1 image looks pretty good,
but it could be better. The picture is a
soft throughout and there's some aliasing in the background that's
noticeable. The colors are solid and the
contrast is fine.
This set has a good amount of bonus features, most of which
are found on the fifth disc. In addition
to several commentary tracks on various episodes by members of the cast
crew, there are a couple of nice featurettes.
First is an Introduction to Merlin
Season Two, a fluff piece where the cast and producers tell
exciting the new season will be and how much better it is than season
one. Nothing much here, so just move on to
next bonus item. That would be 13
episodes of Secrets and Magic, a behind the scenes look at the filming
installment of this season. The program
runs between 10-14 minutes each and talks with the cast and crew about
episode as it's being filmed. A nice
extra. There's also an expanded
half-hour installment of Secrets and Magic that looks over the whole
(and reveals that the spells that are used are actually spoken in old
The extras are rounded out with a photo gallery and a series
of computer wallpapers that you can install on your Mac or PC.
The second season didn't build on the first so much as it
continued the same pattern. That's not
bad; it's still an enjoyable show. The
characters are intriguing if a little two dimensional and the stories
fun. If you liked the first season,
chances are you'll like this on too. Recommended.