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Opinion

‘Merlin’ – The Mark of Nimueh/The Poisoned Chalice

‘Merlin’ has done something pretty amazing: it has made this jaded viewer miss Desperate Housewives on Sunday nights.


Merlin is predictable, cheesy, and lacks a charismatic lead. Anthony Stewart Head can be the only glimmer of hope in this show, with that incredible voice and endless talent even when portraying a morally bad man. Weve seen him so very good (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and now weve seen him so very bad.

In the two episodes we were treated to this Sunday, The Mark of Nimeuh and The Poisoned Chalice, we had two boring – and mostly stand alone — episodes that once again left Merlin trying to keep his magical abilities a secret and save the day at the same time.

In The Mark of Nimeuh, the evil sorceress Nimeuh, played by the former bionic woman, Michelle Ryan, has placed a poisonous dragon egg in the water supply of Camelot. This leads to creepy blue faces on the poor townspeople popping up all around town and eventually dying. When Gwens father is one of them, Merlin must use his magic to save the day.

He is successful, naturally, and manages to save the girl and keep his magic a secret. An awful problem quickly brought to an end by our reluctant hero who doesnt think hes worthy, because what true hero would know what great strengths he has? They always start off so humble.

In The Poisoned Chalice, Merlin falls prey to Nimeuhs revengeful plan and ends up sick and in Gaiuss care. Nimeuh is upset that he thwarted her plan in the previous episode, and wants him to pay for it. Arthur goes off in search of the remedy, meeting Nimeuh along the way. She tries to kill him and Merlin manages to save him with his magic from far away in Camelot. How he knew Arthur was in trouble:Im not quite sure:but he did.

Both episodes have cheesy monsters in them, and the special effects are lacking quite a bit. They should focus more on the evil characters, like Nimeauh and the bad sides of Uther than they do the CGI monsters. They would be better served to delve into character drama than magic and special effects to try to insert some action and intrigue into an otherwise dry show.

What Worked

The character of Morgana shows some promise. She took some action in The Poisoned Chalice, and told Arthur to go against Uthers wishes. Not only is she beautiful, but she is far more intriguing than the boring actress that plays Guinevere. Morgana moves the plot forward and its hard to say what her role will be just yet in the rest of the series. Shes not naïve and innocent like Guinevere (read: boring), but shes not blatantly evil like Nimeuh. It will be interesting to see where they go with her.

What Didnt Work

Where to start? Has anyone else seen the correlation between this show and the BBCs Robin Hood? What Robin Hood gets right, this one doesnt. It appears as though they are trying to present another legend re-done, and capture the same audience. Robin Hood has a captivating lead in Jonas Armstrong, incredible supporting actors (Richard Armitage, Keith Allen, and Toby Stephens), and a plot that continues to get better even into its third season.

Need more evidence of the similarities? How about the transition sounds. In Merlin theres the swiping of a sword to show a change in scene, in Robin Hood its the sound of a bow being shot from an arrow. The only thing that would make this transition seem worthy is if Merlin (or Arthur for that matter), appeared strong enough to be able to pick up a sword.

Those who have watched Robin Hood, will know that it had cheesy effects and lines in the beginning of the series, but its gotten much better. One can only hope that Merlin will get better as it progresses and the characters will develop into the famous representations that history has made them worthy of being. For that reason, I will keep watching and hoping for the best.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“The Mark Of Nimueh” was written by Julian Jones and directed by James Hawes. “The Poisoned Chalice” was written by Ben Vanstone and directed by Ed Fraiman. “Merlin” stars Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson, Colin Morgan, Bradley James, and Anthony Head.

“Merlin” airs Sundays on NBC.

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