Merlin [2012] (BBC) Season 5. 13 Episodes, Conclusion

This Season, Everyone Dies! ~or~ “By the way, Arthur, I’m a Sorcerer!”

Merlin_BBC_season_5_colourful_camelot_castle

Five seasons of BBC Merlin comes to an end. The Smallville inspired adventures of young Arthur and his occasionally-magic footman reach their inevitable, tragic Arthurian conclusion. Oh, don’t get us wrong. We like this series, but it’s weighed down by the Arthurian legend itself, and a lack of series-arc momentum. It all comes flooding to an end before fully cooked. How many seasons did they think they were going to get? More arc progression doled out along the way, or perhaps some years passing between seasons, might have brought this series to a level of maturity that would’ve left the ending more resonant.

Merlin_BBC_season_5_arthur_legend_end

(This picture strategically placed to keep your spirits up.)

(This picture strategically placed to keep your spirits up.)

Remember the Star Wars prequels? We knew the whole tragic future. A once proud Republic rots from the inside to become the Empire. A young boy with promise becomes the galaxy’s worst villain. All the Jedi but Obi-Wan will die. Yoda retreats into hiding. Senator Palpatine seizes power to become an Emperor. Luke Skywalker’s mother dies. None of these things could be altered, and we could only watch it play out.

"I may not look happy, but I'm jumping for joy on the inside. My character Gaius actually lived to the end!"

“I may not look happy, but I’m jumping for joy on the inside. My character Gaius actually lived to the end!”

"Well, my character dies and I'm out of a job, but I'll always have my fabulous jaw."

“Well, my character died and I’m out of a job, but I’ll always have my fabulous jaw.”

This version of the Arthurian tale never has its golden age. Camelot never flourishes under Arthur, though he is often purported in the show to be so great. His time as king is short, his marriage to Guenevere shorter, and not until the very last episode does he even find out Merlin has magic, right before he dies. Arthur did not even become king until halfway through the series. It would have helped had the golden age been at least alluded to. Set the final season later, and open with, “For ten years, Camelot has experienced an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity.”

Merlin_BBC_season_5_battlefield_happy_season

The Merlin producers pushed the Doctor Who crew off the quarry site for a day of filming Camelot's 'prosperity.'

The Merlin producers pushed the Doctor Who crew off the quarry site for a day of filming Camelot’s ‘prosperity.’

Goofy Arthur, noble Arthur, and slapstick Arthur, in that order.

Goofy Arthur, noble Arthur, and slapstick Arthur, in that order.

But enough about pacing and inevitability. Let’s do the classic Fortress season in the sentence: Arthur’s king, and married, but we hope he enjoyed his honeymoon because Camelot will be besieged for the rest of the season by hordes of computer-generated armies brought down by the crazed Morgana (why someone would want to be one of her short-lived henchmen is beyond us), while Merlin still goofs around using a little magic in the background to help Arthur while the cast encounters punk faeries, more ginormous monoliths, Stonehenge, Obi-Wan Kenobi (sort of), an alien(!), and a couple more run-ins with the evil twin plot.

The Obi-Wan? We'll start with the reappearance of Merlin's dragonlord father. "May the (magic) Source be with you."

The Obi-Wan? We’ll start with the reappearance of Merlin’s dragonlord father. “May the (magic) Source be with you.”

Just a few days ride from Camelot is Ye Old Giant Northern Megalith.

Just a few days ride from Camelot is Ye Old Giant Northern Megalith.

"Must I come back to do evil this season?"

“Must I come back to do evil this season?”

Evil twin plot reprisals:

  • Arthur’s father Uther returns, but to do evil!
  • Princess Mithian returns (remember how well she and Arthur got along last season?), but is being forced to do evil!
  • Gwen is broken and spelled by Morgana, to secretly do evil!
"See how eeeevil I look?"

“See how eeeevil I look?”

Bad guy checklist: Horrid asymmetrical expression? Check. Plethora of unnecessary buckles? Check. Ripped dirty clothing? Check. Scimitar? Wow, this guy went all in.

Bad guy checklist: Horrid asymmetrical expression? Check. Plethora of unnecessary buckles? Check. Ripped dirty clothing? Check. Scimitar? Wow, this guy went all in.

Merlin_packing_his_bag

Okay, so a lot of people stand around and let themselves be stabbed by swords. Is that so wrong? It’s only Arthur, Mordred, and Morgana, and all in one episode! It seems for this epic confrontation we all knew had to come someday, there were so many episodes in the past that did not help set it up and can now be seen as ‘fancified,’ sometimes entertaining, often interesting, but ultimately extraneous.

"Extraneous? Look at all the eeevil looks I accomplished this season!"

“Extraneous? Look at all the eeevil looks I accomplished this season!”

Merlin's beard! What the &^%#@! is that? ET is going to have to wait a thousand years to phone home.

Merlin’s beard! What the &^%#@! is that? ET is going to have to wait a thousand years to phone home.

Did this season rely too much on the “force push” as the major expression of magic? Yes. Is it a budget saving measure? Probably. But we did get to see a number of computer-generated monoliths, and at the very, very end, Merlin calls down a little lightning. But don’t forget the alien. That was worth it… *sigh*

"This place will be famous one day." "Please, Merlin, it's a bunch of big stones."

“This place will be famous one day.” “Please, Merlin. It’s a bunch of big stones.”

Add a dash of punk.

Add a dash of punk.

"Who keeps building these! And how is it they are all so close?"

“Who keeps building these! And how is it they are all so close?”

We liked this show. It took some initial adjustment, but it’s been a good ride for five years. Too bad the ending was such a rushed downer.

"I'm dying too Merlin, and Arthur's gone. But in the time of Albion's greatest need he shall rise again." "Five years of shining boots for what? This story is really starting to stink."

“I’m dying too Merlin, and Arthur’s gone. But in the time of Albion’s greatest need, he shall rise again.” “Really? Five years of shining boots for what? This story’s really starting to stink.”

This picture strategically placed to keep the next one of Arthur's final trip to Avalon from being too depressing.

This picture strategically placed to keep the next one of Arthur’s final trip to Avalon from being too depressing.

Merlin_BBC_season_5_arthur_avalon

Our Takes on all the Merlin Seasons:

Merlin [2008] Season 1

Merlin [2009] Season 2

Merlin [2010] Season 3

Merlin [2011] Season 4

Merlin [2011] Season 5

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Huntik: Secrets and Seekers [2012] Season 2. 26 Episodes

Newbs Become Vets

Huntik_season_2_Lok_summon_titan

"Huntik 5D! Yes, so much fun we needed an extra dimension or two to show it!"

“Huntik 5D! Yes, so much fun we needed an extra dimension or two to show it!”

Ignio Straffi parlayed Winx Club success to make Huntik: Secrets and Seekers, no doubt funding the three-year delay between seasons one and two (and a Huntik theme park attraction). If you watched season one, you know what a fun and different show it was. It had an action format like an American show, and a detailed overarching story like an anime of finite episodes.

Huntik_season_2_sophie_storyboards

Sophie Casterwill is still "the world's most dangerous teen."

Sophie Casterwill is still “the world’s most dangerous teen.”

That was a lot to live up to. Did Straffi pull it off two seasons in a row? A complex show deserves a complex answer, so we are going to say ‘yes and no’ and break it down for you. But the quality of the show and the capability of the artisans involved is not in question. As is often the case with such a fine crew, it falls upon the writers and plot developers to give them something fitting to create.

Some well done background art.

Well done background art. (That cave is like a gemologist’s dream.)

Huntik_season_2_Zhalia_storyboards

Season two in an outrageously long sentence: After kicking the professor’s butt (we miss him now) the team takes on his former right-hand man Rassimov and the eerie blood spiral cult as they apparently want to bring about the end of all life on earth, a rather dubious goal to be sure, and along the way both sides add a newbie to their ranks which ends up gobbling screen time but yields little value to the plot, action, drama, or resolution, yet probably reinforces some lesson we’re supposed to learn.

Two interesting villains.

Two interesting villains (doing classic villainous grins).

Two time-gobbling dipsticks we did not care about and a ridiculous bag of bones titan.

Two time-gobbling dipsticks we didn’t care about, and a ridiculous bag of bones titan.

The Huntik season two recipe?

  1. 1 part Pokemon
  2. 2 (many) parts civil war drama that pits brother against brother
  3. 1 part later Harry Potter (where the plot grew hazy & heavy)
  4. A pinch of the reviled Scrappy Doo (the newbs)
  5. Mix together with a tasty but unfitting dash of Power Rangers

Huntik_Season_2_Sophie_fan_art

Don’t get us wrong, Huntik is a lot better than most schlock out there, and the first season was so good that any show would be hard-pressed to live up to it. There were many times during second season where it did indeed do so. A great plus we have to mention is that for 99% of the season, they managed to not emasculate Dante Vale, super operative for the sake of making his young apprentice Lok look good.

Won't anyone help this man? Dante Vale, as usual, carrying the load... into space?

Won’t anyone help this man? Dante Vale, as usual, carrying the load… into space?

Huntik_Sophie_Casterwill_01_by_AuraRinoa

What about those important plot threads from season one? They were pretty much left dangling, and replaced by stuff not quite as interesting. What about Lok’s father in the titan world? What about Cherit’s past? What about Dante and Zhalia’s feelings for each other? Heck, Zhalia had a greatly reduced role this season, and she used to be a lot more fun.

Early on, they tantalizingly teased us with possible movement about Cherit's memory. Still, Cherit was handled so well this season, growing in power, wisdom, and likeability.

They tantalizingly teased us with near-revelations about Cherit’s past. But no dice. Still, he was handled well this season, growing in power, wisdom, and likeability.

Can you find Zhalia in this picture? Can you find her in this season?

Can you find Zhalia in this picture? Can you find her in this season?

The return of Sabriel in an early episode, Sophie’s favorite titan, was one of the most moving moments of the season. Sophie’s fight for the leadership of her clan, and the avenging of her childhood tragedy were all good stuff.

The return of Sabriel was great. One of the few things set up in season one to be paid off.

The return of Sabriel was dramatic and well done. One of the few things set up in season one to be paid off.

The mid-season climax, a tremendous budget busting battle, was one of the best episodes we’ve seen. But all of these were in the first half of the season.

Huntik_Season_2_title_card_the_spiral_war_episode_40

This battle was so chock full of budget busting assets and planning that we would not be surprised if it was far and away the most expensive and difficult episode of the season.

This battle was so chock full of budget busting assets, choreography, and story that we wouldn’t be surprised if it was far and away the most expensive and difficult episode of the season.

Who were the “Nullifiers” we kept being threatened by? Who was the “Betrayer?” Whom did he betray? The blood spirals and their goals were poorly defined, and thus the later episodes lost drama energy. And honestly, Rassimov was a good henchman, but not a charismatic lead bad guy. It was almost as if there were two Huntik season arcs crammed into one season. Neither got the full attention and revelation it deserved.

"I summon plot answers!

“I summon plot answers!

Who was this weird "betrayer?" Who did he betray? He just kind of came to life at the end of the season. "I'm the bad guy!"

Who was this weird “betrayer?” Whom did he betray? When? He just kind of came to life at the end of the season. “Look at me! I’m the bad guy!”

Straffi and the gang proved to us they still have what it takes to make awesome episodes (and apparently a theme park attraction). We just hope that they bring more of it, enough for the entirety of season three.

Dante Vale looks happy. The rest look like they're ready to punch you in the face!

Dante Vale looks (a little too) happy. The rest look like they’re ready to punch you in the face! Why so mad Sophie?

Now check out this guy rawking out with the Huntik “rock anthem” opening!


Huntik Related Takes:

Huntik: Secrets & Seekers [2009] Season 1. 26 Episodes

Huntik: Secrets and Seekers [2012]  Season 2. 26 Episodes

Top Ten Animated Pictures Vol 2.

Also By Iginio Straffi:

Winx Club Season 1 – (The Trix)

Winx Club Season 2 – (Darkar)

Winx Club Season 3 – (Baltor/Valtor)

Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom

Winx Club Season 4 – The Black Circle (part 1)

Winx Club Season 4 – The Black Circle (part 2)

Winx Club 3D: Magica Avventura


Merlin [2011] (BBC) Season 4. 13 Episodes

Merlin, Merlin, Merlin… Why art thou such a roller coaster? Wouldst thou grant us two fully commendable seasons in a row? One was good. Two not as much. Season three bounced back. Following this pattern the fourth season has to dip. Does it buck the trend? Sadly, no. Still, Merlin season four has its moments and is not without fun, entertainment, and an almost fanatical devotion to the “evil twin” plot.

“Oh Arthur, thank you for marrying me in front of all these computer generated guests.”

“Strange that we never noticed this ginormous castle before…”

Fourth season in a sentence: After Uther more-or-less dies twice, Arthur ascends to the throne only to be blatantly (and obviously) manipulated by the evil vizier stereotype while Morgana hangs out in a woodland hut hatching overly elaborate plots, and Gaius narrowly avoids multiple deaths, the producers avoid special effects burning money instead on an expanded cast, and all the while Merlin meanders in a season more aptly named “Arthur and his Semi-Magic Footman.”

Oh look, Merlin used that aging potion again and as a cantankerous old man is forcing Arthur to carry him piggyback. Such hilarity.

Agravaine: Evil vizier stereotype. (Though you might not believe it from his TOTALLY innocent, “Arthur, you can trust me,” expression.)

An oldy but goody, the evil twin plot (in all its variants) is one of the most common, most overused, stock plots in history. The list of who does not have an evil twin this season would be shorter.

  • Gwen gets bewitched to the dark side and into an illicit rendezvous
  • Bad guys twist Merlin into becoming an assassin
  • An evil spirit possesses Sir Elyan turning him evil
  • A woman’s malevolent power turns Arthur’s knights against each other
  • Sir Lancelot is brought back from the dead–sort of–with sinister purpose

“Aren’t I handsome? Yes I–huh? I’m evil this season?”

(Star Trek was also an over-user of the evil twin plot. But the greatest abuser was the original Knight Rider series, where every star–including the car, had an evil twin.)

Michael Knight and evil twin Garth Knight: Ruining facial hair for good guys everywhere.

“What about me? I’m a real (and comely) princess. One whom Arthur naturally falls for. I would have made him a fitting wife. Alas, he decided to go with the serving wench who will eventually betray him.”

Note the Merlin cosplayer got the splayed fingers right. We noted that way back in season one. It’s Merlin’s secret weapon! See picture reposted below:

One of the (very) few non-force push magic battles. Old Merlin faced Morgana in the woods (where else) with a whirlwind.

Merlin season 4 may leave you asking the question, “What is magic?” If you answer that it is the ability to do a force push, you would be right. 98.2% of all the magic this season is pushing someone with an invisible force, and that’s it. A cop out. If we wanted that kind of supernatural phenomena, we would play a Star Wars game. Even Merlin’s final showdown with the evil vizier turned into just another force push, which may leave you asking the question, “Did that kill him?”

Hmmm… Where have we seen this shot before?

Yes… This pose is very familiar!

Great ghost of Nimueh! Morgana and Arthur are both… Seekers!?

With Sir Gwaine now a regular, and at least four knights in the permanent cast this season, money was obviously tight. No wonder there was no room for special effects. Instead we were treated to amusing antics. Oh those knights, so funny in their camaraderie. And where that was not sufficient to fill time, we were supposed be amused by more slapstick between Merlin and Arthur, often involving the latter being in some state of undress. Really producers? Has it come down to base fan girl pleasing?

“Listen carefully young warlock, with this season’s VFX budget, this will be our only conversation.”

Was it just us or was this “sword and the stone” scene rushed, convenient, and out of nowhere? “Look what I found in the woods!”

Katie McGrath’s winning jaw is as fine as ever, and even her acting is improving. However they gave her little to work with this season, which was still about 50% more than most characters barring Arthur. Just about everyone and their brother betrays Arthur this season (literally including Gwen and her brother Sir Elyan). No one said it was easy being king. And we must keep our minds from going to where we know this all ends after just a few short Golden Age of Camelot years. Something they hint at with a flash forward.

One just does not know how to take this flash forward, especially this season. Is it yet another use of the aging potion or some far flung future?

Who keeps building these things!?

Oh look, a romantically coupled pair of rogues with hearts of gold. That can mean only one thing. Tragedy.

Merlin originally surprised us with its fresh take. Though the seasons have been somewhat inconsistent, there have been just enough good episodes to keep us interested. However if next season is like this one, our interest may have to move on. Use the force Merlin! Uh, we mean that as a pep talk. Do not take us literally.

“What? No, it can’t end this way.” Yeah, the season ending also left us saying, “Huh?”.

Our Takes on all the Merlin Seasons:

Merlin [2008] Season 1

Merlin [2009] Season 2

Merlin [2010] Season 3

Merlin [2011] Season 4

Merlin [2011] Season 5

 

Thor: Tales of Asgard [2011]

This production is not for young kids. We are not saying it is as monotone, adult and unappealing as The Dark Knight [2008]. However it deals with adult themes, diplomacy, betrayal, bitter feminism, some womanizing and a few atomizations.

Why so grim Hogun? Lighten up.

That description may be at odds to an art direction more reminiscent of The Next Avengers. Cutesy Thor and Loki have skinny legs and big feet, not having grown into full manhood. Of course that does not stop them from causing man sized trouble.

Odin fights the demon Sutur. Note the size difference. Yes, that is Odin in the circle. And he won this match too.

The opening credits were pleasingly classy and interesting (especially for a direct to home market release). Though to us they clashed a bit with the stylized, less detailed animation. They also seemed somewhat at odds with Thor’s teenage angst and naïveté.

Could Loki's brooding expression foretell a future path of evil? ...nah.

Is the enchanting Enchantress Amora teaching Loki sign language? We know the question you might be asking, "Why did Thor never go for her?"

How about a one sentence synopsis? Teenaged Thor thinks he’s a man but is really a weenie, so he tries to prove otherwise by stowing away on a mission with his younger brother Loki easily finding a legendary blade no one for generations seemed able to find and causing a chain reaction of events leading to some fried frost giants, war amongst the Asgardian lands, interruption of feminist Valkyrie river bathing, some pointless battles and an ending which leaves you saying, “eh”.

Uh... very inconvenient. Unless you can teleport or fly. Great view though.

Could this innocent looking dark elf possibly be holding in resentment, rage and a hunger for vengeance? ...nah.

This tired story really did not have to star Thor. The spoiled prince, some womanizing knights, the fiery attitude filled girlfriend denied being a warrior in a male-dominated society, kingdoms separated by a fragile truce… Yes you have heard it all before. Thor did not do a thing normally associated with the character. He did not use his hammer, call down lightning, or even utter, “I say the nay!” It is not even “Thor Year One”. It is more like “Thor Year Minus One” (because at least in year one he would get his hammer.)

Sure Sif, train with the Valkyries. That will help your anger issues. (Although we are partial to archers...)

Tales of Asgard was not bad. It had interesting moments and is worth watching. However it carries no surprises, earth shattering moments or a very satisfying ending. And some of the teen angst between Thor and his father Odin was ripped almost line for line from “The Little Mermaid”.

  • Thor/Ariel: “But father I want to see the outside world.”
  • Odin/King Triton: “I forbid it.”
  • Thor/Ariel: “I’m grown up, you can’t keep me here!”
  • Odin/King Triton: “I am your king and your father and you will obey me!”

How did this picture get in here? Wrong undersea king.

Asgard itself was a little hard to pin down in regards to its technology and even era. Sometimes it was ancient Greek, other times medieval England. We are not sure what exactly they were going for. However at least the depictions of the Frost Giants was adequate. Unlike the live-action Thor movie, Frost Giants were actually… well, giant.

Flaming swords and frost giants... No, don't try to make it make sense. Just be pleased they were actually big.

The depiction of the Warriors Three was well done. But they are easy and fun stereotypes to work with.

One of the least fun depictions was the Valkyries. Led by Brunhilde, they were male hating, cold hearted, duplicitous, murderous wenches. That is no exaggeration for the sake of humor or wit. Yet another island of bitter females who “throw off male subjugation” with ill temper and stifled aggression. A sect not satisfied until every female who ever experienced a bump on their romantic highway joins their unhappy enclave. Misery truly loves company.

"See how happy I look? Join us Sif and you will be this happy too."

If you go into this production with no expectations you may get one hour and 13 minutes worth of mild entertainment. Even if some of the characterizations are a little much, the overall plot stayed rather safe, although perhaps a little staid.

It was pretty much nothing like this. Talk about violating truth in advertising laws.

Check out related takes:

Hulk Vs Thor [2009]

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [2008]

Iron Man: Armored Adventures Season 1 [2008]

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 [2010]

Winx Club 3D: Magic Adventure (Magica Avventura) [2010]

This is the second Winx Club movie, and like the first (Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom) it is a self-contained, high-quality experience independent of the series. Both movies differentiate themselves with computer-generated graphics in contrast to the television show’s traditional animation (and this take is not about debating which style is best).

Flora was looking good (despite a tragic peroxide accident). Someone needs to remind the animators that her hair is supposed to be brown.

We will say that if you are going to do something, do it well. This movie for the most part has strong art design. You can make a lot of ideas look good with computer graphics. However if an idea really stinks, even the graphics may not save it. But good ideas abound, like interesting and fitting manifestations of the different character’s powers. The magics were not reduced to different colored balls of light. Such copouts plagued the television series’ fourth season.

Oh, and when in doubt, take inspiration from a classic.

Set designs and artistic touches were a visual treat. Almost all the places visited, and they were quite varied, were rich in their own way. From the mundane, like Bloom’s earthly parents home, to the fantastic like Bloom’s biological parent’s castle. Plus there were surprise colourful transitions like that GIF at the top.

Average park? Average looks? Average clothes? There is nothing average about the Winx girls. Isn't this how everyone dolls themselves up for a stroll in the fabulously average park?

The action scenes were some of the best choreographed of the franchise. It was not just blast after blast. There was maneuvering, defense and strategy. Important to us as well was the original Company of Light was not dissed. King Oritel, now restored and in his prime was not treated as second-tier to highlight the Winx girls. Instead he was out there kicking butt as one would expect from the leader of that legendary band.

King Oritel is back, and he remembered how to pose.

However this movie experience is not without flaw. Someone over in the costume design department:

  1. got too cute
  2. got drunk
  3. passed the work off to an intern
  4. is colorblind

We say this because some of the outfits were just dreadful in contrast to those cool battle suits the girls wore in the first movie.

You don't need Timmy's I.Q. to realize someone spilled paint all over Tecna's outfit.

This collection of clashing, garish awful outfits is only better for Musa. Her believix pantaloons are not hard to best...

No new characters were introduced. The villains were the Trix, who we were glad to see back (and computer generated), and the ancestral witches whose storyline we were glad to see wrap up. Despite this known cast we still felt as though we experienced travel and newness within the breadth of the wide Winx universe. This starts right at the beginning with a fun, narrated introductory 5 minutes. It was surprisingly “techy” for a magic based series.

Remember when teleporting only required Stella's cool Solarian staff and not a nuclear blast? Ah, those were the days...

The Winx girls are unperturbed! (Despite being bombarded by gamma rays...)

The movie also fell prey to the, “we know what little girls like and are going to give it to them whether it fits this movie or not” syndrome. The lead character Bloom is the primary victim of this. Sometimes portrayed as a 10-year-old girl living the fantasy life of a princess in a beautiful castle being given a pony. At other times dressing as a slightly provocative teen and lip locking with her boyfriend at times both appropriate and strange.

However this Picasso-esque virtual communication scene was visually pleasing.

We really do think the plot was too focus grouped and marketing oriented in the sense that it included every element in which a 10-year-old girl might be interested:

  • horses
  • flying horses
  • unicorns
  • flying unicorns
  • boyfriends
  • evening gowns
  • princesses
  • castles
  • princes
  • forced marriages
  • arch enemies
  • BFFs
  • big sisters
  • garish clothing
  • and amusing high school antics

Uhh...

Thankfully there was little Kiko, and even less pixies.

If you are a fan of the franchise, most flaws are easy to overlook and this movie is definitely worth seeing. Chronologically it takes place before the second half of season four. Critically we think it holds together better and makes more sense than those mishmashed, somewhat misguided episodes.

Produce more like this Straffi and perhaps Winx will attract a new generation of fans.

What can we learn from this picture? Bloom's Earth mother was a hippie. (Oh, and Bloom may not have been the prettiest baby...)

Check out our other Winx Club takes:

Winx Club Season 1 – (The Trix)

Winx Club Season 2 – (Darkar)

Winx Club Season 3 – (Baltor/Valtor)

Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom

Winx Club Season 4 – The Black Circle (part 1)

Winx Club Season 4 – The Black Circle (part 2)

Winx Club 3D: Magica Avventura

Also By Iginio Straffi:

Huntik: Secrets & Seekers Season 1

Check out related takes:

W.I.T.C.H. Season One

W.I.T.C.H. Season TWO

Merlin [2010] (BBC) Season 3. 13 Episodes

When last we left Merlin (which had a great season one), he had survived a lackluster, slightly misguided season two.  Honestly, while we had hopes for a good season three, we were not expecting it.  So it is with pleasant surprise that we can say Merlin regained its footing in 2010.

Even the Fisher King, bored for hundreds of years found the second season wanting.

There are fairies this season, but believe us; this ain’t Winx Club.

In season one Merlin came to Camelot, found himself, and battled the villain Nimue -one who has yet to be equaled in coolness and drama.  In season two Merlin himself became unfocused as the misguided season arc.  He battled Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S.).

A glimpse of the Merlin we might see some time in the future.  Does Camelot have a senior discount?

Camelot reacts to their team losing to Detroit in the NBA finals…

Season three in a sentence:  With only a short diversion fighting a goblin and none falling in love, Merlin battles the evil Morgausse, conniving Morgana, brigands, slavers and two undead armies while occasionally calling upon a dragon, acting as a match-maker, and along with his trusty old sidekick Gaius keeping the forces of eeeevil from toppling uber-dork King Uther before it is Arthur’s time to ascend.

Ahh Gaius, is this “normal” behavior?

Morgana is handy with a sword too. (And knows how to strike a pose!)

Focus.  That is what the show had in a year that could also be called, “Morgana: The Evil Looks Season”. She literally must have heard twice every shooting day from the director, “Okay, now look off into the distance evilly.”

She does still have a lovely jaw.  But the evil looks…  Oh the evil looks.  You do not have to search hard…

We can do this all day. …ALL… DAY…  *sigh*

The two  off-arc comedic episodes did thankfully not derail the overall tenor of the season.  Arthur is finally coming into his own, kept his slapstick to a minimum and did not try to cook.  Oh, there was plenty of comedic banter between Arthur and Merlin, but it was well paced, sparingly placed and in good taste.

Yes Arthur, it’s ROUND…. Okay!

Sir Gwain, Sir Perceival, Sir Lancelot. Boldness, strength, and uh, someone who will eventually sleep with your wife?

However you may wonder what magic really is this season because the sorcerer’s weapon of choice was incessantly the “force push”.  It is cheap to do.  A little glowing eyes animation and a wire pull on a stunt man.  There, your enemy is flying into a wall.  It just does not carry much magical thrill.  Very X-Men.  There was occasionally slightly more interesting magic on the bad guy’s side.  We hope magic can be explored more widely next season.

“Oh no. Not… magic… chains…”

“How about a little fire scarecrow!”

“Wait, we know how this ends, right?  It’s depressing.”  Yes, just about every character we are being introduced to meets some sort of sad future.  The story of Arthur and his knights, Merlin, Morgana and Guinevere spirals into  betrayal and death for most of them.  But the show, launched as a sort of “Young Arthur” was originally far from that.  However what choice did it ultimately have?  Move forward -or stagnate (see last season).  At least there are a couple decades of Camelot’s golden years before the fall.

Unless of course Camelot is first destroyed by these computer generated armies.

It took us three seasons to finally get to these classic images.

The dragon did little this season, but we are okay with that.  Our concern was that free from its chains it was going to be called upon to get Merlin out of every jam.  Thankfully it was not.

They stretched their effects budget pretty well.  We can only imagine the producer’s looks when the writers pitched the rising army of undead skeletons in the first episode.  However that did not stop them from another massive siege at season’s end with an undead (but still affordable human form) army.

They made better choices in season three than in two.  The writing was better with only occasional cliches.  I mean come on, is there a person on Earth that still believes it is good when a bad guy answers your request for payment with the phrase You shall get what you deserve?  Puuullease.

Bad guy checklist: Interfering foreground objects? Check. Funny collar? Check. Facial hair and scars? Double check. Hand held camera for the scene? Yes, bonus points!

Red capes last about as long as the original Star Trek’s red shirts. But Sir Leon amazingly lived through the whole season!

Turning a show around after a disappointing season may be harder than launching a good one.  Props to the Merlin producers for accomplishing this sadly uncommon feat.  Let us hope the good trend continues.

Merlin’s “blasting rod” stays hidden under the bed for just about the whole season. Although he did break it out to fight… Wyverns? No. Undead armies? No. Manticores?  No.  Fairies? Uh, yes…

Our Takes on all the Merlin Seasons:

Merlin [2008] Season 1

Merlin [2009] Season 2

Merlin [2010] Season 3

Merlin [2011] Season 4

Merlin [2011] Season 5

 

Legend of the Seeker [2009-2010] Season 2. 22 Episodes

We ended our SEASON ONE take joking about how the Seeker & Company would save the world with the power of love.  Gag… we were right.

“Holy liability!” Again people, please. Is a railing too much to ask for?

This is the first time in in Fortress Takes history where the 599 word limit may prove insufficient.  We suspect Terry Goodkind used 599 words in one paragraph of his Sword of Truth series upon which Legend of the Seeker is too firmly based.

However our one sentence synopsis does not even need a deep breath:  The seeker brings the Stone of Tears to the Pillars of Creation to put the Keeper back in his place…

Darken Rahl is back – despite being dead! Why so intense Craig Parker? Oh, he just found out that 97% of his scenes this season are on the one underworld set.

BUT!… Everything that can possibly go wrong in their fetid and corrupt world WILL go wrong in this over-plotted roller coaster season.  It may leave you gasping for respite and not caring anymore who wins.

Everyone dies this season.  Everyone.  In fact many more than once -including the stars.  We are not kidding when you consider crazy spells, rituals of spirit returning, breath of life and alternate timelines.  Heck, Kara died at least three times!

Oh, don’t worry. He’ll be back. Death is just a one episode hindrance in Legend of the Seeker.  PS – That armor really helped…

Legend of the Seeker lost its way in the second half of season one spiraling into what we suspect are Terry Goodkind’s personal issues.  The show should have established its own television medium identity.  The cancellation may have surprised the producers causing them to embark on a final two-part budget-busting, plot-twisting, mind-numbing extravaganza.

Perhaps this compass can lead us to understanding the season finale.

Oh the factions.  The endless factions!

  • Wizard orders
  • White robed girls
  • Red robed girls
  • Leather clad girls
  • Monks with bowl cuts

You remember when the Seeker fought back-to-back with his confessor girlfriend against meanie D’Haran army hordes?  Those were simpler days long gone.   In season two someone has usually been killed, tortured in the underworld, and returned to do evil by the first commercial break.  The frustrating injustice of both good and bad people being tortured by Darken Rahl in the LofS underworld every episode got old fast and remained unexplained and unfun for far too long.

Oh yeah, we remember these guys. How quaint.

The Seeker gets killed and tortured in the underworld? Yup. He and 80% of the permanent— and guest cast take shifts going down there to chat with Darken Rahl.  Where’s your Slim Fast now?

The whole season seemed to celebrate the worst in humanity week after week!  Everyone was stealing, selfish, or somehow selling out the Seeker, their brother or all mankind for a loaf of bread.  Only a handful of episode endings leave you not reaching for the anti-depressants.

The “Mother Confessor” embarked on a darker path this season, and her costume progression during the season reflected it. Now where have we seen that before?

You may ask questions like:

  1. Why have an ensemble cast yet curtail interaction by separating them for episodes at a time?

    “Hey, I am trying to give you some plot exposition here!”

    ———————————

  2. Is that new lame facial hair supposed to make actor Craig Horner more manly looking?  (Just leave his atypical but capable look alone.)

    Wizard’s First Rule? Heroes use razors.

    ———————————

  3. How special is our Seeker Richard if he was so easily replaced by a new dufus Seeker for a few episodes?

    You remember way back when Richard was our one and only “Seeker”?  Weren’t there prophecies, bloodlines and all kinds of individual stuff like that involved?

    So wait? Who was this goofball Leo who was legitimate Seeker for like three episodes?  Apparently all it takes is lifting the sword of truth into the air during a lightning storm.

    But wait, there’s more! Zed gets into the act.  After being restored to youth he names HIMSELF Seeker! Who isn’t Seeker this season?

We like sword and fantasy adventures.  We liked Legend of the Seeker, or rather liked what it occasionally achieved.  However the squandered potential left us in the end disenchanted as the show often pandered to low-brow titillation.  LofS may not leave you with the best impression of women.  That is unless you already think them backstabbing sexually perverse harlots willing to murder for evil or any various causes.

Wasn’t Charisma Carpenter supposed to be some big casting coup this season? She had a bit part in like two episodes. *Yawn*

T’Pol -er, I mean Jolene Blalock shows that she has some kick butt Vulcan lightning powers! (That’s not fair. Come on, she has done other things aside from Star Trek.)  Sorry Jolene.  Email us!

In the end you may have thought LotS was the greatest show since sliced bread, but alas the ratings did not agree.  So every minor character there ever was (excepting Shota) including the dufus Seeker replacement appears in the mega-cast finale.  Its plot was so convoluted that the opening recaps were like a final exam for Air Force navigators.

We suppose things did work out in the end after 21 and nine tenths episodes, but one tenth comeuppance and reclamation was not enough to assuage the bitter taste left by season two’s journey.

See you back in LA Craig Horner. Now take us out with a contrived but heroic shot that only the Seeker can pull off!

Check out our take on SEASON ONE