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

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

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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.

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(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.”

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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

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


Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2011] Season 2. 26 Episodes

Armor for everybody! (except you, Hulk.)

Iron Man and his Amazing Friends! Co-starring "War-man" and "Pepper-star!"

Iron Man and his Amazing Friends! Co-starring “War-man” and “Pepper-star!”

Seriously. Check out Blizzard's homage to Iceman's classic means of travel.

Seriously. Check out Blizzard’s homage to Iceman’s classic means of travel.

After a three-year hiatus, Iron Man: Armored Adventures returned for a second season. It was not a good time to be a Stark. Neither Howard nor his son Tony had much go right, but in the end they did overcome kidnapping, financial ruin, corporate shenanigans, maniacal mutants, maniacal armor wearing morons, megalomaniacal armor wearing doctors, manic Pepper Potts in armor, and oh, an alien invasion.

Does this kind-hearted soul look megalomaniacal to you?

Does this kind-hearted soul look megalomaniacal to you?

Justin Hammer's Titanium Man used a derivative name, but was rather maniacal.

Justin Hammer’s Titanium Man used a derivative name, but was rather maniacal.

The look was even better than season one. The cel shading style still closely emulated Skyland. The number of quality assets constructed for this season was large, yet the French and Indian animation houses produced fantastic visuals on a television budget.

Madame Masque's 1st season episode was strong. This season's not-so-much. This looks like a bad date...

Madame Masque’s 1st season episode was strong. This season’s not-so-much. (Alternate caption: ‘Your costume party date… is unhinged.’)

Real-iron-man-cosplay-costume

"How do you keep kicking my butt in those heels?"

“How do you keep kicking my butt in those heels?”

Where season two could have been better was in the writing department. Many of the individual episodes were well composed, but the overall flow, the arc of the season lacked focus. The finale involved Gene Khan’s Mandarin, but the set-up was weak. We see across multiple episodes, frustrating cameos of Gene manipulating cruelly a kidnapped Howard Stark. But there is no development of Gene since last season, except that he is less palatable.

Howard Stark says things like, "We can do great good for this world, son." Gene Khan's mom said things like, "You will complete our purpose rule the world."

Howard Stark says things like, “We can do great good for this world, son.” Gene Khan’s mom said things like, “You will complete our purpose and rule the world.”

Iron_Man_literal cosplay

So the Mandarin's ten magic-- er, 'Makluan technology' rings are actually artifacts from these goofy looking aliens?

So the Mandarin’s ten magic– er, ‘Makluan technology’ rings are actually artifacts from these wacky looking aliens?

Let’s cram season two into a sentence: Tony’s father Howard is not actually dead but kidnapped by the Mandarin and forced to help him acquire more power while Iron Man tries to carry on despite his company being stolen, and just about everybody from corporate big wigs to AIs and even nutjob students taking aim at him, though ultimately unsuccessfully thanks to his whiny friend James Rhodes, bi-polar friend Pepper Potts, and an almost completely reassembled cast of the Avengers movie.

Hulk shows up for the finale, and punches a big alien machine... Where have we seen that before?

Hulk shows up for the finale, and punches a big alien machine… Where have we seen that before?

Iron_Man_boy_hulk_cosplay_

Sure,, this season's sudden focus on the Avengers cast was just coincidence...

Sure, this season’s sudden focus on the Avengers cast was just coincidence…

Who dons armor this season? (The shorter list would be who doesn’t.) Yes, Pepper does, to our chagrin, corporate nutjob Justin Hammer, Howard Stark, even Tony’s grandson from the future, plus of course the entire armored rogue’s gallery of the Marvel Universe. Even non-armored characters like Magneto wore armor.

The Ghost is still a cool character not easily beat. Magneto in armor? Hmmm. And the winner of this season's goofiest armor is Iron Man 2099. Are those your glow in the dark pajamas?

The Ghost is still a cool character not easily beat. Magneto in armor? Hmmm. And the winner of this season’s goofiest armor is Iron Man 2099. Are those your glow in the dark pajamas?

Iron_Man_Armored_Adventures_doctor_doom_castle

But the stand out depiction, and the most pleasant surprise of the season was that of Doctor Doom. It was the best depiction we have seen of him since John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run back in the day. A great voice and modulation, and his wacky mix of tech and magic. Okay, they retconned his magic to be “really advanced quantum technology.” It was the only slip up, and unnecessary.

Iron_Man_Armored_Adventures_doctor_doom_victor_beat

"Kneel before doom!"

“Kneel before Doom!”

It was great to see young Iron Man, before he came into the fullness of his power, get his butt swiftly and mercilessly kicked. He was totally outclassed, which was a nice change up since he kicked butt all season long. Doom’s visual effects were different and exciting. He was not dumbed or powered down. We give props to shows when they do not emasculate the powerful veteran to make the newbie star look good (Huntik also handled this well).

Iron_Man_Armored_Adventures_Season_2_doctor_doom_advanced_rendering

"Check out my cool stealth armor and space armor. Huh? You think the red lights give my stealth armor away?"

“Check out my cool stealth armor and space armor. Huh? You think the red lights give my stealth armor away?”

Iron Man: AA offers a fun glimpse into lesser known Marvel universe characters. Their depictions are solid and worthy of them. We can even forgive the shameless latching-on to the phenomenally successful Avengers movie cast. Tony, in slightly unbelievable fashion, cranks out new armor types to please fans of the franchise. (Most of them, thankfully, retain the round uni-beam.) Overall, it is a finely crafted show still worth watching.

PS – This looks like the end of production for Iron Man Armored Adventures. It was a good and entertaining two-season run. We would enjoy seeing more of it.

When in the Hulkbuster armor, Tony needs only say, "Talk to the hand."

When in the Hulkbuster armor, Tony needs only say, “Talk to the hand.”

"This commute is really starting to stink..."

“This commute is really starting to stink…”

Check out another rock anthem theme song. It rawks:

Check out other Iron Man related takes:

Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2008] Season 1

Iron Man (anime) [2011] Season 1

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [2008]

Check out some of our other Marvel takes:

Green Lantern: The Animated Series [2011] Season 1

Hulk Vs Thor [2009]

Thor: Tales of Asgard [2011]

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes [2012] Season 2: Conclusion

The 2nd (& final) Season Delivers Super-Heroically

The first season of the show was somewhat disjointed, but showed great promise. We are happily surprised to say that the second season lived up to that promise and then some. The shows credits are expansive, so we shall suffice it to say that whoever took control this season knew what they were doing.

What happened to the Enchantress? Oh, she’s agreeing that this season was on fire.

Oh look, Agent Hill was back. And she’s still an uber-jerk. (She needs to go on a date or something…)

It is not a kids show, although they will enjoy the action. It is a serious show well-suited to adult fans of the Marvel universe. The series smartly called upon some of comic’s greatest storylines. It is of course nearly impossible to do a multi-issue comics storyline in one or two twenty minute animated episodes. But props go to their trying, and for the most part succeeding.

Is Thor free from girl trouble? “I say thee nay.”

Uh, there’s no shortage of powerful females… with attitude.

This season dug into the personal stories of the avengers. Pulled from the pages of comic books, we got to see Capt. America learn of the Winter Soldier story and face off against his arch enemy, the Red Skull. We went through Hank Pym’s draconian Yellowjacket phase. And they did a pretty good job retelling the classic Beta Ray Bill story from the pages of Walt Simonson’s Thor.

“Verily, NONE can wield Thor’s hammer Mjolnir!”

“For sooth! Perhaps I was hasty…”

While the animation is just okay, the art direction is classic and well-done. The voice work is fitting and a lot of fun The soundtrack is good for such a series; listen for the awe-inspiring choral arrangements when Thor cuts loose. We still maintain that this show displays the best and truest depictions of Thor and Ironman we have seen in some time.

Uh, not that one.

Ah. that’s more like it. Yay repulsors!

Of course it wasn’t all flowers and roses. There were too many “evil twin” episodes for our tastes (oh those crafty shape-shifters). The depiction of the fantastic four was particularly bad (aside from Ben Grimm). Try not to cringe when you hear Reed Richards voice. also, the finale was fittingly against Galactus, arguably the heaviest hitter in the Marvel universe. However what could have easily been a two-parter or even an arc was crammed into one short twenty minute episode.

You can’t cram a foe of this scale… literally, into one episode. (We could barely cram him into one picture.)

They did, for the most part, keep the avengers foes on the upper and where they should be. This is, after all, a collection of Marvel’s most powerful heroes. So Kree and Skrull invasions, Doctor Doom, Kang the Conqueror, etc., are all in a day’s work. There was also excellent sub-plots with Hulk versus Red Hulk, and Ultron’s creation, the Vision.

“Red Hulk smash? …er, scheme!”

The “Emperor Stark” episode was incredibly ambitious, and our fave of the season. You sleep for a few days and wake up to this? Huh!?

They had a good grip on the characters, and few were shortchanged. Thor was depicted properly as super powerful, yet did not have to lead. Captain America was rising into the leadership role to which he is so well suited, despite being on the low-power end.

“I’m looking at YOU thunder god.”

The season was delayed. Who knows what is going on behind the scenes. The show just hit its stride, and while not being cancelled, is transforming into Avengers Assemble, a new series. Was this season too good to be true? Hopefully this transition will be weathered as well as Justice League to Justice League Unlimited (although we did prefer the former).

Repulsors for everyone!

Bonus Quiz!

Who is this mysterious character?

  1. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.
  2. Darkseid.
  3. One of those Michael Bey transformers… they all look the same.
  4. War Machine

Check out our Takes on All Seasons

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2

Check out related takes:

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [2008]

Hulk Vs Thor [2009]

Thor: Tales of Asgard [2011]

Iron Man (anime) [2011] Season 1

Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2008] Season 1

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