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

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


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.


(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.”


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.


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.


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 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.


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.)


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


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?


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.


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

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 [2012]


Clash of the Hoodies (the revenge)!


A showdown five years in the making. It took 3000 words and four movies. But we finally experienced the epic, battle of destinies set up since Underworld came out in 2003. Did we say “experienced?” Okay, well, sort-of…

Featuring the goofy expressions of Michael Sheen's Aro; volume one!

Featuring the goofy expressions of Michael Sheen’s Aro; volume one!

Breaking Dawn Part 2 in a sentence! Bella’s a vampire— but its okay, she has superpowers now and cannot stop gushing about how great it is (to lose your soul…ugh) while meanwhile, her child is growing freakishly fast, and the Volturi gather the entire brotherhood of evil mutants to cleanse her and the entire Cullen clan from the face of the monster infested Pacific Northwest… well, kinda, but not really.



Dakota Fanning as Jane? You're in this movie? I think she has one line. Nice Yu-Gi-Oh! make-up by the way.

Dakota Fanning as Jane? You’re in this movie? We think she has like one line. Nice Yu-Gi-Oh! make-up by the way.

It’s been a long time since the quirky little low budget film, Twilight (2008) came out and we thought it an interesting take. Since then we have been assaulted by dull, self absorbed movies, crazed teens, crazed moms, Team Jacob, Team Edward, Twilight backpacks, neck-biting parties, and perhaps a long list of dissatisfied women. No ladies, vampires are not real. “Edward” is not coming to sweep you from your diaper-laden mundane life and dote over you incessantly.

Alice is back, with hair that seems to be getting more scary and severe by the movie.

Alice is back, with hair that seems to be getting more scary and severe by the movie.

Bella has experienced many a fantasy, and now tops it off with:

  1. Youth forever
  2. Never tiring
  3. A grown little girl, without all those annoying diaper changes and feedings. Instant family.
  4. A new house!
  5. Superpowers!
We're not seeing a lot of sparklin' here...

We’re not seeing a lot of sparklin’ here…

The new home thing was laid on pretty thick. Likely a fantasy for many a female. A cute little honeymoon cottage in the woods, seen at night. Soft lighting, ready nursery, A CLOSET STOCKED WITH CLOTHES, etc.

Why so sad Charlie? You had two lines this movie instead of the usual one!

Why so sad Charlie? You had two lines this movie instead of the usual one!

"This is what all Euro effete super snobs wear. You are impressed, no?"

“This is what all Euro effete super snobs are wearing this spring (and every spring). You are impressed, no?”

We have to hand one thing to Kristen Stewart, though. Whether she’s grown as an actress or the script called for it, she tried a new acting method that calls for more than one facial expression.

Uh... We didn't say she did it successfully...

Uh… We will leave you to judge the results for yourself… Yes, the character Bella goes from the most uninteresting girl in the world to the most unlikeable.

The werewolves pretty much were a no-show in the film, not that there weren’t a few computer-generated wolves in the so-called final battle scene. Rather any of the actors who play them were non-factors, and even Jacob seemed reduced to a few bit scenes, and a rather gratuitous stripping in front of Charlie. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed, the series still goes out of its way to show Taylor Lautner’s 18 abs.

"Yeah, whatever. I'm just glad to finally eat something other that Slim Fast and Nutri-System.

“Yeah, whatever. I’m just glad to finally get to eat something other than Slim Fast and Nutri-System. I’m hungry!”

And is it just us, or are the euro effete Volturi, who seem so obsessed with vampire secrecy, rather cavalier with using their powers. Cavalier about marching a company of vampires across a frozen tundra wearing robes out of the ninth century?



Remember when I used to be the strongest vampire?

“Remember when I used to be the strongest vampire?”

What about the final showdown? Did it happen? Well, no. The movie abused an old technique, showing a massive and consequential fight scene. They killed off main characters and dramatically showed many things. But was it cheap? Yes, because it never really happened. “Oh, it was just a vision…” Ugh.

"I'm glad to have a cool pose. What? I'm about to die? Uh, again?"

“I’m glad to have a cool pose. What? I’m about to die? Uh, again?”


The goofy expressions of Michael Sheen’s Aro; volume two!

Vampires are evil. Twilight tried to change that with the introduction of a ‘good’ clan. When you see the attempt at morality displayed by characters like Carlisle and Edward, you might say they were doing as best as they could without a soul. But Bella? She was NOT the kind of person that should have been turned into a vampire. She already seemed to have little core, and now she seems ripe to be corrupted by power. Maybe there’s a lesson in here after all…

Kellan Lutz rocked some cool shots. We are glad he was played well in this scene.

Kellan Lutz rocked some cool shots. We were glad he was played well in this scene.


The Twilight Saga:

Twilight 2008

New Moon 2009

Eclipse 2010

Breaking Dawn – part 1 – 2011

Breaking Dawn – part 2 – 2012

Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens [2012]

A Step Backwards

(…then a trip and fall.)

Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens is without the doubt the weakest entry in the growing library of the franchise. And when we say “weakest,” we are being generous. It was terrible. A true disappointment. Perhaps this is even more so because we have come to expect and mostly gotten better from Man of Action’s series.

Evil Way Big rages! Rages against Destroy All Aliens!

Our patented one-sentence synopsis will save you the headache of this dog: Extra annoying prepubescent Ben and Gwen experience an untold adventure (which should have remained untold) shoehorned into the first series continuity but with little regard to the characters or fun-factor in which Ben and company have a series of the most boring action scenes only to discover the boring secret behind the miserable encounters, oh, and along the way Ben learns the politically correct meaning of schoolwork (this message brought to you by the National Government School Ass.).

In an incredible twist, homework is more enjoyable than Destroy All Aliens.

Ben and Gwen were more unlikeable than ever depicted. Their banter, which we suppose was to be the family squabble type, was more of the “these two really hate each other” type. Each of their encounters made them more unsympathetic than the last.

Abuse of power. Try not to let this depiction cloud your fine memories of Ben 10. (Maybe it is all a dream, like that season of Dallas. -Look it up, true believers.)

Gwen; too powerful (and liberal with those powers) than originally depicted Ben 10, had abilities more akin to the Alien Force era. Unfitting on such an annoying child. Grandpa Max, a character we used to like a lot more, had his lines and contribution reduced to about five versions of, “Hey, cut it out you two.”

Max Tennyson: World’s toughest babysitter.

The character treated the worst was Azmuth, the long-lived, venerable, sometimes wise, scientific, and reclusive father figure of the show. Normally a great and fun character in his rare appearances. Here, he was voiced awfully. He was whiny instead of his detached cantankerousness we have come to expect. A horrid depiction topped off with the inexplicable decision to introduce HIS father… Huh? Really? Why? (There is no good answer.)

It was more like Azmuth’s son than Azmuth… What was with this outfit? Why is he smiling? Why is he wearing swim fins?

The computer generated animation was awful. Not stylized simple, just simple. Not flat colored for the cartoony look, shaded simple for rendering on the intern’s netbook they borrowed for this “feature.”

We could say something snarky here about the computer graphics… but we just do not have the heart… We will just say they could have done better.

The only bright spot was the returning alien, Tetrax. He is a fun and sympathetic character. His race forms the template of the omnitrix Diamondhead transformation. He was well voiced, though his part and lines did not make much sense. His cool iceman styled travel method was the only entertaining visual in the feature.

Actual quote by Tetrax to Gwen: “Is this what you’re like with Ben? I can see why he complains about you.”

Destroy all Aliens crams five minutes of confusing plot into one hour and nine minutes of paradoxically boring action. Pointless dream-like sequences in empty environments that were not rooted even in the reality of the feature. You know what action sequences are like when you do not care who wins? Its gets old fast.

The one bright spot, Tetrax, could not illuminate the plot. Additionally his crystal composition and shards were, uh, very un-crystal-looking.

It was just weird, too, how after comments from Gwen, we were supposed to just accept that Azmuth’s father was of a whole different race, and a non-biological one at that. Look, unless you have been forced to babysit horridly unruly kids, or have your own children that need to be punished, skip this sub-par entertainment.

For those who are fans of the franchise and have followed it from the start, this pointless feature should stay below your notice. In our opinion it adds nothing good to the Ben 10 universe. If you have a four-year-old whom you would like to experience this franchise for the first time, watch season one of Ben 10 and not this confusing, befuddling, and boring piece.

“Why are we here!?”

(PS – The Wildmutts were awful.)

Check out our Ben 10 franchise takes:

Alien Force Season 1

Alien Force Season 2

Alien Force Season 3

Ultimate Alien Season 1

Ultimate Alien Season 2 (part 1)

Ultimate Alien Season 2 (Conclusion)

Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens

Wing Commander [1999]

Okay, something does not blow up every other second, but it does make for an exciting take introduction.

Wing Commander is an under-appreciated science-fiction film with slick effects and solid production values. It tried to accomplish much, and like most movies, did not hit everything aimed for. At times it touches upon poignant themes that resonate with the nature of mankind. Occasionally, it lapses into derivative moments not worthy of these higher concepts.

“What are you doing Admiral Towlyn?” — “Ruminating on poignant themes that resonate with the nature of mankind.”

It also stars Freddie Prinze Jr., who we enjoyed in the role. However, he did use this expression an awful lot.

Our patented synopsis in a sentence: Humanity, still recovering from a civil war, now face an alien cat-like (and poorly realized) enemy who after conspiring with a traitor (cut from the movie) are on the verge of destroying Earth not realizing they are about to be stopped by a fresh faced young band of hip (and good-looking)  heroes with attitude, flying skinny fighters, getting oppressed by “the man,” squeezing in some smooching, and occasionally breaking the laws of physics.

“Look Ma! I’m breakin’ the laws of physics!”

“I’m your wing commander. What? Not what you were expecting? We’re just as fabulous looking as movie archeologists.” (See Jack Hunter & Librarian takes.)

Chris Roberts, the father of the popular Wing Commander games of the 1990s, got a rare chance to realize his vision on the big screen. Did he get enough time and money to realize it fully? No. But was he bold enough, and perhaps new enough to Hollywood to include uncommon, worthwhile themes? Yes.

Chris Roberts does his cameo. (Don’t think it’s easy performing a salute in a skinny little fighter.)

Chris Roberts: “Hey, I’m gonna grab a beer, you direct this scene yourself.”

Dedication, selflessness, (occasional stupidity,) and duty are exemplified by our endangered heroes. While none of them are exactly Audie Murphy (the most decorated United States soldier of World War II), they do personify the brash, indestructibility of youth. They play off veterans of varying character and temperament who put up with their juvenile notions of fighter jock-ism.

Some early Wing Commander test footage.

Jürgen Prochnow plays a veteran of one temperament: Puckered.

Yup. Freddie Prinze Jr. really liked this expression…

There is also a Pilgrim subplot highlighting heritage and faith. This is quite the departure from modern era, faithless, counterculture garbage Hollywood often upchucks (believe us, we know). We found it to be a most pleasing foundation which gives the movie depth beyond that provided by hipster actors and quick action.

“I am not a hipster.” Tcheky Karyo (don’t ask us to pronounce it , we speak Kryptonian) did a fine job with an interesting character.

“Physics dead ahead captain!” — “Prepare to break the law!”

Young Christopher Blair, the part made famous by Mark Hamil in the later Wing Commander games, was portrayed by Freddie Prinze Jr. He was pleasantly likable.

… uh… It’s a good thing we liked Freddie Prinze Jr.’s (over)use of this expression. Now what does it remind us of. . .

Tcheky Karyo played the grizzled mentor with the mysterious past (classic; like Obi Wan Kenobi, but with 70% more grizzle). His role, like Prinze’s, was not one that pushed acting to its very experimental limit. But both hit solid notes within the material they were given, and bettered the movie.

“You young whipper snappers and your fancy armor. When I was young, all we took into battle were these cool-looking camouflage pajamas.”

Perhaps mistakenly, the movie tried to reinvent the Wing Commander franchise. This may have alienated and disappointed those familiar with it. Additionally, 20th Century Fox gave the film a bum deal, poorly marketing it because they were only its distributor, not its producer. They also bungled the release date. All these factors contributed to a rough box-office run.

Hmm. You don’t think they literally meant that it was only in theaters that one day… It would explain a lot.

Buy the toy now! Oh, wait. Never mind.

The production design was instructed to make World War II in space; they largely succeeded in an entertaining, occasionally silly way. Digital Anvil’s computer graphics and pilot displays added interesting, distinctive spice. However one area in which the visuals fell flat was the alien Kilrathi. Ugh.

Matthew Lillard takes it to the Axis powers!

Zany expressions for everyone! It’s the new rage in space.

The Kilrathi were brought to life well in the filmed game scenes, and at reasonable (though not cheap) cost. The “expensive” movie versions, however, did not even live up to that, looking horribly plastic. The producers knew it too, cutting scenes which featured them and reducing their shots to quarter-second flash cuts.

“No pictures! No pictures!”

The flight deck was a big set made from some old industrial facility. (It was later converted into a sweatshop for Twilight merchandise.)

You will enjoy computer-generated space scenes that look as good as model work, huge sets, full-sized fighter mockups, and lots of goofy expressions from likable actors.

Don’t let this happen to your Rapier.

David Arnold’s music is excellent background to scenes which often showcase the wonder and majesty of nebula colored space.

If you like science fiction, and like action, and are capable of tuning out the fair in order to enjoy the good, we suggest you try Wing Commander. Go in with no expectations, and just enjoy yourself.

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


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 [2011]

Breaking Dawn highlights the difference between a plot about serious things, and taking yourself too seriously. Of course an author wants people to be emotionally invested in the characters they create. However that investment should come naturally and not be forced upon us through maudlin trudging.

Why so angry…uh, what’s your name again? Oh, Rosalie. You actually had a part for the first time!

“If it’s not too late Bella, I’d like to ask you to play for Team Jacob again. Please, think of all the Slim Fast this part has forced down my throat.”

Breaking down Breaking Dawn in one sentence: Edward the vampire does very little for an hour and a half and yet comes across less pathetic than the previous series entry while self absorbed Jacob finally carries a plot-line, and matures to 8th grade level while the world’s least desirable girl, Bella Swan, continues an unbroken streak of insecure and awkward dealings with everyone she knows- oh and the werewolves and vampires fight over a demon child for about 90 seconds.

Just whose fantasy wedding is this, Stephenie Meyer? Hmmm?

Sorry Charlie, even your acting prowess cannot out “awkward look” Stewart’s Bella Swan. The most uncomfortable wedding ever.

When it comes to creating an entertaining movie, book, play… anything, one is often in modern times counseled to start things off with a bang. Something to interest and draw and an audience wider than just diehard… er, twihards. The opening scene of this movie- our first glimpse in quite some time into the fascinating world of vampires and werewolves, is a pointless scene about high heels. It’s followed by a nearly as pointless scene about Edwards past, which as far as we can tell has nothing to do with anything.

Greene’s Alice has not looked this good since the first film (though we miss the flirty hair wings). Too bad they turned her character into a one-dimensional fashionista.

If you thought the Twilight series could not get more insular and niche, you were wrong. We suppose self-centered, self indulgent content should be expected in the fourth book of the series. After all, who’s going to be reading it if they are not very interested in the thinning plot. However this does not make for an exciting or well-rounded movie.

“Would you three move closer together. I can fit all our insignificant parts into this tiny little box.”

“Oh Edward, the moon’s beautiful.” “Really? I think it’s a special effect.”

The Breaking Dawn formula:

  1. Three parts continuous awkward shots of Bella and everyone she knows
  2. One part low-budget super-speed blur effect borrowed from Smallville
  3. One part uninteresting, normal looking computer-generated wolves
  4. Mix liberally (but without action) and coat with white pancake makeup

“I’d like to propose a toast: To the first lines I’ve had in two movies. Cheers!”

Smooth move Edward, bringing Bella to have a private wedding night dance with Jacob by the woods. Isn’t that some sort of faux pas- or should we say faux PAW. (We know. Our humor is beyond belief.) Oh, and it is interesting to note that everyone is more excited about Bella’s wedding then Bella. The way they were giving standing ovations you would think she was a British Princess. That is literally the first half hour. Oh, not a word from our favorite character Carlisle… *sad*

“I have bad news. This is my only scene.”

Bella Swan’s wide range of expressions on display…

The producers spice up the next drawn out, awkward honeymoon scenes with emo ballads. Sadly, as many have found out cooking, not all spices are good for the dish. It finally ends with Bella throwing up, realizing she is pregnant. It is a shock to everyone (who has not read the book or had the plot ruined in any of a million other ways). Did not Carlisle have that little “birds and bees” talk with Edward? And so ends the second half hour. Two down, one to go.

There are far worse honeymoon pastimes.

Imagine coming home from your honeymoon and seeing your new wife in… a more realistic light.

Stephenie Meyer’s writing style may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe she made sense on those book pages. The movie tried to convey a lot of it with voiceovers, cross dissolves, jump cuts and imagery ridden montages. What is “imprinting” exactly?

“Hey, look it’s me again. I didn’t get to say much but I got a lot of cool shots this time.”

Breaking Dawn is one of those times where moviemakers decide to split a profitable franchise book into two movies-  and it doesn’t work (except to make money). Okay, we admit we were not expecting much at all. However, even if you are fan of this franchise you have to admit this three act movie was thin on action, answers, plot… and entertainment value. Very thin.

“Where should we use our effects dollars? Fight scenes or computer generated vampire death venom flowing through Bella’s veins?”

Epilogue: The Euro effete loser Volturi apparently and literally do nothing more than sit on these chairs all day… every day. Their mannerisms were so over the top that this scene could be dropped unchanged into a spoof.


The Twilight Saga:

Twilight 2008

New Moon 2009

Eclipse 2010

Breaking Dawn – part 1 – 2011

Breaking Dawn – part 2 – 2012