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Merlin - Season 4 Discussion


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#141 MikeAP001

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 02:12 PM

To be fair, the Hero as a liar has been a tradition since the invention of the Secret Identity. Merlin is supposed to be a superhero with a secret identity, and quite adept at lying and covering up his heroic nature. It's a sign of both his cleverness and humility, that a superhero goes to such great lengths to hide his identity. Even Superman, from the early comics to the Smallville version, always a pure hero who believed in Truth with a capital T, lied to cover his secret identy. (Tho he's fairly unique among heroes in that his secret identity is humble Clark Kent, he tells the truth about himself as an alien hero when not disguised as a human - except in the Smallville version which went the more usual hidden hero identity route)

That being said, Merlin also lies for fun and mischief, and while part of his endearments, that whole bit with the sword didn't work for me either. Arthur is complaining about how gullible he is, so Merlin proves the point.


Yeah, the "unidentifiable" hero, (Homer's tale of Odysseus and Polyphemus of Ancient Greece) or the "mystery" men (the Scarlet Pimpernel, Batman and the Shadow of the 20th Century) were among the first to have a secret identity and present the Hero as liars. Interestingly, these same Heroes were the precursor to if not the direct literary descendents of the Anti-Hero of the 20th Centtury who were heroes that had many traits of the villain. A fact exploited by Marvel comics in the form of J. Jonah Jameson and his hatred for Spiderman from the 60s to the 80s, calling Web head a villain or the times that Marvel tried to make Dr. Doom heroic in the 70s-90s. Believe it or not, Comic Books are a great source for models of the Hero Archetype and their reflection of Post Modernistic Society.

However, the intent of those men with Secret Identities isn't to do harm or be ignoble (though they are because they act outside the conventions of society) but to protect--- either her/himself or others from harm (from the villain, from the hero --- Superman's reluctance to marry because he might lose control of his superpowers and inadvertently harm his wife--- , or from themselves --- the best buddy, wife, girlfriend, etc who might abuse the hero's power through their relationship becoming the very thing the hero would battle,for instance, Green Lantern and Star Sapphire.) But, for each of them, there's some bit of remorse or sorrow that their identity must be kept hidden or that they cannot return to a normal life and outside their secret identity, these Heroes try to minimize their deceptions.

Merlin doesn't. He's quite adept at being dishonest and while endearing, it looked like he enjoyed lying to Arthur and the ease with which he'd done so was disturbing in terms of the true nature of their relationship. That's why, having most of elements of Bruta's tale being intact and known regarding the sword in the store instead of being complete phony, even if it's a tall tale in Camelot, prefacing it as a fairy tale for bedtime in the earlier episode, and relaying the expanded story to Arthur would have made Merlin seem less like a liar.

Third, Merlin doesn't let Arthur take the sword until Arthur has faith in himself. The sword isn't the important thing, the faith is. It's the first step in believing he's part of a bigger world. That part is true, but he needed a nudge to open his eyes to it....


But, that still doesn't give us a plausible reason for why pulling up the sword would give faith to Arthur or provide him with confidence. There had to be a reason: legendary, mythic or bedtime story that would have laid the seeds for that belief--- reinforcing that idea besides having Merlin say so. I'd have been satisfied if anyone had provided some positive reinforcement to Arthur that pulling out the sword made him king. That would have at least hinted that the story wasn't completely made up and provided story lines for the future.

... (I was a bit more upset that he almost lost the battle with Helios while he had Excalibur in hand - Arthur's supposed to be undefeated with that thing)...


No, the real Geoffrey of Monmouth attributed that enchantment to Crocea Mors, the Sword of Julius Caesar, which Geoffrey claimed to have in his possession, granting the wielder invincibility in battle.There were several enchanted swords that Geoffrey claimed to have and Arthur would have at least two--- Excalibur, a sword of war, and Clarent, a sword of peace, which is why Merlin's Tale could have been approached as a tale told to the children of Camelot instead of a complete lie--- Arthur's skeptical at first because it is a bedtime tale but he knows enough of it that he's nudged to believe, and it piques his curiosity because he wonders just how accurate Merlin's version is (giving Arthur a bit more depth as a character). There's enough truth to it but when Merlin tells Arthur about finding it, to Arthur, that's rubbish. But, he comes to accept it's true when people remind him of Bruta's sword and then he knows it true with he sees it for himself. And, in seeing he believes that only the true king can pull the sword from the stone and he doubts himself (adding another layer of depth) but once he does, he regains his faith and he knows he destined to be the true king of Camelot. By so doing, we see the power of myth: to reaffirm and resurrect the commonly held beliefs, traditions, and notions reflecting the morality of a society. It could be inspiring and cathartic instead, it left me felling hollow.

Maybe if I were immersed in the Arthurian tradition of the UK and its commonwealth I might feel differently but I'm from the US and I need that sort of build up to get the emotional kick. But, more likely, it's because of the melodramatic basis of the show. One of the benefits of seeing this show on SyFy is that it's repeated at noon Saturday. What I do is shut my eyes and listen to the audio. If I feel the same about the episode then I keep my original opinion of it. If it's not then I like to find out why. Finally, if I still don't change my mind, I like to read the script if possible and then reassess (This was the only episode of S04 that I had to go that far). Because what's disappointing is that the show could have been so much better. And that's when, I think if a few scenes need to be added to flesh things out and resort to finding what principles of story telling if any were broken and usually there are.

Give it a try sometime. You'll likely find out as I did that some shows are over rated while some are true gems.

#142 Mreen

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:30 PM

Yeah, the "unidentifiable" hero, (Homer's tale of Odysseus and Polyphemus of Ancient Greece) or the "mystery" men (the Scarlet Pimpernel, Batman and the Shadow of the 20th Century) were among the first to have a secret identity and present the Hero as liars. Interestingly, these same Heroes were the precursor to if not the direct literary descendents of the Anti-Hero of the 20th Centtury who were heroes that had many traits of the villain. A fact exploited by Marvel comics in the form of J. Jonah Jameson and his hatred for Spiderman from the 60s to the 80s, calling Web head a villain or the times that Marvel tried to make Dr. Doom heroic in the 70s-90s. Believe it or not, Comic Books are a great source for models of the Hero Archetype and their reflection of Post Modernistic Society.


I'd say the whole 'believe it or not' is unnecessary. The whole point of superhero comics is to play or play against Hero Archetypes. It's more or less the reasoning behind the entire genre.

However, the intent of those men with Secret Identities isn't to do harm or be ignoble (though they are because they act outside the conventions of society) but to protect--- either her/himself or others from harm (from the villain, from the hero --- Superman's reluctance to marry because he might lose control of his superpowers and inadvertently harm his wife--- , or from themselves --- the best buddy, wife, girlfriend, etc who might abuse the hero's power through their relationship becoming the very thing the hero would battle,for instance, Green Lantern and Star Sapphire.) But, for each of them, there's some bit of remorse or sorrow that their identity must be kept hidden or that they cannot return to a normal life and outside their secret identity, these Heroes try to minimize their deceptions.

Merlin doesn't. He's quite adept at being dishonest and while endearing, it looked like he enjoyed lying to Arthur and the ease with which he'd done so was disturbing in terms of the true nature of their relationship. That's why, having most of elements of Bruta's tale being intact and known regarding the sword in the store instead of being complete phony, even if it's a tall tale in Camelot, prefacing it as a fairy tale for bedtime in the earlier episode, and relaying the expanded story to Arthur would have made Merlin seem less like a liar.



Merlin also lies to protect everyone - that's why he chose murder over having his secret revealed. While he may often enjoy his pranks and lies, so did Superman, who was never the anti-hero. Clark Kent was there not because it was necessary for Superman to operate, but Superman simply enjoyed his Clark Kent persona. He lied for fun and to have a way to be close to friends who would have treated a super powered alien differently than a reporter working his way up from a small town Smallville, Kansas to the largest city in the world Metropolis, New York. As Clark Kent, he was often mischeivous and pulled pranks on his friends. But he was still a straight up and up hero. Clark Kent was his way of relaxing, and Merlin does the same.


It isn't merely telling a lie that is wrong with that ending ... or that lying is a particularly bad trait for a hero with a secret identity. It's just that it wasn't a very convincing or plausible lie and it didn't take much for Arthur to fall for it.

But, that still doesn't give us a plausible reason for why pulling up the sword would give faith to Arthur or provide him with confidence. There had to be a reason: legendary, mythic or bedtime story that would have laid the seeds for that belief--- reinforcing that idea besides having Merlin say so. I'd have been satisfied if anyone had provided some positive reinforcement to Arthur that pulling out the sword made him king. That would have at least hinted that the story wasn't completely made up and provided story lines for the future.


I would phrase it differently, but I think we both feel that it didn't play up to a particularly great scene.

No, the real Geoffrey of Monmouth attributed that enchantment to Crocea Mors, the Sword of Julius Caesar, which Geoffrey claimed to have in his possession, granting the wielder invincibility in battle.There were several enchanted swords that Geoffrey claimed to have and Arthur would have at least two--- Excalibur, a sword of war, and Clarent, a sword of peace, which is why Merlin's Tale could have been approached as a tale told to the children of Camelot instead of a complete lie--- Arthur's skeptical at first because it is a bedtime tale but he knows enough of it that he's nudged to believe, and it piques his curiosity because he wonders just how accurate Merlin's version is (giving Arthur a bit more depth as a character). There's enough truth to it but when Merlin tells Arthur about finding it, to Arthur, that's rubbish. But, he comes to accept it's true when people remind him of Bruta's sword and then he knows it true with he sees it for himself. And, in seeing he believes that only the true king can pull the sword from the stone and he doubts himself (adding another layer of depth) but once he does, he regains his faith and he knows he destined to be the true king of Camelot. By so doing, we see the power of myth: to reaffirm and resurrect the commonly held beliefs, traditions, and notions reflecting the morality of a society. It could be inspiring and cathartic instead, it left me felling hollow.

Maybe if I were immersed in the Arthurian tradition of the UK and its commonwealth I might feel differently but I'm from the US and I need that sort of build up to get the emotional kick. But, more likely, it's because of the melodramatic basis of the show. One of the benefits of seeing this show on SyFy is that it's repeated at noon Saturday. What I do is shut my eyes and listen to the audio. If I feel the same about the episode then I keep my original opinion of it. If it's not then I like to find out why. Finally, if I still don't change my mind, I like to read the script if possible and then reassess (This was the only episode of S04 that I had to go that far). Because what's disappointing is that the show could have been so much better. And that's when, I think if a few scenes need to be added to flesh things out and resort to finding what principles of story telling if any were broken and usually there are.

Give it a try sometime. You'll likely find out as I did that some shows are over rated while some are true gems.



#143 writelady

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 09:02 PM

No, I recall quite well that Merlin thrust the sword in the stone. But, part of a story tellers craft at least since Homer the Poet had been that certain things MUST be emphasized and repeated in order to make a story effective by reminding the audience. Writers like Chaucer and Shakespeare repeated throughout their works certain themes and events. Otherwise, the writer risks being unable to express the underlying message of the story and having the audience understand that message. In legends and myths, there is always an underlying message because one of the purposes of such stories is to make accessible for each generation the "universal truths" valued by a society. In this case, it is trust, loyalty, love, etc. And a plot device writers use is the suspension of disbelief by the audience so that message can be understood.

So, unless there's some background, some build-up, leading the audience to expect seeing a sword in the stone, then the audience might not suspend disbelief. And, if the audience knows that the story being told is phony and the Hero, in this case Arthur, comes to believe it then he's not shown wisdom and he's demonstrating the lack of judgment that he admitted he lacked and made him unworthy to be the king. And, it brings up this question, if Arthur didn't believe the story until he saw the sword, why believe that story now? The entire episode becomes a contrivance.


I enjoy having a good discussion, but when you bring up points that are inconsistent with some of your own arguments, it gets frustrating. I feel that you basically look for any "loophole," as it were, to disparage someone else's argument.

Case in point: If it is IMPERATIVE that the writer retell and retell a theme or event to make it stick in the audience's mind, we would be seeing pretty much every event retold more than once. However, you yourself mention many events throughout the series that occurred only once, yet you use them as a basis for your argument.

For example, in your very next paragraph...

...And, in Merlin, it was established in S01E09, in the story of Sir Mahaus that such enchanted swords begotten in the Dragon's Breath existed and have great power.


...the theme of a sword forged in dragon's breath was not repeated. So does that make this particular mythology forgettable? But your argument is that, in order for the sword in the stone event to be important or effective, it should have been mentioned more often (I guess that's what you're saying). So basically your point that a story element "MUST be emphasized and repeated in order to make a story effective by reminding the audience" would eliminate many of the references you yourself use to validate your argument. Let's be fair and agree that any element of this series -- regardless of how many times it is repeated or not -- can be used as a reference for the story.

Well, that's what happens due to an over-reliance on a plot device such as "magic" to solve everything. It provides an easy way out but as a literary device it falls flat. And, it would strain the audience's suspension of disbelief because if the Magician can do that, then why would he need to invent a story about a sword in the stone? Why can't Merlin enchant Arthur and restore his confidence so that he "knows" he's the true king?

Here's another instance of nitpicking for the sake of: "Over-reliance on 'magic'" ? -- this is MERLIN! I want to see more magic!

However, I agree that it would have been fun to see Merlin enchant Arthur with the story. In fact, that's a great idea, since it would have solved many of the problems that you and MREEN have with the sword in the stone scenes.


This show is supposed to be about Merlin.



..and Arthur is a minor character? Arthur's not supposed to grow, or go through his own personal crises? I'm really confused now. I thought it was supposed to be important that Arthur not be a one-dimensional character.

In any case, if I'm the only person who thought the sword-in-the-stone scene was well done, so be it. But the fact that I remembered that Merlin had thrust the sword in the stone, and therefore was telling a phony story, that Arthur had finally trusted Merlin enough to follow him when Merlin said "There's something I want to show you," the fact that Arthur pulling the sword out is a basic part of the legend anyway: I felt this scene was very well done. It showed the confidence and growth that Merlin had gained in the last 2 episodes, and it showed Arthur going through his own crisis and coming through it stronger, more confident, and secure in his leadership role.

#144 MikeAP001

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 11:13 PM

ladywriter, you're very emotionally invested in this aren't you? You wouldn't happen to be involved with the show in some way? :)

I also enjoy a good discussion. When someone provides me with a different point of view, I'm curious to understand his/her line of thinking. Mine is basic. I'm a fan of the Hero Archetype and I believe that the stories in Merlin are following The Hero(ine)'s Journey and fit nicely 1, 3 and 5 year arcs as outlined by any number of people but always based upon Campbell's Basic Stages: the Call, the Initiation, the Return. For me, an episode especially a two-parter must have a beginning, a middle and an end. And, any element in Merlin from Season 1 to 4 can be used in an episode but there must be a reference within the episode.

In US shows like Smallville or Supernatural, there's usually a brief prologue reminding viewers of past events that illustrates this principle. During the beginning of an episode or story, certain things must be introduced or re-introduced at key times that foreshadow events in the story as they unfold, these can be past events, present events or future events. It's not imperative to repeat these things and events exactly because these can be represented by some reference like a symbol, music, light or words, or even the expression of a face to evoke those events.

So, the appearance of a wooden dragon, a scabbard, the mention of a past king, the music used in Lady of the Lake, etc. are sufficient to satisfy me to continue my suspension of disbelief. But tying those things with something living or dead reinforces those events. For example, for me in the progression of a story, seeing a wooden dragon or a green cream, reminds me of Balinor and the events of the Last DragonLord or seeing the enchanted sword reminds me of swords forged in the Dragon's breath and the events of Excalibur and the Coming of Arthur and so on. And, my expectation is that there will be something to do with those events. It's a process called abstraction.

If these expectations don't occur then I'm surprised. But, that's the way it is. But when the event occurs and it falls below my expectations, then I'm disappointed and I'd like to know why and whether I missed something. And, for me, it had to do with a phony story of the sword in the stone. That's why I'd have liked there to have been some hint that that Merlin Tale might have had a basis in fact and not been a completely phony story.

And, I have no problem with developing other characters besides Merlin. I'd love to see Gwaine and Percival go on Quests with Merlin but their development should not occur at his expense. While Arthur's character grew, Merlin's should have as well but if it did, there was too little. As a fan of the Hero Archetype, at this point in the story, Merlin should have demonstrated by the end of the Season enough growth as a Healer, a Wizard, and an Adviser but he did not because in the 5 to 6 years Merlin had been studying under Gaius, Arthur wouldn't even trust Merlin to try to heal someone and instead let her die while Merlin didn't even try to do anything.

And, I can only conclude: Arthur might have gained in confidence but, Merlin surely must not. And for me, that's what made this a disappointment because there were plenty of chances for the writers to develop Merlin's character and they chose not to do so.

#145 Scopet

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:00 AM

If you're expecting them to flesh out every detail of the story, be prepared to be continually disappointed. That's not how the Brit's do things, and yeah, it can be frustrating, and, PLEASE don't take this the wrong way, but they expect their audiences to be more "intelligent" than that. and to be able to read between the lines (again, that's more of a culture clash thing, not an actual intelligence issue)..

What is does allow for is the viewer to bring an active participation into what they are watching. If you want to see the Hero myth, you'll find it, if you want to see the veiled attempt to retell the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany, you'll find it (watch the show dubbed in German sometime, it's fascinating!). If you want to see the pain of what it was like to be be gay in the 1980's in America, you'll find it. If you want to see why nice and sane people make the mistakes of turning to terrorism, you'll find it.. If you'd like to see a good buddy story, you'll find it. If you want to see a good forbidden romance, you'll find it. If you want to see to struggle to over come the class barrios, you'll find it. If your a little kid and want to see how good guys hold on and always do the right thing, even when no one understands them and they're picked on by bullies at school just like you are, you'll find that. If you want to see the socialist agenda of the powerful individual giving up their power for the good of the masses, you'll find that too (okay, that last one's a stretch, but considering the Muppet movie made that list...)

All those story forms are different. They have different criteria for how you judge the progress of the main characters, and even who you consider the main characters to be. It's perfectly valid to say Merlin didn't grow at all according to the hero myth just as it's perfectly valid to say he grew a lot in Arthur's expectations of him on the buddy level, even though Arthur still doesn't know about Merlin's magic and what his real potential is. It just depends on what criteria you're using to evaluate the story you're wanting to see. The story telling style is intentionally open to allow the view that freedom.

I like watching the show from different perspectives and I like hearing the hero myth perspective. It may not be the show I originally watched, but then I can go back and watch it that way :) It keeps the re-watches fresh.

#146 MikeAP001

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:53 AM

If you're expecting them to flesh out every detail of the story, be prepared to be continually disappointed. That's not how the Brit's do things, and yeah, it can be frustrating, and, PLEASE don't take this the wrong way, but they expect their audiences to be more intelligent than that. and to be able to read between the lines (again, that's more of a culture clash thing, not an intelligence issue)..


I don't expect the details of a story to be entirely fleshed out but I expect certain events to be foreshadowed by subtle symbolism or other things that help lead a viewer in the direction where a story is going. Until the final episode, by and large, Merlin did well in that regard this season. The episodes had a nice progression and it all fit nicely within the terms of the Merlin Realm for this Season. Then, this clunker where things were just seemingly happened out of thin air and Arthur became a gullible fool. It was painful.

Anyway, if there are Brit fans out there who feel like me that Merlin's development wasn't what it should be in this Season 4 then we might see that occur in the future and hopefully, the writers and producers will see that, too. If this becomes the status quo then I'm seeing a pattern where the 2nd part of a two-parter is NOT as strong as the first, even though it should be stronger.

#147 Scopet

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:08 PM

I don't expect the details of a story to be entirely fleshed out but I expect certain events to be foreshadowed by subtle symbolism or other things that help lead a viewer in the direction where a story is going. Until the final episode, by and large, Merlin did well in that regard this season. The episodes had a nice progression and it all fit nicely within the terms of the Merlin Realm for this Season. Then, this clunker where things were just seemingly happened out of thin air and Arthur became a gullible fool. It was painful.

Anyway, if there are Brit fans out there who feel like me that Merlin's development wasn't what it should be in this Season 4 then we might see that occur in the future and hopefully, the writers and producers will see that, too. If this becomes the status quo then I'm seeing a pattern where the 2nd part of a two-parter is NOT as strong as the first, even though it should be stronger.



I agree, their second parters of the season enders do seem rushed and they can over reach at times. The writers are probably wigged out on coffee and not enough sleep by the time they get to them. and don't give the script that final edit because their brains are hurting and anything they think of just makes the story worse instead of better. If you allow for that, it can still be an enjoyable episode. I like the whole sword bit because of the whole dumbo's feather thing I mentioned earlier. I think Arthur could get over that (in the other tellings of the Sword in the Stone that have Merlin putting it there, Arthur's always suspected Merlin put it there and that really didn't matter to him.) Arthur's later comment about "this thing's not bad" right before they run into the throne room lead me to believe that there was something about the story Arthur wasn't quite buying, but he couldn't quite figure it out. Arthur was more fascinated by the quality of the blade than the story behind it.

The part that I found rushed is where Merlin tells Arthur that the man who pulled out the sword would unite the lands of Albion. That bit could have wound up on the out take reel as far as I'm concerned. I think the only reason they kept it was because Colin looked so ethereal in that shot and it was a great contrast to the "waky-waky" scene.

And of course the whole wedding scene, but if they planned to jump a year or so before season 5 begins, they had to put something in there because if season 5 started off with them married and NO wedding scene, then you really would have seen the fans scream bloody murder!

#148 writelady

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:21 PM

ladywriter, you're very emotionally invested in this aren't you? You wouldn't happen to be involved with the show in some way? :)

I wish! I have been published in magazines (including fantasy), but, no, sadly :( , nothing to do with any show right now.

As far as being vested in the show emotionally, yes, I really enjoy the legend and the treatment of it in this show. I especially enjoy that it is not a run-of-the-mill crime-and-monsters show (as so many scifi/fantasy shows are), but rather focuses on character development (like Smallville). I sense that you, too, are emotionally invested; otherwise, you would not have been so disappointed.

I don't expect the details of a story to be entirely fleshed out but I expect certain events to be foreshadowed by subtle symbolism or other things that help lead a viewer in the direction where a story is going. Until the final episode, by and large, Merlin did well in that regard this season. The episodes had a nice progression and it all fit nicely within the terms of the Merlin Realm for this Season. Then, this clunker where things were just seemingly happened out of thin air and Arthur became a gullible fool. It was painful.

Anyway, if there are Brit fans out there who feel like me that Merlin's development wasn't what it should be in this Season 4 then we might see that occur in the future and hopefully, the writers and producers will see that, too. If this becomes the status quo then I'm seeing a pattern where the 2nd part of a two-parter is NOT as strong as the first, even though it should be stronger.

Scopet made some very good points. I think your disappointment has as much to do with your expectations based on U.S. shows treating their audiences like dummies as with any hero archetypes. I guess when a show flashes back to key events, it's a nice reminder, but I don't rely on it.

As I said before, I was very satisfied and, in fact, happy with the 2-parter season ender. Was it perfect? No, they never are. Did the writers/director/editors take short cuts and presuppose the audience's collective memory of past episodes? Absolutely. But as the ep ended, I felt very strongly that both Merlin and Arthur (who are absolutely co-protaganists in the storyline) had grown and moved forward, both ready to reach their ultimate destiny.

#149 MikeAP001

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 04:06 PM

...

I think your disappointment has as much to do with your expectations based on U.S. shows treating their audiences like dummies as with any hero archetypes...

... Did the writers/director/editors take short cuts and presuppose the audience's collective memory of past episodes? Absolutely. But as the ep ended, I felt very strongly that both Merlin and Arthur (who are absolutely co-protaganists in the storyline) had grown and moved forward, both ready to reach their ultimate destiny.


No, for British Adventure series I use the AVENGERS as a model of story telling and it followed, very subtly the elements that are lacking in Merlin... And, in that light, we can see that Merlin's character is woefully stunted but Arthur's has progressed. One way to test this hypothesis: next year if the Merlin people try and play catch up by overemphasizing Merlin as a character, putting him in situations where he will needlessly face "adult" or "mature" situations and decisions, but keep him as he currently is--- a manservant, clad and acting as he always has, then I'm probably correct: Merlin's character was stunted during the last season. If not, then I'm wrong. But, I have faith in the Hero's Journey and I am certain I will be vindicated: the last episode was poorly done and Merlin will need a lot of catching up to do if indeed, Season 5 is to be the last.

Edited April 12, 2012 at 11:00pm

After watching a couple of 1960s Avengers with MacNee and Rigg and seeing that those episodes had the same three elements in a Hero's Journey: Call, Initiation, and Return. And the show makes use of traditional story telling methods within each episode. After thinking about this, I think I'm beginning to understand the difference between the writing style of early British writers and later ones regarding television and film.

It's the difference between inclusion and exclusion. By way of review, one of the reasons that some playwrights like Shakespeare used allusion, repetition, symbolism and other devices to remind the audience of events and foreshadow events during the introductory phase of a presentation was so that someone watching for the first time without foreknowledge could enjoy the presentation and come away with an understanding of the underlying message of the play. It was the sort of writing style that made Shakespeare's plays especially his Comedies accessible to the masses (we common folk) very popular. This was an INCLUSIONARY method of story telling which persisted well until the 20th Century in the UK and US. There, the writers had the onus of convincing the audience to suspend disbelief and did so using established story telling methods; otherwise, it was deemed to be lazy/poor story telling form.

Somewhere along the line, this changed at least in the UK. Most of the writers in Merlin have a more EXCLSUIONARY style where the audience has the onus of suspending its disbelief. From a writer's perspective this is good, it allows under the guise of audience participation, what had been thought of as sloppy story telling technique to be considered "high brow". The drawback with this approach is that there's really no quality check except for the reaction of the audience. Without relying upon the more traditional story teller's craft, the risk is that appealing only to a limited audience, there will be little to no growth of this show. And, if this is the norm for British shows like Robin Hood (which I haven't see) then it makes sense why the audience began to dwindle.

And, it also makes sense why Merlin was originally slated to end after Season 3 but was saved because of the ratings from the final two episodes, the Coming of Arthur which coincidentally followed the traditional story tellers craft so that the episode included a Beginning, a Middle, and an End, with a sequence of events that was quite plausible within the Merlin Realm. In other words, someone without any pre-knowledge of the show could watch the first part and the second part and enjoy it just as much as someone who'd watched every episode and come out of it understanding the underlying message of the story. Season 4's episodes began with much the same story teller's craft and while some episodes stuttered more than others, the episodes themselves had an internally consistent Beginning, Middle, and End... until episode 13 which should have made up for any delays in character development the hero (Merlin) had.

#150 MikeAP001

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:57 PM

I don't think Merlin's lost any status at all. In fact he's gained it...


I didn't think so back then and after reading what Rupert Young had to say, I think Merlin's pretty much where he's always been. I found this article on an interview the KORT did in February 2012:

http://crystal-taylo...-merlin-a402706
and
http://crystal-taylo...-merlin-a403068

And, I don't see how anyone can still insist that Merlin's grown a lot. Anyway, you can read more interviews here: http://eoin-macken.com/

#151 Mreen

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 04:39 PM

I think we'll see growth (as a character) in Merlin, if we get to see him dealing with the fact that he's not only a murderer, he used magic to do it. He's always believed that deliberately murdering people with magic was the seed evil needed to control a magic user.
That's why that guy's dad died rather than use the magical object to fight off his attackers, he knew the price might be his soul and chose to face death instead.

Merlin never felt that guilty about acting in a battle, in fact he pretty much wanted to boast about those acts to Arthur and only had Lancelot and Galahad to snicker with, ... but now he's gone and done a murder. I hope they let Merlin grow up enough to face that.

#152 MikeAP001

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:15 PM

I think we'll see growth (as a character) in Merlin, if we get to see him dealing with the fact that he's not only a murderer, he used magic to do it. He's always believed that deliberately murdering people with magic was the seed evil needed to control a magic user.


That'll depend on whether the writers/producers still see Merlin as a Romantic hero--- or if, they ever did. And, some of them, including the fans, don't. But, since S01, Merlin has been the Romantic hero as defined by the five traits that distinguish such a hero: Innocence, Intuition, Inner Strength, Imagination, and (Divine) Inspiration (--- a sense of duty to something higher than the norms set by society including his own life--- for S01-03, that was seeing Arthur secure his claim to the throne of Camelot so that one day Albion would be born) and those traits often caused the hero to be introspective because he couldn't live up to his own ideals. While in the extreme case of lack of knowledge, the hero instead of innocence displays a child-like ignorance (Merlin S01). Merlin IS a Romantic hero; however, he's not recognized as such by his UK handlers because he's not a BRITISH romantic hero.

The Romantic heroes as literary figures descend from Shakespeare's Hamlet (if you believe that he was feigning madness otherwise, it's Homer's Odysseus or Vigil's Hector (he appears as a ghost in the AENEID) or Aeneas--- sorta--- who'll sacrifice everything even to the point of being isolated from others or death, even if it means he has to forgo joy and happiness--- to ease his troubled mind--- yet, while not a part of the Romantic Era, this hero exhibited the five traits of the Romantic Hero admired during that Era) and evolve into the mysterious rustic adventurer of Coleridge (think of Erol Flynn in Robin Hood) or the charming, dangerous mystery man of Byron's Childe Harold (sort of like Angel in the early Buffy(s)).

Assuming that Shakespeare play was known by writers in Europe who were in turn influenced by the Danish philosophers like Kirkegaard or the German Hagel, the Continental Romantic heroes were given their own interpretation. The hero still exhibited the same 5 traits as the Shakespearean version but emphasized idealism, existentialism, and ideas involving a leap of faith. Basically, this hero was seen as the angst ridden loner or the passionate seeker (Goethe's Faust could be argued as being either while, Harrison Ford in BLADE RUNNER would be the former and Schwarzenegger in PREDATOR as the latter).

In the Americas Coleridge's Romantic Hero evolved by emphasizing the cheerful pessimism and guarded optimism of a young country that sought its potential and had as its outlet the possibilities in otherworldly places including the wilderness of James Fenimore Cooper (Mat Dillon in GUNSMOKE) and the supernatural of Edgar Alan Poe (Sam and Dean Winchester). The result was a different hero but with the same fundamental five traits as his British and Continental cousins.

So, which type is Merlin? At first, I thought he was the American sort but on further reflection, he's more likely the Continental romantic. Gwaine in Season 3 and Arthur in Season 4 would likely fit the British hero though Gwaine would be more Coleridge than Byron while Arthur would be more Byron than Coleridge. In any event, Merlin's a Romantic hero. He kept this Heroic Course until S04. For instance, during the poisoning of Morgana, justified later by Gaius as the way to save a dying Camelot, Merlin was remorseful and introspective--- he knew that even if he had to give her the Hemlock--- one of the more treatable forms of poisoning--- he didn't want to see Morgana die. But, it's questionable if Merlin had any remorse or introspection regarding Agravaine in S04E13.

And, if Julian Murphy doesn't see Merlin as a romantic hero then it's not very likely Merlin will be introspective much less remorseful. That's why, if the Merlin people want him to become the Dark Merlin, he should adopt more of the Shadow characteristics by pulling an Anakin. And, in this episode, Merlin could have done just that, after talking to Agravaine, Merlin should have gotten Aggy's motive for siding with Morgana by forcing Aggy to stab himself through the stomach and pierce his own heart--- much as Uther died, while Aggy's dying, Merlin promises to heal Aggy and extracts even more information from him, but in the end Merlin stands watching as Aggy dies a slow and painful death before Merlin walks away. That would be a DARK Merlin. But, I really wouldn't want him to go down that path and perhaps not the sort of path he's headed toward now.

Some of you might be wondering what all this has to do with Merlin S04E13. Simple: Merlin's Bedtime Tale. Prince Aeneas of Troy founder of the Latin State, son of a goddess, had a child, Ascanius who would father the kings of Italy and eventually Rome. His son would found a kingdom in the Northern fringes of the Empire. In Latin, his name was Brutus (not the one in Julius Caesar but a far earlier one), the first king of all the Bretons--- Arthur's ancestor--- or as he's known in this show: Bruta. (The story goes that Brutus accidentally shot his father with an arrow and was banished from Italy. While in the Mediterranean, he freed some former Trojans and their descendants who had been enslaved by the Greeks and sailed to the Northern Lands. He settled on an island and became the first king of the Bretons.) His son would be Lear, who Shakespeare wrote of. And, Lear's daughters and their descendants would in time encounter and battle the other descendants of Troy.

So, it wouldn't have been that much of a stretch to have had a pre-existing legend about the descendant of a goddess thrusting a sword in a stone even as a bedtime story known to every child in Camelot. There's an old saying in story telling and myths being exaggerations relying upon... well, uh... lies: The best lies always possess a kernel of truth to create the illusion of credibility. So if Merlin's tale were to be believed there should be that kernel; otherwise, Arthur looks like a gullible fool willing to believe anything and Merlin won't be such a liar.

Now, is it still possible to rehab Arthur so he doesn't look so dim? Sure. The easy way: Arthur makes the connection with Bruta and it turns out that Merlin's tale isn't much of a tale at all... the writers could even introduce Crocea Mors, the enchanted sword of Julius Caesar and make up a story tying that sword to Bruta. It's simple, if you follow the Hero Archetype. If not, then it becomes difficult and you end up with a confusing series of threads which will forever remain unanswered. So, in season 5, we'll see how it goes. But, my bet is that very few have made the connection and I doubt Merlin's writers will! More than likely, they'll not mention it at all.

And, is it possible to rehab Merlin? Sure. It's easy with the Hero Archetype. Even Morgana or Gwen could be redeemed. But, will the writers do so? I doubt it.

#153 Mreen

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:30 PM

I have to confess, I have no interest in the sadistic Merlin that would inflict long and painful death on an enemy just to get information that would be of little value after he killed the person he was getting information about (why he joined Morgana, etc).


I just like the idea of him exploring his own morality and realizing he failed to live up to it, and may even have set himself upon that path that he himself thought was reason magic users turned evil.

When he poisoned Morgana, he was able to help her be cured not five minutes later, and even apologized to her later. There was no Morguese to save his conscience this time, and this time it was murder magically inflicted, not just a murder by poison as the only way to save Arthur and the rest of the kingdom who were dying, but out and out murder for purely political reasons, to keep his own secrets. I really am not such a fan of large heroic archetypes such as in comics, for this type of show (quite fun in comics), but I enjoy the subtler human journeys in a good fantasy or scifi, as people wrestle with special powers both setting them apart, and tempting them into justifying evil - for the greater good.

Edited by Mreen, 17 April 2012 - 05:49 PM.


#154 MikeAP001

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:05 PM

I have to confess, I have no interest in the sadistic Merlin that would inflict long and painful death on an enemy just to get information that would be of little value after he killed the person he was getting information about (why he joined Morgana, etc).


But, that's the Shadow element, the part of Merlin's personality that he hadn't developed in a mature and healthy way and is kept hidden within his psyche but if it comes to the the surface it is different from the personality that he usually projects to those around him. Shadows needn't be good or evil but thought of as the negative of what is. Whereas Merlin is altruistic--- doing good because it is the right thing to do (Gwaine)--- his Shadow is motivated to act for selfish reasons; whereas Merlin is kind, his Shadow is cruel; whereas Merlin would speak of mercy and clemency; his Shadow would be ruthless and vindictive. And, if we worked at it... but not too much... we can see that much of the Shadow in Agravaine (though, some people have difficulty seeing Uther as an Ogre of Tyranny…)

When Merlin confronts and defeats his Shadow (in this case the rival advisor to Arthur), Merlin could still be following the Journey of the Romantic hero by showing contrition for his actions. For having defeated the Shadow, the Hero is likewise wounded during the battle and those wounds need to be healed. And, for these emotional or psychological wounds to be healed, there are two ways for this to happen resulting in Introspection.

I just like the idea of him exploring his own morality and realizing he failed to live up to it, and may even have set himself upon that path that he himself thought was reason magic users turned evil.


This would be one of the ways for Merlin to do it.

When he poisoned Morgana, he was able to help her be cured not five minutes later, and even apologized to her later. There was no Morguese to save his conscience this time, and this time it was murder magically inflicted, not just a murder by poison as the only way to save Arthur and the rest of the kingdom who were dying, but out and out murder for purely political reasons, to keep his own secrets….


And, this would be another of the ways for Merlin to do it.

Through introspection, Merlin must show remorse and contrition to continue the Hero's Journey as a traditional Romantic Hero… likely, Continental--- too, bad… seeking to create that world of tolerance and acceptance for him and his kind thus reintegrating those with magic with society at large. In traditional story lines, having been healed, rejuvenated, reborn and renewing his commitment to the Quest, the Hero is then prepared to obtain the boon of his adventure and secure it so that his new knowledge will benefit society--- in this case, Magic is accepted as Albion is created.

But, Colin Morgan and the writers want to see a DARK MERLIN emerge. So, we don't see that bit of redemption in Merlin in this episode and, we probably won't anytime soon. Instead, we get to see Faust making a figurative bargain with the Devil--- Merlin acquiescing to the necessities of Aggy's death WITHOUT dwelling on it.

… I really am not such a fan of large heroic archetypes such as in comics, for this type of show (quite fun in comics), but I enjoy the subtler human journeys in a good fantasy or scifi, as people wrestle with special powers both setting them apart, and tempting them into justifying evil - for the greater good.


I would phrase this sentiment as keeping Merlin on the path of what he was and should be--- the Romantic Hero and not venturing upon the path of the Modern Hero and it's many subtypes including the Anti-Hero or Superhero. I'd prefer a Merlin, as a NeoRomantic (A Romantic Modern) Hero, a character with human foibles but gifted with supernatural abilities who acts from a sense of altruistic idealism of a traditional romantic hero.

That is, I'd like to see Faustus instead of Faust, the power of redemption. I'd like to see Merlin tempted, stare into the abyss, but like all non-Modern Heroes, pull away or be pulled away (in this show, by the power of love.) But, that's not what Colin Morgan or the writers want. No. They want a decidedly Modern Merlin because they're refusing to see Merlin as a Romantic Hero and ignoring his "love interest," which in some of the best literature, could be a cause or in TV shows, an inanimate object for instance, Kirk's love interest in Star Trek was always his ship: Enterprise.

But, that's not what we've been promised!

Still, I'd like to see how the writers will spin the tales with a Dark Merlin and I'd like to see the ratings after awhile when they do. And, given the current climate of the times, I think having a Dark Merlin will likely tank.Thus, ending things at S05 as planned... it's a good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

#155 Mreen

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:29 PM

Just to clarify, I'm taking your ideas as speculations. I don't read spoilers such as when the show leaks information on what 'future journeys' characters have gone on for publicity. Even for the simplest shows, I enjoy them more when I see the story unfold, rather than a bunch of cast crew explaining to me what to expect ahead of time.

(Tho that's great with little kids, who need time to prepare for changes if they are going to accept them. I'll tell them some hints and changes in a show they haven't seen. Given some of Merlin's audience is young, I know they'll leak that sort of info all the time.)

#156 MikeAP001

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:21 PM

Just to clarify, I'm taking your ideas as speculations. I don't read spoilers such as when the show leaks information on what 'future journeys' characters have gone on for publicity. Even for the simplest shows, I enjoy them more when I see the story unfold, rather than a bunch of cast crew explaining to me what to expect ahead of time.

(Tho that's great with little kids, who need time to prepare for changes if they are going to accept them. I'll tell them some hints and changes in a show they haven't seen. Given some of Merlin's audience is young, I know they'll leak that sort of info all the time.)


Of course these are all speculations and ideas based on archetypes as motivation for the action of the characters and what the viewers should expect from the Hero's Journey IF the producers are following the Hero Archetype which I believe they are. The only part that isn't is what Colin Morgan mentioned about Merlin becoming Darker during Season 4 in April 2011 (http://www.list.co.u...damaged-merlin/) and September 2011 in the UK (http://www.whatsontv...o-go-dark/14035) which is what he said about Merlin after S03 and he gave a similar US interview in January 2012 about Season 4 (http://crystal-taylo...eason-4-a400382)

I didn't really see the "DARK" Merlin promise of S04 until S04E13 when Merlin killed Agravaine and would have killed Morgana. But even that wasn't enough for Merlin to pull an Anakin and go to the DARK side for me. Now, had Merlin after killing Agravaine paused over the dead body and wept tears (for the loss of innocence) or done anything to show he'd gone over, then yes ... Anyway, the DARK MERLIN theme of S04 was enough to convince the BBC to air Merlin at a later time than in prior years and I guess SyFy, too.

For an example of a spoiler, I'd mention
Spoiler


#157 jwrsng

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 02:34 PM

When will season 4 of Merlin be available on Netflixs?

#158 Mreen

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 07:26 PM

Not sure, but they are starting the show on BBCAmerica this month, I believe. They sent an ad that said Merlin starts in June, anyway.




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