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Merlin Recap: ‘The Nightmare Begins’ (Season 2, Episode 3)

Posted By Jem Bloomfield On June 17, 2012 @ 4:30 am In Movies & TV,Television | No Comments

Aglain the Druid (Colin Salmon) wonders how to tactfully mention the giant scorpion right behind the cameraman’s shoulder…

Morgana’s dreams are getting worse again. Unsympathetic spectators might hazard that her unquiet slumbers have something to do with her invariable habit of going to bed fully dressed in fetching yet surely inconvenient medieval gowns. Look at Arthur, they might say. He enjoys a healthy and normal relationship with his bed – we see him in it very often – and he is punctilious about removing unnecessary garments before attempting sleep, including the bedcovers on occasion. These spectators would have missed the operating principles upon which much of Merlin takes place. But no matter.

Overdressed or not, things get a bit pyrotechnic in Morgana’s bedroom1, and Gaius can no longer pretend she doesn’t have magical powers. In private, at least. In public he’s still denying there’s such a thing as magic. Despite his best efforts, Uther goes off on one about sorcery again, and orders a roundup of suspected wizardy types. Merlin decides this is his big chance to help (scrubbing leech tanks doesn’t count as socially productive labour apparently, peculiar sense of priorities this lad displays) and persuades her to seek out the Druids, with whom she’ll feel more at home. Finding where the Druids call home in order that Morgana may feel at home there requires him to descend once again to consult the dragon, that giant scaly conglomeration of “Oh, what now?” so ably voiced by John Hurt. Off she sets into the forest, with what is either a very brief nod to The Village or a pretty run-of-the-mill Red Hiding Hood reference.

Whichever the director may be gesturing towards is irrelevant, since neither of those stories involved giant scorpions to my knowledge, but then I haven’t read my Angela Carter recently. The scorpions start playing tag with Morgana, and she very selfishly decides that, having been tagged, she would rather have a nice quiet lie-down and a faint than chase them round the forest in her turn, and she is rescued by one of the druids. (Earth-religion types have such an advantage in medieval fantasy – the whole eco-woo thing looks so much less wimpy and macrobiotic when it involves being able to order around hypertrophied exo-skellingtons with massive poison-dripping stings. Commanding an army of a million yoghurt-dwelling bacteria, which are actually, like, totally natural and not as bad for you as Western medicine, which can only, like “cure” you or whatever, is only really going to have an impact if you’re up against a vast but dramatically lactose-intolerant horde of barbarians.)

The possible Shyamalan influence from The Village disappears abruptly, as well it might when the director reflects he doesn’t want recappers everywhere to be able to refer to the Druids as “the Village people” and we slide more into The Omen, with the arrival of a creepy magic-wielding child you may recall from earlier seasons. Yes, Mordered is back, and when Uther’s soldiers turn up, convinced that Morgana has in fact been kidnapped by Druids, he rather spoils the lid everyone’s been trying to keep on magic and the fact that it is a thing. Surrounded by the mailed retainers in question, Mordred gives a lively impersonation of Munsch’s The Scream, only with full soundtrack, blowing the soldiers off their feet. Nevertheless, Morgana is returned to Camelot and the natural condition of that particular castle (the kind of collective denial which must keep Camelot’s analysts in absolute clover) is re-established. A rather pedestrian episode, in many ways, but the hints at a Princess Bride aesthetic during some of the outdoor scenes of soldiers chasing people are worth noticing – they may well come into their own in later episodes…

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1 I’ve just reread this sentence, but I think changing it would be tantamount to caving in to the repulsive minds you all have, so consider my leaving it as I first wrote it a rebuke to the lot of you.


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