Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
on 23 June 2009
All in all I enjoyed this first season quite a lot.
Professionally scripted, filmed and acted, it heavily relies on the charm of the Arthurian myth and on the free use of magic so fashionable these years providing the viewer with hours of easy entertainment. A little TOO easy at times.
Said viewer could be even a child of about 10 if a parent were there to do some explaining.
That the main purpose of this series be entertainment is perfectly legitimate, but I am convinced that things could and should have been done better even within this limited scope.
First and foremost there are heavy qualitative differences in the 13 episodes: scripted and directed by different people they are remarkably different in achievements. Take for instance the episode before the last: throughout there is great attention paid to lighting, to framing and composition. The result is that this episode is vastly superior from every point of view. And it shows, it really does. Why was this attention not paid to all of them?
Another irritating problem is the actors' diction: in the first episode it is very theatrical, cristal clear, perfect. Elsewhere, but not everywhere, the same actors slur whole sentences forcing me to use subtitles. Why? Have the creators not established guidelines?
They should have. The series is full of inconsistencies (and sketchy plots/characterization/ethics). For example at the start Merlin is said to be capable of making spells with no mouthed incantation. Elsewhere he has to speak just to open a closed door. Sorry, but these mistakes irritate me a lot.
To talk about some inconsistencies forces me to introduce others that may be less relevant if one accepts that this series was originally meant for entertainment only. I can see that it might as well be only me who wishes for more attention to be paid to details.
The Arthurian myth is extraordinarily confused but if I am not wrong the life of Arthur is supposed to be set in the first centuries A.D. when the Roman army was retiring from Britain and the Latin-Celtic world was collapsing into small states, often at war with each other and facing the first waves of the Anglo-Saxon invasion.
I might be wrong but this series seems to be set much later, when Anglo-Saxons were already established and mixed with the rest: Arthur's father is called Uther, for instance, and there are runes -which are Germanic only- everywhere. I am under the impression that most incantations are pronounced in Old English instead of some kind of Celtic. Camelot itself is an enormous, full fledged castle, something I would expect in the X century or even later and several details in the scenes appear to be wrong.
Another point is the choice of black actors. Those playing Gwen and her father especially, but there were quite a lot of extras too.
Do NOT misunderstand me: they are fine professionals, I loved them, but I somehow doubt that in V century Britain there were so many people of colour, not to mention among the knights.
A further point is that the dialogues/gestures and even ethics sound too modern for the time. Was this really necessary for entertainment's sake? Was it not possible to fetch an historian and have him revise the production while preserving the fun?
There are several other points I could make but I shall leave it to you to decide for yourself; allow me to stress that a little more accuracy would have been welcomed.
Some less sketchy dialogues would have been too: all actors do a decent job and could surely afford better lines and deeper ethics/attitudes.
An interesting issue other reviewers have pointed out are the homosexual undertones in the series, especially -and understandably- in the relationship between Arthur and Merlin. Nothing for prudes to worry about though, there is nothing explicit as there is nothing sexual of any sort in any line of the script for any character in the whole first season. It is just a feeling.