The second series of BBC Wales’ reinvention of the Camelot legend kicks off in high gear, with an episode that demonstrates the show’s strengths, and indicates that some of the weaknesses present during the first year have been addressed in the hiatus.
The humour content is at about the right level, although there’s a “tag” scene that feels as if it belongs in an American show rather than a British one, and the special effects continue to improve. Flying gargoyles bear a striking resemblance to Doctor Who‘s Krillitanes (from School Reunion, the episode in which Merlin star Tony Head guest starred), but their interaction with human beings is considerably improved. Also much better is the editing of sequences featuring special effects – the boar hunt at the start is much more credible than it would have been last year.
A high quality of guest stars have been attracted to the show. Mackenzie Crook effectively plays two roles, with the final transition between them particularly noteworthy. There’s very little Gwen or Morgana in this episode, but in both cases their scenes develop the characters – as does the Dragon’s, a distinct change from before.
Colin Morgan and Bradley Thomas continue to be the focus of the show as Merlin and Arthur, with their confrontations, both serious and less so, playing well. Tony Head and Richard Wilson re-establish their characters although the former seems to have developed an unnerving way of looking away from the people he’s addressing.
This sets a high standard for the rest of the season to maintain. 8/10