Merlin S05E01 review

By Josephine Sillars. Not me. I don’t watch Merlin.

Last night saw BBC’s “Merlin” bounce back for another series. It opened on an exciting two parter (similar to last year’s “The Darkest Hour”) which has set a darker tone for the rest of series five. It was a confident return, brimming with action and excitement which can only do it good after last year’s disappointing finale.

Arthur and Guinevere have been ruling Camelot for three years since we last saw them, and a lot has changed, especially in Gwen’s character and dress (at last). From the get go, she has had a sweet nature but as Queen she is strong and ruthless- a force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t fear ruling Camelot in Arthur’s absence and is able to find and sentence a traitor to death in ten minutes (unlike her husband who proved himself unable to find and sentence a traitor in ten episodes). As Queen, it was interesting to see her being waited on. It was refreshing to see that despite three years as a Royal she is still a little uneasy with her position towards the servants. Also, it was wonderful to see that Morgana now has a rival in the costume department.

The episode also saw Merlin in a different light. He has clearly become more confident since we last saw him and lines such as, “I have many hidden talents” could be hinting about the blessed magic reveal. The banter between Merlin and Arthur was as light and humours as ever (especially when to two were hilariously caught and suspended in a net).

Morgana however, seems pretty much unchanged since series four. Over the last three years, she seems to have acquired a castle, an ally and a cave full of topless men (including two of Arthur’s knights) but that’s about all that’s new. However, it is hinted that she will become a stronger and more committed enemy.

Despite the episode being action packed and thrilling (and having a beautifully shot fight sequence and gorgeous scenery) it felt like a slight disappointment. It had enough action and excitement to make the viewer forget about last year’s poor ending, but the three year jump almost seemed lazy. The character of Tristan (whose partner, Isolde was tragically killed off) will be sorely missed. The relationship between Morgana and Aithusa wasn’t mentioned (although it should hopefully be brought up later) and most importantly, Merlin failed to reveal his magic to Arthur again. Last year gave the show a perfect window for the magic reveal, a window which they missed. Having the magic reveal early on the series would break things up from the predictable rut the show has settled in and would make a brilliant dynamic between the characters- especially with the return of old foe Mordred.

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Doctor Who Asylum of the Daleks review (spoilers!)

Here there be spoilers, not even going to attempt to avoid them. If you haven’t watched it yet then DON’T READ THIS. Go watch it and come back. The spoilers WILL RUIN YOUR GOOD TIME. It’s a Grand Moff episode after all. The first paragraph is just synopsis and will be fine, but the rest and probably any comments spoiler spoiler spoiler.

When the Doctor is kidnapped by his oldest foe, he is forced on an impossible mission – to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter.

Synopsis wasn’t that long really. I’m dragging this out so that little box on Facebook that says what the article has in it doesn’t have anything dodgy in it. That’ll do, geronimo!

I had a couple of issues coming in to this, three actually but one I won’t get to for a wee bit. First off, The Doctor has just faked his death. Everyone thinks he’s dead but in the trailers he’s surrounded by Daleks. I figured they’d just decided that was a bad idea, thrown it away, and everyone either knew he was alive or would soon. Secondly, the end of Pond Life. What’s gone wrong with Amy and Rory?! The trailers make it look like everything is just peachy! The third was a total surprise. Anyway, I should have remembered I was dealing with a guy that makes Loki look like a straight shooter but bizarrely can also be trusted to explain everything eventually and make you feel stupid. I’ll be watching the episode for the second time and writing down thoughts. I also have wine. Hopefully this won’t get too lengthy.

First bit is addressed right away. His death IS faked but like anyone else as high profile as The Doctor rumours abound that it’s bull. Good. I also thought Skaro was either destroyed or time locked, but did a check and it’s not. I’m only up to season 9 of the old stuff so I’m no expert. I think this is new though, human looking Daleks? That’s a bit worrying, means ANYONE can be a Dalek. Almost up there with them being able to fly!

Then they get to the second issue, nice quick work here. They’re divorced, just as we get there. Why isn’t known yet but they’re on the outs. That I’ll get to when the episode does. So far Eleven has been pretty serious, a change from the normal whackyness. And it’s some fine work throughout by Smith, even if he DOES sound like Eddie Izzard at times.

Here’s another thing, last time I checked the Daleks had an Emperor or other supreme leader. Where is this Parliamentary democracy stuff coming from?! Ah well…

Lengthy opener there. Is that new? I have trouble remembering and I’m biased by the fact that I’m sure things are being taylored for the yanks. New opening possibly, kept the theme the same but possibly fancier graphics. I only say this as I HEARD there was a new one. It’s pretty but not my favourite version of the theme. Used to it now and like it though.

Then, a vision. A confusing as hell vision. That absolute stunner is Jenna Louise Coleman. She’ll be replacing the Ponds. She also isn’t supposed to be in it until Christmas. I’ve been worried about her, she doesn’t look good in stills at all IMHO. I have fallen slightly in love over the course of this episode. She’s gorgeous, rediculously smart and fiesty as hell in a non annoying way. Because she’s so smart it could have gone the way of a very annoying girl called Vicky who was assistant to….Two I think for a while. Maybe One. AND if not dealt with correctly it could go a bit wrong with overwhelming companion syndrome. Assuming she’s like she is in this episode, I’ll address that at the end. There’s a big clue btw, that view screen. She’s meant to be on her own ship after all isn’t she? I didn’t twig at all though.

I’m going to miss Rory. He brings some great levity to the show, he’s brave and honourable. Amy can be a bit patchy at times, I’ll miss her too, but I’ll miss Rory more.

Why is the Doctor so surprised that the Daleks call him The Predator as well? He KNOWS he has a bunch of nick names, he KNOWS what he’s done to them over the years (not saying it’s not justified but his darkest moments have been against or down to Daleks). There’s also no logical reason beyond “It’s Rory and things tend to go wrong for him” for the beam to stick him way further down than The Doctor and Amy. Think a lot of this may end up being questions and nit picks!

I’m a bit slow, I thought this guy was just mental. See what I mean about ANYONE though? And ZOMBIE Dalek drones? Bloody hell!

I wish they’d never had the raggedy man nickname, that’s where a lot of her dodgy moments come from. She’s a muppet though, he’s the Doctor, there’s not much he can’t fix.

The first truly shit yourself moment. We know what’s coming, Rory doesn’t apparently cause he’s Rory. Arthur Darvill for Indiana Jones! Like I said I’m gonna miss him most and part of me wants things to fall back apart with Amy and for him to end up with Oswin. But not really. Also, I call dibs. That guy from Game of Thrones can get stuffed.

“Hang on to scared, scared isn’t Dalek”. Yes it is, it’s why you’re on the planet! Another little clue from the Moff here, only if you know what’s happening though. Glorious bastard.

Brilliant Doctor moment here. “How are you going to do that? You’re a tricycle with a roof”. And another moment proving why he shouldn’t be surprised at the nickname. The Doctor wouldn’t kill 20 of his enemies and then be a bit proud if it was pretty much anyone else. Part of this is being alone for a while, but this is where the raging Doctor comes from. Part of what attracted me to the show. Another Scottish dig too, but I made it myself before they did. She’s an Inverness bird, no surprise.

I didn’t notice explodey wodey the first time, nice. Ten would have had a mini rant at the 4 second line though.

NOW, we get to the reason why the Ponds are on the rocks. Amy is an idiot. I know because, at least partly, I’ve been Rory in this situation. I’d love to have a daughter some day but it’s not the end of the world if I can’t because the woman I love (no one right now) can’t have one or doesn’t want one/more. Rory really doesn’t care Amy, you silly lassie. What you did was noble and all but unnecessary. The Doctor proves his genius though, get them in a situation where they have to confront each other so they’ll address it. They will have before, but the life and death situation will help. I assume because the show is well written that it won’t be perfect right off or anything BUT they’re back on the right road.

AND problem that everyone will know the Doctor is back, sorted. Hit them with the old Men in Black brain wipe. Problem is that the Daleks probably won’t be held back now. Bonus is we’ll see an excellent battle at some point as he’ll have to stop them.

Then, the true genius of this episode and the biggest question that’s left over. Oswin is a Dalek, she just thinks she’s a girl. The whole ship thing is inside her mind. Every night they try and break in, her humanity is holding off the Dalek aspect. It’s fucking BRILLIANT. And leads to an amazing Dalek performance. I love the Daleks, but when they break the standard Dalek situation I love it more. Two has a story, the last Dalek one for a few years, where some of them get human type emotions and end up spinning around to play a game called dizzy dizzy Daleks. It’s adorable and a bit creepy when you have some Daleks acting like kids that want to play. I teared up a bit on this one though, that last wailed exterminate is heart breaking.

But how the fuck will she be a companion?! THAT Oswin is dead now, we don’t really do alternative dimension malarky in Doctor Who. He can pluck her from earlier in her time line but that’s a big assed paradox. I trust Moff, but I have NO ideas at all.

Christ, second time in a row and that along with the Ponds has me choked up. I’m a big girl.

And as brilliant as it is that they don’t know who he is, hearing Doctor Who in the show bothers me a bit and probably always will. As long as people aren’t calling him it it’s fine though. That only happened once and was a big fuck up.

SO, I’m really happy The Doctor is back. It was a fantastic episode, left a lot of questions but ones that will be answered eventually. Although they seem to have forgotten that Amy needs fixed. Bit of a Star Trek “everything is fine at the end” moment unless she keeps the wrist band on forever. Everyone did some stellar work here. Matt played serious very well, which I’m glad of as I expect quite a lot of serious moments this season. I do like his Doctor, I know many don’t. Karen had one or two minor bum moments but was generally great. Arthur is great, pretty much always. Jenna Louise Coleman, I don’t know how they’ll do it but I can’t wait for you to be travelling in the TARDIS. You are a vision and a fantastic actress. This is one of those rare times where THAT GUEST STAR that we all really loved will be back, unlike Sally Sparrow or the Doctor’s Daughter. And a special shout out to Nicholas Briggs. Who? The guy who voices the Daleks. You did a hell of a job in this mate, all over the joint really but particularly with the Oswin scene at the end.

If the rest of the season is like this I’ll be a happy boy. I’m at Jocktoberfest next week so won’t see the dinosaur space ship one until the Sunday. From what I can gather we only get a paltry 5 episodes before a break then Christmas? Could be wrong. 5 Ponds, maybe there will be a Doctor only one or two. No matter what it’ll never be enough I suppose. Unless we go back to the first two Doctors format and have 40 odd episodes a season. 20 minutes long, but can you imagine how awesome that would be NOW?! Ah well…

Grimm Season 1 Review

Holy shit, something in the TV section! Well….yeah. This one will always be the quietest as it takes a while to watch a whole season of something and I’ll only be talking about a couple of shows on an episode by episode basis. Most of the time it’ll be whole season reviews like this one about:

Grimm.

So what’s Grimm? Lazy synopsis steal from IMDB: In modern day Portland, Oregon, a police detective inherits the ability to see supernatural creatures.

That won’t do.

Nick Burkhardt is the descendant of the Brothers Grimm, though the family history goes further back than that. It turns out that all the creatures from their fairy tales are real, but can hide from normal people. Grimm’s can see then and hunt them. They aren’t all bad, just like normal folks, and some that could be struggle against their animal natures. Nick has to deal with working out what the hell is going on with the help of his aunts trailer full of brick-a-brack and books in German, balance that with his normal cop job and his relationship. And he can’t tell anyone. Thankfully he has help from his OTHER partner, a reformed Blutbad or Big Bad Wolf.

Yeah that pretty much covers it and is only minorly spoilery. There are a number of shows that this is comparable too. Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, Lost Girl and possibly (though I’ve only watched the pilot so far) Once Upon a Time which is a fellow frosh from last years TV offerings. All have a similar “mythical creature real/guy who hunts them” thing going on. The twist here of having Nick in the normal police force (not like being a PI) and the monsters he comes across being investigated like normal crimes help it stand out. The fact that it’s very much grey on whether an individual is bad or good also helps a lot, though isn’t unique. I’m going to get a bit character by character for the regulars in a second and that’ll probably be full of spoilers, so if you want to avoid them stop reading before the gap.

Occasionally it suffers from the same thing that other genre and cop shows suffer from. “Oh that guy, I’ve seen him before so he probably did it” syndrome. Though like all shows it’s mixed up a lot so they aren’t always clearly a bad guy. And it was nice to see a few faces I hadn’t seen in a while. Nana Visitor (Major Kira from DS9), Claudia Christian (Ivanova from B5), Daniel Baldwin (not the worst Baldwin), Sebastian Roche (among other things Balthazar on Supernatural) among others all pop up for an episode or two.

If you like this kind of show, you’ll like Grimm. Bit more serious than some, though there is plenty of humour in it. I was worried they’d run out of monsters quite quickly but I think the general rule is “if there’s an animal there can be a vessen of it”. There are ongoing plot threads and character development which is great, but not so much that you couldn’t follow most episodes without seeing the ones before. Occasionally it feels like we’ve missed something because of this (not a full reset button but some issues and relationships develop a fair bit off screen) but they do save plenty for the screen. You will get pretty lost if you don’t then go back and watch from the start. Season 1 ends on a cliffhanger, but thankfully there’s a season 2. 2 just started up in the states, and in the UK Grimm is shown on Watch. I assume the run is done, but there’ll be loads of repeats and it’s out on DVD in both places. Okay, spoiler time:

I’d have to cut myself off if I tried to avoid them. While it’s a main character show, there’s obviously a regular ensemble. David Giuntoli plays Nick, the Grimm. Grimm is semi fitting for the first while too as his character is pretty serious, leaving the humour to others. Obviously he has the world on his shoulders and a lot of shit going on. The character lightens up a bit as time goes by. David has the chops to carry the show admirably. Beyond having the ability to see the monsters that the rest of us can’t it’s a bit vague what other bonuses there are to being a Grimm. Occasionally, particularly in the second half of the season, he appears to be extra strong and able to take hard hits but I’m not sure if that’s an ability thing or just TV fighting. In an earlier episode he has the shit kicked out of him so who knows. Hopefully THAT will be explored in the next season and going by the very end of the finale some answers should be coming.

Like a Mormon, Nick has 3 partners. The first is his cop partner, played by Russel Hornsby. He’s been a regular in a few shows but nothing that I’ve really watched. Hank Griffin carries some of the lighter work to start with, being a bit of a wisecracking cop to balance the serious Nick. Not in a whacky way, more one liners. He’d fit fine in a normal cop show which is important for the character. Weird shit starts creeping in though leaving him pretty baffled. Somehow, at least until the last couple of episodes, Nick is able to dance around him without him finding out about the supernatural things happening all around him. This can be a bit frustrating as the guy is his partner. Every cop show hammers home the importance of the cop partner relationship. How Nick is able to spend as much time with the guy dancing around everything he does when he ISN’T around him confuses me. And why he doesn’t start telling him, particularly when he sees a few things he shouldn’t and can’t get his head around, is beyond me.

Onto Nick’s girlfriend Juliette. She’s played by Bitsie Tulloch (don’t blame her parents, her name is Elizabeth) who’s done bits and bobs here and there. It’s a girlfriend role, but gets more focus than many do in these shows. She KNOWS something weird is happening but not what. Even after being attacked by a troll, kidnapped by a dragon and all sorts of other crazy crap. They don’t hide that she knows something is up with Nick and she does ask him but he always avoids it. Until the last episode where he has to tell her. The problem is that he does such a shitty job of it that I’d have trouble thinking he wasn’t nuts and I’ve SEEN all the crap HE has. The character sometimes shows some above the norm resiliance, and is a great shot for someone who doesn’t like guns (not in a TV way, in a “why the hell are you so good at shooting” as questioned by Nick way) so I think she may have some kind of secret. It’s that or a bit of dodgy writing.

His third partners is the one that knows the craic, what with being a Blutbad. Munroe is played by Silas Weir Mitchell, up until now a “hey it’s that guy” actor who had a few decent runs on Prison Break and My Name Is Earl, but generally just pops up in stuff. His character fills two important roles. First off he helps Nick with the various aspects of the Vessen world, otherwise he’d be completely lost. And secondly he’s pretty much the comic relief. As time goes on Nick is a lot more relaxed when he’s around Munroe, probably as he doesn’t have to hide anything, and it’s probably the warmest of the 3 partnerships. Like most shows it’s rarely the main character that’s your actual favourite, and in this one’s case Munroe is probably the one who would be missed the most out of everyone. Obviously no Nick no show, but no Munroe no….as good show.

One of the biggest twists in Grimm is Captain Sean Renard played by Sasha Roiz. Sasha will be a familiar face to SF fans as he was Marcus on Warehouse 13 and Sam Adama in short lived Caprica. The Captain is a twist as he’s a Captain in two worlds. One, the police Captain and therefore Nick’s boss, the other a Captain in one of the Royal Houses that run the Vessen world. And Nick never has any idea. What the deal is with the Captain or the houses we don’t really know through the whole season, it’s just hinted at. He runs Portland, is an important figure to be feared, but doesn’t seem to be a vessen himself. We never see another face. I’m sure it’ll be explained at some point and one day the two will have a reckoning but for now he’s a bit of a source of frustration as we don’t fully know his deal. It’s a clever wrinkle but one with a limited shelf life.

And finally, for the “I’m in damned near every episode” cast members it’s Sergeant Wu. He’s played by Reggie Lee who’s been all over the place, generally playing a bit of an asshole. Wu is a regular uniform (the main cast being detectives) who’s the guy at the scene, in the station etc etc. There’s a few other beat regulars but he’s the one that gets sucked in to the world. He starts off as the standard Reggie Lee asshole but develops in to a bit of a funny guy. Funny due to jokes falling flat and being a bit weird more than anything. He has a prominent weird shit storyline that lasts over a few episodes, but his memory is wiped by the cure so he doesn’t really remember any of it, keeping the secret safe from him. Of the “normals” in the cast I can see him dealing with finding out the best though, but it probably works better to have the character stay a bit oblivious and sarcastic. I expected to hate him throughout but you end up warming to him.

And that’ll do it. Occasionally slightly ropey effects and frustrating secret keeping aside Grimm is a great show and hopefully one that will be with us for a few seasons.