The United States’ film industry is difficult to break into, particularly for low to medium budget projects with relatively fresh talent. The odds were stacked up against BBC fantasy-adventure series The Adventures of Merlin in every sense.
More commonly known as Merlin, the series follows the story of Arthurian legend characters in their youthful years as adolescents. Young warlock Merlin (Colin Morgan) travels to Camelot to stay with his mother’s friend, court physician Gaius (Richard Wilson). However, upon arrival, Merlin soon discovers that magic is banned in Camelot, punishable by death. Prince Arthur (Bradley James) is the Arthurian legend’s “Once and Future King” and Merlin realises that it is his duty and destiny to protect the prince.
Merlin competed against popular UK television series, including Doctor Who and Sherlock. It faced the challenge of revamping a much-loved legend about magic and royal drama for a family audience. It also starred a slew of fresh faces, among acting veterans such as Anthony Head, who is well-known for his role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
With the record of being the “first British drama series in over thirty years to be shown on US network television”, Merlin made itself thousands of devoted fans, who loyally tuned in every week for more magical adventures. And while the series has since ended in late 2012, it continues to live on in fans all over the world. (There’s even a game for those loyal fans!)
Now that we’ve briefed you on this underdog of a television series, we’d like to present to you: five reasons to should watch Merlin.
5. The Costume and Set Design
A major part of creating effective scenes and emotions within a film or television series is the visual aspect. Aesthetically, Merlin stays true to its medieval, Arthurian roots, with the Pendragon emblem emblazoned in various locations in Camelot, as well as on the knights’ outfits. The flowy royal gowns and dishevelled peasant outfits all contribute to an incredibly believable show. Everything from the tapestry on the high castle walls to the actual castle itself (Château de Pierrefonds, France) indicates immaculate attention to detail.
4. The Cast
Visually appealing and historically accurate sets and costume don’t count for much without a brilliant cast. The main ensemble of Merlin includes: Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Angel Coulby and Katie McGrath. While a relatively new cast, the four were almost instantly the subject to much adoration internationally, as their natural chemistry was made obvious. Katie McGrath, who plays Morgana, found one of her first acting roles in Merlin when she was considered during a behind-the-scenes role on The Tudors.
3. The Humour
A common reason for loving Merlin from fans is the humour. Each Arthurian character is given a youthful twist: Merlin finds his humour in his childishly sly lilt; Arthur finds his humour in his sheer arrogance; Guinevere finds her humour in her sweet, secretive nature; Morgana finds her humour in her seductive prowess. The back and forth banter between Merlin and Arthur is entertaining and reminiscent of close friends. Overall, the show owed a lot of its success to its relatability and connection with all kinds of humour — no matter how light or dark.
2. The Plot
Merlin is based off of the Arthurian legends. However, it is instead set in the contemporary years of the legend’s many characters. Prince Arthur and his servant, Merlin, are only beginning to explore their identities and their places in their world. As opposed to following the legend true to a tee, the producers and creators (including Johnny Caps and Julian Murphy) decided to adapt King Arthur’s adventures and transform it into a universally timeless narrative of a prince, who is uncertain of his abilities despite his arrogant exterior, and a sorcerer, who is only just coming to terms with the prophecies cast upon him so suddenly. The plot weaves the magic of key events in the original Arthurian legend, including Arthur’s powerful sword Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake and the complex relationships between friends, family and foes alike.
1. The Message
Last, but by no means, least, Merlin has proven to be a refuge for the in-crowd and the outcasts, introverts and extroverts, the lost and found, the young and old. Particularly in the protagonist of Merlin himself, viewers are able to relate to the emotions and turmoils displayed in the show’s 65 episodes. If not the discovery of self-identity of the various characters, Merlin’s thought-provoking journey from naïve adolescent to the most powerful sorcerer of his time is surprisingly relatable. Hardened by years of self-doubt, little acknowledgement and self-sacrificing duty, Merlin is empathetic and wise beyond his years. His kindness and warmth inspires those around him and serves as a true testament to his selflessness — clear of self-deprecation. As Merlin says so brilliantly,
We all matter.
We hope that we’ve convinced you to immediately settle down on your couch and watch all five seasons of Merlin. While the show may have ended, its legacy lives on — just as its magic has.
Will you be checking out Merlin now? Tell us all about it on Twitter at @CelebMix!