Well, kids, it’s happened — we have lived through the very worst Merlin episode of all time. I won’t say it won’t get worse than that ever again, because that just seems like somehow the Merlin writers (because, let’s blame who’s culpable here — it wasn’t the actors, all of whom knocked their performances out of it park) would hear that and be all “challenge accepted!”
The Merlin writers and I — as I have often mentioned before — have a relationship that most closely resembles dating someone who is extremely insecure and emotionally unstable, but the sex is really good. Every time you think that that’s totally not enough to continue having a relationship, they go and do something super-sweet, which makes it harder for you to break up next time they act like a jerk. At the beginning of this season, our relationship was beautiful and idyllic and everything I have ever wanted from it. Our heroes were dashing, the storylines had some vague semblance of coherency, and many swashes were buckled. And then came last week, which was just meh, and this week, which made me long for snake-ladies all over again. I’m not even sure where to begin with what was so appalling about this episode, but I think what it comes down to is heinous, irresponsible writing.
This week, we at CliqueClack are asking you to vote for your favorite new fall shows to watch and for those that you would recommend to others. The winter hiatus is the perfect time to catch up on new shows you didn’t initially watch. Our first Clacker’s pick is Julia’s for Up All Night!
When I initially decided to watch Up All Night, I did not expect to find it nearly as charming as I do. I thought it would be fun and enjoyable, but I was less a-quiver at the mere prospect of it and more just excited to see something Maya Rudolph was in. And while Maya Rudolph is probably the best part of this show (when isn’t she the best part of a show?), Up All Night has completely exceeded my expectations and, although New Girl occasionally gives it a run for its money, has secured its place as my pick for best new comedy of the fall season.
When I think of things I’m thankful for, my gerbils, Charlie (left) and Gus (right) are pretty high up there on the list. And as anyone who has ever talked to me for longer than five minutes can tell you, I love those little guys more than some people love their children.
Gus and Charlie came to me a year ago through Shawsheen River Gerbils and not a day goes by where they haven’t delighted me, frustrated me, made me laugh, or figured out some way to make me love them even more than I did when I woke up that morning. They jump on my lap when I’m sitting on the couch, they chatter at me when I pet them, they eat from my hand, and they’ve also learned how to fake “losing their balance” (and I know it’s fake because they are perfectly capable of keeping their balance most of the time) so they can hide under the couch and eat all the crumbs there. They are, in short, perfect.
So to celebrate Thanksgiving, as well as their Adoptaversary, and also because I will take any excuse to photograph my gerbils doing something adorable, I decided to make them a little “turkey dinner”.
We all knew this televisual make-out session Merlin and I were having was too good to last. It’s physically impossible for me to love every single episode of a season, and while season four and I had a great run, we’ve reached it: the first episode of the season I really didn’t like.
It’s not because of the blatant sexism (and oh, I could go into such a long, Women’s Studies 101 rant about the portrayal of female sexuality in this episode, but that’s boring and off-point, so I’ll refrain), or just because I’m just plain sick of Everyone’s A Dick To Merlin episodes (though they still grate mightily), but because the writers of this show seem capable of writing Merlin and Arthur interaction well, or Merlin and Gwen interaction well, but the second they put all three of them together, and everything crumbles.
So I have this longstanding grudge against dramas, which boils down to my belief that they’re simply not as nuanced as comedies. Dramas are angst and anguish and high stakes and dramatic music, which, as far as I’m concerned, is exceedingly one-note. Comedies, on the other hand, seem to take care in exploring the full range of human emotion. Yes, they make you laugh, but they also every so often sucker punch you with overwhelming emotion, which is almost more emotionally devestating because, unlike a drama, you are not expecting to actually feel anything watching a sitcom. And, case in point, let’s talk this week’s How I Met Your Mother, because nothing illustrates this concept better than that.
As you may have noticed, I am not Ivey — he’s on a business trip and will be back to doing reviews next week. When he initially sent out an e-mail asking for people to cover his shows, I was unsure if I should take How I Met Your Mother until I saw the killer ending from last week’s episode. If there’s one thing How I Met Your Mother handles well, it’s finding that perfect sitcom balance between heartbreak and hilarity, and I knew that Barney and Robin hooking up again would inevitably lead to a golden follow-up episode. And, I would like to say with no small amount of smugness, I was totally right.
Hello and welcome to what you thought would be a review of this week’s episode of Merlin. My name is Julia and I’ll be your teacher today. Don’t worry, we’re still going to talk about Merlin, but I would be utterly remiss if I did not take this opportunity to both educate you and prepare you for the fact that this season is totally ending with Merlin revealing his magic to Arthur.
I know what you’re thinking — we’ve been here and thought this before, we’ve thought that there was going to be a reveal only to have our hopes cruelly dashed. Believe me, I have been there. I understand your pain. But this time, it’s really, really, really happening. Not because we want it to or feel like it should or Arthur and Merlin’s future life partnership/destiny/bro-lationship is never going to recover from the betrayal of trust, but because of Television Science, which this episode had so many beautiful examples of that I’d be remiss to not turn this into a teaching moment. And if you’re not into learning, think of it less as that and more as reason to hope that by the series finale (and can you believe we’re already over halfway there?), Shit Is Going To Go Down.
Writing is really important.
As a writer, I’m aware this sounds like a terribly biased thing to say, but it’s true. It is especially true in television, in which writing is not just important, it is the most important part of any show, ever. Basically, a television show is like a cake. The actors and costumes and sets and lighting are the frosting and garnish, but the writing is the actual cake. This is not to say that that other stuff is unimportant, because cake with no frosting is usually pretty boring. And all the frosting and cake fixings without cake are delicious to eat on their own (and I say this as someone who sometimes just sits down and eats frosting), but just frosting is sickly-sweet and eventually makes your stomach hurt and your teeth get that gross, chalky feeling.
To continue our cake metaphor, if Merlin were a cake it would be something like angel food cake. On its own it’s pretty lame. It’s somehow simultaneously too sweet and not sweet enough, it’s squishy, it’s sticky, it’s plain, and it’s an exceedingly irritating recipe to get exactly right. But add a generous dollop of whipped cream and some sort of fruit, either fresh or in sauce form, or drizzle chocolate on top, or both, and suddenly you have something that is so delicious you cannot believe that it sprang from that crappy angel food cake in the first place.
The reason I bring this up, besides to make everyone hungry (and because I am a dessert addict who completely overdosed on Halloween and am now going through severe withdrawal), is because this week’s Merlin was a little different than usual, and by “different” I mean “somehow the same show we’ve been watching all along but a million times better.” (In case you were wondering why I chose that screengrab instead of a promotional picture, it’s because one, the promotional pictures for this episode kind of sucked, and two, that picture perfectly represents my feelings on this week’s episode. I am Arthur, the script writers are Merlin. They were lost and I thought they were dead, and then all of a sudden they came back. And even though they tried to kill me with amazingness, I still like them a whole lot.)