And so, the end is near. Over the last couple of weeks I've watched the season finales of Merlin S3 (BBC1), True Blood S2 (CH4) and the S1 (and series) finale of Blade : The Series (Five USA). I don't really like it when a lot of stuff comes to an end at the same time ; makes the schedules feel all barren. What makes it worse is that I'm pretty sure CH4 and ITV2 are going to have to take a break pretty soon, with The Event and Vampire Diaries respectively, because they are awfully close to catching up to stateside screenings. At least I still have Misfits to keep me warm at night.
The Blade finale was a slight disappointment in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, the exercise was hampered slightly by the fact that the writers felt beholden to the idea of having Blade himself be involved in the big finale. Understandable, I suppose, given that he was, on paper at least, the star of the show, but since he was always the least interesting character in their arsenal his inclusion felt intrusive and unwanted. Marcus facing down the purebloods, and the enmity between Krista and Chase coming to a head would have been much more dramatically satisfying if it hadn't had to stop for a meathead fight scene, that being pretty much all Kirk Jones was capable of contributing.
While the show served it's purpose in that it brought the series arc to a head, with the Aurora project being exposed and Marcus making his move against the Purebloods, and it set the various regulars in new positions for a prospective second year they sadly felt the need to end on a cliffhanger, which we'll never see resolved due to the shows cancellation. Now, I have nothing against serialised storytelling, prefer it in fact, but I've always felt that unless you are absolutely sure you are coming back you should end the season in such a way as to have it work as a series finale, which this show would have done if not for that scene. The fact is though, even if the show was coming back, that cliffhanger didn't work for me. It came out of nowhere and pretty much contradicted a lot of the character beats from earlier in the episode. It felt like a shock for the sake of a shock and it didn't sit well with me.
I'm a bit behind on this show, having had to wait for CH4 to show it due to loss of FX subscription so it's one of those shows that I can't really engage with the online discussion of, for fear of spoilers. Which is a shame,because if ever a show would have had me raving on the forums it would have been this one.
S2 was a massive improvement over S1, already a great show, thanks to the years Big Bad, Marianne, being a much more interesting and chilling character than S1s mystery serial killer. A nutjob who who kills women who consort with vampires is never going to be a match for an immortal nutjob who brainwashes an entire town into animalistic orgies of sex and violence in order to resurrect an ancient God. Stands to reason.
The real standout characters in S2 for me where Jessica, Jason and Andy. It's all to easy to dismiss them as comic relief, given that their storylines were so often played (successfully) for laughs, but these characters were rife with genuine tragedy (Jessica) and heroism (Jason and Andy).
Jessicas shyness and awkwardness around the older but equally inexperienced Hoyt, leading to their eventually sleeping together and her discovering that, due to her vampiric nature her physical virginity would reassert itself, meaning that sex would forever be painful was one of the most endearing, tender and real love affairs you'll find in vampire fiction. Not for them the heightened, epic love affairs of a Buffy and Angel, Edward and Bella, or indeed a Bill and Sookie. This is human/vamp romance in the real world, and it's heartbreaking.
Jason and Andy meanwhile, are probably the most truly heroic characters in the show during this season. They have no abilities to speak of, like Bills vamp strength and speed, Sams shapeshifting or even Sookie with her telepathy. They are simply ordinary people who see their town in danger, a town that has belittled and ridiculed them for years, and step up to do what they can anyway. That they failed is not the point; they tried, knowing full well that they were walking into a situation that would likely see them killed. Proper heroes, in my eyes.
And so we move away from vampires, and hit Merlin, the BBC Saturday night adventure show based on the Arthurian myth. I was, when this show was first mooted many moons ago, one of those skeptics whose first impressions from the premise (young Merlin comes to Camelot and has to hide his powers while working for Arthur who is the same age as him) were that the show would be, not to put too fine a point on it, shit. I based this on the age of the Merlin character. They could do what they wanted otherwise but having Arthur and Merlin as contemporaries just seemed wrong.I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt though, and reserve judgment until after I'd actually watched the thing (radical concept, I realise). The show has, over the last 3 seasons, managed to completely assuage* my fears and is a show which I now enjoy immensely.
Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Bradley James (Arthur) are a solid central double act, with a good line in warm friendship disguised as mockery and Angel Coulby (Gwen), Richard Wilson (Gaius) and Anthony Head (Uther) round out a quite frankly stellar regular cast. Katie McGrath is also in the cast, playing Morgana, but she doesn't rate the 'stellar' tag. She barely qualifies for the 'actress' tag, to be honest. One weak link can't sink the ship though, and the others more than carry her.
The 2part finale of the shows 3rd season was, in many ways, an answer to the criticisms of those, unlike myself, who never got over the whole 'that's just not right' attitude to the show. The relationship between Arthur and Gwen becoming public, the introduction of the Round Table, Lancelot Gawain and others being made knights, the Lady in the Lake and of course the Sword in the Stone; all of these exciting developments and many more served to bring the show closer to 'proper' Arthurian history. Not that there is any such thing as historical fact with these characters. Still, some people have a hard time telling the difference being History and Myth, and those people had been complaining about this show from day one. With a bit of luck, these developments will calm them down a bit.
While certain of these elements had been hinted at previously this was the first time they had all been explicitly shown. To introduce them all in the space of one story could have been a massive mistake by the producers. As much as the viewers wanted to see them, bringing them all into play at the same time ran the risk of the show turning into one big exposition heavy info-dump, with the story making way for a simple checklist. Julian Jones, writer of this 2parter, was well up to the challenge however and managed to produce something that was, above all else, a rollicking good adventure story for all the family. What more can you ask for on a Saturday night?
With all of these departures from the schedule, it's looking like the Quest pickings on the basic channels are going to be slim on the ground in the run up to Christmas. A delve into the DVD shelves (and possibly *cough* the intenet *cough*)is looking likely.
*I'm not entirely convinced that this word means what I think it means but what the hell, right?