by Mark Greig
It was a dark, dark night, in a dark, dark town. In the dark, dark town there was a dark, dark castle. And in the dark, dark castle there were some dark, dark stairs. And down the dark, dark stairs there were some dark, dark caves. And in the dark, dark caves were some workmen who had just stumbled upon a secret tomb. This is not going to end well for them, is it?
Not much has changed for our heroes since last season. Uther still hates magic so Merlin is still in the closet. Arthur is still treating him like crap. Morgana is still having nightmares. And poor Gwen is still hopelessly in search of a decent storyline. So it's business as usual in Camelot. But Merlin feels like a more confident show in season two. The cast are more comfortable in their roles. The budget has been increased so the sets are much bigger and the effects more polished. It is just too bad that the storytelling is as predictable as ever.
'The Curse of Cornelius Sigan' is your basic “vengeful evil wizard attacks Camelot seeking vengeance” episode. You know how it goes. Bad guy attacks Camelot. Merlin goes to the Dragon for help. Day is saved. Yadda, yadda, yadda. It is also an episode that isn't entirely sure what it wants to be. It starts out like a haunted house movie, with thunder and lightening, a spooky castle, mysterious caves, cursed tombs and dead bodies, then, like Superman in a phone booth, it quickly changes into something completely different. Suddenly 'The Curse of Cornelius Sigan' is a comedy episode, with whatshisface from The Office as a crafty thief, worming his way into Arthur's service so he can pull off a jewel heist. And than, like Superman in a different phone booth from the previous one, it changes again. Now 'The Curse of Cornelius Sigan' is a mini Ray Harryhausen-style action movie with Sigan attacking Camelot with some (surprisingly impressive) stone gargoyles.
Mackenzie Crook is rather good as thief Cedric, but it is hard to take him seriously as Cornelius Sigan. He doesn't have the gravitas to pull off this kind of role. It doesn't help matters that Sigan's costume makes him look like he got lost on his way to Goth Vegas. Sorry, Sigan, but only Queen Regina can pull that look off. After being built up as this great and powerful sorcerer all throughout the episode, it is also disappointing how easily Sigan was defeated. You think everything is gearing up for some grand battle between two powerful sorcerers.... and then it is all over without so much as a lightening bolt being thrown. Even the crap fight with Nimueh was better than this. Guess all the budget went into creating those gargoyles. Mind you, they did look rather good.
After he's dismissed by Arthur at the stables, Merlin goes back to his room and broods about how Arthur doesn't trust him and see him for who he truly is, while a very sad version of the theme plays.
Mackenzie Crook is best known for starring in the original version of The Office and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. He's just joined the cast of Game of Thrones for season three. No idea who he is playing, though.
Notes and Quotes
--Arthur has entered his Salvatore phase and now always wandering around his chambers completely shirtless for no particular reason.
--In other revealing costume news, Gwen has now started wearing dresses that show off a considerable amount of cleavage.
--We learned that dragons can pass on knowledge by breathing on you. That's a very distinctive teaching tool. I just hope for Merlin's sake that Great Dragon doesn't have bad breath.
--Did no one ask how Sigan was defeated? One minute there are monsters everywhere and the castle is falling apart. The next, all is well in the kingdom. Surely Uther, a highly paranoid man even at the best of times, found that a little bit fishy?
Arthur: “Were you born clumsy or do you work at it?”
Merlin: “It's just one of my many gifts.”
Merlin: “Can't you see what he's trying to do? He's trying to get rid of me and if you weren't such a clotpole you'd see that.”
Arthur: “A what?”
Cedric: “Clotpole. He said clotpole.”
Merlin: “I just want Arthur to trust me. And to see me for who I really am.”
Gaius: “One day he will.”
Merlin: “When? Everything I do is for him and he just thinks I'm an idiot.”
Gaius: “Not everyone thinks you're an idiot.”
Merlin: “Cedric... is possessed by an evil spirit.”
Merlin: “He tried to steal the jewel. But it wasn't a jewel. It was the soul of an ancient sorcerer, Sigan.”
Arthur: “Merlin, have you been on the cider?”
Gaius: “Camelot is in grave peril.”
--Must be Tuesday.
Two out of four surprisingly impressive CGI gargoyles.