For an idea so central to many episodes of Merlin, comedy is not an idea it does terribly well. While we may have the odd chuckle as Merlin has a bucket tipped over his head, most laugh-based episodes won’t get many chortling unless they’re either really young or really drunk. So in steps Howard Overman, with the aim of restoring laughs to Camelot.
However, the comedy comes at a price. Overman clearly understands slapstick, but not so much Merlin, a slightly worrying thought considering this is his fifth episode. The first ten minutes are spent watching Merlin act as a responsible parent attempting to control a goblin, filling in for his young ones for this 45-minute slot. Merlin has to shout and say things that are totally out-of-character. (“I will have words with you!”) Usually a nervy type, seeing him instantly so comfortable with an unconvincing CGI monster with really bad lip sync seems odd, and thankfully him spending the rest of the episode with regular characters meaning we don’t see this lack of awkwardness that really doesn’t suit Merlin again.
A word has to go out to Colin Morgan, however, who managed to pave the gaps and make much of this entirely viable and, more than that, enjoyable, from the moment Gaius is possessed by the goblin around ten minutes in.
Without spoiling too much, suddenly it’s Richard Wilson’s character that’s playing up; although this time we have a scripted reason. Wilson is superb as he portrays a far more mischievous Gaius than we’ve ever seen before. Many jokes are brought to the table, most of them really rather cheap and childish, although a good half of them work. While we really should have outgrown it, one particular farting scene had us in stitches.
Comedy may supposedly be a key part of Merlin, but up until now it had hardly been used. However, here we could argue that by trying to get us laughing, it gets in the way of the plot. But that’s beside the point. This is both half- and light-hearted fun, the kind of thing that wouldn’t win you an Oscar but would keep the audience entertained. For these reasons, we couldn’t possibly justify giving it a high score, but a low one neither. So, it looks like we’ll have to settle for a...