Why Merlin is a great show, and Camelot is a terrible show (And what can you learn from it on story telling)

In a land of sick, and a time of fear, the destiny of a great netflix binge day rests on the shoulders of one TV show. It’s name: Merlin.

If you can memorize the opennig of “Merlin” while you sleep, even seven and half years after the show run out of the air, there is a chance that you used to be obsessed with the greatest tv show that has ever been aired on king Arthur. (Yes. I said it). For those of you who are not famillier- Merlin is a take of king Arthur legends. The powerful and wize wizerd that every kid over the world knows, is protraid as clumsy, naive friendly young man (Colin Morgan). After saving prince Arthur’s (Bradley James) life in the first episode, he has the unfortunate luck of becoming his serveant. It might not have been a problem, if Melrin didn’t had magic, and if Arthur’s dad king Uther didn’t outlawed magic.

Two years after the show’s pilot, a new mini- series named “Camelot” premiered  on Starz channel. There was so much hope for the show, expensive budget, stars like Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green took part, so what can go wrong? Apperantly, a lot. Starz canceled the show after one season only, claiming is because of citing scheduling conflicts with some members of the cast.

You can claim “You just love Merlin and hate Camelot, and that is only your opinion”, and you might be the case, but let’s be honest- do any of you heared on Camelot before this post? And if you do, years later, you remeber the show as much as you remeber Merlin?

So what Merlin did right, and Camelot did wrong? Beware, Spoilers.

  1. Main characters: Melrin is focused on Merlin himself. Melin is a relatable, talented boy who have to hide the fact that he is stronger than everyone else. When the show starts he is the sweet boy who’s interving to save poor serveant from cruel, evil bully called prince Arthur. He also meets the sweet heart ward (and practicly princess) Morgana, who whish nothing but good for all the people of Camelot and beyond, and her kind searvent Gwen (Guinevere).
    The more that the show progress, we sees Merlin’s moral turning more grey while Arthur’s moral turn more white, and Morgana’s world turn more and more black. Gwen herself is dealing with falling into darkness, and coming out of it. All this time, untill the very last episode, Merlin is hiding from Arthur the fact that he has magic.
    Camelot is focused more on newly-crown king Athur, and his turning from a idiot who steals his brother’s girls to a simble of hope. His evil half sister Morgan killed his father after he say that she is no longer his daughter, when she disguised as a kid. The great wize wizared, Merlin, comes to guide Arthur while he himself struggle to fight his wicked magic powers- and not to fall in love with Arthur’s mom. In theory, the idea is great. The problem is that aside from Arthur there is not a single character that is going through changes. In the end of the series Morgan is still evil, Merlin is still hiding from himself.
    What can we learn from that?
    *All characters must grow in your stories. You don’t have to give to every side character a personel journy to go through, but every single main character should change and grow.
    *Your main heros are not nessecry belive in the same goals, or morality. It can actually make the story better if there are some diffrence between them.
  2. Villanes: in Merlin there are several villanes, we will focus on three. Anthony Head as Uther pandragon is a wonderful monster that is fun to hate. He is stubbern, cold king who would kill even a child if he has magic. However, he cares deeply for both Morgana and Arthur, and while the audience hates him they can still see some good at him. A bit. There are even episodes that specificly focus on if Uther’s life worth saving: “To Kill the King” in the first season, and “The Sins of the Father”. Emilia Fox who plays Morgause is a great sceaming villan who dreams of the retun of magic, and to regain her family. When she and Merlin are turning against each other it isn’t come out of nowhere- it came because he litterly almost killed her sister. There is no doubt that she is evil, but from her point of view it’s easy to understand why she fight. And of course, the best villan of all is Morgana, the talented Katie McGrath. Without Morgana, the show was not being the show it is. She start as the sweet young lady who is empathetic towerd everyone, wether they have magic or not. Slowly as the series grows, she become a pranoid tyrant who is obsessed with killing her enemies. And the reason she is evil is not because she is born a monster. It’s a manipulation of her life circumstances and her personal believes, that she truly is the best monarch for the kingdom.
    In Camelot we get Morgan and her nun. Bisiclly it. I can’t think of one, really big villan but those two. And it’s not that Eva Green is a bad actress, but those two characters has no real motivetion to move the plot thorwerd. Yes, Morgan is the cast aside poor girl who grew up in a nunnery, and she wants to revenge her mother’s death. The problem is that with the way it is protraied, it’s not intresting. She is bisiclly a bitch from the start, her plan is just to kill Arthur but untill the end she bisiclly almost not doing anything meaningful to harm him (save the first two episodes) and the one real thing she is achive is to kill Igraine. A closer, after that in the first episode she killed Arthur’s adopting mother.
    What can we learn from that?
    * Take your time with your villans. To create a good villan is not eanough to simply sees him killing his father in the first episode. Yes, a villan can do or say awrful things. But we need to know why, and a sad backstory is not enough. We wan to understand their point of view. We even want to almost root for them.
    *Some of our heros can change from good people, to fearful villan. If it fit for thier world point of view, we don’t care if the group of heros split and some becames the bad guy. It can even build a stronger villan in our eyes, because we understand thier motives.
    *Evil person that is protraid as evil because they have been sucrefiesed as children to evil power or get abandon in thier childhood is not enough. Morgana is EAGER to revenge Uther and Arthur for not been acknoladge, but that is not the only reason she acts. And it is not the reason that she has turned evil- she actully belive that with her reign, Camelot will be safe again to people like her. Morgan in the other hand is evil for evil.
  3. The tone: The tone of Merlin is fun, humorring and light. The jokes are timeless and fan of the show knows the word “clotepoe”. Most of the jokes are runnig between Merlin and Arthur brotherly relationship, and always have purpese- whether if to show the state of mind of one of them, to show that one is hiding something, or to show that one of the characters is unaware to a big plot that is happening. Every Episode is dealing with new threat, or new plot of old enemy. while most episode starts with a light tone, as the plot of each episodes are going ahead the stakes gets higher and higher. Same goes for the show itself- starting light and fun, and turn darker and darker. When something bad or terrifing actually happens, the audience is actually fear.
    in Camelot, the show is so dark that you can’t see anything else. Murder, brutallity, battle cry, rape are some of the subjects that show focused on. The problem is that the show is too dark for adventure series, and even if you want Arthur to win, there is no feel that he is the new hope, and even if he is the king it doesn’t feel like it would matter.
    What can we learn from that?
    *Humor is good! Light the tone once in a few pages/scenes and give the audience a reason to laugh. Enjoy the writing, and be amusing. it can only impower the story.
    (Side not- Humor is always serving a purpese, but this is another topic).
    *A tone that is too dark has the oppisite effect. If you want your audience/readers to fear, don’t show them just brutality.
  4. Moral and hopes: In Merlin there are two main conection between Arthur and Merlin, and Morgana and Merlin. While Arthur and Merlin are the two side of the same coin, Morgana is the darkness for Merlin’s light. Merlin himself is the middle ground. Merlin takes it on himself (not by choice) to deal with the darker issues of the kingdom that Arthur can’t know. He grows dearly to love him, and yet he hides from him information that can harm him (the truth about Morgana, or his mom). All his lies though are made to protect both Arthur and Camelot, and to make sure Arthur will stay pure and kind heart king that Albion needs. Also, Merlin is gently advising Arthur and effect his choices. Morgana is the mirror for the evil creature that Merlin could have become. They both starts with similler believes and hopes, but while Merlin learns to accept his fate and (with the help of his mentors) understand that he must stay in the shadows for the greater good, Morgana refuse to accept her fate and rather destory her own kingdom for revenge only. The main themes of the story are friendship, love, hope, destiny, and redeemable.
    In Camelot there is no real morality. True, there are some hints that Arthur may be a good person, but there is not a real likeable justes reasons for why he is doing it aside from the fact that it is the right thing to do. He is clearly better king than Morgan, but aside from on justice he done for a rapist I can’t think of anything unusualy good he had done. The people of Camelot is in this show are stupid not to mention how evil Morgan is and to choose her over Arthur. And aside from one speach of hope, there is no real meaning for his reign. And he has no real interes to be the king. He had never been brought up to it. He never learned politicien, or runnig government, or to beaware from tixic advisers. Morgan herself is unlikeable villan. She has no real motivation to be the queen, aside for revenge- unlike morgana, who wants to be the queen only to revenge. The themes of this show is about rape, that magic is evil, the crown is everything, and true hope speech solves everything. It doesn’t? Through in amercenary.
    What can we learn from that?
    * Conflicts are great in stories. Story teller must love those. Show why your characters belive on those morals. Show diffrent prespective.
    *Don’t show one dimensional conflicts. Give your audience reason to root for both sides. If there is no reason to follow your villan, how do you accpect them to rule over empire?
  5. Relationships and love: In Merlin, the show focus on the relationship between Arthur and Merlin. The two of them becomes almost brothers, almost friends, but still they are never eqaul for each other. While Arthur boss arround Merlin and give him endless chorces, Merlin could have crushed him if he wanted. In fact, Arthur almost kills Merlin when they first meet, and with magic Merlin stops him. Merlin handle with secrets and betrayels Arthur is not emotionaly strong enough to handle, and when he does faces those lies it’s Merlin who pulls him up (sometimes with more lies, like excalibur) and helps him to handle with those crises. The love between Arthur and Gwen starts with hate, and the two can’t be togther because she is a serveant, because she is half in love with someone else, and because it took their love time to bloom. Arthur and Gwen’s love grow the more they face obstacles togther- like when she saves him from love spell, or when he helps her save her brother. But once Arthur is crowend king and his father dies, there is no one that really stops him from marry her. Their breake up might be another plot of Morgana, but they belive that it’s their action and behavere that sets them apart. Morgana and Arthur grew up togther, and until the falling of Morgana for the dark path, they sharing siblings momnets. Even when she become the evil witch she is, we feel Arthur’s pain and wish to see the two coming along togther. There is not one fan of the show that didn’t flinched in the last episode, when Morgana called that she whishes Arthur’s death. Most of the nudity on the show (if not all) is only Arthur half naked sometimes- when he goe to sleep/wakes up by merlin, or go to take a bath Merlin draw for him. The nudity is not sexual, (aside for one cute scene when he puts Gwen’s hand n his heart) and there are no sex scene in the show.
    In Camelot Guinevere is about to get married to Leontes, the man her mother were approved, when she meets Arthur and the king and lady falls instanly in love. There is nothing wrong with people who instanly falls in love, but there is no reason for her to keep going with the wedding or to tell her future husband that she is not sure if she is in love. You can all say that this story based on the morals of the old world, and that in the old world there was no love in marrige. Here is the problem: Leontes is so in love with her, that if Guinevere would ask him to put the wedding off he’ll listen. And even though Merlin himself is not a fan over their romance bloom, Arthur is the king. He can use his power to command anything. Aside from that, I can’t really think on any relationship between any of the characters. Igrine might reconnect with her son, but when she dies in the final episode of the show you can’t feel really sad for Arthur for loosing his mom. It builded in such a rush way that in a dark show like that it was unbeliveable. Morgana is just hate everyone for no good reason, yet she had sex with three diffrent mans in the show (and tease one). There is nothing wrong with a girl who likes sex, but a villan can’t rellay only on heartless sex. Ho, and the ending sex scene is a terrible way to end the show.
    What can we learn from that?
    *Relationship are always develops. every scene between your main heros affect their relationship.
    *Love triangle is not the only way to show forbidden love. And an intersting forbidden love is from the kind that is starting to blooming, and your main couple overcome their obstacles togther with active actions. Face challanging togther makes the audience and readers to root for the couple.
    *Sex can’t be a replacement for real love and character devlop.
    *Apaltonic relationships works as well. Your characters not always has to fall in love, but if you do make aplatonic relationship, develop them.
    *The relathioship between the hero and villan is important. Very important.

Those are my personal opinion about story telling. Feel free to tell me your thoughts.

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