Tag Archives: Anthony Stewart Head

The Big Reveal (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Anonymous

AO3 ID: 237304

Status: Complete (14 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

The cast of Merlin are filming a scene deep in a cave, working up to their upcoming scene where Merlin reveals his magic to Arthur. Unexpectedly, the lights go out, and Colin and Bradley find themselves alone together in the dark. When Bradley uses the magic he secretly has to light a candle, they discover that all the filming equipment and such is gone, and upon exiting the cave, it soon becomes apparent that they have been transported to the world of Merlin–and everyone there believes them to actually be Merlin and Arthur! Meanwhile, the real Merlin and Arthur find themselves in the baffling modern world where everyone thinks they are famous actors, not that they really know what that entails. Now they’re all going to have to play their parts until they can figure out a way to get home. At least Merlin and Bradley can finally reveal their magic to their best friends, right?

The Big Reveal was my first experience reading RPF (real-person fic), and I have to admit I’m still a bit conflicted as to how I feel about that. Because reading fictional stories about actual present-day people feels a bit . . . intrusive, to be honest. But, for this particular story, I felt like the discussion of these individuals was handled appropriately and with respect. A lot of the concepts and characterization used were pulled from publicly available sources like interviews and the YouTube videos they’ve posted. Of course, some bits are pure fiction as well, like Bradley’s having magic . . . but that did make a nice parallel to Merlin and his reveal, so it worked really well in this story. Merlin and Arthur’s characters were handled well, too–just in general, the characterizations were quite well done. The story was well written as well, again with some great parallels, solid plot development, and a good sense of balance between humor and poignancy. The final result is similar, in some respects, to something like “The French Mistake” in Supernatural, and it works surprisingly well. It makes me kind of sad that this was released anonymously, because I would read more by this author.

Note 1: You can find The Big Reveal at https://archiveofourown.org/works/237304/chapters/363763.

Note 2: If you don’t know what the fic is referring to when it talks about Colin and Bradley singing, please, please check out this video. It’ll make you smile. 😀

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Merlin (2008 TV Series)

BBC

AKA: The Adventures of Merlin

Status: Complete (5 seasons/65 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 (if I’m being honest about the show’s merits) or 6 of 5 (if I’m expressing my undying love of this amazing show)

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but there are certain events which are so deeply a part of Arthurian legend that I can’t honestly consider them spoilers and as such, I may discuss the show’s treatment of them, at least a bit. So if you want a completely spoiler-free impression of this show, just go watch it . . . seriously, what are you waiting for?

Into the heart of Camelot, a kingdom where Uther its king has long made the practice of magic a capital offence, wanders a young man for whom magic is such an integral part of his being as his own breath. Merlin. He’s been sent by a desperate mother to be mentored by the one person she trusts, Uther’s court physician Gaius . . . but deeper and more ancient forces of destiny are at work than a mother’s worry. Merlin rapidly becomes fast friends with the Lady Morgana’s serving girl, Gwen, and just as rapidly gets on the bad side of the prattish prince Arthur. But just because Arthur’s a prat doesn’t mean Merlin wants to see him dead, so he manages to save the prince’s life (secretly using magic) and get himself rewarded by becoming the prince’s manservant (what an honor!). Destiny is at work, though, bringing these two together–the Once and Future King and Emrys, the greatest sorcerer to ever live who will help this king unite the land of Albion, little though they may know it. They may, in time, even become friends, although you’d be hard pressed to get Arthur to admit it.

I love Merlin so very much, and it’s one of those shows that gets better with time–both as you get further into the series and as you watch it again. Certainly, it has its faults (which will be discussed in a bit), but the characters grow on you so very much and their relationships are so rich that the problems with the show are easy to overlook (or at least I have found it so). Essentially, this show is a loose retelling of Arthurian legend–and I mean it when I say it’s a loose retelling. There are certain things that carry over strongly from the classic tales such as names/characters (Arthur, Uther, Merlin, Guinevere, Sir Gwaine, Lancelot, etc.) and events (for instance, you can probably guess how the story ends right from the beginning, the tragedies of Morgana and Mordred, etc.). There’s a lot of original material too, though; the Arthurian legends are only a rough framework for what is essentially an original story. As I said above, there are some things this show doesn’t do so amazingly. The first couple seasons can be a bit repetitive (there are memes; just saying) if you’re looking at the plot of each episode in relation to the other surrounding episodes. This does get better as the show progresses, and I also find that it becomes less noticeable as the characters and their relationships grow on you–the episode framework becomes a background on which the characters are displayed, rather than the main focus of the story. The passage of time is a bit strange and hard to keep track of, too; obviously, only about 5 years passes for the actors, but clearly more time does in the lives of the characters over the course of the show . . . it’s just hard to tell how much time, since the actors haven’t aged to match the passage of time (ignoring the times when Merlin goes old, which are fabulous). The other problem I’ve noticed (and I know I’m not the only one) is that certain characters, particularly Uther and Morgana, are (while brilliantly portrayed by their respective actors) written in an overly one-sided sort of way. For instance, I find it hard to believe that Uther could be so utterly single-minded in his hatred of magic as he is portrayed to be. And Morgana’s change of heart seems too abrupt, too lacking in internal conflict, even considering all that she went through to get to that point. But despite its faults, Merlin is one of my absolute favorite shows ever. Merlin’s character is just brilliantly portrayed (thank you, Colin Morgan), with enough internal conflict and richness of character to totally make up for any lacks elsewhere. And there are so many other brilliant characters–Arthur (obviously; Bradley’s work here is fabulous), Gwen (highly underrated; I adore her), Gaius(amazing mentor character), Gwaine (how can you not love him?!), Leon (also highly underrated), and so many others. The relationship between Merlin and Arthur is so good, too. You can clearly see how they both change over time through their growing friendship, going from basically despising each other to “you’re the only friend I have and I couldn’t bear to lose you.” There’s this great bromance between them, full of sass and humor and teasing, but stemming from a friendship that runs deep. And Colin and Bradley do such a great job of portraying this!!! There are plenty of other cool fantasy/legendary aspects of this show, heartbreaking plots, breathtakingly funny bits . . . but it’s their friendship that makes me love this show so very much.

Created by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Johnny Capps, & Julian Murphy/Written by Julian Jones/Produced by Julie Gardner & Bethan Jones/Starring Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath, Richard Wilson, Anthony Head, Nathaniel Parker, & John Hurt/Music by Rob Lane & Rohan Stevenson

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Created by Joss Whedon

When Buffy Summers moved to the small town of Sunnydale, all she wanted was to leave slaying and destiny and vampires behind–lead a normal high-school life, you know? That might have worked better if the town she moved to weren’t built directly over a Hellmouth, a center of supernatural and paranormal activity of all sorts. As it is, before her first day of class is even over, she’s encountered the tell-tale work of vampires and met her Watcher, Rupert Giles (read “stuffed-shirt British librarian sent to tell her what to do” is what I’d like to say, but Giles is actually a pretty cool guy with some interesting surprises up his sleeve). It seems there is no running from destiny, and Buffy’s got plenty of destiny to deal with as The Slayer, the one and only girl in the world with the super-powers to fight the forces of darkness . . . whether she likes it or not. Destiny may put a crimp in her social life, but Buffy actually develops quite a delightful group of friends who join in her fight against evil–which is totally against all Slayer rules, I might add. Not that Buffy’s much for rules; she tends to meet the forces of darkness and the forces of red tape with much the same snarky attitude . . . and she usually wins.

I had honestly avoided watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years on the grounds that I generally hate American TV shows on principle. It was only when I realized that 1) the series has a huge cult following among the geekier types and 2) it’s created by the same guy who wrote Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog that I decided Buffy might be worth checking out–and I am so glad that I did. I really love the series. It’s a very multi-layered story. On the surface you have the story of a young girl going to school, making friends, fighting monsters–fun urban fantasy, maybe a little silly (and a little too much sex) but enjoyable nevertheless. But then underneath that you’ve got a very real, thoughtful, and sometimes vulnerable development of all sorts of real-life problems and complexities and questions–things we all struggle with, handled in a thought-provoking way. It’s neat the way the layers mingle and make each other richer. The characters are all incredible–highly developed and growing a lot over the course of the series–and the actors do an incredible job bringing the characters to life. I find the plot pacing interesting. It runs sort of like the Harry Potter books: one season per year in the characters’ lives, each season dealing with episodic issues but also culminating toward some big showdown with a “Big Bad” at the end (they actually make a joke about this in the seventh season). It’s kind of cliché, but it works. (Regarding age-appropriateness, I would generally say that it’s suited for people the age Buffy is in that season and up, so the first year is 15+, second season is 16+, etc.) Music is also a big part of Buffy, and I really enjoy the wide variety of music that is brought into the show. Plus the choreography that goes into the fights is really impressive–both intense and oddly beautiful. This is definitely a girl-power sort of show, I might add–although the guy characters are amazing too.  There’s a lot more I could say, nearly all positive as I truly enjoyed this show, but for now I’ll just say that if you enjoy funny yet thoughtful character-focused urban fantasy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is definitely a good option to check out–just be warned, it’s addictive!

Note: This TV series comprises 7 of 22 episodes each (except for the first season, which is 12 episodes). The plotline is continued in a canonical graphic novel series which I intend to review separately.

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Kristine Sutherland, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seth Green, Robia LaMorte, Emma Caulfield, Eliza Dushku, Juliet Landau, James Marsters, Amber Benson, Marc Blucas, Tom Lenk, Alexis Denisof, and a bunch of other cool people

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Once More, with Feeling

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 7

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon/Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendan, Alyson Hannigan, Emma Caulfield, Anthony Stewart Head, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, James Marsters, & Hinton Battle

As usual, something’s afoot in Sunnydale, California . . . only it’s not particularly clear exactly what that something is. Buffy Summers and her friends find themselves randomly bursting into song–and choreographed dance routines–as though they were starring in a musical. Further investigation (just walking outside, for instance) reveals that this musical mayhem is affecting not only “the gang” but the entire town–just another of the joys of living in Sunnydale. This would seem a relatively benign problem until people start spontaneously combusting from dancing so hard . . . not to mention all the emotional and relational damage from everyone bluntly singing their innermost secrets out to anyone around to hear! Clearly, something must be done, and fast–and Buffy and her friends are just the people for the job.

It’s practically unheard of for me to write about an individual television episode, but I feel that “Once More, with Feeling” truly deserves the attention. This single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is written as a musical and can be honestly appreciated as such on its own, although the depths of the character development will be more greatly appreciated if you’ve watched the previous episodes. Basically, you’re coming into the story at the point where Buffy has been brought back from death by her well-meaning friends–only she’s really not happy to be back. Plus, there are a lot of complex interrelational issues that basically explain themselves through the songs themselves. And the songs are something incredible! Sweeping through genre boundaries to touch everything from classic musical styles to jazz to ballet-inspired to hard rock, each and every piece is both catchy and edgy. Honestly, it’s one of the best musicals I’ve seen, particularly when you consider that most of the actors were not professional singers. Amber Benson’s role, in particular, was breathtaking; she’s always been a character who was more than I expected, but in this musical, she truly shone. Beautiful voice! The story development is pretty intense–this comes at a breaking point of sorts in the lives of the characters. The songs really reveal this in their blend of passion and angst, hope and emptiness. If you’ve a taste for musicals at all, I would definitely recommend “Once More, with Feeling” even if you wouldn’t generally like the series as a whole–truly an impressive and moving work.

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