Merlin’s Magical Sci-Fantasy Catches Fire

One of my guilty television pleasures is the BBC’s reboot Merlin, which mashes Arthurian legend through the teen soap trope with surprisingly funny and rewarding results. I took the opportunity to chat up its chief wizard Colin Morgan for Wired as Merlin‘s satisfying third season finally crossed the pond and its collected second season hit the DVD market.

Magical Sci-Fantasy Merlin Catches Fire in Season 3

Merlin, BBC’s sci-fantastic remix of Arthurian legend, soars to greater dramatic and comedic heights in its rewarding third season, which finally airs stateside starting Friday on Syfy.

Colin Morgan (above) lends an elfin sparkle as the titular young wizard in the postmodern reboot, which envisions Camelot before Arthur’s ascendancy to the throne. Arthur’s despotic father, King Uther Pendragon (played by Anthony Head), is under constant attack from the magical creatures and outcasts he resolves to exterminate, which costs him the love and loyalty of his witchy ward Morgana (gorgeous Katie McGrath).

While the show’s first two seasons stretched out its characters’ back stories to the sometimes-tiresome breaking point, Merlin’s alternately dark and hilarious third season gets on with it, Monty Python-style. Prince Arthur (man-candy Bradley James) and servant girl Gwen (Angel Coulby) finally get their relationship moving, Morgana and Merlin throw down, and the battle for Camelot’s progressive future — where magic and humanity can at last live in peace — is, well, sorta, waged.

Season 3’s smart, accessible spectacle is further enhanced by a roll call of new faces, including sci-fi-and-fantasy veteran Warwick Davis (Willow, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and a gauntlet-full of Harry Potter guest stars. The series is also swimming in sexual and political subtexts, whether it’s pitting male potency (Uther and Arthur) against female power (Morgana and Morgause, played by Emilia Fox), or so-called normal humans against perceived magical terrorists. (Can’t we all just get along?)