An idea that might be nice for a movie—hopefully with a sequel—becomes a problem when presented in an eight-episode serial format. The idea that governs MERLINseries produced by Tim Burton, who directs the first four chapters, is not bad and gives one to imagine a nice and dark film centered on the teenage daughter of the Addams Locos going to a high school full of freaks more or less like her. In fact, even the very plot that develops from that presentation could work (clearly reduced in length) in two hours and become passable entertainment. But the business today goes through the series. And this spin off of the “Addams universe” goes on and on until one ends up asking for the time due to exhaustion.
It’s a shame, too, because for the first three episodes one had the feeling that there was something there. Burton seemed comfortable with the script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the creators of SMALLVILLE, which allowed him to play with topics already known in his work but in a way that was not as elaborate or excessively self-conscious as he has been doing lately, also supported by a script full of funny exits. One could see Burton connecting to this story in a way close to his initial BEETLEJUICE: more black humor and less excess of special effects. But, once again, sustaining the rhythm and attention throughout eight hours of plot assembled as a compilation of leftovers from the saga HARRY POTTER It’s too much for anyone. Even for Tim himself.
The universe that is created here, from the outset at least, works well. Merlina (Wednesday in the original, Wednesday in Spain, the very good actress Jenna Ortega in all cases) is expelled from another school «normie»after an incident with a student and finally ends up in the Nevermore Academy (Nevermore Academy), a school for extravagant boys like her, a school halfway between Hogwarts, the Academy of the X MEN and a high school American where the whole year is Halloween. The different groups are already armed (mermaids, werewolves, vampires, etc.), but Merlina is so harsh that she doesn’t relate to –nor does she want to relate to– any of them.
The series could well be a portrait of his complicated school integration. And although at times it is – the cutting relationship she has with her roommate Enid (Emma Myers) goes there – sooner or later the creators will need a big plot, a conspiracy, a crime, a devious matter to solve. In this case: a monster that circulates outside the school and that is killing different students. Taking into account the type of characters that are in the Academy, it could well be any of them. Or none. And throughout the eight episodes, between possible romances and school diversions that Merlina abruptly rejects, the girl (and the series) will be dedicated to trying to solve the case.
Ortega’s good performance (in the role made famous by Christina Ricci, who appears here as a school teacher) and his permanently acid comments sustain the humor for a while, and the same happens with the appearances of his father Homero (Luis Guzmán ), her mother Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the mythical Fingers, who accompanies her at school and is there to help her in her role as detective and psychic, since the girl now has “visions” that supposedly allow her to access some secrets of the past.
The huge cast that accompanies her in her misadventures includes the director of the establishment (Gwendoline Christie, from GAME OF THRONES), some guys interested in Merlina (Xavier and Tyler, played by Percy Hynes White and Hunter Doohan, respectively), the psychologist they put on her (Riki Lindhome, from GARFUNKEL & OATES), some quirky schoolmates, a sheriff who mistrusts everyone who goes there (Jamie McShane), and the brief appearance of another classic family member: Uncle Lucas (Fred Armisen).
But the plot tied to that monster that stalks and kills everyone drags on endlessly, with Merlina transformed into a rather violent and unconventional detective, until it reaches a remarkably dark ending that appears something like four hours after it should. In the main, the series (bah, the season) has as its axis the process of integration of the girl to the school. Or, rather, the idea that she needs from others in order to survive. The problem is that to reach that predictable but still nice “revelation”, the series takes the most twisted and endless path of all known, to the point of spoiling what was achieved in its first episodes. MERLIN It is nothing more than a potentially good movie stretched to the point of ending up as a mediocre series for teenagers like there are so many on the platform.