Okay, so the premise of the show is as follows:
Merlin lives in Camelot where it is illegal to do or be capable of magic. King Uther has anyone who can do magic executed because he thinks all magic users are evil. Merlin doesn't agree with this stance but does nothing about it because he is supporting Uther's son, Arthur, who will one day be a great king and all will be well.
Fairly typical fantasy fair, all fine and dandy.
Except it's not.
What if the premise was this?
Merlin lives in Camelot where non-whites are outlawed. King Uther has anyone executed who is black or Asian because he thinks all non-whites evil. Merlin doesn't agree with this stance but does nothing about it because he is supporting Uther's son, Arthur, who will one day be a great king and all will be well.
That is not a nice and fluffy teatime family show. That probably wouldn't even be allowed on TV, certainly not before the watershed. Same if you replaced the persecuted parties with those who are gay or women or virtually any other group.
Now, of course, being able to do magic is not a real world issue that people are persecuted for and therefore it can't be equated in real world terms (unless you want to bring witch trials into this, but let's not muddy the waters). However, there is a disturbing analogy here and that's the reason why having Morgana and Morgause described as 'evil' because they oppose Uther both annoys and frankly worries me.
Let's not sugar coat things here; Uther is a tyrant who is committing genocide. He murders innocent people (men, women and children) simply for what they are. Yes, he has his good points too, he's not a terrible 2D cardboard cut out and he's very well portrayed. But he's not a good man. His persecution of magic is a great story and provides great and interesting conflict in the show but it also provides a lot of problems with the narrative that the writers seem to be trying to force on us.
For a start, are we really convinced that Merlin is on the right side? Why is there no conflict in him beyond some brief moments of frowning at the start of the show? In his position, surely anyone would wonder every now and again whether supporting this guy and letting all these innocent people die is really for the best as it is claimed. I mean, from a purely mercenary point of view, many of Camelot's enemies seem to be after Uther in particular - the place would be much safer without him!
What reason does Merlin have to believe that he's doing the right thing? Gaius? A man who has stood by for twenty years and let person after person go to their death, knowing it was wrong, knowing most of them were harmless.
Or is it the dragon Merlin is trusting? The dragon who has used Merlin for his own means and, as soon as he was free, barbequed Camelot and killed goodness knows how many. Why on earth should Merlin trust anything that the dragon has ever told him? Why isn't he questioning everything? His whole reason for supporting this is that he's been told Arthur will one day be a great king but isn't ready to rule yet. Are so many lives worth one flimsy prophecy that he's given no real reason to trust?
I don't expect a big game changer. I don't expect Merlin to change 'sides' and suddenly start to try and bring Uther down. But I want some conflict in him. The show seems so afraid to make their lead character seem anything but our whiter than white, slightly dorky hero but that's not necessary. Nor is it sensible. Merlin has killed people before, he's hardly a fluffy bunny. To have some conflict in him about whether he's truly doing the right thing by supporting Uther's regime would only show that he has a brain and a heart and isn't trusting naively.
On the other side, we have Morgana. Morgana who has been isolated, terrified, lied to and poisoned. Who was only ever shown unquestioning love and attention by a fellow sorceress. Is it any wonder that her loyalties have shifted? That she thinks Uther's reign needs to be ended?
It's harsh, it's tough and it may not be the 'right' thing to do. But is it evil? How can you be evil if your plan is to stop a tyrant from committing genocide?
The show's reason seems to be very basic; Morgana and Morgause are evil because they're not on the same side as Merlin. And why is Merlin on the right side? Because he's the title character. Ignore the fact that he's supporting a terrible regime, that he himself has killed many to protect it. His name is above the credits and therefore his choice is the right one.
Well screw that.
They need to show me Merlin's conflict, they need to show me him questioning his decisions. I want to see him wondering whether he should be helping Morgana and not just allowing Uther to keep on killing because apparently it's the 'right' thing to do.
If they don't, well, I think I'm Team Evil all the way.