This is what I've been waiting for. After
three solid but largely mediocre
seasons, Merlin finally achieves its potential with season four. In this season the show becomes epic. Arthur is no longer an arrogant and
unpleasant bully and Merlin stops being a buffoon (for the most part). This show about legendary heroes becomes
larger than life and gains a lot in the process. This
season sees the Knights of Camelot
marching off to war, the death of a king, a dire prophesy being
full grown dragon in battle, and much more.
If you've written the program off, you should give it another
The show centers around a young lad named Merlin (Colin
Morgan), the person who would grow to be King Arthur's most trusted
advisor. The teen travels to Camelot to be
the royal physician, Gaius (Richard Wilson) a man who secretly knows
about magic. Gaius soon discovers that
a very special person indeed. While all
magicians have to spend years studying and must chant spells to perform
most basic incantations, Merlin can do amazing things silently, and
training. He can slow down time with
just a gesture and move objects with but a thought.
The only problem is magic is outlawed in Camelot. The King,
Uther Pendragon (wonderfully portrayed by Anthony Head, best known as
Giles on Buffy), fought long and hard in his
youth to rid the land of black magic, as well as dragons, and now has
any use of magic on pain of death. So Merlin has to hide his abilities.
Added into the mix is the King's son, the arrogant Prince
Arthur (Bradley James), Uther's ward ( who betrayed the King, Morgana
McGrath), and a castle servant girl Guinevere (Angel Coulby). After saving Arthur's life, Merlin is awarded
the position of being the Prince's manservant and the two slowly start
At the end of season three, things really came to a
head. Morgana, filled with hatred for
Uther and a maniacal desire to sit on the throne of Camelot, raised an
the undead to storm the country. She was
defeated, but at a price: Uther, having
been tortured by Morgana, goes mad and can no longer rule.
Nearly a year has passed since Morgana's attack and though
Uther is still alive he's catatonic most of the time and just sits
of the window. Arthur takes over running
the kingdom with the help of his uncle, Agravaine, whom Arthur trusts
others. Unfortunately, Agravaine is not
loyal to Arthur or his brother Uther, he's Morgana's servant. Having the ruler's ear, he's able to give
Arthur bad advice that endangers Camelot.
Morgana is even more determined than ever to destroy the
Pendragons after her sister, Morgause, became gravely injured by Merlin
Gaius while Camelot was being retaken.
Disfigured and dying, Morgause offers herself up as a blood
the Cailleach who open a rift between the land of the dead and the land
living. During the sacrifice the
Cailleach gives Morgana a prophecy: a
powerful magician named Emrys would be her "destiny and doom." Unbeknownst to the evil witch, Emrys is the
name that the druids have given Merlin.
Fearful of this mysterious mage, Morgana tries to discover who
he is so
that she may kill him before he can doom her.
The episodes in this season are what I was hoping the show
would be all along. When it first began,
Arthur wasn't a very sympathetic character, more of a bully and a jerk
noble leader of men, and Merlin was fairly whiny and at times came
as a comic relief than a wise sage. Over
the course of the show, that's slowly changed and in this season Merlin
Arthur are impressive characters and viewers can see that they're both
The season kicks off with an impressive two-part saga where
the creatures that Morgause's sacrifice unleashed plague the kingdom. It's more than a 'monster of the week' show,
which both Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of Camelot rising to the
of facing an enemy that can't be destroyed and willing to die to
country. It's a story that shows the
main characters growing, and also sets in motion the events that will
out over the rest of this season.
Just about all of the episodes in this set move the overall
plot along in some way, with very few filler episodes.
Merlin and Arthur have to stop a thief from
obtaining the very last dragon egg, something that Merlin, being the
Dragon Lord, has an especially keen interest in doing.
Arthur realizes he's in love with Guinevere
but the romance doesn't go smoothly when Agravaine informs Arthur that
never marry a serving girl, and a mistake that Arthur makes (with some
by Agravaine) leads to a powerful neighboring kingdom declaring war on
These all pale when compared to the
two-part finale where Margana once again makes a play for the kingdom
Arthur sees his darkest hour yet. The story is enticingly entitled The Sword in the Stone.
Aside from the great stories and fulfilling character
development, this season also sees some of the knights taking on
roles. I really enjoyed the enlarged
cast of characters and they worked out very well. A
lot of the comic moments this season
involved good-natured ribbing among the warriors, but they never became
or goofy. Just the opposite, they came
across as loyal and tough, and added to the action/adventure elements
show very appropriately.
While I really liked this season, it's not perfect.
The plot with Agravaine secretly working
against Arthur was a reworking of earlier seasons where Morgana was
against Uther while pretending to be his loyal ward and it felt a
I also had a hard time seeing Agravaine's motivation for his betrayal. It's a minor point though, and the season
plays out better than I thought it would.
The show arrives on three Blu-ray discs that are housed in a
This show comes with a stereo soundtrack that's pretty
dynamic. While a 5.1 track would have
been preferred, the show makes good use of the front soundstage and is
during some of the more intense battle sequences. I
just wish there was a LFE channel when the
dragon is around.
Like the first seasons, the 1.78:1 image looks pretty good,
but it could be better. The picture is a
soft throughout and there's some aliasing in the background that's
noticeable. The colors are solid and the
contrast is fine.
This set has some good bonus features scattered across the
three discs, but nothing too exciting. First
off are five commentary tracks on various episodes by members of the
crew. The video extras include a short
(19-minute) making of featurette that pretty good for what it it. There also several deleted scenes, outtakes,
a reel of storyboards, and a gallery of fan pictures.
The show really hits its stride with season four, by far the
best season yet. Both Arthur and Merlin
evolve into the heroic and legendary characters we knew they would
the stories are more epic in scope. The
cast of supporting characters has expanded nicely, and the show is more
entertaining than ever. Highly Recommended.