The Best and Worst of Merlin: Series 4

In a previous post, I began the series on Merlin, a BBC TV series (loosely) based on the Merlin of Arthurian legend (I mean very, very loosely, as in similarities in name only). I continue here with Series 4.

Series 4 is all about Dark Morgana, which has gotten old, and repetitive.

The Best:

The Darkest Hour



According to the Den of Geek review of Part One:

Filling the void left by the final episode of Doctor Who, Merlin returns with a cracker of an episode that starts off the fourth series with a darker, more dangerous tone.

Finally giving Katie McGrath something to do other than look pretty and smirk evilly, Morgana has left a trail of destruction in Camelot, headed over to the Isle of the Blessed, sacrificed her sister to bolster her power, and is making plans to wreak further revenge on the people she had once called friends. By spilling the blood of Morgause, she breaks the seal between the world of the living and the dead, bringing us face-to-face with the Callieach (Gemma Jones), guardian of the Other World and unleashing a new evil upon the world of Camelot.

Whilst Morgana is evilly plotting and still speaking rarely, Arthur has taken over the kingdom and his father, Uther, sits as a broken man, destroyed by the betrayal of his ward. Now aided by his uncle, Agravaine, Arthur (Bradley James) is settling into his role as leader and has the faith of the kingdom and his knights.

Agravaine has become the trusted counsel of Arthur and has been a rock to the young prince: though he does dress in black, giving us a hint to where his allegiance will be. That said, Arthur is happy to have his uncle around as the weight of leadership weighs heavy on his youthful, broad shoulders.

Throughout the tumultuous changes, Merlin (played by Colin Morgan with his rather fantastic English accent) is still the ever faithful servant to Arthur. He collects shirts, writes speeches and generally gets under everyone’s feet whilst being clumsy as ever. He’s on friendly terms with all the knights of Camelot, particularly Lancelot.

It’s not all about his dubious track record as a servant, though, as he suffers the effects of the tear between worlds and loses faith in his own abilities, powerless against the creatures that pour fourth from the tear; ghostly, flying skeletons that drain the life from anything they touch. Dementors, anyone?

Such trivial concerns aren’t going to be enough to stop our favourite wizard from protecting Arthur and Camelot, even if it may mean sacrificing himself. Thankfully, he’s not alone in his quest to protect those around him as we’ve got five more knights in tow in the form of Sir Percival (Tom Hopper), Sir Leon (Rupert Young), Sir Gwaine (Eoin Macken), Sir Elyan (Adetomiwa Edun) and Sir Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera.)

Of these, it’s Lancelot and Percival that get the most character development in this first episode, though Percival mainly spends his time showing off his arms in his rather fashionable, though impractical, sleeveless chainmail, and being all macho and heroic, even going so far as to single-handedly save three small children in his manly embrace.  Lancelot, on the other hand, dispenses advice to Merlin and smiles knowingly whenever the wizard casts a spell. Hopefully the others will be given more to do in the upcoming episode other than wave swords around and make the odd comment.

On the subject of being given little to do, Gaius is still played with calm reserve by Richard Wilson, dispensing mystic portents and medicine to those who need it and moving the plot along when we encounter a bit of legend or lore. Angel Coulby’s Gwen still pines for her prince and really isn’t given much to do here aside from look after Uther and tell Arthur that she loves him.

Talking of Uther, Anthony Head doesn’t have much to say in this episode, but the single line he gets is filled with such emotion that it’s impossible not to feel pity for the once powerful ruler. It’ll be interesting to see what the writers do with Uther in this season as it’s difficult to imagine him handing over power that easily or completely, especially considering he was torn apart spiritually by a magic user.

This series is being touted as darker than past years, with the cast saying that the audience for Merlin has grown up with the series.  Whilst the episode has a darker tone, it’s not too dark or scary for younger viewers. Thankfully, the showrunners haven’t forgotten the roots of the series and there’s still the camaraderie between Arthur and Merlin, the silly moments of humour and the touching moments of friendship that have become a trademark of the series, and allow both actors to shine in their respective roles.

There’s a few of stumbling blocks in the episode – though the devastated dream world was really well realised, the old Merlin looks a bit suspect (perhaps Morgana’s imagination isn’t that good when it comes to envisioning people) and the skull-faced, flying ghosts look a bit too CGI (yes, I know they are!)

The expanded cast doesn’t seem to have much to do in this opening episode, but I’m sure that’ll change as the series develops and I hope that at least one episode is dedicated to each of the new knights.

On the plus side, the story was a well paced romp that struck a good balance between action and plot, whilst setting up for what will hopefully be an interesting series. It doesn’t let up until the very last moment, which came so quickly that there’s a chance you might have to rewind to take in that final, dramatic scene. It definitely sets things up for an interesting part two next week.

Merlin is a series that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is obviously made as family viewing that can be enjoyed by practically any age group. As long as you don’t expect it to be pure drama, high brow fantasy or a necessarily accurate retelling of Arthurian legend,  there’s plenty to enjoy.

With so many threads still needing some attention and more characters with stories to tell, let’s hope the rest of the series can keep up the pace set by the first episode.

According to the Den of Geek review of Part Two:

Following the darker tones of episode one, we’re thrown straight into the thick of things in The Darkest Hour Part 2, with Merlin facing death following a Darocha attack and the collective confidence of the knights confidence shattered by the devastating event. Arthur decides that they must return Merlin to Gaius back in Camelot, despite the pressing urgency of the mission to close the veil between the world of the living and the dead. Why not leave the sarcastic servant to die in the wilderness? Because he’s just saved Arthur’s life, of course.

Arthur can’t really abandon his quest to close the rift and sends brave Sir Lancelot back to Camelot with Merlin slung over the back of a horse, through the spooky woods, whilst the others go to fight the good fight, and heal the veil that has unleashed evil spirits upon the world.

Whilst Lancelot encounters the river dwelling Villea, good spirits that help Merlin heal, Arthur and crew encounter the giant, hairless rats called Wilderin that occupy the caves and pretty much want to eat our heroes. Thankfully, they’ve covered themselves in slime in a combined effort to baffle the noses of the Wilderin and look mildly comical.  Avoiding being eaten, the knights bound forth.

Meanwhile, Agravaine is up to his tricks, shutting the gates to the city and preventing the unfortunate souls that live beyond the walls of Camelot from seeking solace. Gaius’ protestations are cast aside with nary a second thought, leaving Gwen to stand up for the poor and defenseless. Thankfully, for a serving girl, she’s a compelling speaker able to overcome the opposition and convince Agravaine that his decision is the wrong one. Before too long, he has no choice but to tell Morgana what’s happening and she’s not too happy at Gwen.

Having made a swift recovery, Merlin is back on his feet, all healed and full of sarcasm. Together, Lancelot and the wizard set out to meet up with Arthur again, though have to stop for the night at a ramshackle dwelling where Merlin gets a chance to work his magic for the first time this episode.

As if that’s not enough, Merlin and Lancelot get to spend more time together doing what knights and servants do best: bonding. We discover, once again, that Lancelot may love Gwen, but he’s willing to stand aside for Arthur. Before we can have too much saccharin, the pair fall asleep and nearly become prey for the Dorocha before bolting from the hut.

As all appears lost, we get the reappearance of the dragon, resplendent in its CGI glory and voiced by the legendary tones of John Hurt. Dispensing with the Dorocha in swift fashion, he’s able to shed some light on the situation with the veil, and offers warnings and predictions of the future, whilst leaving Merlin to make his own choice.

Morgana still travels through the castle as she pleases, using her magic to render guards unconscious. It’s a bit worrying that it’s so easy to get into the castle, but that’s not what really makes us uneasy. Agravaine is at his slimiest when he’s speaking to Gwen. Thankfully, she leaves without incident, only to fall foul of Morgana’s magic.

Arthur’s having serious doubts about sharing with the new knights, but that’s brought to a head with a quick pep talk. There’s a chance that Arthur’s new knights are buffoons, as one sets his own socks on fire and the others tease him mercilessly.  Percival manages one line this week, whilst still wearing his sleeveless chainmail. Surely this is the fashion accessory of the autumn season.

Enough of this tomfoolery, however, because Lancelot has returned. The knights are momentarily worried, however, all they are all more than happy to see Merlin alive and well. With Merlin and Arthur back together, there’s more bonding as the two exchange thoughts on sacrifice and just how useful Merlin is as a servant.  Not too much of the bromance this time, as there’s evil to fight and a split between worlds to heal.

With the knights charging forth, Merlin is becoming more blatant with his magic, though the others don’t notice as they’re too busy being attacked by wyverns.  Whilst the other knights stay back to fend off the attack, Merlin and Arthur race forward to close the veil and confronting the Cailleach.

Of course, we know that Arthur isn’t likely to die anytime soon and Merlin steps forward to take his place. The Cailleach knows Merlin’s place, though a sacrifice must be offered and a knight will fall.

The two part story comes to an emotional climax as the funeral fire dies down. It’s not overly action oriented, but definitely shows the heart of the series. Morgana is left unhappy and plans to destroy the Emrys, though she doesn’t know who this is and sets Agravaine out to discover his identity.

As with last week’s instalment, the episode may continue with the darker tones, but it definitely isn’t without humour, mostly focused on Merlin and the clumsy Sir Gwaine. There’s also some understated moments of near farce with a beehive, grime and an overly close encounter with the rat-like Wilderin.

CGI has a bigger role in this episode with the dragon continuing to be the most impressive example of effects in the series. It may have a slightly comical face, but it still looks really impressive in flight, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t feature more. Perhaps they’re saving up for the series finale.

Aside from the dragon, we’ve still got the Dorocha this week along with the wyvern and Wilderin. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, the latter will probably remind you of the giant rat in the story  The Talons of Weng-Chiang, but executed with far more effect. It doesn’t look too hideous, but is the type of thing that might scare very young children. The wyvern are quite impressive but, very much like the dragon, get little screen time. Considering that the knights were meant to be holding them back, a bit more of a battle would have been appreciated.

Once again, the episode belongs to our three central characters – Merlin, Arthur and Morgana. Gaius finally gets something else to do aside of offer advice as he deflects questions for Agravaine and spends some time finding Gwen and fighting off a Doracha.  Gwen’s role seems to be improving too, though her audience in front of the council did seem a bit unlikely, even within the confines of the world of Merlin. It may have worked had it been Uther or Arthur, but Agravaine seemed to back down far too easily.

Katie McGrath seems to be relishing the newly evil and incredibly pale Morgana. Aside from showing her new mad side, she seems to be plotting the death of a fair few fellows these days. Let’s hope she doesn’t lose track of all the names on her list.  Her control over Agravaine is something that hopefully will develop throughout the series as he seems to be there simply to do her bidding, regardless of what she asks.

Julian Jones has set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the season with this two part story. Action is balanced with emotion as the stall is laid out for what could be a hugely satisfying battle between good and evil, with the delicious madness of Morgana going up against the virtue of Arthur and the Knights of Camelot.

It’s been an impressive opening for series four of Merlin. More like this, please.

The Worst:

Lamia, and The Sword in the Stone


Just briefly:

  • Lamia; and,
  • The Sword in the Stone isn’t one of the best because it is fundamentally a repeat of what happened in The Coming of Arthur: Morgana takes over Camelot, and then gets defeated. Too repetitive.

According to the DigitalSpy review of Lamia:

A mysterious illness has descended on the village of Longstead and there’s an evil presence lurking on this week’s Merlin. Gwen’s old friend Mary pays Camelot a visit to beg for Arthur’s help and the King swears that he will do all he can to help those who have fallen ill.

But Gaius is too busy to leave Camelot – he’s tending to citizens affected by a ‘sweating sickness’, apparently! He suggests sending Merlin in his place, and though Arthur scoffs, Gaius insists that his ward is up to the job!

Merlin rides to Longstead, accompanied by Gwen, Mary and the knights. Once he’s left alone with those struck by the mystery sickness, Merlin tries to use his magic to cure them, but it has no effect – could their malady have been caused by sorcery?

That night, Merlin spots something moving outside of his lodgings. He nervously sneaks outside, but finds only Gwaine prowling around, summoned by a call of nature! The next day, the condition of the sick has worsened – they are on death’s door…

Merlin, Gwen and the knights ride back towards Camelot, but en-route they spot a pack of bandits. When Gwaine spots them harassing a young woman, the chivalrous Knight leaps into action and a battle erupts between the knights and the bandits!

The bandits scatter and Percival comforts the shaken woman – her name is Lamia. The knights decide to take Lamia with them, and, as the sun sets, they prepare to make camp in the woods. But Lamia appears anxious around Merlin, and Percival’s mood quickly shifts – he angrily warns the boy wizard to keep away from their new companion.

In the night, Percival hears Lamia weeping and hugs her tight, but as they embrace, Lamia’s eyes transform and become snake-like! Back in Camelot, Arthur worries that Merlin, Gwen and his knights have not returned. Gaius is now available again, and Arthur tells the old physician that they must ride for Longstead at first light.

At Lamia’s request, the smitten knights agree to escort her home. When Merlin reminds them that they need to fetch help for the people of Longstead, the knights angrily turn on him. Lamia’s influence has affected them all, with only Merlin and Gwen remaining unaffected.

When Arthur’s party rides out, they discover a string of fallen bodies – a band of slave-traders have been felled, but have not a scratch on them. Nearby, a carriage lies wrecked – something has escaped from within.

One trader is still alive and Arthur decides to take the injured man with them. Meanwhile, Lamia’s influence over the knights grows, with a jealous Leon and Gwaine coming to blows. Arthur’s party arrives in Longstead, but finds no sign of Merlin and the others. Gaius inspects the sick and confirms the King’s worst fears: “There is sorcery at work here.”

When the slave-trader recovers, he reveals that he and his men became enchanted by Lamia – fights and quarrels broke out amongst them. Turns out that Lamia is not the girl’s name, but her race – a creature of magic! In the dark times of the old religion, the blood of a girl was mingled with that of a serpent – the result, Lamia! “They could transform at will,” explains Gaius. “And become hideous monsters.”

The Lamia is able to suck the life from a man with a single embrace, and that night, Lamia makes a move on Elyan. As they share a kiss, he collapses to the ground, weak and defenceless.

In the morning, the other Knights find Elyan’s prone body. But they’re still under Lamia’s control and insist on following her to a nearby castle, despite Merlin and Gwen’s protests. The pair realise that they cannot reason with the knights, so decide to leave behind strips of Gwen’s tunic as a trail for Arthur…

On their way to the castle, the knights descend into a dark cave, but Lamia vanishes. They soon find themselves in a grim chamber littered with skeletons. Merlin tries to warn them that Lamia has led the group into a trap, but the knights violently reject his claims and Leon throws the young warlock to the ground.

Leon and Percival set off in search of Lamia and Gwaine hunts for wood to build a fire, while Elyan’s condition worsens. Caring for her brother, Gwen wonders why Merlin has not fallen under Lamia’s spell like the others (calm down, Merther fans!).

Merlin hears cries and when he dashes off to investigate, he finds a weakened Gwaine, struck by Lamia’s touch! Meanwhile, back in the forest, Arthur discovers the material torn from Gwen’s tunic and follows the trail…

In the cave, Percival follows the sound of Lamia’s cries, but once he finds her, she plants a kiss on him and he too is struck with the illness. Sir Leon witnesses the attack, and, realising the truth, charges at Lamia, screaming in fury – but she quickly dispatches him with her magic!

Merlin arrives soon after to confront Lamia, and when she attacks, he uses his powers to spear her with Leon’s sword. But Lamia survives – shedding her human form, she transforms into a monstrous, tentacled reptilian beast.

Merlin escapes, running back to Gwen, but Lamia is in hot pursuit and one of its tentacles snatch hold of his leg. Gwen rushes at Lamia, stabbing the creature, but it pushes forward and descends on her and Merlin…

Just as Merlin prepares to use his magic in front of Gwen, Arthur arrives, striking Lamia dead. “It’s *almost* good to see you, Merlin!” he tells his manservant with a cheeky grin.

With the help of Gaius, the villagers of Longstead are cured of their affliction, along with the knights. Arthur can’t resist winding Merlin up by pointing out that he had to be saved by a woman! But the King is really proud of Gwen and tells her as much, praising her courage under fire.

According to the Den of Geek review of The Sword in the Stone, Part One:

As always, let’s get started by going over what just happened.

Arthur is waiting for his clothing, worried that he won’t look particularly regal if he goes out in just his undergarments. Merlin, on the other hand, is concerned that the King may have trouble making his belt fit, and is gamely trying to skewer another hole into it before the King goes to host the latest banquet.

As Arthur entertains guests whilst wallowing in Gwen’s absence, Agravaine and Helios storm Camelot and bring Morgana into the castle, ready to take her seat on the throne. Quickly and efficiently overpowering Arthur’s army with sheer numbers, it isn’t long before the King is injured and forced to retreat to Gaius’ surgery, whilst Percival goes missing and Gwaine and Elyan are captured.

Camelot, it seems, is lost and Morgana sits on the throne. She’s not happy, as she wants more. She wants Arthur and demands that the former King is brought to her, despatching Agravaine to complete the task. She’s also not adverse to a bit of torture to get what she wants, as Elyan discovers.

Arthur, obviously, isn’t a coward and refuses to run, so Merlin has no choice but to enchant the King. With Arthur now robbed of his own free will, Merlin gets the perfect opportunity to poke fun at the King, whilst Arthur agrees with absolutely everything the wizard has to say. The wizard also gets to bare his soul, revealing his true thoughts about the King’s attitude towards such a loyal servant. Such merriment is brought to a halt when the pair are captured by Tristan and Isolde.

After rubbing up Tristan the wrong way, Merlin manages to hitch a lift with the pair in exchange for gold. As they strike camp, Arthur gets intimate with a tree, and Merlin discovers that their new friends are smugglers and, more disturbingly, that Arthur is considered a half-wit king.

Waking the next day, Merlin discovers that Arthur is no longer under his control, realising this when Arthur awakens him by kicking him repeatedly. Arthur isn’t happy that he’s no longer in Camelot, nor in his usual armour or, for that matter, that he is considered a simpleton and must continue to charade in order to avoid suspicion.

Their cover is blown, however, when Agravaine’s men surge forward, leaving Arthur no choice but to defend their ground, protecting Tristan and Isolde in the process. Tristan’s anger toward Arthur is diverted when Isolde is injured; the smuggler may think that Arthur is a money grabbing fool, but he soon finds that the King is a noble man. It doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to be getting along like a house on fire, though.

With Elyan, Gaius and Gwaine incarcerated, Morgana mocks their predicament. She refuses to bring food for Gaius, until Gwaine ‘sings for it’, removing him from the cell and having him delivered to the great hall, where she plans to make him fight for his life. Gwaine, despite being weaponless, manages to best the brute that Morgana sets upon him through a combination of words and brutality.

Finally, Merlin has found sanctuary as he returns home to Ealdor, greeting his mother warmly. This isn’t the only familiar face for the wizard, as it appears that Gwen has also taken up residence. She’s missed Arthur and her broken heart will take time to mend.

Awakening after a safe night’s sleep, Arthur discovers that his wounds are being tended by Gwen. The pair are reunited and embrace lovingly, realising what they very nearly lost. However, such a tender moment is broken as Agravaine, with his torch-bearing horde, attack.

It’s certainly action-packed, with plenty of sword fighting and slow motion, horse riding and fire-laden carnage, but is it any good?

After the rollercoaster ride that has been series four of Merlin, expectations are no doubt high for the final two-part story. Jake Michie returns with yet another script that finely balances action, adventure, humour and drama in The Sword in the Stone, Part 1.

Once more Colin Morgan impresses as Merlin, and nothing bad can be said about Bradley James whether he is the King or the half-wit; he plays both roles with conviction and charm, even if this aspect of his character does feel a tad overplayed. Reunited with Angel Coulby, who barely gets anything to say, there’s electricity in the air as the lovers are brought back together.

As for the knights, Eoin Macken’s Gwaine gets to be a bit more than physical, whilst showing his caring side; Tom Hopper’s Percival vanishes (hopefully not because they’ve forgotten about him) and Adetomiwa Edun’s Elyan once again gets to be the victim.

New additions for this episode are Ben Daniels as Tristan and Miranda Raison as Isolde. Historical considerations aside, the pair are effective as the smugglers who end up helping Arthur and Merlin. He’s a straightforward smuggler whilst she’s a dab hand with weapons and unafraid to get into a fight. Both actors are more than capable of pulling of their roles convincingly and, hopefully, Part 2 won’t be the last we see of this duo.

On the side of evil, Katie McGrath is phenomenal as Morgana, portraying her not as a pantomime villain, but as a temptress with incredible power and charisma. On top of that, Nathaniel Parker manages another week of avoiding over-the-top antics with an impressive performance as Agravaine, not over-doing the cracks in the characters armour as he realises that he isn’t in the position he imagined he would be. Disappointingly, Terence Maynard’s Helios isn’t given much to do apart from stand about and look threatening.

The fight scenes take centre stage this week, with plenty of slow motion combat. The fights look impressively brutal, especially as Gwaine fights for his life or where Arthur cuts through the enemy with confidence. His enemies are numerous, too, with some scenes giving the impression of a sizeable army.

There are plenty of impressive pyrotechnics, also coupled with slow motion, as Agravaine burns Camelot. In fact, Agravaine seems to have become a bit of a pyromaniac this episode, as fire seems to be his new motif. Perhaps there’s a message in there somewhere.

There’s still plenty of stories to tell for our heroes and villains, some of which hopefully won’t be tied up until series five. That said, whilst it may be missing any sign of a sword in a stone, the first part of this two-parter is fast moving, with a good dose of humour and filled with more than its fair share of drama.

Bring on the final episode…!

According to the Den of Geek review of The Sword in the Stone, Part Two:

As always, I’ll start with the recap. And after last week’s explosive finale, our heroes are trapped, surrounded by Agravaine and his army, Gwen and Arthur have been reunited and Merlin has some choices to make.

However, before we get there, we have some running to do. Yes, there’s more running in this episode as the heroes have no choice but to flee into the forest whilst Agravaine burns things.

Merlin isn’t adverse to using his magic to protect his friends and, after far too long an absence, the dragon returns, affording Merlin and company the opportunity to escape from the forest into some nearby caves, whilst Agravaine flees from the fiery onslaught.

Whilst Tristan is questioning Gwen about her relationship with Arthur, Merlin sets out to protect his friends once more, doubling back to intercept Agravaine as he enters the tunnels. Sadly, for Merlin, he takes a wrong turn and Agravaine corners the young wizard. Rapidly rendering his attackers unconscious, Merlin seems to get the upper hand until Agravaine recovers, identifying Merlin as Emrys. With little choice, and realising that his secret is in even greater danger, Merlin takes extreme measures.

Back in Camelot, Gaius isn’t looking particularly healthy, despite Elyan’s best attempts to help him. Thankfully, Gwaine is now Morgana’s favourite plaything and, gifting him a wooden sword, she plans to make him fight for more food. As if the wooden sword isn’t bad enough, he also has to fight with no shirt on.

Tristan is needling Arthur, pointing out his shortcomings and his lack of standing in society. Even Gwen can’t reassure Arthur as he’s still hurting from her betrayal and makes his position clear, sending the poor girl away. All this has put him in a very dark mood as he decides he’s trusted the wrong people and isn’t worthy of being a king.

Merlin is at a loss as to how to help his master and races deeper into the forest, calling upon the dragon once again. He needs advice and all the dragon can tell him is that the fate of Camelot rests in Merlin’s hands. Merlin’s got a plan that involves waking Arthur up in early hours and taking him into the forest.

Recounting the history of the Kings of Camelot, Merlin reveals that the first king buried his own sword into a stone. All Arthur has to do is pull the sword out of the stone and he’ll be the best king ever. Arthur’s got reservations, but Merlin is confident and Arthur goes forward, spurred on by the timely appearance of his entire retinue of knights.

So, with everyone looking, Arthur grasps the sword and pulls… only to find it doesn’t move. All he has to do is believe, but it seems Arthur has performance anxiety. Merlin’s words finally work and Arthur tears the sword out of the stone, with additional help from Merlin.

With renewed confidence, Arthur plans the fight of his life, with his army at his side. Arthur isn’t worried about the men he has to fight, but the power of Morgana; thankfully, Merlin has more of the story of the sword to tell, this time explaining that the man who pulls it from the stone will be the greatest king ever known. Arthur’s not convinced by the story, though Merlin revealing he’s always believed in Arthur may help him with the whole confidence thing.

Helios reports back to Morgana, explaining that all her forces, including Agravaine are dead. Realising that the only man capable of commanding a dragon is Emrys, she’s a bit nervous, moreso when Merlin sneaks into the castle and disguises himself as Emrys, allowing Morgana to catch sight of him. Even with Helios on his tracks, there’s no stopping Emrys as he brazenly uses magic before returning to his younger self and disguising himself as a guard. Morgana is scared and completely unaware that Merlin has secreted an enchanted corn doll under her bed.

With Tristan and Isolde choosing to fight alongside Arthur, the sneak attack sees the knights storm the castle. Helios alerts Morgana, who coldly offers to welcome Arthur home. With Tristan and Isolde in the mix, the knights of Camelot fight a vicious battle to secure the castle. Percival rescues Gwaine and Elyan, whilst Arthur fights alongside Gwen and Merlin.

Finally, Morgana and Arthur come face to face. Morgana tries her magic, but discovers that it’s no longer in her command, leaving her to flea whilst Helios and his men fight Arthur, Tristan and Isolde. A brief fight ensures, whilst Merlin and Gwen go after Morgana, in which Arthur is nearly bested by Helios. Isolde manages to defeat the great warlord, though suffers a fatal wound the attempt.

Also injured in her attempts to escape, Morgan retreats to her quarters only to be discovered by Gwen. Morgana hates Gwen because of what she’s destined to be and nearly kills the servant, however Merlin is on hand to knock Morgana unconscious by causing part of the ceiling to collapse. Before he can explain what happened to the dazed and confused Gwen, Morgana vanishes.

Mourning the loss of Isolde, Tristan is distraught as he sees her pass away in his arms. Gwen is putting Arthur’s bedroom back together. Merlin can sort it out, Arthur says, before telling Gwen she can stay as he doesn’t want to lose her again. This time, they’re going to get married and nothing will stop them. Finally, the king has his queen.

Morgana is not going to be happy! With the dragon Aithusa making a reappearance, we can be sure that Morgana will be back and even more dangerous than ever.

Take a moment to catch your breath, then.

If last week’s story was a bit shallow in places, this week’s is like swimming in the deep end. From the start to the very end, there’s enough action and drama in the episode to fill every minute of the story, though the siege of the castle does seem to happen a bit too quickly.

There’s plenty of dialogue on the side of good, but the bad guys seem to think actions matter more than words. If there was one downside to all this action, it’s that there’s far too much running and far too little combat; the sword fight scenes have improved dramatically over the series and we get yet another tantalising look at knights fighting for their lives that really deserved to be much, much longer.

The cast, as always, are superb right across the board. There really isn’t a weak cast member, even if some of them don’t seem to get much in the way of dialogue. Tom Hopper finally gets the opportunity to look aggressive as he cuts through all and sundry, whilst series five.

Colin Morgan’s turn to the dark side, as he kills off Agravaine and his men, is suitably cold, without turning him into Anakin Skywalker. He steals the show, as always, alongside Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby and Bradley James.

Once again, some plot threads are cast aside – Percival returns, though no mention is really made as to his whereabouts; Gaius survives despite being close to death; and, it isn’t really explained whether or not Merlin was telling the truth about the sword in the stone as, the last time we saw Excalibur (it isn’t named as such in this story) was when it was thrown into the lake and not buried in a piece of rock.

Why couldn’t the story get a longer run time than forty three minutes? With an extra fifteen minutes, more could have been made of the moment when Arthur and Morgana meet again, as it’s an exchange that finishes far too quickly considering the history of both characters. More time could have been spent on the siege of the castle as it deserved to be the set-piece of this story.

That said, Julian Jones manages to finish series four the same way that that he started it: on a high and leaving us with even higher expectations for what is to come.

Merlin will return… and it can’t be soon enough.


The next in best and worst is Series 3.



3 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Merlin: Series 4

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  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Merlin: Series 2 | The Progressive Democrat

  3. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Merlin: Series 1 | The Progressive Democrat

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