Onwards and upwards, the best season yet - tone ever darker, threats ever more real. Time and time again Camelot faces danger as Morgana, now openly evil, conjures up ancient forces to help her secure its throne. Here are thirteen episodes crammed with excitement, witchcraft and seriously scary moments - not least those screeching, swirling Spirits of the Dead. (BBBC1 screened the series later in the evening than before, a hint to parents of more adult content.)
Thankfully there is still humour, much of it in the banter between Merlin and Arthur - a great double act. Many sequences are also very moving - as when Arthur and knights mourn those dead or believed to be.
As the young Merlin, Colin Morgan is superb - totally likeable and self-effacing, conveying so much with just a look. Arthur increasingly appreciates his loyal (if clumsy) servant's worth. (Not before time, many would say.) Bradley James impresses as Arthur strives to be the king Camelot deserves, he winning over those who previously held him in contempt. (Lindsay Duncan and Ben Daniels are excellent as two of those converted.) How splendid Gaius (Richard Wilson) is still around, his scenes with Merlin a particular pleasure. One to hiss is Arthur's seemingly devoted uncle (Nathaniel Parker) - he in fact plotting much villainy. (The actor features prominently in out-takes.)
Bonuses include commentaries, deleted scenes and an interesting feature on the making of this season.
The series' continued success owes everything to the converging of talents - crackling scripts, so ingeniously plotted; a fine cast doing them full justice; breathtaking special effects; music that even further enhances. Full marks also to whoever had that brainwave of making Merlin and Arthur the same age! The device works a treat, at once allowing the old legends to be shown in a refreshing new light.
In short, the series is a triumph. No wonder fans the world over are under its spell!
on 27 February 2012
Very entertaining fantasy series aimed at young adults. But, in a similar way to Harry Potter, it's also appealing to more mature viewers (or perhaps I'm just a big kid!). In fact, I didn't choose to watch it to begin with as the 'window dressing' didn't appeal to me - heck it just wasn't in the usual, perceived "tradition"! It was only the fact that it came on after "Strictly" that I began watching - until I was hooked. I've now bought all the DVDs and have thoroughly enjoyed several long catch-up sessions - I've even passed on the 'bug' to my son who's in his 20s!
The great thing about myths is that there isn't really a 'correct' version - they're tales with distant, obscure origins that have been told and re-shaped many times before some author finally recorded for posterity the contemporary version (this may be perceived by some as "the original"?). However, over millennia, in Chinese Whispers fashion, they evolved, taking on more appealing contemporary versions of a theme - otherwise, surely, the intended audience would've 'voted with their feet'! Approached in this way, this version of the Merlin tales is entirely appropriate for the medium of TV (excellent special effects), as well as its 21st century audience: it's young, fresh, witty, and speaks 'their language'. It is totally divorced from any old, stuffy, antiquated interpretations and, once again, is bang up to date and fun.
The stories are timeless, and to reflect this the series rightly possess a sense of long ago, rather than replicate a particular period of history, so there is no 'historical accuracy' to worry about. Also, like all the best stories, these appeal to a wide range of emotions, and humour (my favourite) is definitely one of them. Now, although I'm not usually impressed by so-called toilet humour, I have to say there is a "farting scene" in an episode in Series 3 that had me in hysterics!
Metaphorically speaking, 'Merlin' has been taken down from the shelf of obscurity, dusted off and brought back to life and the Beeb have done it so well. The actors - who look like they had such fun making these programmes - and the quality of acting are absolutely first class, as is the soundtrack. Highly recommended.
on 5 May 2012
Merlin is one of my favourite, if not my favourite ever TV series. With great, well-written characters, great CGI effects, chemistry involving bromances and romances and lots of action sequences as well spices of humour, it is a truly brilliant show. The first three series of the show are exceptional, absolutely terrific fantasy drama, and just when we thought it couldn't get any better, the forth series broadcasts, and series 4 is something very special, as it is the best series yet.
This series has been more of an adventure than the previous three series, and It was absolutely amazing and immensely enjoyable throughout. I have really enjoyed all of four of Merlin's series, but for me, this is the only series of the show that does not have a single bad episode; the series has several excellent episodes, as most episodes in this series for me were 9 or 10 out of 10, and I enjoyed all 13 of them at the very least, whereas previous series all had at least one episode that was below the average. So Merlin's forth outing doesn't just continue the outstanding standards of the previous three series, it tops them.
So just how great is this series? - The opening 2-Parter, ''The Darkest Hour'' is by far the best episode of Merlin ever! Not just of the series, but of Merlin as a whole! From the very beginning of the episode it is clear to see how much the series has changed - at the start of every episode in the first three series, the voice of the great dragon says ''... the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy...'', but in this series, it has changed to ''young man'', which shows that Merlin is older and wiser, preparing for his great destiny. Morgana is also much more powerful that she ever has been, making her a great danger towards Camelot. For the first episode of a series to top the entire show is quite something. The episode was very epic and action packed, with Arthur and Merlin's bromance and Arthur and Gwen's romance really strong. The episode has very un-predictable events that lead to emotional scenes and it is a smashing episode that has everything needed for an entertaining drama show.. This episode is undoubtedly the best episode of the show ever, and it as great as Merlin gets.
The rest of the series did not fail to deliver either, as following episodes continued to be exceptional.
You would think that after the shows best installment, the next episode would be somewhat weaker, but here that is not the case, as ''The Wicked Day'' was another superb episode that was very surprising and has a huge effect on the show. King Uthur, played by Anthony Head, left the show, after being King for more than three series. His exit was done brilliantly. The episode also has lots of laughs as well as tears. We also saw the return of Old Merlin. Arthur became king after three series of build up to that.
After the shows' best episode ever, followed by the episode that changed Camelot, following episodes had a lot to live up to, and they were great. ''Aithusa'' has lots of humorous scenes, and a great storyline of Merlin trying to find the last remaining dragon's egg, so that Killgarah will no longer be the last of his kind. ''His Father's Son'' has Arthur making several wrong decisions and he must put them right. Guest star Lindsay Duncan gave fantastic acting and Queen Anis, and we Arthur getting more wiser, settling into the role of king really well. Episode 6, called ''A Servant of Two Masters'' is a really enjoyable episode, which has fantastic pacing, the second appearance of Old Merlin this series, and a fantastic magic battle between Emrys and Morgana.
''The Secret Shearer'' continued the story from last weeks episode, but it is not quite as good. The episode is actually the series weakest' episode, as it is the most predictable episode of Merlin ever, and in the end, it came to no development at all. However, it was still really good. It had a much bigger part for Gaius, there is not usually an episode of the show which sees so much of him. It also has a bigger part for a particular knight, Sir Gwaine. The episode actually just goes to show how great the series, as even the series weakest has more positives than negatives.
The following episode, ''Lamia'', returned the series to it's exceptional quality and was a great episode, with one big thing that let it down a little. Once again, it is an episode that has both darkness and humour, and it had fantastic ensemble for all the main characters, Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, Gaius and the knights of the round table, which is not often done in the show. It is great to have episodes centered around a particular characters, but this episode has a big role and involvement for all the characters of the show. What let this episode down was the terrible CGI at the end, which is not often something to fault on Merlin, as the CGI is usually excellently done. The following episode ''Lancelot Du Lac'', I have exactly the same views as the preceding episode - great, with one big thing letting it down. It had a great exit for the knight who has been in the show the longest, Sir Lancelot. Lots of emotional scenes in the episode, and absolutely superb acting from Angle Coulby who plays Gwen. However, I love Arthur's strong bromance with Merlin and romance with Guinevere, and what the episode had letting it down is that it cooled down the romance between Arthur and Gwen big time!
''A Herald of the New Age'' was a really enjoyable dark and spooky episode which was centered around a particular knight, Sir Elyan. Elyan disturbs the spirit of a demented soul, and possess him, causing him to do things that Elyan would never do - the most serious of which is to kill Arthur, who is the reason why the spirit is not at piece. This episode gets rid of predictable events, and it is all wrapped up well in the end. The episode has humorous moments as well as dark, jumpy scenes. All the actors give brilliant performances in this episode as well, and it is yet another episode that makes this a fantastic series. In terms of storyline, this episode is completely different to the last episode, but it did not throw the previous episodes story to one side, there was a reference to Gwen in this episode, more than once,
The final three episodes form a 3-Parter, with episode 11 being a prologue, and episodes 12 and 13 being a 2-part finale. Episode 11, ''The Hunter's Heart'' made up for Arthur and Gwen's romance being seriously cooled in episode 9, but this time, it was Arthur and Merlin's bromance that was cooled down, as Arthur threatened Merlin, twice! They had such a strong bond in the first half of the series. Yet strangely, at the same time, Merlin and Arthur's bond got somewhat stronger as well. But this is still another great episode that continued to make this such a fabulous series. This episode is somewhat similar to Series 3 Episode 6, ''The Changling'', without being just a simple redux of it. This is yet another brilliant episode which was really enjoyable and featured great acting from both the main cast and guest stars, also had elements of humour. I must admit that I was also a little disappointed by the two-part finale, ''The Sword in the Stone''. Although a very epic and enjoyable final, in the end, in is just a repeat of series 3's 2-Part final, ''The Coming of Arthur'', virtually event for event: Morgana takes over Camelot, Merlin and Arthur flee, Arthur is sad, Merlin cheers him up and they re-take Camelot. However, the episode does have a few differences. Arthur and Gwen also become king a Queen of Camelot at last! Which was one of the series highlight scenes. However, I barley dislike this episode at all; it is still absolutely brilliant! The series also ends of a cliffhanger, a bigger cliffhanger that ever before, this was a very effective way to end the series, and it makes us think ''Roll on series 5!''.
Overall, an absolutely amazing series of Merlin. By far the strongest yet!