Title: “The Darkest Hour: Part One”
Another tense and exciting start to a season. Everything changes and is shaken up for the characters. Firstly, we are given Morgana and Morgause in a very different light. Morgause has become crippled and weak, contrasting incredibly to how she was presented in Series 2 and 3 where she was strong, powerful and threatening. Morgana, on the other hand, is dressed all in black and we see her kill two of Arthur’s knights with her magic in the first scene. Until now we had never seen her use so much power or do something so violent and evil so this was a great opener. It’s such a huge jump from last season and I think that it really works. In the year between Series 3 and 4, Arthur has taken over most of his father’s duties. When I first watched Series 4, I remember being in shock that Arthur had developed so much into a ruler within such a short amount of time. I really didn’t expect it, and seeing Uther so weak and frail was another surprise. It did make me uncomfortable to see the strict tyrant on his death bed; I definitely liked the character more when he was ruling the kingdom. Although a horrible and insensitive man, I felt that Uther was important to the story and was a very interesting, in depth character. This episode definitely made him more boring. It was, however, great to re-watch the Camelot knights for the first time, and I felt that this premiere presented the knights as a fun community, almost like a family, which would continue on throughout the rest of the show. Lancelot’s character was also exciting to see as he was the only knight to know Merlin’s secret which meant that he could be more directly involved in the plot. The plot itself I thought was brilliant, as the spirits of the dead are summoned by Morgana, causing death and chaos in Camelot. There were also great plot twists including Agravaine being in league with Morgana and Morgause’s death. Personally, I thought Morgause’s departure was too soon and I thought it was also very out-of-character for Morgana to sacrifice her only sister as she was the only loyal family member she had who comforted her and who she trusted completely. Although Morgana’s character is selfish and power-hungry, I really didn’t think she would kill her weak and dying sister, unless she was trying to ease her passing. Finally, the cliffhanger of the episode is probably my favourite one of the show as Merlin is attacked and close to death, and I remember, when the show first aired, being so apprehensive and excited throughout the whole week leading up to the next episode.
Title: “The Darkest Hour: Part Two”
I think the main message or moral of this episode is sacrifice and the strength of love. I remember studying a little bit of Le Morte d’Arthur in English Literature and I think there is a moment when King Arthur discusses Lancelot’s betrayal and affair with Guinevere. Even though we were studying love in literature (mostly romantic love), the passage showed love through friendship, and how Lancelot disrupted that friendship and broke the Knight’s bond and code, in which Arthur thought was more outrageous than Guinevere’s affair on his romantic love. The point is that the character of King Arthur, although he appreciates his Queen, I think valued his Knights very highly and did see it as a love. I didn’t fully respect that message in this episode until I had realised that Lancelot’s admiration and respect for Arthur was a love. Similarly, Merlin expressed this love as well, as he was prepared to sacrifice his life in place of Arthur’s to save Camelot. It is heart-breaking when Lancelot takes Merlin’s place and, although it was for Camelot and Arthur, it also goes back to his romantic connection with Gwen, as he was doing it for her. It’s great to see Gwen getting some action and speaking out against Agravaine, and other highlights include Lancelot meeting The Great Dragon and the Wyvern making another appearance to which Merlin gets to use his DragonLord skills once again (although it’s strange how none of the Knights notice him commanding the creatures right in front of them). A criticism for me was definitely Morgana and her constant immobility during the episiode. It would have been so exciting to have her go head-to-head against Arthur or Merlin but it seems that all she does is stay in her dark, dirty hovel being miserable. I feel sorry for Agravaine. I also feel sorry for Gwen who has to stay home with Gaius whilst the guys are going off on dangerous adventures.
Title: “The Wicked Day”
This episode is all about Uther. Although the character isn’t actually in it much, the story revolves around Uther’s impact on and importance to his son. I was incredibly surprised that Uther was killed, making Arthur the new King. Arthur even says himself that “I’m not ready” when he holds his dying father in his arms so, looking back, I’ve realised that the writers killed Uther off to mix things up, to give the characters a challenge and to put Arthur in an uncomfortable, difficult position. It’s obvious that Arthur is strained and somewhat confused in following episodes, as the royal court, his followers and his enemies expect his father’s brutality and strength. It’s these pressures that put a toll on the young, premature King, which adds to the mourning and guilt that he is already feeling due to the death of his father. The actual episode is amazingly written and performed and also very funny in my opinion. As well as making me cry and feel sorry for Uther, the horrible, controlling dictator who we have learned to absolutely hate over the past three years, this episode also made me laugh as Merlin’s alter-ego Dragoon the Great (or Emrys according to Morgana) returns and it is comedy gold. Merlin gets to boss Arthur around in disguise and I love it. It’s definitely one of my favourite episodes of the season, despite getting me slightly annoyed every time I watch it because of Morgana. When the witch plots to reverse Merlin’s healing magic on Uther, she actually unknowingly condemns her entire race as Arthur sees his father die by the hands of sorcery and his heart turns against the thought of legalising magic for a very long time.
Another amazing episode that begins a whole new chapter and delves into another story which was so new and interesting when I first watched it. The story really shows viewers how mature and responsible Merlin has become and how he has embraced his role as a DragonLord. He has really become a brother to The Great Dragon and they have the same intentions about freeing the last dragon egg to save the species which is so lovely to watch, seeing as Merlin had many disagreements with The Great Dragon in past series’. It’s obvious that there is a connection there and Merlin understands the joy the dragon must feel that he is no longer the last of his kind and is not alone. The episode is also visually stunning, from the tomb where the egg is kept, to the egg itself and the adorable white dragon that hatches from it. The only problem with this feel-good episode is what happens afterwards. If The Great Dragon was so rejoiced to hear that he would not be the last of his species, then why didn’t he take care of the young Aithusa when he hatched? If he had taken Aithusa under his wing (quite literally) then the white dragon would probably have been able to speak in later seasons due to learning it from his own kind, and probably wouldn’t have joined the dark side with Morgana. Did Merlin and The Great Dragon just let Aithusa fly off on his own to fend for himself, despite knowing how rare and precious dragons are, and, if someone ever found him, would probably imprison him (which actually does happen)? I just don’t know why, after all the trouble Merlin went through to keep the egg safe, he would just leave Aithusa without even checking up on him every now and again. What happens later in the season really just belittles this wonderful episode.
Title: “His Father’s Son”
This episode makes me hate Agravaine with a passion as he constantly manipulates and pressurises Arthur into killing a man which leads to a war against Camelot, and into breaking up with Guinevere. Other than the premiere, so far we haven’t seen much of Arthur and Gwen which I think is to show the stability of their relationship and how Arthur no longer cares about expectations or people’s judgement. Then along comes Agravaine to stir sh*t up and force Arthur to push Gwen away. To me, this seemed a bit repetitive because we have already seen this and a million other strains on Arthur and Gwen’s relationship in past seasons, but I think the point was to focus on Arthur and his insecurities as King. It’s obvious that his father stills haunts him, making him question his own strength and power as a ruler. It’s great to see this challenge put upon Arthur; it brings out all his weaknesses of pride and naivety but also his strengths such as compassion and sacrifice, shown when he fights in one-on-one combat to prevent a war, saving his soldiers from fighting and dying. I also think this episode develops a lot on Morgana’s character as well as she allies with Queen Annis. I didn’t appreciate Annis until she goes against Morgana in this episode, claiming her hatred is poisonous. It’s great to see Morgana being challenged because it doesn’t happen very often and she’s shown as completely twisted and gone past the point of reconciliation. She no longer listens to those around her as she is so blinded with hatred and a lust for power. It’s a very interesting, character-driven episode, even if the plot is a bit slow and tedious.
Title: “A Servant of Two Masters”
I was so excited to re-watch this episode. I honestly love every single scene and it’s got to be my favourite episode of Series 4. This is predominantly because it’s hilarious but there’s also emotional scenes between Merlin and Arthur, and Morgana gets her fair share of screen time as well. It’s about time that Morgana interacted with the other characters and it’s so exciting to watch her reunion with Merlin. I could write about this episode all day, and I can’t really fault it. After Morgana enchants Merlin, brain-washing him into wanting to kill Arthur, it leads to some hilarious scenes proving that Merlin would make a terrible assassin. Additionally, Merlin must reverse the magic and disguises himself as Emrys, the old man, once again. This time he doesn’t meddle with Arthur but instead messes with the Knights which is classic comedy. It’s then funny and amazing to see Morgana completely terrified of the old man due to her premonitions of downfall to his hands. This episode brings action, emotion (especially when an injured Merlin goes missing and Arthur refuses to stop searching for him), comedy, magic and also has a pretty crazy plot but I love it. The only criticisms I have is; How does Morgana have the knowledge and power to summon a Fomorroh from the spirit world when it’s only been a year since she knew no spells at all? I was a little confused to how Morgana gained so many magical instruments and information on the Old Religion in just one year but the special effects were awesome so I can’t complain. Then, lastly, the fight scene at the climax of the episode between Morgana and old-Merlin reminded me of how boring and repetitive the writers were becoming on magic. All I wanted was a bit of fire or just something else other than the same old “throwing your opponent backwards” spell. It was just the same spell over and over, making the ending not worthy of the rest of the amazing episode, and hardly a cliff-hanger.
Title: “The Secret Sharer”
For me, the majority of this episode is quite boring and awkward because the plot is mainly focused on Gaius and I personally don’t really appreciate his acting. I like Gaius’ character and morals and I think some of his scenes can be really funny. However, in this particular episode, I think Gaius is just really uncomfortable to watch as he is kidnapped and tortured for information about Emrys. The torturing scenes are just dull and repetitive so that’s why this episode has never been a favourite of mine. Although, there were hilarious moments too, like when Agravaine basically gets caught red-handed as a traitor trying to kill Gaius and still gets away with it. It’s obvious that the writers did this to carry the show on and allow Agravaine to continue to aid Morgana throughout the rest of the season, but it was very silly, especially since it was Gwaine (who is famous for questioning authority and not caring about nobility when he calls people out) who discovered Agravaine trying to kill Gaius. I liked how the episode continued from the previous one which I didn’t expect when I first watched it, and Alator of the Catha I thought was a fairly interesting character who had understandable morals and decisions and saved the day when he turned against Morgana. Speaking of characters, Arthur was once again pressured and manipulated by Agravaine into believing Gaius was a traitor, driving a wedge between himself and Merlin. You can tell that Arthur doesn’t want to believe that Gaius betrayed him, and is almost helpless and powerless to the falsified evidence that Agravaine lays in front of him. Morgana’s interactions with the other characters was also lovely to watch, seeing as Morgana doesn’t seem to get out much these days. I wish her reunion with Gaius was a bit longer but I’ll take what I can get. The scene where she confronts Merlin is my favourite moment of the episode as it is so tense and exciting. Finally, I loved the appearance of Morgana’s magical healing bracelet which we hardly see in Series 4 or 5 which seems strange considering that Morgana can’t sleep soundly without it. I wanted Morgana’s Seer powers to see the future to be a larger part of the later seasons but obviously the writer’s had other ideas. Personally, I thought that it would have been a great strength and weapon on Morgana’s side that Merlin may have been challenged by. (In addition, it also seems strange that Morgana hasn’t found out that Merlin is magic, even with her powers to see the future and therefore to know things that most people do not.)
The idea behind Lamia is really brilliant because she is such a powerful and unique monster. Where the Camelot knights see a innocent and vulnerable girl, she is actually a creature of magic the High Priestesses used to conjure from the blood of a girl and the blood of a serpent. I really liked her character and the way she would toil and play with her prey, killing them in tense and interesting ways, despite the fact that she can “suck the life from them with a single embrace”. She has such amazing powers; she could destroy the men easily and yet she meddles with the Knight’s first, making them turn against each other. It’s so difficult to watch Merlin and Gwen being shunned and talked down to by the Knights who are under Lamia’s spell. However, I liked Merlin’s position as the physician of the episode and he even lowers his voice to sound older and superior which is very funny. Additionally, Gwen’s bravery and courage in this episode was nice to see. It’s so great to watch Gwen getting stuck into the plot and getting some action. She even stabs Lamia herself which was cool. Although Gwen’s never been my favourite character, I definitely enjoyed her involvement in this episode. I also loved seeing Arthur so determined to find Gwen and his men, who have been seduced by Lamia into a trap. I think that viewers really get to see a mature and proper King in this episode. His leadership is only hindered slightly by Agravaine’s bids to lead Arthur away from finding Gwen and the other Knights. Even when Morgana isn’t even in the episode, Agravaine just has to try and ruin everything for everyone. Why Agravaine? WHY??
Title: “Lancelot du Lac”
The main problem I have with this episode is that it kind of ruined part of the Arthurian Legend for me. I was excited to see how the writers were going to incorporate Gwen’s affair and betrayal into the show, and was hoping Gwen would honestly fall in love with Lancelot whilst being married to Arthur. However, her affair is actually all a result of sorcery as Morgana once again tries to destroy Gwen’s destiny as Queen. I just felt that this made the betrayal seem mild and downgraded the legend, as Gwen is completely not responsible for the affair. As I said, I was excited to see what Gwen’s motivations and feelings were when she betrayed her husband, and how she would have handled her own mistake and make amends, but, as it was really Morgana enchanting Gwen, I couldn’t see this. It’s also another episode that frustrates me because all the heartbreak that Arthur and Gwen go through is just down to a small magic enchantment withheld in a bracelet Gwen wears after Lancelot gifts it to her. I did, however, really enjoy the first part of the episode; Arthur proposing to Gwen with the beautiful candles in the background, and not letting Agravaine manipulate him out of the marriage, and Morgana asking for help from the ugly and interesting Dochraid and conjuring the deceased Lancelot. Although I have never favourited Lancelot, I did really like his appearance here and the impact of his resurrection on Arthur and Gwen’s relationship. The scene where Arthur confronts Gwen is so heart-breaking and emotional, and, Gwen’s banishment was a really interesting plot twist that effects the rest of the series.
Title: “A Herald of the New Age”
This episode works very hard to be intense and terrifying and does pull it off to some degree. It takes inspiration from last season’s “The Tears of Uther Pendragon“; the jump scares and ghost’s appearance is reminiscent of Uther’s guilt-induced hallucinations from Series 3. I would describe the story as a slight one-off episode. With a really interesting plot, I can’t really find a fault in it other than it doesn’t contribute much to the overall arching storyline of the season, but this doesn’t bother me. It’s nice to see one of the knights getting a more individual storyline, although I would have liked to have seen Sir Percival as the star of the episode rather than Elyan just because I think that Percival’s masculine and muscular facade would have contrasted nicely to how he would have cowered at a ghost haunting and possessing him. However, I did learn quite a bit about Sir Elyan’s personality in this episode like his more shy and serious attitude, compared to the other knights who are more light-hearted and jokey. Even in the first scene Elyan seems a bit left out and secluded from the other men, which probably led to his vulnerability in the rest of the episode. We also find out that Elyan values his service and friendship to Arthur over his own sister (as Elyan stayed in Camelot when Gwen was banished in the previous episode) showing how loyal he is. We also find Arthur in a mood of self-reflection as he must face the consequences of his past and, after the ghost of a murdered Druid boy possesses Elyan and tries to kill Arthur in revenge for his death, Arthur apologises and promises that he will treat Druids with respect and honour from now on. The reveal that Arthur led the attack on the Druid’s boy’s camp, leading to his death, was a great plot twist and the ending is incredibly intense.
Title: “The Hunters Heart”
Even though I have never really liked Gwen’s character, I did enjoy her story in this episode. I felt that we got to see a more intelligent and independent Gwen as she no longer has Arthur and Merlin to help or protect her. She is completely alone and has to think on her feet in order to survive when she is taken in by Helios, a ruthless ally to Morgana. I quite liked Helios’ character as he didn’t only possess hatred like Morgana, but also showed a care and love for aspects such as food and women (like when he saved Gwen from being killed because she was too beautiful). I also liked Helios’ appearances in following episodes as he really makes a name for himself as a strong and unbreakable fighter. Arthur seems to have moved on from his relationship with Gwen as he focuses on his kingdom and what is best for Camelot. This leads him to a lovely friendship with Princess Mithian who he promises to marry to gain alliance. It’s only after Arthur discovers his engagement ring to Guinevere in the forest, that all the memories come flooding back and he is forced to reminiscence over his true love and, with a little help from Merlin, he decides that he must follow his heart and break off the alliance with Mithian. I actually loved Mithian’s character and interactions with Merlin and Arthur in this episode; she’s a kind and gentle princess as well as being clever and up for hunting with the guys. Although I feel that her returning appearance in Series 5 kind of ruins her strong character, I did enjoy her scenes in this episode. I really liked seeing Morgana, and the reunion between her and Gwen was long over-due. The spell that Morgana puts on Gwen was also interesting and unique as Gwen is transformed into a deer to which Arthur and Mithian hunt and shoot her with a crossbow. Merlin is the only one who can see the deer’s true identity and finds and heals Gwen. I don’t know how Gwen doesn’t catch on to Merlin being a sorcerer as she awakens in the forest with Merlin and her crossbow wound completely healed. Anyway, the lovely message to take from this episode is that love means everything and is worth everything, even Mithian explains how she would give up her own kingdom for such a powerful love like Arthur’s.
Title: “The Sword in the Stone: Part One”
For me, the main aspect of this episode was the comedy as Merlin enchants Arthur into being willing to abandon Camelot, so that they can smuggle him out of the castle when Morgana’s men attacks the kingdom, but accidentally makes him stupid and simple. For the majority of the episode, Arthur is referred to as the “simpleton” as he is seen hugging trees, falling over and wearing peasant’s clothes that are too small for him. Merlin and Arthur hitch a ride with smugglers which is interesting as we never really see criminals that are not magical in some way. It was different to see Arthur being accused of implementing too many taxes and being an unfair ruler as we are always given a just and positive view of King Arthur; it definitely has a Robin Hood feel to it. Furthermore, I always remember the heart-breaking moment when Arthur spots Agravaine marching with Morgana’s army and helping to take over Camelot. The look of realisation turning to anger on Arthur’s face is incredible and hearing him speak about his weakness of trusting the wrong people later on is also so sad to watch. The ordeal obviously triggers memories of when Morgana betrayed him and his father in Series 3. I also love the scenes between Morgana and Gwaine as she forces him to fight for food. Morgana even tortures Elyan to the point where Agravaine squirms and looks away whilst Helios takes no notice and eats. This scene was so interesting to see the different characters and their motifs. Agravaine even tells Morgana how much he adores her and that he is the only person she can trust as his motivation is her, whereas the only motivation Helios has is killing and power. Although the ending was not as tense or exciting as I would have liked, it was great to see Gwen and Arthur reunited and caring for one another again and to see Merlin’s mother, Hunith, who hadn’t made an appearance since Series 1. I liked seeing Hunith talk about how worried and scared she is that Merlin’s destiny is becoming so dangerous and serious. Going back to Merlin’s home town was so nice to watch.
Title: “The Sword in the Stone: Part Two”
This finale had good and bad points. I enjoyed re-watching the episode but I think that there was so much more potential to make it even better. The opening was pretty amazing in my opinion as we have The Great Dragon killing most of Agravaine’s men in order to save Merlin and the others. Seeing Agravaine’s impressively confused face at this point as the dragon appears was great and then we have Merlin revealing his secret to Agravaine which was surprising and exciting. I loved the dialogue in this scene (although it is almost repeated verbatim in Series 5 between Merlin and Uther which kind of ruins the originality of it), and Agravaine’s death was spectacular and tense. However, I felt that after this first act the episode just goes down hill as Arthur becomes incredibly depressed at loosing his kingdom and the pace just drops to being quite boring in my opinion. When Merlin realises that Arthur needs some motivation and hope in order to win back Camelot, he takes him to Excalibur. In all honesty, I didn’t think that we would see The Sword in the Stone so soon after Series 3 when we saw it last, but I quite liked the scene, especially since it gives Arthur so much more strength and confidence in being King, which is something I felt that he was lacking in Series 4 as he was ridden with guilt and mourning for his father’s death and haunted with insecure ideas of not being good enough, with the helpful remarks of Agravaine tearing him down. Although, I felt that the climax of the scene was the writer’s way of taking the easy way out and was a bit like cheating in my opinion as Merlin uses his magic to release the sword making it look like Arthur was somewhat special or a true, worthy king of Camelot (like all the stories say). I just felt that it would have had such a bigger impact if Merlin hadn’t done anything and Arthur had pulled the sword out on his own as it would have been mysterious, magical and made audiences intrigued to think up conclusions as to how. Then we have the scene where Merlin sneaks into Camelot to set up a spell that will restrain Morgana’s powers. I thought Merlin was incredibly clever here and seeing Morgana jump completely out of her skin once again at the sight of Emrys was pretty funny. I never favourited Tristan and Isolde, who were the smugglers that stayed with Merlin and Arthur after they were split from their group, but, despite this, their words of alliance to Arthur and promising to fight with him to regain control of his kingdom was pretty sweet. I also didn’t see the point of Arthur and Gwen’s touch-and-go relationship as Arthur, after an apparent “moment of weakness” in the last episode whereby he embraced Gwen, reveals that he can’t forgive Gwen to which she retaliates explaining that she never stopped loving him. This all just seemed pointless as we know that Arthur had already decided to try and get back with Gwen, which makes their marriage at the end of the episode even more predictable. Before that, however, we have Arthur facing off to Morgana for the first time this season (it took long enough!). I really love this scene as they refer to each other as brother and sister which we have never really seen them do before and just emphasises their contrasting characters. They also talk about their father and Arthur seems to look on Morgana almost in pity which was really interesting. Watching Morgana without her magic was also great as she becomes so scared and helpless, reminding us and her how reliant she is on sorcery. She appears to violently and terrifyingly make her way through Camelot’s halls and the slow motion shots there are probably the only shots that I think have impact, compared to the countless other slo-mo action shots that are so pointless and add nothing to the intensity of the performance or the story. Then we have Isolde’s death which was obviously supposed to be sad but, as I never warmed to Isolde and found her a little annoying, this scene didn’t pull at my heart strings. After Gwen’s carnation, we see Morgana wandering injured through the forest before Aithusa finds and heals her. This was such an amazing twist and cliff-hanger, as viewers began desperately speculating what would happen next.