I was a good boy. Season 3 ended here in the US and things were gearing up to air Season 4, but on its home channel in Britian, the BBC. Did I pirate? Did I use my English connections to secure advance copies? Perhaps scoured every Wiki or review from Britian as each episode aired? No. I waited. Patiently. I was rewarded when the 4th season made its trek over the Atlantic and started airing on SyFy.
I honestly think that getting Merlin has been one of the best achievements for SyFy since they stopped airing Science Fiction as a bulk of its programming. They’ve been rewarded with a show that has continuously grown in viewership week in and out as the 4th season progressed.
Holy Crap did it progress.
Morgana (Played by Katie McGrath) was the integral Villain of this season. When I talked to Katie before the airing on SyFy, she told me that Morgana really grows this season, and we see a powerful, confident woman that will stop at nothing to claim the throne from her half brother Arthur. Yes. I did actually talk to her, I just managed to be a giant idiot by not pressing record during the phone conversation and then losing my notes entirely. She was sitting at an airport waiting for a flight back to Ireland for a Holiday break. Anyways.
The continued evolution of Morgana dispelled (Teehee) any notion I had that making Morgana the lead Villain for another season was going to slow down the show and become redundant. Every time we saw Morgana on the screen it was a delight. McGrath fully embraced her dark side of relentless pursuing a way to capture the throne, when a plan failed, she might leave in a huff, but it was always done with a notion that she was just going to pull something bigger out of her bag of tricks. Which she did in the two-part season Finale. Which I’ll talk about at the end of this article, since it deserves it’s own space.
Merlin obviously is the center of the show, Colin Morgan has truly grown into his role of Merlin. Merlin as a character in this series is someone who wears multiple hats, sometimes at the same time. He has to hide the fact that he has magical powers from everyone but a very, select few people. Arthur is not one of those people. Season 4 still has Camelot as a kingdom that has no acceptance for magic and magical creatures. Merlin has to use whatever means he can find necessary to convince Arthur that all magic isn’t bad. Which is Hat #1 he plays, the bumbling idiot of a servant to the king. This is where the comedy comes into the series, Merlin willingly (sometimes unwillingly) making himself appear a fool to keep people away from his secret. It’s not over the top, nor is it completely subtle. The writers of the show inject comedic timing at the rice places to ease the show into something more memorable. Hat #2 Merlin wears is well, he’s Emrys the badass old man of legend. Except, he’s still a young warlock. As he learns and expands his capabilities as a warlock, Merlin sometimes overextends himself and either does more harm to the situation or in the case of Arthurs father, only makes things incredibly worse. Season 4 shows Merlin as a warlock who has a great confidence in his magical abilites. Hat #3 is that Merlin is the unknown hero. Because he has to hide his abilities nearly everything he does to save the day is done on the sly, or meant to give someone (mostly Arthur) the credit when things go right. The last hat he wears is confidant. Merlin is a keeper of secrets on the show, and subtly we get to see people taking huge courage in telling him things they wouldn’t to others. While Arthur may assume that Merlin is a fool, he often in slight ways uses the nudges of Merlin to do things in the right way. When Arthur finally had his moment of seeking true and honest advice from Merlin as he was a broken down man did we see the King and trusted Advisor relationship that we all know from Legend.
You can’t have Merlin without King Arthur. Well, you can, but it’s Arthur’s Legend that is being told here, not the story of Merlin. Bradley James as Arthur couldn’t be done by another actor. Well, it could in all technicality. But not for this show specifically. It’s hard to put a finger on why he has been so damn good on this show, other than he’s just a damn good actor. His portrayal in season 4 was just another part of the puzzle that made this whole season click together. His timing was always spot on when a situation was dramatic, funny, outright silly, or called for intense combat. His ability to shift between those roles and still show himself as a King and leader of Camelot was pivotal this season. It’s his story after all, with all the great losses that Arthur suffered through the season, we watched him roller coaster through highs and lows as when things seem to be going well for Arthur a horrible event would sent him back to his knees. He always rose from each downfall, and gave audiences something to watch that was worthy of coming back the next week.
The season finale though. Damn. How do I put it as spoiler free as possible. This whole season was one of growth. Morgana as the evil half sister trying to take the Kingdom from Arthur. Merlin as a Warlock and slowly accepted Advisor to Arthur. Well, and Arthur as a man who is trying to do the right thing, even though he has knives ready to stab him from all angles, perceived friend and foe alike. There was another set of growth though, by the main three actors. It’s hard to describe it, and I’m not saying that the previous seasons were bad, which they aren’t. I saw in this season was what looked like everyone stepping their game up. It didn’t feel like I was watching a show on SyFy, which has been mocked for various reasons. It felt like I was watching a show that was on a channel that you pay a monthly fee for it alone, like HBO. I don’t know how the system works over at the BBC, but the production value in this show is high, especially in this Finale. I was honestly in awe at some points of the two part finale. The first that comes to mind was when Helios, Morgana and Agravaine de Bois were marching through Camelot as Arthur watched from the shadows of his escape. Watching Morgana smugly making her way through the city as it was being conquered was a short scene, but was powerful in a way, a culmination of all of the dealing and treachery to take the Kingdom. The second scene from the finale was Merlin facing Agravaine in the cave system as Agravaine was hunting down Arthur and the few survivors on the run. The look on Merlin’s face when he turned and revealed to Agravaine made me hold my breath. Seriously. It was a glimpse at a Merlin who was incredibly confident of his abilities, while a cold face of reality of what he must do in the coming seconds. It was thrilling to watch.
I could go on and on about this show, which I will, when season 5 hits the US shores, in oh, another year. In the meantime, i’ll be doing my best to avoid all the internet musings and goings coming from England and the BBC. I’ll be a good little boy once again, when I get rewarded in such a great way, I have no other option than to repeat my good deeds once again.