Merlin, Merlin, Merlin… Why art thou such a roller coaster? Wouldst thou grant us two fully commendable seasons in a row? One was good. Two not as much. Season three bounced back. Following this pattern the fourth season has to dip. Does it buck the trend? Sadly, no. Still, Merlin season four has its moments and is not without fun, entertainment, and an almost fanatical devotion to the “evil twin” plot.
Fourth season in a sentence: After Uther more-or-less dies twice, Arthur ascends to the throne only to be blatantly (and obviously) manipulated by the evil vizier stereotype while Morgana hangs out in a woodland hut hatching overly elaborate plots, and Gaius narrowly avoids multiple deaths, the producers avoid special effects burning money instead on an expanded cast, and all the while Merlin meanders in a season more aptly named “Arthur and his Semi-Magic Footman.”
An oldy but goody, the evil twin plot (in all its variants) is one of the most common, most overused, stock plots in history. The list of who does not have an evil twin this season would be shorter.
- Gwen gets bewitched to the dark side and into an illicit rendezvous
- Bad guys twist Merlin into becoming an assassin
- An evil spirit possesses Sir Elyan turning him evil
- A woman’s malevolent power turns Arthur’s knights against each other
- Sir Lancelot is brought back from the dead–sort of–with sinister purpose
(Star Trek was also an over-user of the evil twin plot. But the greatest abuser was the original Knight Rider series, where every star–including the car, had an evil twin.)
Merlin season 4 may leave you asking the question, “What is magic?” If you answer that it is the ability to do a force push, you would be right. 98.2% of all the magic this season is pushing someone with an invisible force, and that’s it. A cop out. If we wanted that kind of supernatural phenomena, we would play a Star Wars game. Even Merlin’s final showdown with the evil vizier turned into just another force push, which may leave you asking the question, “Did that kill him?”
With Sir Gwaine now a regular, and at least four knights in the permanent cast this season, money was obviously tight. No wonder there was no room for special effects. Instead we were treated to amusing antics. Oh those knights, so funny in their camaraderie. And where that was not sufficient to fill time, we were supposed be amused by more slapstick between Merlin and Arthur, often involving the latter being in some state of undress. Really producers? Has it come down to base fan girl pleasing?
Katie McGrath’s winning jaw is as fine as ever, and even her acting is improving. However they gave her little to work with this season, which was still about 50% more than most characters barring Arthur. Just about everyone and their brother betrays Arthur this season (literally including Gwen and her brother Sir Elyan). No one said it was easy being king. And we must keep our minds from going to where we know this all ends after just a few short Golden Age of Camelot years. Something they hint at with a flash forward.
Merlin originally surprised us with its fresh take. Though the seasons have been somewhat inconsistent, there have been just enough good episodes to keep us interested. However if next season is like this one, our interest may have to move on. Use the force Merlin! Uh, we mean that as a pep talk. Do not take us literally.
Our Takes on all the Merlin Seasons: