Um, is Merlin looking to be a more serious show now in its fourth year?
I bring this up because, well, the show seemed a bit more mature for this first episode of series four. That was obvious from the Great Dragon’s opening narration. Up until now, he’s said, “In a land of myth and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name–Merlin.”
For this episode “young boy” was changed to “young man”.
Is Merlin the series and Merlin the character, dare I say it, actually growing up?
To be sure, up until now I tended to find Merlin to be largely passable, family-friendly entertainment. It had a Hercules: The Legendary Journeys/Xena: Warrior Princess vibe, where the adventures tended to be light, the special effects only so-so, and a somewhat humorous tone seems to hang over much of the proceedings, like you shouldn’t take the show that seriously. Many episodes seemed to feature various quests with seemingly low stakes, weird magical creatures that were more amusing than dangerous, and endless tournaments in Camelot. But now we have a new status quo, and even if Merlin doesn’t seem any more mature as a character than he did before–and there’s still come comedy bits involving Merlin in the Camelot kitchen and interacting with Arthur– the same can’t be said for Arthur seeing as how he more or less is running the kingdom right now.
Yes, it’s been a year since the last series, and that means a few things. Morgana is on the run, her powers stronger, and Morgause is dying from the looks of things. Some of Arthur’s knights catch up to her, and she manages to toss them all aside, killing two of them and knocking the other unconscious. Uther is in some sort of catatonic state. Arthur’s maternal uncle Agravaine is acting as an adviser, and if you assumed the guy dressed all in colors much darker than, oh, every other character on the show was somehow not on the up-and-up, you’d be correct as he’s secretly working with Morgana.
Never let it be said Merlin would sacrifice a subplot involving the ruler putting too much trust in an unfaithful relative just because the original unfaithful relative was finally revealed to be evil. There are plenty of other unfaithful relatives hanging around.
And then we get to another quest, but this one isn’t low stakes. Morgana did some human sacrifice, killing the willing Morgause to open the portal between the land of the living and the dead, causing evil spirits to fly around killing people, and the only defense against them is fire, but that’s only temporary banishment because you can’t kill the dead. The only way to stop them is for someone else to pass through the door, and Morgana did get a warning from some old sorceress type that the Emrys will be her archenemy (her prophetic dreams show her the Emrys’ face, but it’s Old Man Merlin, so she doesn’t recognize him), but what does it all mean?
Well, when Arthur and the Knights are holing up for the night in an abandoned castle, attacked by the ghosts, Merlin sacrifices himself to stop one from getting Arthur. Is Merlin dead?
Um, no. He looks it, but whoever put the “next time on” clips for the end of the episode together stuck in some clips of Merlin doing stuff, so he’s not dead.