Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Merlin Season 4: Better than expected

After the truly mediocre season 3, I had little incentive to watch Merlin this year. The first five episodes have been sitting on my hard drive unwatched and I was debating whether I should subject myself to it at all. To my surprise, the first two episodes of the season were very good; mostly due to Santiago Cabrera's Lancelot. The actor managed to make me fall in love with the character; something I didn't think was possible.

The Darkest Hour Part 1 and 2 were probably Merlin's most cohesive episodes since season 1 and for the first time the show has managed genuine character growth and development. By now, Merlin and Arthur must be 26 and 28 respectively and it's high time the show gave them the maturity needed for their age and positions. The bromance factor was off the scale but for once it wasn't of the cheesy slash fan fiction type. The writers are still obviously reading too much fan fiction but at least they're now reading the right ones. The shoe-horned Deus Ex Dragon I could have done without but I guess if you hire John Hurt you need to find a way to use him.

While The Wicked Day made me once again annoyed that Merlin didn't just man up and admit his magic to Arthur, it was nonetheless quite well-executed. Still, like Smallville before it, the show continually shows that Albion's biggest threat is Merlin himself. Are we supposed to cheer on a hero who constantly makes his own enemies through sheer cowardice? First Morgana, now Arthur. Surely he should start to realise that his problems are consistently of his own making?

The season fell down slightly in Aithusa and His Father's Son: a microcosm of everything that can be wrong with this show.  The slapstick, the bad fan fiction slash, the annoying reliance on Deus ex Dragon, Merlin's stupid use of magic to do dumb things and the fact that he doesn't stand up to Arthur like he used to. And Viridis Lupus should demand royalties.

Still, there wasn't a single episode in Season 3 that was worth rewatching so Season 4 is already a significant improvement. Now all I can hope for is that the BBC learns how to write a female character. I will not, however, hold my breath.