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Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season(TV) (2008)
No synopsis for Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season.
For more about Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season and the Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray release, see Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Colin Morgan (II), Bradley James, Richard Wilson, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath, Anthony Head
» See full cast & crew
Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review
Smallville for the Camelot set...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 16, 2013
BBC original programming has reinvented itself and risen from the ashes, breathing fresh life into a once-stodgy broadcaster that's quickly becoming a bastion for an enviably young demographic, a hotspot for viewers on this side of the pond and the other, and one of the fastest growing capital cities of geekdom. Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Robin Hood, The IT Crowd, Misfits, Being Human, Merlin... Comic-Con candy and fanboy favorites. Against all odds, the wizards of the BBC have successfully resurrected dormant series and, more importantly, developed smart and exciting new properties, much to the delight of Brits and Yanks, male and female alike.
It's that all-ages, all walks of life, dual-continent forward thinking that makes Merlin everything it is. Amusing. Enterprising. Thrilling. Romantic. Entertaining. Addicting. It isn't exactly a thinking man's adaptation of Arthurian legend, nor does it take itself too lightly or too seriously. It doesn't shy away from humor or deep feeling. It isn't afraid to subvert or tinker with familiar mythology. It doesn't waste its young cast or burden them with old-world trappings. It doesn't even require much investment, serving up a funny, compelling slice of action-laced fantasy as accessible as it is spry. The fourth season is darker and the ramifications greater, sure -- the same evolutionary step previously taken by Smallville, the showrunners' chief inspiration -- but it's rarely to the show's detriment. If anything, Season Four is a bit too inconsistent for its own good; the series' mid-fourth season episodes weaker and more forgettable than the four episodes that close out its latest thirteen-adventure outing.
The Darkest Hour, Part 1: Merlin faces his toughest challenge yet when Morgana's blinkered determination threatens not only Arthur's future, but the very balance of the world. With her magic stronger than ever, the sorceress summons the mighty Callieach to tear open the veil between the worlds. Hellish creatures pour forth, killing any who succumb to their touch. With Uther a shadow of his former self, it falls to Arthur and his loyal knights, including Lancelot, to protect the kingdom. My take: Upping the ante from Season 3, the fourth season opener plunges the knife deeper than before and gives it a sharp twist. The full impact doesn't sink in without the climax that is "Part 2" -- obvious, I know -- but as the first chunk of a solid two-parter, it sets the tone and momentum nicely. My score: 3.5/5
The Darkest Hour, Part 2: The kingdom is on the brink of collapse, with Morgana poised to strike. As Lancelot races back to Camelot with the dying Merlin, Arthur must continue on his mission to vanquish the Dorocha without them. Though the Knights know their journey to the Isle of the Blessed is fraught with danger, none could anticipate the sacrifice Arthur intends to make there. My take: Although Merlin's youth and secrecy continues to limit the scope of the saga, the cast members hit their stride early, particularly Katie McGrath, whose Morgana steals the show; an opportunity she isn't afforded enough in Season 4. A promising start. My score: 4/5
The Wicked Day: The mighty citadel is buzzing in anticipation of the prince's birthday celebrations. But Arthur's old adversary, Odin, promises to ensure this is one party Camelot will never forget. For amongst the assembling guests lurks a deadly assassin, set to strike. As the dust settles, Camelot is left devastated. But just how far is Merlin prepared to go to put things right? Would he really risk everything and reveal his secret? My take: The elder Merlin is a tragically bearded blight on the series' aesthetic, young Merlin and Arthur are the only mainstays with decent scenes this go round, and very little happens. Fun, sure. But it's fun filler, nothing more. My score: 3/5
Aithusa: The mysterious Julius Borden arrives in Camelot with news of a magical secret that threatens to change the landscape of the kingdom forever. He has located the final part of the key to the tomb of Ashkanar, an ancient mausoleum which holds a very special treasure: the last remaining dragon's egg. Merlin is understandably drawn in by Borden's news, and promises to help him. My take: Episodic fluff fans of earlier seasons will be familiar with. Season 4 starts strong but soon settles into a (thankfully short-lived) lull. With just thirteen episodes, there's no room for diversions. My score: 3/5
His Father's Son: Arthur faces his first true test as King when he incurs the wrath of the formidable Queen Annis. With the lives of thousands hanging in the balance, Arthur must find the strength to be his own man and become the leader Camelot so desperately needs. My take: "His Father's Son" grants the series' ladies (including Lindsay Duncan as Queen Annis) the spotlight, and to welcome ends. The boys get their share of memorable moments too, and the fifth episode marks a tightly staged, cleverly written rebound of sorts that paves the way for some of the season's best. My score: 3.5/5
A Servant of Two Masters: When Merlin falls into Morgana's hands, he becomes a deadly weapon in her fight for supremacy. Using ancient magic, she pits friend against friend to create the perfect assassin. An oblivious Arthur is in great danger. Will anyone notice Merlin's unusual behavior before he does the king some serious harm? My take: Alas, the season's best don't include "Servant." Easily the most comical of the season (and the episode most likely to be deemed an entertaining return to form by longtime viewers), it's an odd-ep-out romp that sets aside the weight and consequence that comes before and after. I'm all for humor, don't get me wrong. But it needs to be doled out more judiciously to avoid a hitch in the series' step. My score: 2.5/5
The Secret Sharer: Morgana joins forces with the enigmatic wizard Alator to uncover a secret that could change the future. With allies on both sides of the castle walls, can anyone stop her before Merlin's greatest secret is revealed? My take: Back on track! Pieces are moving into place, McGrath and Parker are positively menacing, and it finally feels like the showrunners are ready to take the season somewhere, and somewhere good. And how about three cheers for Gary Lewis? My score: 3.5/5
Lamia: A mysterious illness draws Merlin to a distant village. But it soon becomes clear that there is more at stake than just his patients' well-being as something sinister turns the air sour. Far from home and with no-one to trust, Merlin becomes embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse. No longer sure who is the hunter and who is the hunted, can the young warlock survive long enough to uncover the truth? My take: Morgan finds his dramatic groove, darkness rises and strikes, a sense of urgency settles in and, at long last, Arthur's knights earn their keep. The beginning of what will soon reveal itself to be a well-conceived endgame. My score: 4/5
Lancelot du Lac: When Sir Lancelot returns, old feelings reignite. Gwen must fight temptation before she commits an unspeakable act of betrayal, one that would destroy the legacy of Camelot forever. With heads and hearts thrown into turmoil, Merlin becomes suspicious. Can a man really defy death, or is there something more sinister at play? My take: Merlin sits the bench, and for no good reason. The episode stumbles, confusing twists and turns prevail, and the writers' seem to phone in what I consider the season's worst adventure, dark or otherwise. My score: 2.5/5
A Herald of the New Age: The Camelot Knights stumble across an eerie shrine deep in the forest, its chilling atmosphere betraying a dark history best left undisturbed. But when Elyan ignores Merlin's warning, his actions spark a chain of events more frightening than anyone could possibly have imagined. Can a grievous wrong be put right? Or will past demons change the future forever? My take: Separation and distrust dominates the proceedings, and everything from Arthur's mounting unease to Merlin's struggles to the antagonists' schemes come together seamlessly. Everything except Agravaine, whose character undergoes a shift yet again. My score: 4/5
The Hunter's Heart: Morgana finds a powerful ally in the Southron warlord Helios. Together they hatch the perfect plan to force Camelot to its knees. With the kingdom - and Arthur - preoccupied by the arrival of the beautiful Princess Mithian, it falls to an absent friend to raise the alarm: Guinevere. But with past wounds still raw, can love really conquer all? Or is a deadly arrow destined to fly straight into the heart of Camelot? My take: Love conquers all in a captivating tale dotted with references to and re-imaginings of one of the most beloved Arthurian legends. Hands down my favorite of the season, "The Hunter's Heart" is a meaningful, even touching culmination of the series' romantic and relational conflicts thus far. Better still, it sets the stage for the two-part finale with a deft touch. My score: 4.5/5
The Sword in the Stone, Part 1 & 2: With Morgana at the helm of a vast Southron army, a deadly net is closing in around Camelot. When the sorceress strikes, the ferocity of her attack forces everyone to run for their lives - even Arthur. But Morgana will not let him escape that easily. And so begins a chilling hunt. Trapped in Ealdor with a ruthless army closing in, their situation becomes desperate. Arthur must take control before Camelot is lost forever, but faced with Agravaine's betrayal and the strength of Morgana's force, the young King has lost his conviction. Only Merlin can restore his faith, and only an extraordinary act can prove to the King that he was born to rule. My take: Death, disaster and ruin await major characters, Arthur and Merlin inch closer and closer to the more seasoned, world-weary characters of legend, the whereabouts of an iconic sword enters the fray, Morgana steps up her game and the season ends on a high note that should leave fans desperate for more. The action's a bit weak in the knees, but it hardly matters. My score: 4/5
Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Merlin's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video presentation casts a powerful spell, and rarely, if ever, summons a beast or demon from the depths of the poorly compressed, haphazardly encoded nether realm. In fact, the only issue that gave me pause was intermittent shimmering, which was mainly confined to the occasional chainmail armor or forest floor. Minor noise and negligible ringing pop up from time to time and CG shots are prone to a few anomalies, but each instance I encountered appears to trace back to the series' digital video source, nothing more. Otherwise, it's all decidedly striking. Colors are natural on the heroic whole and fittingly bleak when more sinister forces are at work, primaries are strong and stalwart, skintones are beautifully saturated, and contrast and black levels, though inherently muted at times, are more than satisfying. (Particularly for a modestly budgeted BBC television production.) Detail is remarkable too. Edge definition is refined, textures are precisely resolved and delineation is revealing... at least when the shadows are meant to reveal what lurks within. Moreover, I didn't catch sight of any significant macroblocking, banding, aliasing or bothersome crush. Key word: bothersome. When dark hair falls over darker dresses amidst still darker shadows, fine detail is washed away. Even so, fans will be ecstatic. Merlin has never looked like this.
Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Merlin fails to conjure up anything more boisterous or immersive than a capable but ordinary DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. Dialogue is clean, clear and competently prioritized, with only a few instances of shrill or tinny lines, and even fewer muddled or overwhelmed voices. Effects are the series' score are given ample room to breathe as well, although it's here -- on the battlefield, in the castle, on the hillsides, atop a horse, in an eerie forest or in a crowded marketplace -- that the lack of LFE and rear speaker support are the most apparent. The lossless track isn't flawed or problematic, mind you, merely a fair and just presentation of the series' regrettably unarmed stereo sound design.
Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Merlin works its magic and does so with such wit, confidence and surety that it's that much easier to overlook Season Four's nagging flaws. There aren't many -- the performances, production design, FX and stories are routinely impressive -- but I'm not about to make a case for series perfection when other BBC shows are more consistent and consistently remarkable. The Complete Fourth Season's 3-disc Blu-ray release isn't quite as unreliable, thanks to an excellent video presentation and solid supplemental selection, but the lack of a 5.1 surround track is a disappointment, even if its DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix is ready for war. Ultimately, if you're new to the series, The Complete Fourth Season probably isn't the best place to start. But if you have a healthy love of everything that's come before, you can add Merlin's Blu-ray debut to your cart without hesitation.
Merlin: Other Seasons
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Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray - October 25, 2012
BBC Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will bring to Blu-ray Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season. Featuring a total of thirteen episodes, this three-disc set will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation on January 15th.
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