Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 1

“You're a brave man, Merlin... between battles.”

Merlin is one of those shows that has steadily improved as it has gone on. The first season might have been on the iffy side but by the second season it was starting to find its feet. By Season three, the show had finally come into its own, even if it did feature an episode about a farting goblin. And now comes season four, which promises to the darkest yet, although don't be too surprised if a belching troll shows up at some point. For the moment, though, season four is certainly living up to that promise.

'The Darkest Hour' was probably the, well, darkest episode of Merlin to date. It was an episode big on spooky atmosphere, moody visuals and some PG rated scares. I wouldn't be too surprised if some of the younger viewers were packed off to bed early by mum and dad. It was a smart move by the director to hold off showing the Dorocha for as long as possible, letting sound effects do all the work rather than just bombarding our heroes with CGI foes (although there is plenty of that later on).

It has been a year after the events of 'The Coming of Arthur.' Morgana is still on the loose and has started looking like Bellatrix Lestrange's better looking, less crazy younger sister (who has also just graduated from Sith Finishing School). When we first see her she's dragging her injured sister (she has to push the pram a lot... sorry, couldn't resist) through a leftover Doctor Who quarry (albeit a very stylishly shot leftover Doctor Who quarry). Her powers have grown and she's capable of killing nameless red cloaks with just a wave of her hand. Luckily for Sirs Leon and Elyan, her powers have not yet progressed to the level where she can kill recurring characters.

Back at Camelot (it's only a model... sorry, still can't resist), Uther is not the king he used to be. Morgana's betrayal has left him a broken man. Arthur is now king in all but name, even though he still can't dress himself properly. It's good to see that Arthur is becoming more comfortable with the idea of being a ruler. Uther's condition has forced him to step up and become the ruler the kingdom needs. There's also new player in this family friendly game of thrones, Arthur's shifty uncle, Sir Inspector of Lynley. You can tell this one's up to no good, even before it's revealed he's in cahoots with Morgana. The guy might as well have a 'Usurper' tattooed on his forehead. Just remember mate, in this game you win or you go away and try again later in the season.

While a couple of them come across as nothing more than glorified extras, the Knight of the Round Table (they dance whenev- okay, I'll stop now) are a great addition to the series. Now, whenever Arthur goes off on one of his weekly quests, it won't just be him, a few disposable red cloaks, Merlin and some coconuts. Speaking of Arthur's ever faithful squire/speech writer/cleaner/dresser/personal shopper/dogsbody/roadie/groupie/love interest, does anyone actually believe that he's going to die? Probably not. It's only the first episode of the season and he's the title character. Face it, you can't have Merlin without Merlin. It'd be like House without House, Dexter without Dexter, Taggart without... ah.

Notes and Quotes

--Sad to see Morgause go. I'm really going to miss Emila Fox.

--In Arthurian mythology, Agravain was Arthur's nephew not his uncle. He was still sort of evil, though.

--The Cailleach comes from Celtic mythology. The word translates as "old woman." She was the goddess of winter and mother to many Celtic gods.

--If I were the once and future king, I'd forget about Morgana and pay more attention to those lingering looks Gwen and Lancelot are giving each other. If I didn't know any better I'd say those two fancy each other.

--The boatman who ferried Morgana and Morgause to the Isle of the Blessed was very reminiscent of Charon, the ferryman from Greek mythology who carried souls across the river Styx into the underworld.

--When I started writing this review I almost wrote Ser instead of Sir. God damn you, George R.R. Martin.

--Uther says exactly four words all episode.

--Gold star for the location scouts, especially the one who found that ruined castle Arthur and his knights took shelter in.

--Camelot must be suffering from some sort of chain-mail shortage. It's the only reason I can think of for why Sir Jeff of Leadworth has no sleeves.

--I'm assuming the bloody battlefield Morgana saw in her vision was the Battle of Camlann.

Merlin: "You're dressed!"
Arthur: "Yes, Merlin. I'm not an idiot."

Arthur: "It needs a polish."
Merlin: "I'll add it to the list."
Arthur: "Merlin, there aren't many servants who get the chance to write a prince's speech. Obviously it would be too much for you to say 'thank you'."

Merlin: "Maybe it sensed something."
Arthur: "Yes, that you're a clotpole."
Merlin: "That's my word."
Arthur: "Yeah, and it suits you perfectly."

Arthur: "You see, Merlin, I could never be like you. I could never let myself look so spineless."

Morgana: "I trust you bring me good news. Tell me."
Agravaine: "The kingdom is on its knees."
Morgana: "How terrible!"
Agravaine: "Indeed."
Morgana: "What of the poor people?"
Agravaine: "More fall every night."
Morgana: "Such a shame."
--She has become such an evil bitch. God, I love her more than ever.

Arthur: "You know, Merlin, you're braver than I give you credit for."
Merlin: "Really? Was that a compliment?"
Arthur: "Don't be stupid."

'The Darkest Hour' was a strong start to what will hopefully but another strong season. Four out of four knights who say 'Ni' (dammit, I'm sorry, I just can't help myself).
---
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

7 comments:

Paul Kelly said...

I can't get over Emilia Fox being upgraded to a series regular, only to peg it in the first episode. I hope Morgana manages to resurrects her somehow. That was quite a shock to the system.

Merlin suits its new darkness. It's not exactly BSG dark, but compared to season one, it's positively funereal. Long may it continue.

It looks as though they're planning to sideline/kill off Uther, too. Good. It pains me to say it, but Tony Head plays Uther like he's in panto. Plus, as you say, it's time Arthur actually got off his arse and became king.

Arthur needs to find out Merlin can do magic, too. You can only pull off spells behind someone's back for so long. I'm guessing he'll save Arthur (or maybe Gwen's) life at some point, and Arthur will be forced to accept him. Then Arthur and Merlin will marry.

If it happens -- remember -- I called it.

Sooze said...

Mark - Funny, funny review. So glad you have taken this one on, I am looking forward to your take on the show.
I have enjoyed this show since the beginning (I stumbled across it on the web before SyFy picked it up) - anything Arthurian and I am in. Anyway, by about the end of season two I thought "Really, Sooze, shouldn't you be watching more grown up fare..." but stuck with it because, well, everytime they throw in some twist on the legend "oh, its the lady of the lake"..."oh, here's Lancelot!", "oh, they are the knights of the round table", etc...I admit that I'd get all excited. In any case, I am glad to hear that this season will be a bit darker and more grown up, I won't feel so ridiculous watching it.

morgan india said...

Thank you for reviewing this, Mark. Here is an invisible, tasteless cookie.

The only reason why I like Uther is that it is Anthony Head. I think there is going to be less AH in it because of his new show? Can't remember what it's called.

At least Morgana is less with the sneering and more with the evil-doing. But I really hope Morgana finds out that Merlin is Emrys soon.

I had NO idea Agravaine was Inspector Lynley.

After this episode, I think I ship Gwen and Lancelot a lot more than Arthur and Gwen. Bradley James looks like he's lost a lot of weight and also lost a battle in the tanning booth.

Mark Greig said...

Thank you for the cookie, Morgan. I'm sure it will be delicious, as soon as I can remember where I put it.

I'm glad everyone enjoyed the review. I feel I should make it clear that for the moment I'm only planning to review the opening two-parter. Although, if if the rest of the season is a good as this episode I might change my mind but no promises.

Tim said...

"She has to push the pram a lot" elevates this review far higher than the episode itself. Thanks Mark.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Loved the opening episode. Wonderfully dark and cannot wait to see the second part of it.

CrazyCris said...

you guys are reviewing Merlin now?! WONDERFUL NEWS!!!

and thanks so much for the laughs this review induced... it really cheered me up after watching the season finale of Warehouse 13 ;o)

There's no way Merlin stays dead... we've already seen previews of other episodes! :p

"If I didn't know any better I'd say those two fancy each other."


ahhh, but we do know better! He's madly in love with her and she is with him but she won't admit it because she loves Arthur as well! I'm wondering how they're going to play that triangle in such family-friendly fare...

Bring on the next episode ASAP!!!

And start having more people know about Merlin so he can start getting a bit more credit for saving everyone's ass! Thank heavens for Lancelot ;o)