|written by Julian Jones / directed by Alice Troughton|
starring Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Anthony Head & Angel Coulby
For a premiere, especially one having to follow the truly epic nature of an expensive Doctor Who finale, "The Darkest Hour" was frustratingly sedate and actually quite boring. I'm not sure how much juice Merlin has left in its premise now, unless the writers start to make big strides towards ending the show at the point where Arthur's crowned King, marries Gwen (Angel Coulby), and Merlin (Colin Morgan) becomes his loyal sorcerer. Still, I'm grateful they've finally had no other option but to turn Morgana into the show's Big Bad, particularly as Katie McGrath looks so ravishing when cloaked in black, and I liked this episode's reveal that Agravaine is secretly just Morgana's eyes and ears in Camelot. (Although, admittedly, it means that Agravaine's just taken over Morgana's old role, and Morgana's become the new Morgause.) So despite how it looks, things are largely the same with a few cosmetic changes.
Still, on its own terms, there were some unnerving moments in this episode, mainly because the chosen sound effect for the transparent screaming skulls of the Dorocha were so spine-tingling. It's just a shame most of the scares relied on jump scares, or false scares. And I like how the show's made an attempt to appease fans who are growing impatient with the fact Arthur doesn't know Merlin's magical secret, by having Sir Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) take the role as someone Merlin can confide in about his abilities while on a quest. This should really help the stories, going forward. Now if only they'd get more imaginative with the magic itself, because causing people to go flying backwards through the air is getting mightily boring.
What did you think to Merlin's fourth series premiere? A good start, or are there signs this show's beginning to get very stale now?
1 October 2011 / BBC1