DVD Box Set Review: Merlin: The Complete Second Season

Merlin: The Complete Second Season Box ArtShow Info:
Writers: Various
Directors: Various
Cast: John Hurt, Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Anthony Head, Richard Wilson, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Emilia Fox
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: BBC

Release Info:
Episodes Original Air Date:
DVD Release Date: January 18, 2011
Online Availability: Amazon for $34.99

Ash and I love Merlin. I discovered the first season on Netflix last summer. Ever since then, we’ve been racing to catch up with the series, which is in its third season on SyFy, currently. We had a chance to check out Season Two on Hulu, before owning this Complete Second Season. Of course, Merlin is a series worth owning. It is a travesty we in the U.S. do not get BBC One, so we can watch Merlin and other great shows when they originally air in Britain. However, luckily, we have the chance to at least watch it when it airs on SyFy, after the initial run on BBC One is completed.

There are so many reasons to like Merlin. The acting is great. Veteran actors Anthony Head and Richard Wilson are central figures in the cast. They complement the acting of the younger, less experienced counterparts. Leads Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Bradley James (Arthur) have great chemistry and excellent comedic timing. Colin Morgan’s popularity has been soaring recently and that is largely due to his exceptional talent as a actor. Even Katie McGrath and Angel Coulby put in fantastic performances. The addition of Emilia Fox near the end of season two just adds to the caliber of actors who pass through the episodes of Merlin. Fox is a rare acting jewel who sparkles as brightly as she did in The Pianist. It’s nice to see her back in Season Three, even if she is there to wreak havoc on Camelot.

You can’t come into this series and expect it to be like the legend. Otherwise, you are going to be highly disappointed. Merlin is a new, unique adaptation. Fans of the legend are going to have to suspend their disbelief. Merlin and Arthur were not around the same age in the Legend. Guinevere was not a servant. It can be argued until we’re all blue in the face about the lack of black people in England during the time in which the legend is set, and how the creators have chosen to ignore these race issues, but this does not make the show any less entertaining. It is a Sci Fi series, so you should already be suspending your disbelief.

In a twist, magic has been outlawed by Arthur Pendragon’s father, Uther (Head), who has his own secrets concerning the practice of magic, which come to light during Season Two. This means that Merlin, who has been told by the Great Dragon (voiced by John Hurt) that he and Arthur’s futures are intertwined, must hide his ability as the greatest of wizards from Arthur and everyone else, save for his trusty guardian, court Physician, Gaius (Wilson). While it is sometimes frustrating to see how selfless Merlin is and how little credit he receives when helping Arthur, the dynamic between the two actors is excellent enough to carry viewers through until the day Merlin can reveal his secret.

Merlin: The Complete Second Season Episode Synopsis’

#2.1 – “The Curse of Cornelius Sigan”
Original Air Date: 19 September 2009

Uther’s men make a startling discovery, when they come upon a secret chamber filled with treasure, and a tomb covered with a massive, blue stone. The only person who holds the key to the new, guarded area, is Arthur. When a new servant, Cedric, shows up and makes Merlin look like a fool, Arthur hires him to take over for Merlin. What Merlin soon discovers is Cedric has ulterior motives, involving the blue stone. When Gaius discovers the tomb is that of Cornelius Sigan, the most powerful sorcerer in history, it is already too late, as Sigan has taken over Cedric’s body. In order to save Camelot from Sigan, Merlin must make a terrible promise to the Great Dragon, so he may receive instruction on how to take Sigan down.

#2.2 – “The Once and Future Queen”
Original Air Date: 26 September 2009

Arthur and Gwen share their first kiss, when he stays with her for a spell. He is hiding out so he can partake in the Camelot jousting tournament anonymously. Arthur discovers that his jousting partners have been letting him win simply because he is the future prince. Gwen is, at first, put off by Arthur’s arrogance, which she calls him out on, but her house provides a sanctuary for Arthur, in a time of need. The moor assassin, Myror, has been paid by King Odin, of a neighboring kingdom, to kill Arthur, and there is a bounty on his head. When Myror discovers the secret identity of Arthur, Merlin must save Arthur from impending death.

#2.3 – “The Nightmare Begins”
Original Air Date: 3 October 2009

Morgana’s nightmares continue and things start to happen as a result of them. She becomes convinced that she has magic and fears for her life. Gaius lies to her, to try and protect her, but Merlin cannot sit back and let her continue to go down a road where Uther might discover her secret. He attempts to connect Morgana with the Druids, who he believes can help her. Unfortunately, Uther believes that she has kidnapped by the Druids, so he sends Arthur out to rescue her and kill the Druids.

#2.4 – “Lancelot and Guinevere”
Original Air Date: 10 October 2009

When Morgana is kidnapped with Guinevere, she manages to escape. Gwen convinces her to get to safety, when they are being chased, and she is recaptured, in Morgana’s place. Since the person who seeks Morgana does not know what she looks like, they decide to pass Gwen off as Morgana. Lancelot is visiting and recognizes Gwen, so he devises a plan to save her. In the meantime, Arthur goes against his father’s wishes and heads off to rescue the woman for whom he has developed feelings.

#2.5 – “Beauty and the Beast”
Original Air Date: 24 October 2009

Lady Catrina shows up in Camelot, and woos Uther. Unfortunately, she is really a troll who must drink a potion once a day to keep her normal-looking appearance. She is accompanied by her servant, Jonas, who does her bidding and keeps serving her the potions. Gaius has met Catrina before, and he is suspicious at her transformation. After Merlin discovers her true identity, they set out to convince Uther he is falling in love with a troll. Uther, bewitched thanks to the magic pendant “Catrina” gives him, asks her to marry him. Merlin’s magic will not reveal her true identity, so he must find another way to stop this insanity.

#2.6 – “Beauty and the Beast II”
Original Air Date: 31 October 2009

Merlin is accused of theft by Lady Catrina, who has become the new Queen of Camelot. He is able to switch her potion with a fake one Gaius created. He also must hide out since Uther still is bewitched. When Catrina turns into a troll, only Uther remains enchanted by her spell and fails to see her for what she really is. In order to get Uther to realize exactly who he has married, Merlin must make him cry real tears. To do that, he must kill Arthur.

#2.7 – “The Witchfinder”
Original Air Date: 7 November 2009

Uther’s obsessions with finding magic in Camelot hit a peak when he hires Aredian to rid his kingdom of magic once and for all. Aredian is a witch hunter, who is unrelenting in his quest to hunt down witches. Merlin and Morgana, both who have magic and are hiding it, are afraid Aredian will discover their secrets and have them executed by Uther. Gaius worries for himself and Merlin. When Aredian decides to cast blame upon Merlin for being a sorcerer, and gets witnesses to make up stories about the boy wizard, Merlin must find a way to shift blame from him and save his own life.

#2.8 – “The Sins of the Father”
Original Air Date: 14 November 2009

Arthur accepts a challenge to the death. When Morgause, who turns out to be a woman warrior, gets him in a position to die or accept her challenge, he chooses to do as she asks. Little does he know she has sent him on a quest that allow him to discover the truth about his mother. Armed with new information that is devastating to him, Arthur returns to kill the man responsible for all of this, Uther. Only Merlin stands in his way of committing the deed.

#2.9 – “The Lady of the Lake”
Original Air Date: 21 November 2009

Merlin cannot resist saving a Druid girl, who is being kept prisoner due to her magical nature. He keeps her hidden and falls in love with her, putting himself at great risk and in grave danger to keep her safe. Camelot is also being attacked by a mysterious creature and Arthur and his men must hunt the beast down. With the increase in security, protecting the girl takes a lot more out of Merlin, and with her secret, which makes any chance of happiness seem impossible, he must try to find a way to get her to safety before she is the one being hunted down and killed.

#2.10 – “Sweet Dreams”
Original Air Date: 28 November 2009

Uther invites five rulers from the five nearest kingdoms to Camelot for a conference promoting peace and solidarity. Among the guest are King Olaf, who is over protective of his beautiful but spoiled, arrogant daughter, Vivian and King Alined, who is more interested in creating chaos then peace. When Alined’s jester, Trickler, uses sorcerery to make Arthur and Vivian fall in love, something that will drive Olaf crazy and lead to war between his kingdom and Camelot, it is up to Gwen to help Merlin snap Arthur out of his love-sickness.

#2.11 – “The Witch’s Quickening”
Original Air Date: 5 December 2009

Morgana is persuaded to help Alvarr, a wizard, steal a crystal from the vaults of Camelot. Mordred, the Druid boy she helped, is convinced she will help them, especially when she learns the crystal can help people with magic. The real goal by Alvarr is destroy Camelot with it, so Merlin and Arthur must go after the wizard and the crystal. Merlin happens to catch a glance at the future, which terrifies him, and Morgana is disillusioned by her place in Camelot, so she helps Alvarr escape his fate, after being caught.

#2.12 – “The Fires of Idirsholas”
Original Air Date: 12 December 2009

Morgause sends the revived, deadly knights of Medhir to attack Camelot. Only Arthur and Merlin survive the attack of the knights, so they must return to Camelot. Back in the kingdom, Morgana is used as a vessel by Morgause, to bewitch everyone. They fall asleep and cannot defend Camelot from the approaching knights. Merlin is given advice, but he must free the great dragon to get it. Realizing Morgana is the vessel used, he must use her to bargain with Morgause and stop the attack.

#2.13 – “The Last Dragonlord”
Original Air Date: 19 December 2009

Morgause takes a half-dead Morgana, having called off the attack in exchange for saving Morgana’s life. Uther believes she has been kidnapped. The dragon, finally free, begins its assault on Camelot. Arthur and Merlin are sent by Gaius to find the last remaining Dragonlord, Balinor, who Gaius had helped escape when Uther persecuted all of them. The Dragonlord can control the Dragon, and Merlin soon learns he has a special connection to Balinor, but when something happens to the last Dragonlord, it is up to Merlin to set things right in the kingdom or see it destroyed by the creature he let loose.

Storyline/Plot: ★★★★★
Replayability: ★★★★★
Acting: ★★★★½
Directing: ★★★★★

The visual quality for the episodes contained within Merlin: The Complete Second Season look as good as when the show is airing on television. While presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the anamorphic widescreen picture isn’t perfect. There are instances of aliasing in certain scenes, though these aren’t so noticeable, unless you are looking for them. The colors are rich and deep, while the level of contrast is decent. For television, the transfer is great. This is a Sci Fi show with a great deal of special effects. In this area, things look amazing. However, imagining this with a Blu-Ray level of quality in the transfer leaves me wanting more than what is available. Merlin would look amazing in Blu-Ray, so lets hope BBC and WB consider re-releasing and upgrading this show. It’s worth it!

I was hoping that the audio for this set would feature a 5.1 upgrade, but sadly, it does not. Despite this fact, the original, Dolby Digital stereo track is quite dynamic. Special effects are lively. They come through loudly and clearly. There is no need to volume toggle as the sound of the dialogue is consistent. The soundtrack for this show is amazing. It would be nice to make use of better sound technology to provide an already great track, to make it stand out even more. This kind of show would benefit with a surround sound experience and enhance the experience of watching. However, what is here is free of faults and is not too shabby to listen to, either!

Visual: ★★★½☆
Audio: ★★★½☆

Bonus Features:
There were more bonus features than I thought would be included in the Merlin: The Complete Second Season set. The BBC went out of their way to include some pretty cool features for fans of the series. BBC One is always very involved in their productions, so many of the bonuses are things that have aired on the BBC. They are a treat for those of us in the U.S. who never had the chance to see them before.

Here is a list of the bonuses included in the Merlin: The Complete Second Season set, with a short description of each:

Cast And Crew Introduction To Season Two – This is one of those filler pieces. The cast and crew of the series discuss how awesome season two of the series is. There is a lot of back patting going on here.

Cast And Crew Audio Commentaries – A variety of cast members offer audio commentaries on various episodes throughout series two of the show.

Behind The Scenes – This is a 13-episode special of Secrets and Magic. It looks at the filming and provides a behind the scenes look at each episode in series two. Each episode is between 10-15 minutes in length. The cast and crew of the show participate in the special, and give a sneak peek into what it is like to work on the show.

The Making Of Merlin This is an expanded, half-hour feature for Secrets and Magic. It examines the Making of the entire second season of the show! There are plenty of fun tidbits, and it even talks about the origins of Merlin’s spells!

Photo Gallery – Self-explanatory feature.

Wallpapers – You can install them as your wallpaper backgrounds on both Mac and PC.

All in all, this set isn’t too bad. The best parts involve Secrets and Magic. However, the wallpapers are pretty cool, too!

Bonus Features: ★★★½☆

Bottom Line:
I love Merlin, and would own this set for just the episodes. Anything else in this set is gravy. If you like fun, lighthearted Sci Fi shows, that have the ability to dazzle with storyline and depth, you need to check out this series. While I love anything British, I also love when those British things happen to be extremely entertaining. We never miss a night of Merlin, which airs on Fridays on SyFy. However, for the days/nights in between when it isn’t on it’s fun to pop in this series and play the DVD to remind myself how awesome the series really is. This set comes highly recommended and so does the series. I’m glad it’s been renewed for at least another year, and that Merlin and Arthur can have many more, new adventures together.

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

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About the author: Dominick

Dominick Evans is in his second year of the BFA Motion Pictures program at Wright State University. When not studying, making films, or writing papers, he is working to better his on campus community as the Director of Disability Affairs for WSU Student Government. Dominick spends any remaining time working as a writer/editor, playing video games, singing, as an activist in the disability and GLBT communities, and enjoying life with his family.

1 comment

  1. Fortress Guy says:

    Season 2 held up. Some good episodes, and also not-so-good (*cough* Witchfinder *cough*).

    Here is our take with lots of pics and perhaps a little wit if you are interested:

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