MERLIN: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
BBC / 2012 / 536 mins / NR
It's been three years since we last looked in on Camelot at the end of MERLIN Season Four. When last we visited, King Arthur (Bradley James) had finally married and crowned Guinevere (Angel Coulby) his Queen; Arthur's insanely jealous (and lethal) sister Morgana (Katie McGrath) had once again been ousted from Camelot after briefly taking the throne and once again ended up in the middle of nowhere, but this time she had a white dragon to accompany her; and our young sorcerer Merlin (Colin Morgan) and his trusted mentor Gaius (Richard Wilson) had once again managed to be instrumental in keeping Arthur alive and Camelot safe while keeping their magic a secret from almost everyone.
Peace has reigned over Camelot over the past three years and Arthur along with his noble Knights of the Round Table have pretty much been living up to their pre-destined fates of uniting the kingdoms and making them prosperous. However, things are about to change dramatically as Morgana re-emerges building an army to conquer Camelot once and for all while actively seeking the identity of the sorcerer destined to destroy her, Emrys. The Druid boy Mordred (Alexander Vlahos) has also returned and while Merlin is certain he is destined to kill Arthur as has been foretold, he rises in the ranks of the Camelot Knights to become one of Arthur's most loyal and trusted.
This final season of the BBC series offers a lot of major plot twists...a LOT of them. Creators Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps have repeatedly said their inspiration for MERLIN was the CW's program SMALLVILLE and that they were having fun playing with the well-known legend of Arthur just as Alfred Gough and Miles Millar had with the Superman in their show. With that knowledge and having seen some of the fairly big changes they had made with Arthurian lore in the previous seasons, they could do pretty much whatever they want here at the end. Since I am completely against giving spoilers away and have never done so in this column, I am not going to go into any of the specifics of this season as the MERLIN team has done a fine job keeping things hopping and fresh. This is the final season of the series and I will say that 1. Not everyone makes it out alive and 2. Even though things get pretty dark in the mid-section of this season, the finale is excellent and perfectly in keeping with everything that has come before.
If you haven't seen MERLIN before, you could jump in with this season and get up to speed pretty quickly. However I highly recommend starting at the beginning and watching the excellent arcs of an awkward boy becoming the greatest sorcerer of all time and an obnoxious jerk becoming the greatest king in history.
Like the previous Blu-ray release of Season Four, this release sports a fine looking anamorphic 1.78 transfer comparable to other recent offerings from BBC video. Good color and strong clarity will betray the shows lack of budget for the digital effects but the beautiful location footage shines.
Like the previous seasons, all we get on the sound front is a 2.0 mix (in DTS-HD Master Audio here). I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is a series that REALLY would have benefitted from a 5.1 surround mix but alas it appears that isn't to be (maybe a Complete Series set will come out someday with a surround mix, but I'm not holding my breath for it.) What we do have is perfectly acceptable for what it is.
The supplements are a mixed batch. I was seriously hoping for something more for the show's final season but what we get it pretty much a cookie-cutter batch that mirrors the previous four seasons which isn't necessarily a bad thing...
Six commentaries cover an awful lot of ground and are must hear for fans of the show. Actors Colin Morgan, Alexander Vlahos, Angel Coulby, Rupert Young, Bradley James, director Alice Troughton and co-creator Johnny Capps contribute (Katie McGrath is a glaring omission here as Morgana is a huge component of this season). Sadly, there is no commentary for the two-part finale, "The Diamond of the Day."
"Making MERLIN Season 5" follows the format of the previous sets: a clip heavy look with just enough interview and behind the scenes footage to make it a must see.
18 minutes of "Deleted Scenes" are definitely worth seeking out.
The latest "Outtakes" reel offer up more jocularity in Camelot but isn't quite as good as previous seasons.
Loads of "Storyboards" are available for the most die-hard of fans.
A fine series spent five year building to this conclusion and it certainly does not disappoint. MERLIN: The Complete Fifth Season, as does the complete series, comes Highly Recommended!
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