I finally finished S4 of Merlin last night - in what was a nail-biting 2 part finale.
I've spoken before about how the downfall of Merlin is that it doesn't have any emotional follow-through, and that still holds true...but my god, it really outdoes itself in emotional set-up...and sometimes that's enough for me, since that way I can write my own emotional-follow-through in my head and have it be exactly how I want it.
The other thing I like about Merlin is that they don't hit you over the head with anvils, and character motivations and decisions (at least for Arthur and Merlin) are very subtly done. It's kind of refreshing.
Now, I don't know if the Merlin fandom is as overly literal as the Supernatural fandom is...so, I'm not sure if there are hordes of 15 year-old girls out there writing big long rants about how character decisions/actions don't make sense, when in actual fact they make perfect sense. *cough*castielfans*cough*...but personally, at least when it comes to Merlin and Arthur, they're actions make perfect sense to me...even when they are horribly stupid.
Of course, that's not true for other characters...and evil characters tend to just become 2 dimensional evil characters, even if they were 3 dimensional characters before they became evil. Uther, of course, is the exception to this rule, as he's one of the best morally gray characters that I've ever seen. (Also, Anthony Head is awesome).
Apropos of nothing, whenever Bradley James (Arthur) cries, I want to wrap him in blankets and bring him kittens.
In the 2 part finale (and in S4 in general) I think they do a great job of setting up how Merlin is moving from a servant role into an "adviser" role.
And one thing about the fandom that I HAVE seen is some people saying that Merlin should have told Arthur about his magic when Arthur was worrying about not being able to beat Morgana because she had magic....that Merlin should have said "Oh, don't worry! You have magic too!" BUT...no, that would have been a HORRIBLE thing for him to do. Because while Arthur was worrying about lacking magic, he was also extremely pissed off that people continually deceive him. I really don't think that it was in Merlin's best interests to point out that technically Merlin has been deceiving Arthur for 4+ years too. (Oh man, timeline stuff in Merlin makes me itch to count years, because in 4 seasons it's actually been about 6 years at least, if not more.) True, Merlin is deceiving him in order to HELP him, but it's still an act of deceiving.
And yes, so although Merlin is moving into an advisory role instead of simply being a manservant, I think his biggest challenge in S5 is going to be figuring out HOW to tell Arthur about the magic without Arthur getting mad at him for hiding it from him for all these years.
I also remember people complaining that Arthur couldn't remove the sword from the stone without Merlin's help - and that somehow that undercut Arthur's strength/destiny...I think these people are missing the fact that Merlin put the sword in the stone in the first place - that he MADE UP the legend in order to give Arthur confidence. The fact that the legend of the sword in the stone wasn't actually real doesn't make Arthur's destiny any less real - Arthur is destined to be The Once and Future King because MERLIN believes in him, and really for no other reason than that. Merlin making up the legend of the Sword in the Stone is Merlin making his beliefs (or the slash dragon's beliefs) into a physical construct that others can see.
When people erect statues of famous dudes, the dudes aren't famous because they have a statue - they have a statue because they are famous....and then years later, when the memory of those dudes fades from public thoughts, THEN they are famous because they have a statue. Arthur pulled the sword from the stone because Merlin believes that he'll be TOFK, and then later, he'll be TOFK because he pulled the sword from the stone.
I'm very interested to see what happens in S5...does anyone know when it starts?
And now, the gay summary:
S4 was very much about securing the power/position of the gay-friendly politician, so that reforms could be made without fear of him being unseated or rebelled against should people disagree with his legislation. At the end of S4, that power/position is very much secure...thanks in part to another ill-advised power-play by the militant lesbian. In her effort to overthrow the system entirely, she actually caused the people to rally under the gay-friendly politician instead of her. Which, you know, really serves her better in the long run, but she's CRAZY. My prediction is that S5 will actually be about how the push for equal rights goes over in the state, and what exact reforms to the unjust law the gay-friendly politician is actually going to be able to make.
Also, the gay-friendly politician's will have to figure out a way to come out of the closet.