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Season 4 Episode 1

The Darkest Hour Part 1

Aired Unknown Oct 01, 2011 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
268 votes

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Episode Summary


Merlin is to face his toughest challenge yet when Morgana's blind determination puts at risk Arthur's future as well as the very balance of the world. With her unbounded powers at their highest, the sorceress uses powerful magic to tear the mystical veil between worlds making the mighty Cailleach to come forth.

Hellish creatures are released and wander around, killing everyone who succumbs to their touch. With Uther but a mere shadow of his former self, it comes down to Arthur and his loyal knights to safeguard the kingdom.

However, swords won't be enough to vanquish the newest threat and Merlin is utterly shocked to find out what it'll take to restore the equilibrium of the world: a sacrifice of unimaginable proportions is required.


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  • The Darkest Hour Part 1

    The Darkest Hour Part 1 was a superb episode and season four premiere of Merlin. I really enjoyed watching this episode though I wish there would have been a recap as I felt the story picked up with little known about what happened after the end of last season. This was a great episode to start off October as it had some scary themes. The scene where Morgana was at the Isle of the Blessed was pretty cool visually. I think she may have some regrets but that is yet to be seen. There were lots of things going on with the various characters, and Merlin had a lot of character growth as he vowed to stay by Arthur's side no matter what. A few intrigues have already been revealed, and I look forward to finding out what happens next!!!!!!!

  • An epic start to Series 4 has Arthur firmly in charge, the Knights well established and Morgana coming into her own. A few minor contrivances are not enough to mar a thrilling season opener.moreless

    What Worked:

    The Year Jump: Potentially controversial, the year jump worked because while watching everyone settle into place might have been entertaining, we can absorb the net effect with the character interactions. Arthur is far more mature with the weight of Regent on his shoulders. Uther is completely addled but still holds his son's heart – second only to Gwen. The kingdom is clearly doing well, as suggested by the feast. We learn a lot by the everyday scenes and the easy interactions of the key players.

    The Knights and the Boys (Arthur/Merlin) – What a joy to watch them interact. These guys are the favored few but clearly earn their keep. The pranks, the camaraderie, the acts of bravery are all on display. No two are paired up constantly with the exception of Lancelot and Merlin but that pairing is perfect. Lancelot clearly has Merlin's back and it's necessary as Arthur is tied up with affairs of state. Although the Merlin/Arthur relationship is warm and still the center of the show, it's also unambiguous that there is some distance as Agravaine is omni-present at Arthur's side and the Regent is in constant demand.

    Merlin – The real story here is the lack of a story. Yes he has moved up to speech writing but Merlin is steady state as the non-warrior. He's content with his friends and Arthur's reign. While always brave, it seemed like Merlin felt he was "done" as he told Gauis of his plans to make the final sacrifice to save Arthur. Maybe it was his feeling powerless due to his loss of magic in the face of the Dorocha, maybe he's feeling like life in Camelot is on the right track, or maybe he is feeling less useful than he used to be. Since the situation has been on-going for a year, it's unlikely to be resolved that quickly. Although this is a somewhat uncomfortable place for our hero, it's a fairly sophisticated storyline.

    The Production – Television doesn't get much better than this. The movie quality 35mm film, the score, the Lord of the Rings-class CGI ruins, and the eye-watering locations make Merlin must-see TV.

    Morgana – The transformation from last year is astounding. Gone is Smirkaga, in her place is a far more subtle villain. Her plot is intriguing. Katie McGrath showed both her vulnerable side as she mourned Morgause and her bitterness when talking with Agravaine. If the script and performance continue along this path, Series 4 will be much better off than last year.

    Partial Success:

    Tearing the Veil – The results of tearing the veil were truly frightening and the Caileach was intriguing. But why tear the veil in the first place? Did Morgause know that Morgana would have no defense? The motivation to simply cause mass murder is baffling. Uther is beyond hurting at this point so the target must have been Arthur. Perhaps Part 2 will explain this logic gap. If not, while the effects were terrifying the whole plot is undermined by the lack of understandable motivation.

    The Spotlight Moments – Each of the characters was given a spotlight moment. Percival and the kids and Merlin dashing around with Arthur's shirt are two examples. While each scene endeared us to the characters and provided backstory, the spotlight moments didn't really drive the plot forward. It was almost like having the first episode of a show repeated versus the start of the fourth year. It disrupted the tempo of the story. An acceptable penalty in order to get the character moments so long as this is not repeated in future episodes.

    Uther – The pathos of the proud King now a broken man was well played by Anthony Head. With just two lines, we see the power of Uther's relationship with Arthur and his desperation. But Anthony Head with his two tiny scenes made us mourn his reduced screen time. Yes, it was time for Arthur to come into his own but in that one scene we are reminded that the Arthur/Uther story is not yet complete. So long as this is eventually paid off, the limited screen time will work. If Uther just fades away then the audience will have been robbed of one of the best pairings of the show.

    What Didn't Work:

    Agravaine – Between the black clothing, coming to the foreground out of the shadows, and a general smarmy attitude - Agravaine seems a Pantomime-class villain. The producers must be counting on the tea time crowd shouting boo's at the TV screen. The Uncle Scar wanna-be risks becoming tiresome if he doesn't show real teeth soon. Nathanial Parker has the acting talent to pull off far more complex characters so the writers take the hit for this particular miss.

    Overall grade 9.0. This was an excellent start due to the lush production, epic story, superb acting and detailed characterization. This is a darker, smarter "Merlin" brimming with potential.moreless
  • Perfect season 4 start up!

    The show has really come a long way, maturing a lot through the last few years. This episode was much darker than past ones, with a nice edge of creepiness to it. Normally, I watch this show with my whole family, but I decided to keep my son back until episode 3, the screeching creatures in this were slightly spooky for his young age and I didn't want to make him afraid of the dark lol! My husband and I enjoyed the seriousness and deeper side to this episode, and laughed at a few of the tastefully placed jokes that served as comic relief. This will definitely go down as one of my favorites of all the season, even if it ends in and evil cliffhanger!moreless
  • The show comes of age

    From what i hear, this season is main story moving forward and i for one agree. As with the stories and movies of Arthur everything turns darker and darker as the characters mature, as pain and sacrifice set in. The last season finally showed us the future potential of this series, and this episode confirms it. Soon everyone must change. Arthur is slowly becoming the true king of Albion and Merlin is beginning to see the bloody and painful path ahead. The moment when his powers failed served its ultimate purpose, giving him an idea of the fear that all of Arthur's knights face everyday, just without the training. Only those who know fear are able to stand up to it, and Merlin's sacrifice at the shows that he now understands that everything has a price, and maybe, just maybe, he will have to die for Arthur's ascension to king.

    Its a shame that the Arthurian legend is pretty much set in stone. Don't get me wrong, i love the Arthurian legends, but it feels as if it might just chain down this story and prevent it from moving the characters in a new direction. The Arthurian tale is a tragedy and in the end, everything will fall into place and when that happens, Merlin will end. I can only hope that they make it such an end that no one will forget this series and might just forgive its humble origins.moreless
Gemma Jones

Gemma Jones

The Cailleach

Guest Star

Zee Asha

Zee Asha


Guest Star

James Greene

James Greene


Guest Star

Rupert Young

Rupert Young

Sir Leon

Recurring Role

Eoin Macken

Eoin Macken

Sir Gwaine

Recurring Role

John Hurt

John Hurt

Voice of the Great Dragon

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (17)

    • Goof: In the scene where Gaius is in his chambers and a gust of wind blows his candles out, we can clearly see that the top candle (the one highest on screen) is blown out. In the following shot, three candles, including the top one, are lit.

    • Goof: When Sir Leon and Sir Elyan come back to the castle and tell Arthur about Morgana's return in the Council Chamber, Arthur's hair style keeps swtiching between a perfectly combed fringe and a slightly less perfect one.

    • James Greene, who is credited as the ferryman, has no lines in the episode.

    • A little vaulted niche can be seen on the wall to the right of Merlin's bed that wasn't there before.

    • Camelot's royal seal depicts a wyvern, the Pendragon device.

    • Goof: In the scene where Arthur is looking out of his window at the citizens seeking refuge within the citadel, his hair style changes when he turns around to facethose present inside his room.

    • Goof: Tomatoes can be seen on Uther's plate and as part of the menu during the Samhain feast. However, they were first introduced in Europe following the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

    • Goof: At the beginning of the episode, Merlin retrieves Arthur's shirt hanging in the kitchen on a coat hanger. The very first coat hangers weren't invented until the late 1860s and the wishbone-shaped one Merlin is using didn't appear until 1907.

    • Goof: At the start of the episode, when Sir Leon, Sir Elyan and two other knights meet Morgana, they climb down from their horses. Seconds later, when they are thrown back, the horses are nowhere to be seen in the background. A bit later, Sir Leon and Sir Elyan come back to the castle, but only with two of the four horses.

    • Goof: When Arthur and the knights arrive at Howden, Drea's village, they observe it from the top of a hill. The sun is slightly behind Arthur, as betrayed by the way it is shining on his hair. However, when we get a view of the village, the sun is setting on the horizon, hence in front of the prince.

    • Goof: In the scene where Merlin and Arthur are hiding from the Dorocha in the castle, Arthur sports two different hair styles which keep alternating, and a third hair style appears briefly just before the Dorocha attacks Merlin.

    • The Isle of the Blessed is revisited for the second time after it was first depicted in episode 1x13 Le Morte D'Arthur.

      The Isle seems to be bigger this time, with a lot more of towers and constructions. This is also the first time that wyvernsare seen at the Isle of the Blessed.

      Morgause pays to the ferryman so they are transported to the Isle, whereas Merlin used a small boat and crossed the water expanse on his own.

    • The Cailleach is the fifth character who refers to Merlin as 'Emrys'. Mordred did so in episodes 1x08 The Beginning of the End, episode 2x03 The Nightmare Begins and 2x11 The Witch's Quickening, Taliesin in episode 3x05 The Crystal Cave, The Fisher King in episode 3x08 The Eye Of The Phoenix and then Iseldir in episode 3x12 The Coming of Arthur Part 1
      (Morgana calls Old Merlin 'Emrys' in her prophetic dream).

    • During this episode a feast is thrown to celebrate Samhain's day. Samhain is the time of year when the spirits of the ancestors are honoured, when the lost ones are remembered and when their passing is celebrated.

    • The Cailleach is the Gatekeeper to the Spirit World. In Celtic myth, she is a celestial hag. In Old Irish it means "veiled one". Modern Scottish Gaelic still uses the word meaning "old woman".

    • The Dorocha are the spirits of the dead, the voices of the dead and like the dead they are numberless. In the time of the Old Religion, the high priestesses would perform a blood sacrifice on the stroke of midnight of Samhain's Eve, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, to tear it and release the Dorocha. No mortal has ever survived their touch and they cannot be defeated by swords and arrows. The only way to repair the veil is to travel to the Isle of the Blessed and perform another blood sacrifice.

    • A year has gone by since the end of the previous season.

  • QUOTES (33)

    • (The shirt Merlin is bringing to the prince gets stained with wine that a passing servant is carrying).
      Merlin: Arthur is going to kill me!
      Sir Lancelot: Let's see. You've faced far worse, Merlin.
      Merlin: He needs it for tonight.
      Sir Lancelot: I'm sure a man of your talents can think of something (He raises his eyebrows suggesting magic).
      (Merlin cleans it up using a spell, then he shows it to Sir Lancelot who raises his arms approvingly).

    • Merlin: You're dressed!
      Arthur: Yes, Merlin. I'm not an idiot.
      (He turns around and his shirt isn't properly done at the back)
      Merlin: (Laughing) Are you sure about that?
      Arthur: I beg your pardon?

    • Arthur: I'm trying to write a speech!
      Merlin: Do you want help?
      Arthur: No.
      Merlin: You won't want this, then. I spent all night working on it (Offers Arthur a scroll that he reads) What do you think?
      Arthur: (Returning it to Merlin) 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 doesn't say a word and Arthur smiles).

    • (About Uther)
      Gaius: It's been a year since Morgana betrayed him. His heart is broken and his spirit is gone. Are you joining us for the feast tonight?
      Gwen: I don't think so. I need to stay with the King.
      Gaius: You're very good to him, Gwen.
      Gwen: I don't do it for him. I do it for Arthur.

    • (After he's received news of Morgana)
      Arthur: For months, nothing. Why now?
      Agravaine: We knew she couldn't stay hidden forever. Today, tomorrow, does it matter? We mustn't live in fear, Arthur. Camelot is strong. If Morgana were to act, we'd be ready for her.
      Arthur: You're right, of course. I don't know how I'd've got through these last months without you. Thank you, Uncle.
      Agravaine: I made a promise to your mother. I'll always be there for you.

    • (Morgana is about to sacrifice Morgause)
      Morgana: I can't do this.
      Morgause: Sister... remember what I've told you. It is the only way. What you are about to do will affect everyone, even you. But most importantly, it will bring our enemies to their knees. You must be strong and remember that. Do not be scared. I am not long for this world. There is nothing left for me here now. Please, sister... let my parting be my final gift to you.

    • The Cailleach: (To Morgana) I am The Cailleach, the Gatekeeper to the Spirit World. You have torn the veil between the worlds (The Dorocha scream) The Dorocha. They are the voices of the dead, my child, and like the dead they are numberless. You are right to be afraid, Morgana. Your enemies will rue this day and all the destruction it brings. But you must beware... tearing the veil between the worlds has created a new world... and you will not walk through it alone. The one they call Emrys will walk in your shadow. He is your destiny... and he is your doom.

    • Merlin: When she spoke, her voice, it was as though it came from the depths of the Earth. And her eyes... they were so sad. So much pain in them. Who is she?
      Gaius: The Cailleach... the Gatekeeper to the Spirit World.
      Merlin: Why was she there?
      Gaius: It was on the stroke of midnight of Samhain's eve. The moment when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. It cannot be a coincidence.
      Merlin: Why was I the only one to see her?
      Gaius: You have great power, Merlin. For someone so gifted, such visions are not uncommon.
      Merlin: You don't understand. It wasn't a vision. She knew who I was. She called me Emrys... what is it? What does it mean?
      Gaius: I'm not sure. But if someone has torn the veil between the worlds, then God help us all.

    • Drea: My mother, my father, my little sister, they're...
      Arthur: It's all right. It's all right. Someone attacked them?
      (Drea nods)
      Arthur: Who?
      Drea: There was no-one... just... shapes.
      Arthur: You didn't see their faces?
      Drea: They had no faces. I keep telling you. They were there, but they weren't there... They moved so quickly... it was as if they weren't real. But... they must have been. I could hear the people screaming and then... silence. They were all... dead.

    • Arthur: Merlin... you need your comfort blanket.
      Merlin: What do you mean?
      Arthur: You're making me edgy.
      (Horse whinnies)
      Arthur: That's a horse.
      Merlin: Maybe it sensed something.
      Arthur: Yes, that you're a clotpole.
      Merlin: That's my word.
      Arthur: Yeah, and it suits you perfectly.

    • (About the Dorocha)
      Sir Gwaine: We are literally chasing shadows.

    • (After Sir Lancelot saves Merlin from the attack of the Dorocha)
      Sir Lancelot: What happened?
      Merlin: My magic... I couldn't use it.

    • Sir Lancelot: There's something out there!
      Arthur: You saw it?
      Sir Lancelot: When it saw the light, it fled.
      Sir Percival: Let's get the horses!
      Merlin: It's not something you can chase or something you can kill.
      Arthur: We need to get out of here!

    • (About the Dorocha)
      Merlin: My magic is useless against them. I've tried. I've never felt so powerless. Something deep inside... and when it came for me, I felt this emptiness... I couldn't breathe. I'm scared.
      Gaius: Merlin. It's all right. It's not your fault.

    • (About the Dorocha)
      Arthur: There's no way of fighting them?
      Agravaine: No. Our only weapons are torches. The light doesn't kill them, it only repels them.
      Arthur: What are they?
      Gaius: The Dorocha, Sire. The spirits of the dead. On Samhain's eve in the time of the Old Religion, the high priestesses would perform a blood sacrifice and release them.
      Agravaine: But who would do such a thing now?
      Gaius: Morgana.

    • (About the Dorocha)
      Arthur: How do we defeat these creatures?
      Gaius: I don't know, sire. No mortal has ever survived their touch.

    • Arthur: You see, Merlin, I could never be like you. I could never let myself look so spineless.
      Merlin: Oh, you see I'm different. I could never let myself look heartless.
      Arthur: What?
      Merlin: All right... thoughtless.
      Arthur: Never.
      Merlin: Definitely humourless.
      Arthur: That's because you're not funny.

    • Merlin: You're not scared?
      Arthur: Oh, I am, Merlin. Maybe more than you.

    • Agravaine: We cannot live like this forever, Arthur. We must find a way to vanquish these creatures.
      Arthur: Somewhere in all your books, Gaius, there must be something. All I'm asking for is a way to fight them.
      Gaius: I fear the Dorocha cannot be defeated by swords and arrows, Sire. If I am right and the veil between the worlds has been torn, then there is only one path open to us... to travel to the Isle of the Blessed and repair it.
      Arthur: And how do I do that?
      Gaius: I'm not sure, but for the tear to be created it would have required a blood sacrifice. To seal it... will require another.
      Arthur: We will ride before nightfall.
      Gaius: And who will be the sacrifice?
      Arthur: If laying down my life will spare the people of Camelot then that is what I must do.

    • 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.
      Agravaine: You should know Arthur intends to vanquish these creatures.
      Morgana: Impossible.
      Agravaine: He makes ready to go to the Isle of the Blessed as we speak. And if the Dorocha don't kill him on the way, our brave little lamb intends to sacrifice himself to repair the veil.

    • Agravaine: Something's troubling you... Morgana?
      Morgana: Something the Cailleach said. She spoke of someone called Emrys. Called him my doom.
      Agravaine: Your doom? What did she mean?
      Morgana: I don't know.
      Agravaine: Morgana, we should be celebrating. Arthur will be dead within the week leaving the throne open for Camelot's rightful heir.

    • Arthur: (At the verge of tears) There are many things I have to thank you for. You have taught me so much. But most of all you have taught me... what it is to be a prince. I hope that this time, you'll be proud of me (Kisses his father's forehead and turns to leave).
      Uther: (Grabbing Arthur's arm) Don't leave me.
      Arthur: (Crying) I have to, Father.
      Uther: Please...
      (Arthur squeezes his father's hand reassuringly and leaves).

    • Arthur: Promise me you'll look after him when I'm gone.
      Gwen: What is it? You don't have to go.
      Arthur: (Putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder) I do.
      Gwen: (Touching his chest affectionately) Please, Arthur, take care. You're precious... not just the Kingdom.
      Arthur: Smile.
      Gwen: I can't (Looks down).
      Arthur: (Grabbing her chin so she looks up into his eyes again) Do you remember the first time I kissed you?
      (Gwen smiles)
      Arthur: There (He smiles as well) That's the memory I want to take with me.
      (They hug).

    • Arthur: Take this. It bears the royal seal. In my absence, responsibility for the kingdom rests with you.
      Agravaine: What about your father?
      Arthur: Should he die, you are to assume the throne.
      Agravaine: Arthur...
      Arthur: You are the only person I trust, Uncle.
      Agravaine: I beg you, for the sake of the Kingdom, there must be another way (Tries to return the seal to Arthur unsuccessfully).
      Arthur: My mind is made up. I am just grateful you are here.

    • Merlin: It's my destiny to protect Arthur.
      Gaius: How? Your magic is powerless against the Dorocha.
      Merlin: Then I must sacrifice myself in his place.
      Gaius: No.
      Merlin: My life has been marked out by destiny. If this is meant to be... I'm not afraid. I will gladly die, Gaius, knowing that one day... Albion will live.
      (They hug).

    • Gwen: Will you grant me a favour?
      Sir Lancelot: Anything.
      Gwen: (Gestures towards Arthur) Look after him. Bring him home.
      Sir Lancelot: I will protect him with my life. You have my promise.
      Gwen: Thank you.

    • Sir Lancelot: You shouldn't be here. You have no powers.
      Merlin: Doesn't matter.
      Sir Lancelot: You are not a warrior, Merlin. I don't want to see you hurt. If you leave in the morning, I'll cover with Arthur.
      Merlin: It is your duty to protect Camelot, no matter what the cost.
      (Sir Lancelot nods)
      Merlin: Well... it's my duty to protect Arthur. Surely you can understand that?
      Sir Lancelot: I can understand that very well.

    • (Morgana has a prophetic dream of a battlefield where Pendragon and unknown banners can be seen among many dead men, Excalibur on the ground and the hand of a old woman reaching out)
      Morgana: Help me, Emrys, please!
      Old Merlin: Is this really what you wanted, Morgana?

    • Sir Gwaine: (Putting a log of wood in the fire) The last one. Maybe we should draw lots to see who gets some more.
      Arthur: I'll go.
      Sir Lancelot: (Stands up at once) You'll need help.
      Merlin: (Stands up as well) I'll go with him.
      Arthur: You sure you're the right person?
      Merlin: Since when have you known how to collect firewood?
      (All laugh).

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

    • Arthur: All the things I've faced... I've never worried about dying.
      Merlin: I don't think you should now.
      Arthur: Sometimes you do puzzle me.
      Merlin: You never fathomed me out.
      Arthur: No.
      Merlin: I always thought that if things had been different, we'd have been good friends.
      Arthur: Yeah.
      Merlin: That's if you hadn't been such an arrogant, pompous, dollophead.
      (Arthur laughs).

    • Merlin: We'll defeat the Dorocha. We will, Arthur. Together.
      Arthur: I appreciate that. You're a brave man, Merlin... between battles.
      Merlin: (Laughs) You don't know how many times I have saved your life.
      Arthur: If I ever become King, I'm going to have you made you court jester.
      (Both laugh).

    • (Both are scared of the eerie screeches of the Dorocha)
      Arthur: They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
      Merlin: Feels pretty dark now.
      Arthur: It can't be long now.
      (More screeching is heard. A Dorocha attacks them and Merlin places himself between Arthur and the threat, saving his life.)
      Arthur: Merlin, no!

  • NOTES (17)