Merlin

TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Merlin TV Poster Image
Fresh take on legendary wizard is fun, if not truly magical.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 85 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

This is a side of Camelot that hasn't been seen before; the show isn't focused on conveying specific positive messages, but by presenting different takes on "heroes" we all know well, it makes you think about them differently and humanizes them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

King Uther Pendragon is portrayed as a despot who's made the practice of magic a crime punishable by death. His son, Prince Arthur, is a spoiled bully, accustomed to getting his way and not afraid to abuse his position or his people. Merlin is a young, untrained wizard who doesn't always try to hide his abilities and sometimes ends up offending people in power.

Violence

Expect lots of action in this swords-'n'-sorcery series, including sword fights and other forms of hand-to-hand combat. Some of the scenes seem more intense than others. A flail battle between a young Prince Arthur and a young Merlin is played somewhat comically, for example, while an execution scene is more harrowing, with a prisoner being decapitated (viewers see the axe fall, and the crowd winces, but nothing more). There's also dark magic, evil spells, assassination attempts, and more.

Sex

Some of the women wear low-cut dresses, and there are plenty of flirtatious interactions -- but little actual romance.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some characters appear to be drinking wine at feasts.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Merlin takes place in a Camelot very different from the one portrayed in other versions of the King Arthur legend. In this swords-'n'-sorcery series, Merlin is young and untrained, King Uther Pendragon is something of a despot, practicing magic is a crime punishable by death, and Prince Arthur is a spoiled bully. There's no swearing and little romance, but expect plenty of action involving dark magic, swords, daggers, and other medieval weaponry.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJacieDaize October 18, 2011

BBC Merlin TV Series

There is a lot of killing in it and some episodes do have really bad swear words. Also there are some sexual references in a few episodes but not many. Low cut... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 and 14 year old Written bybrown_eyed_girl February 24, 2013

Think Smallville meets the Round Table

Merlin is a fun fantasy romp, with some seasons and some episodes being more suitable for younger children than others. Each episode has the obligatory sword f... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJ-Yo June 30, 2011

A Force for Good.

Merlin is a show where magic is prominent- and I love it. It's an enthralling story of Arthur and Merlin in their early years and how traditional Arthurian... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byveils July 10, 2011

The Best Show, Just Watch It

Merlin is good old British television and if you read a lot of audience reviews, you'll read a lot of good things, at least I did. This show is amazing, it... Continue reading

What's the story?

Most people are familiar with Merlin, the wizened old wizard who served as advisor and mentor to noble King Arthur. But does anyone know how the powerful sorcerer learned to master magic? MERLIN focuses on the legendary wizard's teenage years, opening as the young, untrained magician (Colin Morgan), newly arrived in Camelot, is quickly tapped to become Prince Arthur's manservant. But this isn't a Camelot that will be familiar to people who know and love the legend. King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head), Arthur's father, clearly cares for his subjects, but he's also a bit of a despot who believes that a stern hand is the best way to rule. He's banned the practice of magic, which he blames for sowing dissent in the land -- a policy that means Merlin must keep his talents under wraps. And Arthur (Bradley James) is a teenage bully who likes nothing more than terrorizing pages and commoners. But Merlin soon learns that it's his destiny to help Arthur assume his own destiny, clearly a challenge that will require a good bit of magic.

Is it any good?

This show offers a new take on a different stage of the King Arthur legend, but the legendary wizard deserves a more impressive series than this; it's fun, but it lacks magic. Everyone knows how that story turns out, but the main characters' early years don't typically get as much attention. The show takes significant liberties with the conventions -- though there are so many versions of the story that there's plenty of tolerance for change. Making Merlin a novice magician and turning Arthur into a thoroughly unlikable jerk places the characters at the start of a developmental journey, inviting viewers along to see how they finally get to their well-known destination.

While the idea is solid, the execution is a little shaky. James is so effective at making Arthur unpleasant that it's hard to imagine him becoming a better person, while Morgan plays Merlin as bemused and a bit cocky and doesn't seem to have much else in his emotional repertoire. As a result, his young wizard frequently seems full of himself, which might be more appropriate for a seasoned magician rather than one just learning the trade. The show's tone veers from lighthearted to dark; some scenes are played for laughs and might be fun for young viewers, while others feature malevolent magic and medieval-style violence that's more appropriate for teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the legend of King Arthur. How does Merlin differ from other versions of the classic tale? Does the young prince seem like he's ready to become a noble king?

  • Does Merlin have the potential to become a wise, learned wizard? Merlin has traditionally been portrayed as very old; does it seen strange to see him as a teen? Why do you think the show's producers decided to take this angle on the classic story? Who are they trying to appeal to? Does it work?

TV details

For kids who love fantasy

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