Blending centuries-old Arthurian legend with Smallville-style coming-of-age-tales, Merlin continues its journey toward the day when Prince Arthur, played by Bradley James, rules Camelot as its king. And as the prince's story grows to epic proportions, fans of the BBC-produced series – now airing its fourth season on Syfy – will not only witness Colin Morgan's Merlin become the greatest wizard of all time, but they will have a front-row seat for the formation of the original superhero team: the Knights of the Round Table.
Employed sparingly last season in a few episodes, Arthur's chivalric order has a much larger role this season as Eoin Macken (Sir Gwaine), Rupert Young (Sir Leon), Tom Hopper (Sir Percival) and Adetomiwa Edun (Sir Elyan) have all been elevated to recurring characters.
During a discussion with U.S. media, Macken teased that the main storyline in an upcoming episode of Merlin actually focuses on the knights and their interweaving relationships.
"I'm sure the fans will enjoy it because we're pretty brilliant in it," he laughed. "It was quite interesting because there's a lot more conflict between the knights, in terms of creating a different dynamic to our relationship. I really enjoyed one scene with Rupert, which we had in the forest, that got quite heated. That was fun."
With the camaraderie apparent among the four British actors, Young readily agreed with Macken: "It's really the first time we all go out and do our thing. I think the characters developed a little bit in that episode. And as Eoin said, the most fun was shooting those conflicts."
Young also revealed that as Leon and the other knights continue to push boundaries and expectations with one another, their relationships with Merlin and Arthur also will be put to the test.
"Because Merlin's been around and he's always at Arthur's side, as has Leon in many ways, they have grown to like each other," Young explained. "However, there's always that status. I'm always going to have a slightly higher status than Merlin. So we all -- I think my character and all the knights -- will kind of joke with him. We have a laugh with Merlin, but there's always a line, in the same way, but not as much, as Arthur and Merlin. There's that respect there, but Merlin always knows his place and we've always got to remember that he'll be our friend, but when he needs to be, he is still a servant."
Outside of Santiago Cabrera's Lancelot, Macken's Gwaine is often Arthur's greatest rival on Merlin. But in Season 4, the once-and-future king begins to rely more on Gwaine, leading to a bond that grows beyond brothers in arms.
"Gwaine's initial friendship with Arthur was actually more of a competitive relationship that became a friendship through respect, because initially, Gwaine, as a character, didn't have any time for Arthur because he was royalty," Macken said. "Merlin was more respectful towards him, so they became friends much quicker. This year, Arthur and Gwaine became much stronger friends, as Arthur does with all the knights, by virtue of the fact that they're fighting battles together side by side.
"Merlin and Gwaine haven't been as strong friend-wise because Gwaine doesn't know what Merlin actually does in terms of his magic."
Hopper, who guest-starred in Matt Smith's first full episode of Doctor Who, says that while the knights' role definitely expands in the fourth season, the true might of Arthur's men lies in their strength in numbers, and not in their individual ambitions.
"You don't really get to see that much about our backgrounds because this series very much focuses on the development of Arthur becoming who he's going to be," he said. "It's more about the knights being there for him on that journey. Potentially, in the next series, there may be more, but I think it's more about us being on the side of Arthur and being there for him in his formative years."
Edun agreed with Hopper, adding that he feels the increased role of the knights elevates the events of Season 4.
"It's quite epic and it focuses on an overarching theme," he said. "You can expect through the evolution of a slightly different Camelot, there are issues raised by Arthur's relationship with Guinevere and things like that are sort of foreground, so you get glimpses of the knights, but you see them primarily as actors, or agitators, in the formation of this new sort of Camelot."
Merlin airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.