Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: Camelot "Lady of the Lake"

Non Spoiler Review:
Several plotlines compete again as Arthur and his men begin training with Gawain, and the fallout from Guinevere's wedding begins to get noticed by Igraine. The main thrust comes when Merlin must acquire a true sword for Arthur, while Morgan gets a visitor at the castle just as all her magic using catches up with her.

Lady of the Lake carries on some of the erratic and problematic behaviours from last episode, so I'm fearful that this going to be a trend and the writers might be struggling with a direction. Merlin (and Joseph Fiennes) behave in such a weird manner I'm almost wondering if he's under a spell (which I doubt is the writers' intention). The quest for the sword does provide an interesting spin on the Lady of the Lake mythos, but the journey to get there is extremely contrived and messy.

Everybody's acting so CRAZY! Morgan gets a visitor from her past as she struggles for her life, but even that leaves us wondering what's really going on, too. I'd like to think there is an over arching plan that will explain away these problems, but I'm not very confident in that. And finally, Arthur's beginning to fizzle as an inspirational figure. So this isn't encouraging four episodes in. I'm hoping this is just growing pains as the show moves towards its halfway mark. 

Spoilers Now!
The day after the wedding, Arthur is moping around the grand hall, which does not go unnoticed by Igraine and Merlin, who suggests she may be able to offer her son some motherly advice. Arthur wants Gawain to start training the men immediately so everyone can be just as pissed off as he is.

Gawain manages to best Arthur pretty easily and breaks the sword (!). So he suggests a swordmaker named Caliburn can make him a new one. Merlin seems to take the broken sword all in stride, but takes Arthur aside and warns him off his desire for Guinevere. Then he sets out in search of a new sword fit for a king.

Morgan prepares to venture to Camelot with new BFF Vivian to present a wedding gift to Guinevere, but she's suffering from pains that began last episode. When she collapses on the trail, Vivian demands they return so she can care for her. When they get back to Uther's castle there's an old nun waiting for them. Morgan is incensed and demands she be removed immediately. "What have you done?" the old woman says before she's sent away.

Igraine chats with Guinevere and in a friendly manner warns her off flirting now that she's married for fear of undoing other men's lives. But when Guinevere runs into Arthur it's the king who won't let go of their little tryst. She tells him it didn't mean anything to her, otherwise she couldn't have married Leontes. She's his champion's wife now. He goes off in a huff.

Morgan awakens feeling much better and ravenous. The nun, Sybil, remains outside the gates and Morgan tells Vivian she was the woman who taught her at the nunnery. Her eyes begin to bleed. Vivian lets the nun in and Sybil pretty much takes charge, ordering everyone to their rooms. She demands to know if Morgan performed a summoning. Morgan is taunted by visions of Uther and Lot, and finally collapses.

Merlin goes to see the swordmaker but Caliburn isn't a friendly sort at all, and more than a little volatile. The king can come for his own sword if he wants, he says, as he's a master bladesmith. But when he learns it's Merlin, he's more amenable. And when he finds out it's for the new king, he whips one up.

Caliburn gets chatty and wants to know what it was like being a sorcerer, but Merlin says he gave it all up, even though having magic powers was like an extra emotion. Caliburn continues to pester. Is he scared? Or he just enjoyed using magic too much?

Merlin walks off in a huff, and sits down to make the fire rage with his magic, obviously enjoying the high he's getting from sorcery, but Caliburn's daughter walks over and asks what he's doing. Merlin's furious for being discovered and physically threatens her, but Caliburn warns him off. He introduces her—Excalibur (uh oh). He suggests Merlin dine with them and he'll have his sword by morning.

Merlin wakes to Caliburn polishing the new sword. The best he's ever made. Almost indestructible. But Caliburn wants to give it to the king himself. Merlin doesn't want him near the king as he seems to have a vision of Caliburn killing Arthur. No deal. Merlin demands the sword but they get into a fight instead. When Caliburn brings up Merlin's family, the sorcerer sets him on fire and kills him. Excalibur runs over, calls him a murderer and runs away with the sword.

Merlin takes after her, apologizing, but she runs into the lake and tries to take a boat across. So he uses his magic on the water to freeze the lake and walks over to her. She falls off the boat with the sword and thrusts it and her hand through the ice, but she's trapped. Merlin grabs the sword but can't free her, and Excalibur drowns underneath the ice.

Sybil sees an apparition of the young Morgan and Igraine. Then Morgan wakes up and appears to recover. Sybil says she was reborn while Morgan says it's because she's strong. But she's not out of the woods yet and has another seizure, this time transforming into Igraine! After the shock and horror wear off, she realizes she can feel that Igraine is in pain.

Meanwhile, Igraine tells Arthur she saw how he looked at Guinevere, but there will be other girls for him. He makes a snarky comment about saying the same to his father, and gets a slap across the face. Many died because Uther couldn't be denied, she tells him. She won't let it happen again.

Gawain's less than honorable fighting techniques offends Arthur and the knights. He's able to disarm Arthur quite easily, so Arthur eventually learns the lesson, and coupled with his growing bitterness at being denied Guinevere, lectures his troops. They fight for peace, but combat is a means for honor, protection and justice. 

He wants to fight Leontes and the two have an intense sparring match. Leontes eventually gets the better of him, and Arthur tells the troops to understand when they've been beaten by a better man, but never to give in—he fights dirty and brings Leontes down. Gawain gives him a slow clap and says he can do business with that kind of king. Guinevere is not impressed and tells him they can't keep doing this. It's finished, she says. She has what she wants.

Merlin is looking worse for the wear as he sits at a tavern contemplating what he's done. He ends up  insulting the patrons and gets beaten up.

Recovering, Morgan finally asks why Sybil came. The nunnery was attacked and burned and she was the only survivor. She was drawn there for Morgan, who left them to get the crown, and who doesn't have it yet. Morgan tells Vivian to make up a bed for her, as far away from her chambers as she can find.

Merlin returns to Arthur, battered and bruised, and presents the sword. Everyone's in awe of it. Merlin says Caliburn was dead so he road many miles until he came to a lake. When he stopped, out of the mist a woman called him and stretched her hand out of the lake clutching the sword. She slipped back into the water and said it was the Sword of King Arthur. Excalibur.

The Verdict:
This was quite the uneven episode and I'm not really sure what the writer's were shooting for. Ultimately we got an interesting twist on the Lady of the Lake that's tainted the sword with Merlin's darkness. All pretty cool. But the set up just didn't work for me at all.

Caliburn was B.A.N.A.N.A.S. Merlin seems to know/not know him and vice versa. What was going on here? Caliburn, despite his crazy, made the best sword of his life over night. Then he decides it's his job to taunt Merlin into a rage, freak out about him attacking his daughter, then decide to have him for dinner. All the while we get the insight that he might just kill Arthur if he meets him face to face.

Merlin and Morgan are being set up as two sides of the same coin. Magic is addictive and he's pretty ashamed when he's caught using it. But does that warrant pulling a knife on Excalibur? On to Morgan, who may or may not be cured, and the introduction of Sybil, who is the weirdest nun ever—she's okay with Morgan taking the crown, but not the magic part. Why does Morgan turn into Igraine? What was exactly wrong with her and is she cured?

Sadly my endurance for Joseph Fiennes acting is wearing thin after these last two episodes. He's okay as far as calm Joseph Fiennes moments, but angry Joseph Fiennes looks like he's about to have a stroke.

Another quibble. There's no sense of a kingdom beyond the walls of Camelot. Arthur isn't receiving envoys or offering up any decisions yet, nor does he carry himself at all like someone who commands any power. Right now Camelot feels like a frat house for a bunch of guys playing soldier. Are there no decisions to be made for the land, or does he actually have to go out and unite the various warlords? They seem to have forgotten that the last couple of weeks.

Finally, Arthur's continued immaturity is really detracting from the character. Where's the nobility? The boy can speak Latin and quotes Cicero, and here we get him advising his knights to fight dirty when necessary. Is that what the Knights of the Round Table are becoming? I'm hoping this is just part of the big plan, but there continues to be this ongoing contradiction—all this magical stuff hinted at in the background, but when it comes to Camelot, it's grounded in the mundane. There needs to be a grander sense of what they're fighting for and the country being built around them.


  1. thanks for the piece - including the spoilers - I have horrid ADD so I can't remember one episode from the next but the bottom line is I am totally addicted to this show. Mostly housebound, I'm so grateful I can afford the on-demand packages from my provider. Please keep writing - I may not agree with you on the writing/acting but I love the insights and reminders. keep it up! - cm

  2. Thanks for the feedback! I really enjoyed the first couple of episodes, so I'm hoping it improves again...I been hoping it was more in line with Spartacus quality.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...