Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Camelot "Guinevere"

Non Spoiler Review:
Camelot's third episode breaks out into several directions—Guinevere and Leontes prepare for their wedding day, prompting some impetuous actions from Arthur. Leontes and Kay set off to find Camelot a champion to inspire others to their king's side, while Morgan decides to have her brother and Merlin over for dinner and wine.

I found this week to be less cohesive than the first two-parter, but likely because this was more of a stand alone episode. Some of the behaviour of the characters had me scratching my head, though—while Morgan's motivations became apparent, I really questioned some of the bad decisions someone (supposedly) of Merlin's caliber could make.

Guinevere picked up in the latter half, with an interesting twist on the classic love triangle. I like the choice of new character introduced. There's indication of potential conflict between several others brewing. So a fair episode, but I'm hoping next week is an improvement.

Spoilers Now!
Guinevere and her cousin Bridget are preparing for the big wedding day, though she's having cold feet wondering if Leontes is the one. But their estate is suddenly attacked by bandits and they're forced to flee to Camelot.

Arthur walks among his people who are assembling at the castle, a little overwhelmed by all the requests he's getting for an audience. Leontes comes to get him as his new bride is seeking refuge there. Merlin doesn't want to give them sanctuary, but Arthur insists, so Merlin decides to teach him a lesson and tell Guinevere she and Leontes can have the wedding at Camelot.

Morgan is doing some housecleaning at Uther's castle, opening up his former torture chamber. She wants the room cleaned of its accoutrement's except for one pair of shackles. She meets a servant, Vivian, who served Uther. Her family was brought as slaves there by the Romans centuries ago, and stayed. She respected her father, Vivian says. Morgan seems to like her and wants more of a woman's touch at the castle. She tells her to chose who to keep and get rid of as far as the staff.

Igraine helps Guinevere and Bridget get settled in. She picks up on Guinevere's nerves so gives her a pep talk about eventually having a family and falling in love with her husband. She's hoping the wedding will raise everyone's spirits.

Leontes and Kay speak of the recent deaths in their ranks and suggest recruiting a well-known warrior might inspire their recruitment efforts. Leontes knows of one. Vivian then shows up with an invitation from Morgan to Merlin and Arthur for a feast at Uther's castle. Merlin is suspicious, of course. Arthur accepts. 

Merlin tells him he doesn't accept anything without consulting him. Arthur informs him he's the king and wants to get to know his sister better. If he can't unite his family, he can't unite the country. Merlin doesn't like all this hands-on approach, and tells the boy everything he is now is because of Merlin, and he shouldn't forget that.

Kay and Leontes find the warrior Gawain at an old monastery, but he wants nothing to do with fighting for kings anymore. It looks like they'll return home empty handed, but Kay's literacy in reading Gawain's book inspires him, and he wants Kay to teach him to finish it if he returns with them.

Morgan welcomes the pair to the redecorated castle. They enjoy their feast and speak of Arthur's plans as king. He feels he must get to know his people. Later, Morgan comes to see him in bed and they speak of their father. He's glad they can start over. Morgan accidently scratches him with her ring, drawing blood. She lets him sleep.

Then she joins Merlin for another drink, only she's spiked his wine and Merlin foolishly drinks it. Arthur is also up and about—spying on them from the door, then walking out. Merlin, in his delirium, has a vision of Uther's murder. Then he passes out. 

An angry Merlin wakes up in shackles while Morgan takes some toenail and beard clippings and mixes some potions. He goads her about murdering her father, but she says he made her stronger and she's grateful. He refuses to use his power to escape because he's strong enough not to. The magic she's using will cost her, he warns, then challenges her to prove her ability by transforming into her young girl form, which Merlin recognizes as Morgan as a child.

Merlin eventually breaks free on his own accord and readies to leave, while Morgan sees him off. He asks what she wants, but she tells him all in good time. She's learned to be patient. He warns her off magic again, but she dismisses him, though suddenly feels a shot of pain.

Arthur returns to Camelot and wakes up Guinevere, convincing her to meet him on the beach. Arthur pleads for her to not marry Leontes. But she continues to deny their feelings, until Arthur asks they indulge in their passions just this once. So they have a tryst on the beach and Guinevere tells him that must be the one and only time.

That leaves the problem of her wedding night now, so on the way back to Camelot they find a dead stag, and resourceful Guinevere collects some of its blood.

Back at Camelot, the men have a party to celebrate Leontes, while Igraine sees to Guinevere. Arthur sends her a sea shell as a wedding gift, which does little to alleviate the tension. Then Leontes asks Arthur to preside over the wedding, which makes for an awkward affair for both, as Igraine notices the looks the two exchange. Meanwhile, Morgan uses the ring she scratched her brother with to cast a spell that allows her to see through his eyes—eyes pining for Guinevere.

On the wedding night, Guinevere tosses some of the deer's blood on the bed while Leontes gets up in the night. Problem solved. But she gets up later and looks out morosely over the sea.
The Verdict:
Not a lot was really happening, but the lack of action wasn't the problem. It seemed many of the plot points were just plain lazy. My big problem was how easy Merlin got drugged by his wine. I mean, seriously? After all the bits and pieces Morgan took from him, he must know she's going to use some kind magic on him (as the doll in her chamber foreshadows).

Everyone around Arthur seems to be a bit lackadaisical when it comes to royal protocol. Even the peasants give him barely a wave of acknowledgement when he passes. Maybe I've watched too much of The Tudors, but a little bit of respect might go a long way. He's not an ordinary person any longer. Perhaps that's something that's going to be expanded upon in weeks to come as he begins to bear the weight of the crown.

Gawain seems pretty likable right off the bat. He should bring an interesting dynamic in the Arthurian friendship, given things with Leontes are going to be a bit awkward from this point forward. His arrival hopefully means fleshing out the brotherhood of knights.

How far is Merlin going to let Arthur off his leash when it comes to making decisions? There's a sense that Merlin is Arthur's Karl Rove, and is ready to shut Arthur down (and even punish him) at the merest disagreement. That's seriously going to backfire in a bad way if Merlin's other bad decisions this episode are any indication.

There's the question of what Morgan did to Arthur in bed. My first thought was the scratch was a spell that sent him off in pursuit of Guinevere. But it appears it was just to be able to see through his eyes. Having Guinevere betray Leontes for Arthur, rather than vice versa was a pretty good twist, given I'm not entirely sold on the three of them at the moment. This triangle has been set up without any time to gel with the audience, so there's really little invested in them right now after only three episodes. Arthur's pining is just coming off as a youthful crush, and Guinevere as a flaky bride (and unworthy queen).

Unless it's all misdirection—perhaps Lancelot is not Leontes, but someone to be introduced after Arthur and Guinevere eventually wed to give Arthur some of his own business by seducing his wife? Just a thought.

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