Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Camelot "The Sword and the Crown"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Arthur deals with the weight of his responsibility after the death of his foster mother (who doesn't even warrant a name!) Merlin attempts to plan against King Lot's forthcoming attack. Arthur meets the girl from his vision. One guess who she is. Oh, and there's this sword stuck in a rock, too.

One of the challenges of an adaptation such as this is getting all the expected stuff out of the way. Arthur needs to be crowned, get his sword, and the respect of the people in order to get on with things. So this week served that purpose and set events in motion while further fleshing out the ensemble cast. 

There are some nice developments with Igraine and Leontes, and some unexpected deaths. But the real intrigue is with the powerhouse that is Morgan and her mysterious late night goings on in the woods. She's easily the most compelling character, so the writers better be careful, or Arthur is going to get overshadowed by his big sister.

Spoilers Now!
Arthur struggles with the death of his foster mother and asks to be left alone. He goes down to the beach where he suddenly sees the girl from his vision (clothed this time). She's angry to see him, as she likes to swim in peace, but he tells her he's burying his mother, which garners some sympathy, and they walk together. He explains King Lot killed her, and she informs him her own family has fought against the warlord, as well. Then he spies his foster father, and Arthur rushes off with a quick goodbye to this mystery woman.

Ector is consulting with Merlin, who is feeling responsible for allowing all this to happen, but they all agree to fight for one another against Lot. Ector especially wants to avenge his wife.

Meanwhile, the object of their revenge is lying in bed in Uther's castle and enjoying his new alliance. Morgan lightly runs a knife down Lot's sleeping body, then departs for the woods and communes with something in the forest about Uther's boy. She assures it Arthur's spirit is broken and it's nearly the time

Work is proceeding on cleaning up the overgrown mess of Camelot. Merlin is schooling Arthur on how to persuade the people to believe in the idea of King Arthur—he needs to do the impossible. There just so happens to be a sword stuck in a stone at the top of a waterfall. The people believe it belonged to Mars (the peasants do love their pagan heritage). Anyone who's tried to pull it out has died, and whoever does will be king of all of Britain. Arthur has his doubts, but Merlin assures him he can believe in himself and besides, everything pretty much depends on it.

Lot's turned Uther's castle into a debauchery as Morgan rejoins him in the throne room. Envoys are sending gifts to them, but she wants them sent back as they will only deserve such respect when the boy is gone, she says. But Lot tells her they were seen leaving Camelot, so they've apparently won. She's not impressed with his new complacency and prefers he plan for battle.

Kay gets an idea to help Arthur ascend the problematic cliff using a rope. Merlin tells Leontes to prepare the beacon as Arthur reaches the summit. Leontes seems to think he's sending Arthur to his death but Merlins says if he doesn't succeed they have nothing anyway. Meanwhile, a crowd appears to watch the challenge. Instead of pulling, Arthur gets the idea to push down on the sword  (hearing Merlin's voice in his head), and so it comes out easily. He falls back off the cliff into the water below. Leontes rushes off to rescue him.

Ector meets Igraine for the first time and she's very gracious about the death of his wife and her care of Arthur as his foster mother. A rider arrives telling them someone is trying to pull out the Sword of Mars. They arrive just as Arthur is brought out of the lake. Merlin retrieves the sword and tells them to light the beacon that the new king has come. 

Lot and Morgan watch the fires on the horizon, realizing everyone will follow Arthur. Morgan is furious with him, but he berates her for speaking to him in such an equal manner, and proceeds to threaten to rape her in front of the entire crowd. Clever Morgan turns it back on him and challenges him to do the deed to show everyone his supremacy, and of course he can't. So he leads her off with a better idea. Lot takes Morgan to the hills, tying her up and leaving her there to think overnight about the nature of their alliance and where the true power lies. 

Igraine begs Merlin to use his powers to heal Arthur, who is bedridden and unconscious, but he won't. And what use is he, then, she says. She sits by his side and tells her son she can teach him how to be a king if he forgives her her mistakes.

As night falls, Morgan tells the mist she searched for it, and they didn't come. Come morning, Lot finds her still alive, and she tells him they understand one another now, so he cuts her down. The people are rallying to Arthur, so Lot has run out of patience. They attack him today.

Arthur awakens in the morning, and a proud Merlin presents him with the sword. Arthur's feeling pretty proud himself, too. Arthur suggests Merlin put the sword there, creating the legend knowing someday someone would pull it out. Merlin gives him his Me? Immortal? look, and assures him the sword has been there hundreds of years. Together, they go out to greet the assembled masses who have heard of his exploit. Merlin tells him now is the time to be crowned.

But Morgan rides into Camelot and warns them that Lot is coming. Why tell them, Merlin asks, but she ignores his question and turns to leave. Then he grabs her, getting a strange vision of her in the woods. She wishes him good luck and departs.

The coronation is underway as Merlin appears with the sword and presents it to the king. Arthur is crowned king of the Britons. He gives a peppy speech to establish a new way of ruling at Camelot, then calls up Leontes, Kay and Ector and knights them—Kay as marshal of England and Ector as his champion. Merlin is pleased. From the crowd, Morgan's little girl persona watches.

At the evening celebrations, Arthur sees his mystery lady and gets her name. Guinevere, of course. They talk privately, going off to look at the beach from the ramparts while Merlin watches. Igraine comes over, telling Merlin he took Arthur from her twenty years before, but looks no older. Merlin continues to deny any notion he might be older than he looks.

Guinevere wonders if they could jump off the cliff into the water. Arthur takes her up on her suggestion and the two climb up on the edge, teasing one another but both backing down. Leontes comes out and Arthur introduces them, but they've been friends since childhood apparently. And guess what, she's his betrothed! Congratulations, Arthur says. Awkward. Arthur returns to the party substantially morose.

As he's moping, Arthur notices strangers among the crowd, recognizing too late they are the ones who killed his mother. Suddenly they reveal themselves and begin hacking up people. A battle ensues in the hall and Lot storms in, making his way to Arthur.

Ector orders Arthur to be taken away and heads off Lot, but the warlord disarms and mortally wounds him on his spear. Ector's dying, and slowly walks forward up to Lot who doesn't see the knife he's hiding. Ector manages to stab him, and both fall dead. Arthur and Kay run in as their father dies. Merlin orders Lot's body to be put on display in the courtyard.

After the battle, Morgan is alone in the hall. She picks up the crown and places it next to the throne where she sits down. Merlin enters. She admits she tried an alliance with a man, which has proven the wrong choice. Men are not her way to this. She'll find another way to gain the throne. A stunned Arthur and his brother enter and he asks her why she needs to take the crown. He'll place her castle under his protection in gratitude for her warning, he says. For her, she counters, the crown is everything.

As she walks out, Merlin asks her what she saw in the night. He knows what it is, but does she? Don't go near it, he warns. Later, she walks out into the woods, disrobes, and a black wolf emerges from the darkness. She needs more, she says. "Tell me what I'm to do."

The Verdict:
This episode moved along some key elements—namely a sword and a crown, but with a couple of twists. Interesting that it's called the Sword of Mars and not Excalibur. Then there's the surprise reveal that Leontes and Guinevere are to be wed. So is this Lancelot, then? Or will that character, in fact, show up at a later date?

I'm pleased with the involvement of Igraine, and the surprise death of both Lot and Ector means she'll play a bigger role in the goings on at Camelot. Though the other knights are getting little play at the moment, and it will be necessary to flesh out the background cast of characters in order to really give the show life (much like the many players in Spartacus).

There were some nice touches with Morgan, who has her own sense of honor despite craving Uther's crown. The bit of sympathy she has at Arthur losing his foster mother (given her own mother's death) shows she's not a heartless harpy. And also very clever in the way she unmanned Lot in front of his subjects.

Arthur is growing on me. In the initial trailers I wasn't struck on him at all, but he's starting to pull off the role. And my prejudice against Joseph Fiennes is slowly dissipating, as well. But Arthur does need to start behaving kingly given his big sister is already stealing a lot of thunder on screen.

Of course, the subtle magic and mystery of the forces at work behind the scenes proves most intriguing—Merlin's secrets, and Morgan's quest to use magic to further her ends. What is the hidden force in the woods and will it emerge as a demonic power? Will the show delve into Merlin's own demonic bloodline that is hinted at in some Arthurian legends? 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...