Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: Camelot "Justice"

Non Spoiler Review:
Justice charts Arthur's first attempt to extend Camelot's authority over his subjects and usher in his new age of freedom for all. In contrast, Morgan, with Sybil's help, seeks to assemble her own counterbalance to her brother's rule by more manipulative means. On the sidelines, Merlin continues to deal with the after effects of his magic use and the death of Excalibur.

Justice started out a bit like a run of the mill standalone episode, but it ultimately moved along the broader story quite effectively. Several of the problems I mentioned previously—Arthur's lack of kingliness and respect from the people, as well as a sense of a kingdom in general—were addressed. But once again Morgan takes the spotlight with some delicious scheming, helped by her growing mentor, Sybil.

Arthur and Guinevere behave much more like adults, and the knights (though most still in the background) appear to be taking more action in providing a rule of law, so all big plusses as the storyline continues. Much of Merlin's stuff continues to brew in the background, so I'm curious as to what direction all that will take. 

Spoilers Now!
Arthur, Kay and their entourage are travelling back from Camelot in the rain, discussing Merlin's absence and whether he'll be returning. They come upon a girl who says her father is being strung up by some villagers. Arthur rushes in, demanding his release and the man, Colfur, is let down. The villagers accuse him of murder and say it doesn't concern the king. 

The murdered man, Wade, was a prominent landowner, and his brother Ewan explains they caught Colfur with blood on him. But Colfur's daughter, Katelyn, pleads for Arthur to save him. Arthur considers this and asks the men to come to Camelot and plead their cases.

Morgan is still suffering the lingering effects of her magic. Sybil has taken quite an advisory role since last episode, and seems to think she's the only one who understands Morgan, wondering why she keeps transforming into Igraine. Morgan seems to think it would allow her to easily get into Camelot and kill Arthur. But Sybil suggests she hasn't thought far enough ahead. 

Morgan needs friends and allies, but no one really knows her at all, aside from being Uther's prodigal daughter. People need to meet her—especially merchants and village elders in lieu of the warlords she previously sought. Sybil explains the people are afraid, and when someone takes that fear away, they will be worshipped. If Morgan succeeds in transforming their perceptions, the country will be discussing how she was robbed of her right to the crown by her upstart brother. Oh, and Sybil has already taken the liberty to send out invitations.

Arthur assembles the knights to deal with the murder. Guinevere comes to him to discuss the growing population problem as more migrants pour into Camelot, and the need for order. She wants to organize everything, so he gives her his blessing. The other knights aren't so sure of judging other villages' problems given they have been doing it themselves for a long time. Gawain especially doesn't want to become involved. Kay and Arthur both agree they should hear the case and decide on guilt.

The men from the village arrive and Arthur begins the proceedings. He intends to apply the justice throughout the realm that they begin in Camelot. Ewan speaks of his brother, who didn't harm anyone until Colfur came along. Colfur's a naysayer always trying to rile people up. The bitter and unfriendly Colfur tells them the man got what was coming to him, but does admit to landing the first blow. He rented land from Ewan's brother and did owe him tithes, but he feels he doesn't need to pay for anything. 

As for Merlin, he remains in hiding, grappling with nightmares over the death of Excalibur. But Igraine has been searching the castle for him, exploring the many passages beneath. She stumbles upon him in a chamber, but he quickly turns her away. She comes back later with food, and Merlin is much calmer and amenable, and renovating his new room. He explains he needed time to think, but he's shaking and sweating and Igraine notices all the bruises from his fight last episode. She tells him Arthur needs his advice in the current trial, but Merlin won't come up.

Morgan has a feast for her dignitaries, assuring them she's their friend. One of them speaks for the rest and says they're content with Arthur's rule. Morgan agrees that she is, as well. Meanwhile, Sybil walks through the village and finds a man, a mercenary, whom she hires to carry out an attack (without killing anyone)— against herself.

Arthur needs to understand the reason for the murder in order to give a just punishment. Colfur is quite the contrarian and doesn't care about answering his questions. He doesn't believe Arthur will stand guard after it's all over, so there's no point in talking. 

Leontes thinks they should just execute Colfur and move on, but Arthur wonders why the daughter was running away when they found them. Arthur commiserates with Guinevere about the situation. She asks why sentencing Colfur is bothering him so much. Arthur seems to think some do the wrong thing for the right reason. 

So Guinevere takes Katelyn to the beach to talk. She admits she ran because her father told her to. The head man of the village takes every girl when she becomes a woman. No one stands up to him, and her father was trying to save her.

A beaten Sybil is brought to a horrified Morgan, who sees to her immediately. The merchants are in shock that someone beat the holy mother, and realize none of them are safe. In her chamber, Morgan sees to Sybil's bruises, but the nun tells her that the others see that Morgan now suffers alongside them, and not to waste the moment. Morgan realizes what she's done, and puts some of Sybil's blood on her face.

Arthur finds Merlin's refuge after Igraine informs him. Merlin's created all sorts of diagrams and writings to hang on the walls. He muses the first wave is complete—getting Arthur to Camelot (which begs the question of what the second wave is). He won't interfere in the trial, though, as it's Arthur's idea to see through, and returns to his drawings.

Teary-eyed Morgan presents herself to the dignitaries, apologizing for all the drama. Sybil is like a  mother to her, she explains. The Pendragon banner was on her horse, but she was still attacked, just like the other men say occurs regularly through their villages. There is no protection, but the land continues to move into chaos. Morgan vows not to let that happen. Others feel equally betrayed, and she will send a messenger to her brother whom she knows will act and come and address them at her castle. Vivian later asks if she should send for the messenger. Don't bother, Morgan says.

Arthur talks with Colfur, but he won't speak about what happened publicly. He sends his daughter away. Ewan's family owns all the village land. The night before his wedding Wade and his father claimed his tithe. Colfur had been unaware of the tradition and his wife died giving birth to Katelyn, who is Wade's kin. Guinevere is outraged and says it all has to stop. But Colfur can't testify to that or Katelyn will find out the truth. Arthur assures him they are tied by memories and not blood. Guess who's been listening at the door—Katelyn says she's already known, as all the girls talk about it in the village. She assures Colfur he's her father. 

Colfur then tells the whole story how the fight started. Ewan's only defense is that's the way they've always lived and handled things in their village. That's no longer acceptable to Arthur, but Ewan says no boy king will ever change that. Arthur banishes Colfur from the village, but outrages Ewan and the others who want justice. He tells Arthur he'll be a short time on the throne. 

Igraine notices Merlin watching from the shadows. Arthur didn't need him, he says. Merlin then confesses that a girl died and it was his fault because he couldn't control what he was trying to do. Igraine suggests he keeps himself too alone. 

Arthur and Guinevere watch the men depart, and she wonders if the same thing happens in other villages. He assures her they will stop it. And thanks her for all she did to help.

Igraine tends to Merlin's wounds in his chamber. She asks who he really is. Who was he before Uther? The same, he says. Where was he born? He turns the question back at her. Who was she before Cornwall? She was strong and opinionated, she says, and full of hope. She wanted a husband who would treat her as an equal, but never found one. They nearly kiss until Merlin pushes her away. People can't get close to him, he warns.

Morgan tends to Sybil, and the nun tells her there's nothing she wouldn't do for her. Morgan seems to have warmed to her quite a bit. Sybil returns to the feast, but runs into her mercenary, who demands to know why Morgan's nun paid him to beat her up. She pleads with him not to judge her and suggests she used the ruse to get a roof over her head. 

Gawain oversees Colfur and Katelyn packing up, but the villagers have taken arms to exact their own justice. Gawain steps up to Ewan and tells them he's carrying out the king's sentence and not to get in his way. Gawain is set upon by the men while Ewan focuses on Colfur. Leontes and Arthur ride in to save the day, leaving Arthur to take on Ewan himself.

Arthur announces it's nolonger his village, but Ewan charges the king when his back is turned, and Gawain steps between them. Arthur announces that every woman is now under their protection. The village is now part of Camelot, and he plants his standard in the ground. 

Sybil tells Morgan they have a problem, and points out the mercenary. Morgan suggests that's not a problem at all, and addresses the gathering, announcing the king was too busy to talk to her. The crowd is frustrated, and she agrees that they stand on the brink of chaos. She is loyal to her brother but fears for the future. She then makes an oath to protect them all with her life. And to prove herself, she calls out the mercenary. 

She asks Sybil if this is the man who beat her, and Sybil agrees, of course. Morgan abruptly slits the man's throat, telling everyone he is every man who ever made them fear and robbed them of their dignity. Morgan gives him to the crowd and tells them to take their justice. She's met with cheers.

The Verdict:
I'm pleased Camelot stretched out beyond its walls to exercise some influence over the neighbourhood, and Arthur behaving with some wisdom. A good contrast between these siblings' mutual rise in status and the differing but effective ways they go about it.

It remains to be seen if Arthur and Merlin's male sense of order can possibly control the disparate villages across the country, while Morgan's traditionally wilder female notions of embracing magic and nature are geared to appeal everyone's basic needs for protection. The writers have set up an interesting male/female dynamic (hopefully that was their intention).

I'm struggling with how Morgan goes about getting respect of the common folk, given she's a woman and they're just not going to be on board with the feminism thing yet. Even Igraine suggesting she find a husband who treats her like an equal seemed out of place for the time. I realize everyone's all progressive at Camelot, but I don't want the show to be a 21st Century version of post-Roman Britain. Not only that, but let's face it—Morgan can come across as megalomaniacal on her best days, never mind slitting the throat of one of her guests at a whim.

Sybil's become quite a hoot. I'm not entirely convinced her motivations are drawn from a motherly devotion to Morgan. And she's certainly got her own way of interpreting her religious orders. If nothing, Camelot is loaded with strong female characters, including Igraine, whose role is one I'm interested in seeing evolved, especially given her smooch with Merlin.

What exactly is going to happen with Merlin and Igraine? Considering he took her only child, it's a curious pairing. But Merlin's storyline seems to be simmering slowly (including his plans for his next wave). I'm thinking that he'll return to a full-fledged sorcerer by the end of the season.

Coming off the father/daughter team of Lady of the Lake, having another go at it with Colfur and Katelyn may not have been the best way to go about things. But that's a tiny quibble. I'm more curious as to where all these random villages of the week are in relation to Camelot and Pendragon Castle? We sometimes see the same set (where Sybil made her deal). For that matter, where are all the people living? Are they going to build a new village around Camelot?

I'm going to throw down that I think Leontes is toast by season's end. I'm sure that's going to be the twist, leaving open Arthur's marriage to Guinevere, and ultimately the introduction of Lancelot at some point in the future. His casual remark about executing Colfur just pushed me in that direction. Gawain's already overshadowing him as far as prominence, which could mean he's not meant for bigger things.

Finally, what a relief to see Arthur and Guinevere behaving like adults around one another.

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