Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Camelot "Reckoning"

Non Spoiler Review:
Camelot's freshman season comes to a close with a plot heavy episode to wrap up much of the season's threads. The siege at Bardon Pass is concluded, but with a hefty price, while Morgan moves into Camelot and wreaks havoc with Sybil. But there are a lot of consequences to everyone's actions, several high profile deaths, and the season ends on an ominous tone, drawing on a couple of juicy bits from Arthurian lore.

Reckoning ended the season on a good note, delivering on action and emotion. It kept me interested to the end. Some of the choices of the characters continue to be head-scratchers (Merlin, that's you). But the culmination of the Arthur/Morgan relationship produced a great conclusion to that particular storyline and setup for a potential second season.

The final act did suffer from scene after scene of endings when the main storyline had wrapped up. Some of the events could be seen coming, so there weren't too many surprises and certainly no shocking moments or revelations, unfortunately. There were also some frustrating, lingering questions.

I'm hoping Camelot gets a second season. It's a decent fantasy series at the moment, but the potential there is for so much more. Notes to writers—pacing and direction—work on that over your summer break.

Spoilers Now!
The knights camp at an old ruin, realizing Arthur is not coming. He stayed behind to prove himself. At Bardon Pass, the king has managed to fend off a few sneaky scouts attempting to get into the outpost. He works tirelessly to lay out all sorts of traps and weaponry to make it look like the place is being held by more men.

On a second attempt, Arthur is nearly killed, but does manage to free himself, but not before one of the men, Wallace, sends another off with the king's sword to give to Harwel, who sends it on to Morgan. Wallace faces Arthur alone and is gravely wounded on one of his traps. Arthur proceeds to extract information from him, namely who sent them—"Morgan," Wallace at last admits.

Morgan and her followers arrive at Camelot, managing to convince everyone Merlin needs to be restrained until Arthur returns. She promises the people they will all address the king when he returns from Bardon Pass. She sends Igraine to her chambers, promising to visit her shortly, then gloats to Merlin (in stocks) about managing to fool him with her transformation. She also manages to incite a rumour that the king has run off with Guinevere, given she can't be found at the castle.

Harwel realizes Arthur must still be alive and sends in another team to fight. Arthur is hopelessly outnumbered, but does manage to kill a few. But the knights return in time to save him and quickly kill the rebels to secure the Bardon Pass. They take a moment to enjoy their victory, except Harwel still remains, and fires an arrow off at the king. Leontes takes notice and throws himself in front of it, mortally wounded. Gawain leaps to the defence and makes short work of Morgan's lackey.

Leontes dies, asking for a warrior's burial, and for Arthur to treasure Guinevere. The men prepare to return him to Camelot, and break apart a table in order to carry his body. The knights rejoin Lucan's family and Guinevere at the ruin, and she's forced to face the death of her husband, realizing she never got to say good-bye.

Morgan enters Arthur's chambers, wearing his royal robes and reaching for the crown. She's interrupted by Harwel's man who brings her Excalibur and word that the king is dead.

Bridget brings food to Merlin, asking him why he doesn't break free. He believes only Arthur can regain the people's trust, and not some sorcerer displaying magic and proving Morgan right. Sybil has Merlin brought to the grand hall as a teary Morgan makes her entrance, dragging Excalibur beside her and showing the people the king is dead. She makes a great show about who might rule them, so Sybil suggests she is the only option. Morgan feigns surprise and asks if that is what the people want. They say it's her obligation to her brother and father to take the crown. Morgan accepts in her brother's memory.

Morgan goes to see Igraine, whom she's garbed in a gown to look her best. Igraine tells her she can give birth to a king, or marry one, but she'll never get that crown. Morgan tells her she was the birth of all this, as she turned Uther against his daughter. That's why she was given her face in particular.

Morgan stabs her in the stomach, whispering she wants a slow death for her. As Igraine falls to the floor she tells Morgan she doesn't know the truth—that it was Igraine who saved her from her father when Uther wanted her dead like her mother. Igraine sent her away to the convent. Morgan backs away in disbelief, leaving Igraine and trying to comprehend what she just learned.

Morgan is dressed for her inauguration. Merlin remains chained up in the throne room as everyone assembles. Igraine drags herself from her chambers. Sybil is about to place the crown on Morgan's head when Arthur enters the room with a slow clap.

As she embraces him, he tells her he knows her true face, then he addresses the assembly. He lives for their hope and how to deliver on it, but he's met with their accusations. He asks for his sword and crown back, but she says it's not that easy. He's lost the will of the people.

Merlin is released, and the knights produce Wallace, who confesses that Morgan plotted against the king.  She says he's lying, but he tells her the punishment for treason is death. That's when Sybil steps up and confesses that she was behind it all and Morgan knew nothing of it. When asked, Morgan agrees she knew nothing as she meets Sybil's eyes.

Merlin finds Igraine in the corridor. She's barely alive, and he starts chanting a spell to save her. She realizes that it will cost him his own life as his eyes bleed, and she pushes him away. She tells him to protect Arthur, and dies in his arms.

Later, Merlin cleans Igraine's body and Arthur joins him. The king tells him it's not his fault, and pays his final respects to his mother, swearing he will become the king she hoped he would be.

Sybil is led to her open grave by Gawain. She kneels, and comments that she thought Morgan would come. Gawain readies to cut off her head and she looks up at the hill, where Merlin stands. "There is no god," he says. And she's executed.

Arthur comes to Morgan in her chamber, telling her he knows she killed Igraine, despite Sybil's confession. Her nun had no motive. He withdraws his protection of her castle and takes the Pendragon name from her. He no longer has a sister. But she screams he can't take her name. He's nothing but her father's bastard. She's left alone.

Leontes and Igraine are burned on funeral pyres. The knights look at the wood they used to carry Leontes body, stained with his blood. They build it into a circular table, with the bloody bit to remain empty until a worthy and honourable champion of Leontes' calibre joins them.

Merlin bids Arthur good-bye. The king says he needs him, but Merlin needs to go off on his own. Merlin tells him Arthur is perhaps stronger than him anyway.

Morgan goes to Sybil's grave and lays on the mound of fresh dirt. The wind blows through the trees and she hears Sybil's voice whispering she must give birth to the king.

Guinevere shows up at Arthur's chambers, asking not to spend the night alone. He tells her that Leontes told him to treasure her (!) so welcomes her in, and the two make love. In the night, Guinevere wakes up with a bloody nose, and quickly runs out into the corridor. She transforms back into Morgan, smiles and walks away.

The Verdict:
One of the highlights of the finale was Arthur getting a chance to shine and show how tactical a thinker he is. While it was a bit much that he could solely defend the outpost that long, he was in desperate need of some kingly acts, including a near torture of Wallace. But what he gained at the beginning he seemingly lost by the end when he bedded Guinevere again after her husband's funeral. Come on! At least Guinevere herself is spared the same stain, but we're left wondering if Arthur can control his passions at all.

I've currently got a love/hate relationship with Jamie Campbell Bower. Sometimes he seems unbearable (usually when pining about Guinevere), and others he succeeds in coming across as a youthful king. Here he did the latter. Next year, grow a beard to roughen him up a bit, as he's still too much of a skinny pretty boy.

Morgan also delivered well in those scenes where she was close to having her plans come to fruition. There was less of her bombastic nature she projects on her subjects, and more of her emotions she keeps guarded. The revelation that Igraine helped save her life and losing her family name were good character moments to add to her turmoil.

Merlin's brief use of magic was welcome. But having him go off to mourn is another cop out for this character. He's just so wishy-washy when it comes to decision making, he can't be a very good advisor at all. He needs to return a stronger sorcerer (keyword—sorcerer).

Sybil was the greatest disappointment. Given all the talk of rituals and primeval forces, I was leaning towards her being some sort of dark force herself. But what we get is just an ambitious woman who hates men. That's it? The only saving grace was the angst that came with Morgan sacrificing her to save her own life. Like Merlin, we're left wondering was she a puppet or a puppeteer?

Leontes' loss wasn't surprising at all, and I really won't miss him. It's too bad that he wasn't allowed to develop in any meaningful way. Igraine, though, was a favorite, and I realize the writers needed a death with some impact on the characters and this was definitely it. 

If there is a second season, I'd like to see some time pass. Only now is Camelot feeling like it's actually got a viable population, and the knights need an army—not this handful of warriors. I don't really want to sit through a season of Guinevere and Arthur falling in love, either. With Leontes dead, the door is open for Lancelot to make an appearance (hopefully later on).

The whole season has been a mixed bag of strong episodes and wasted opportunities. The season seemed to stall in the middle with little direction on where it might go. So Camelot has definitely had its share of growing pains, but the potential is there to really hit its stride should it get a renewal.

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