Saturday, 16 April 2011

'CAMELOT' 1.4 - "Lady Of The Lake"

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A marked improvement over last week's "Guinevere", partly because there's a sense Camelot's starting to find its tone; a fun balance between reality and fantasy that reminds me of ITV's Robin Of Sherwood. I'm still concerned by how quickly the season's rushing through the Arthurian legend (this hour alone covered the Lady Of The Lake and Excalibur), but we'll see what happens when Camelot's got no iconography left to explore.

In "Lady Of The Lake", Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) fell out with Gawain (Clive Standen) over his unorthodox methods of teaching knights how to fight, which involves injuring them in training; Morgan (Eva Green) suffered a debilitating fever that became life-threatening, just as a mysterious nun from the convent she was exiled to reentered her life; and Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) travelled to find renowned bladesmith Caliburn (Vincent Regan), to ask him to forge the perfect sword for the king, only for his inner demons to rise to the surface and cause trouble for the retired warrior and his teenage daughter Excalibur...

At its heart, this episode was all about exploring a few character's hearts of darkness. Morgan has made some kind of deal with the Devil (perhaps literally) to get what she wants in life, and is essentially meddling in things she doesn't understand for short-term benefits. A "Faustian pact" perhaps made in the woods back in "Homecoming"'s final scene where Morgan disrobed, during a ritual referred to here as "a Summoning". And as Merlin mentioned last week, magic has dreadful repercussions for those wielding it, and Morgan felt the full brunt of that warning as her health deteriorated. In fact, only the help of pious nun Sybil (Sinéad Cusack) saw her survive the night. It seems likely Sybil will become Morgan's adviser now, as she appears to have affection for young Morgan and believes God has led her down this path. It remains to be seen if Sybil's going to be a force for good, however. Did she burn down the convent she left?

Merlin's character was also developed in an interesting way, as he was fighting his own demons in a more figurative sense. It seems he's long abstained from magic because he knows its perils, but also knows how enjoyable the sense of power is. I really like how magic in Camelot is insidious, almost like a terrible narcotic. It was a big surprise to see Merlin actually kill two innocent people, too -- through a combination of overzealous self-defence and tragic accident (again, a result of using magic.) Caliburn was roasted in a fire Merlin caused to inflame when angered, while Excalibur drowned in a lake while fleeing Merlin in a boat. As in "Camelot", the story found a fun way of tweaking the traditional legend -- with Merlin causing Excalibur's death by freezing the lake, unintentionally trapping her underneath the ice, but allowing her to pierce the surface with the sword he later named "Excalibur" in the drowned girl's honour. A satisfying twist on the usual story, but also significant because it again played with the idea that stories themselves are very powerful things in this age. Merlin mentioned the power of myth to Arthur when he was tasked with retrieving the "sword of Mars" from the waterfall, so hearing Merlin lie about how he found Excalibur (spinning a brand new folktale that's closer to the Arthurian story we know) gave the story added strength.

Arthur's subplot was the least satisfying one, and his feelings from Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) still feel ridiculously overstated considering he's only known her a few weeks, but it was quite nice to see Queen Igraine (Claire Forlani) deciding to take a maternal interest in her son's life. And Gwaine himself appears to be having an influence on how Arthur approaches things, which came at the same time Merlin was away. That's perhaps a hint that Arthur's too easily distracted and manipulated, so people like Gwaine can imprint their own ideas on the boy-king if Merlin's not around to filter outside influences.

Overall, "Lady Of The Lake" was entertaining and certainly had a better grasp of the show's magical elements. That's definitely something it should be embracing if it's going to survive, and one of Camelot's biggest strengths right now is how it's chosen to tackle the idea of a world where magic exists, without making that into something too silly or disruptive.


  • Actress Sinéad Cusack is married to Jeremy Irons, who's currently playing the Pope in another cable series over on Showtime, The Borgias.
  • It suddenly dawned on me that Clive Standen played Archer in the third series of the BBC's Robin Hood remake. He was also Private Harris in the Sontaran two-parter of Doctor Who's third series.
written by Louise Fox & Chris Chibnall / directed by Jeremy Podeswa / 15 April 2011 / Starz