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?
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.