Last week gave us Camelot's best episode to date, so it's a terrible shame this following episode was its worst. A triumvirate of storylines, each one as tedious as the next, only serving to reiterate points already made. Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) led the knights on a dreary quest to retrieve library books from a pillaged castle, allowing for more discussion about the extent of Merlin's powers and his psychological struggle with his gift/curse; Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) accompanied Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) on a journey to see her dying father, reigniting their passion along the way; and Morgan (Eva Green) learned from a facially-burned stranger that her aide Sybil (Sinéad Cusick) was responsible for burning down her nunnery, so had to be seen to make Sybil pay for her crimes while allowing her to avoid execution.
There were a few nice moments stirred into this episode (loved the way Morgan decided the custody of a young boy by tricking his father into hastily bartering for his enslavement), but it was mostly an episode that didn't amount to much. You could very easily skip this hour entirely, as nothing of relevance happened. Even the supposed revelation that Sybil torched her nunnery was something most people suspected the moment the fire was mentioned weeks ago, as she's such an obviously suspicious woman.
"Three Journeys" didn't work because its trio of storylines were disparate and didn't even connect thematically. They were just ways to kill time with various characters and, for the benefit of latecomers, rake over old ground regarding Merlin's inner demons and Morgan's conflicts. The relationship between Morgan/Sybil is currently the most enjoyable part of Camelot, perhaps because the bad guys are always more fun to watch (in particular, Green has this soured expression that could curdle milk from 50 paces.) I'm also a little worried the show's already laying groundwork to have Merlin develop a mastery of his powers, as that would lead to the obvious problems when you have all-powerful wizards in medieval-fantasy shows. Camelot's handling of magic (treating it as a dangerous addiction, to be avoided if you can) has been one of its few wholly successful creative ideas, so why start edging away from that?
Overall, "Three Journeys" was a wasted hour that didn't have anything very compelling to impart to viewers. Why should we care about the death of Guinevere's father, when all we knew of him was gleamed from a brief flashback of him telling his daughter a bedtime story? Was the week's big quest really to source a collection of books to create Camelot its own library? Is anyone enjoying the Arthur/Guinevere romance, seeing as theirs is supposed to be one of the greatest love stories every told? A few fun moments and nice lines of dialogue (like Arthur evoking Cicero) weren't enough to stop this episode being a very badly-timed misfire.
written by Chris Chibnall / directed by Stefan Schwartz / 6 May 2011 / Starz