On Camelot this week, we were given a typical siege story that allowed for some exploration of a few characters, as Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his knights travelled to Castle Pendragon at his half-sister Morgan's (Eva Green) behest, only to find themselves trapped inside by the late-King Uther's nemesis Aldwulf, who's apparently trying to seize control of the castle and the nearby Barden Pass, which would cut Camelot off from vital trade routes.
"The Long Night" was notable for essentially merging the Pendragon and Camelot groups together, which in turn led to scenes where characters who wouldn't ordinarily share the screen were allowed to. In particular: Morgan had a brief girly chat with married Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) and pried into her feelings towards her queen-less brother, and ominous nun Sybil (Sinéad Cusick) was confronted by Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) and flagrantly accused of teaching Morgan dangerous magic.
The idea that Aldwulf's threat wasn't real and the whole siege faked by Morgan (using fiery arrows shot by unseen assailants over the castle wall, and the injury of a knight who loves Morgan so much he agreed to be harmed) made for a nice twist, as the Camelot characters had their attention focused on a non-existent danger as Morgan once again manipulated people. I also like how Morgan's comrades--Sybil and loyal servant Vivian (Chipo Chung)--are beginning to resemble younger versions of MacBeth's Three Witches, conspiring to ascertain how best to ruin Arthur's reign. That said, I was unconvinced by Morgan's breakthrough that Queen Igraine (Claire Forlani) is the linchpin, and therefore the person she chose to incarcerate and, using her shape-shifting ability, physically replace. Still, it should be fun to see Morgan-as-Igraine snooping around Camelot next week, and certainly gives Forlani something more compelling to do. All she had going for her was a potential love match with Merlin, which is unfortunate because 'shippers would be forced to call their union "Migraine"--perhaps aptly?
The action throughout was decent, considering there were no actual enemies for anyone to fight, with a fairly rousing moment when Arthur rescued a stricken peasant from a fire using a hay cart, and a fun sword-fight between Leontes (Philip Winchester) and Gawaine (Colin Standen.) Leontes actually took some sizable steps forward as a credible character here, and his disagreements with Gawaine are certainly a welcome way to inject drama into the second tier characters, as the show has been primarily concerned with the leading actors. However, one downside of Camelot is that most of the female characters are written very thinly. The show clearly struggles because it can't rewrite historical fact and give the women equal rights, but the way this episode conspired to give the women archery lessons felt a little forced. Women don't need to be copying what men do to be considered strong characters, so Camelot really needs to start giving Guinevere and Igraine their own ways of proving their value. Perhaps Igraine's capture will enable that now, as I'm sure she'll be having words with Morgan about murdering her husband soon, having learned that from Merlin.
Overall, "The Long Night" was much better than last week's stinker, but a rather convoluted way to deliver a simple outcome (Morgan gaining access to Camelot as an impostor.) The fact it was more focused on character worked in its favour, of course, although Fiennes' performance is turning into something so ludicrous I'm wondering if it's intentional and he thinks Camelot's more of a silly romp than it's meant to be. Eva Green is much better, but is also guilty of overplaying moments and seems to deliver supercilious sneer at the end of every sentence. It's an oddly enjoyable acting style, though, particularly in conjunction with Green's roving Anglo-Franco accent.
written by Steven Lightfoot / directed by Mikael Salomon / 13 May 2011 / Starz