A flawed episode, but I found myself quite enjoying "Igraine" because of Claire Forlani's performance and the way it gently prodded situations along regarding Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) and Igraine's simmering sexual tension, and Guinevere's (Tamsin Egerton) pre-marital fling with Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower.) It was nothing very special, but it was an engaging enough character study that made us understand Morgan a little better.
Following last week's cliffhanger, Morgan has disguised herself as a duplicate of Queen Igraine and is now roaming around Camelot trying not to blow her cover--mainly by rehearsing the phrases "good morning" and "of course", which can seemingly be used to get you out of any tricky situation. The whole episode was essentially a way for smirking Morgan to see a side of her enemies she didn't expect: the heartfelt affection a little orphan boy has for Igraine, the kindness shown to said child by Merlin, the romantic feelings Merlin has for Igraine (shared by Morgan?), and confirmation that Guinevere slept with Arthur on the eve of her marriage to Leontes (Philip Winchester.) Forlani was exemplary throughout, in an episode that rested on her shoulders, particularly in her mimicry of Eva Green's accent and sneering expressions. The character of Igraine hasn't felt very relevant to Camelot so far, and this episode didn't really change that, but it certainly made you realize Forlani's a talented actress who can tackle this material well.
The best element of the story was "Morgraine" feeling a maternal connection to the orphan boy, which blossomed into scenes where she helped Merlin celebrate the boy's birthday by presenting him with gifts, becoming parents to him for the day. Morgan's a damaged child herself, and for a brief moment we saw how she could have been a very different person with a more stable upbringing. Merlin's words about what Arthur's trying to achieve at Camelot even appeared to be sinking in ever so slightly with Morgan, and there was a nice scene where Mograine made Merlin feel sympathy for Morgan by revealing King Uther regularly beat his daughter before exiling her from Castle Pendragon to the nunnery.
It was a particularly effective moment when Morgraine accidentally caused the death of the orphan boy, during a struggle with him after he saw her face contort as her spell weakened, pushing him off a balcony to the stone floor below. The little boy was so sweet-natured it was a death you really felt, despite his brief screen-time. It's a shame more time wasn't spent building the boy's friendship with Igraine during the previous seven episodes, as this could have been a genuinely heartrending moment instead of just a sad one earned because, well, nobody likes to see cute kids fall to a premature death.
The real Igraine's story was less compelling, as she just languished in Castle Pendragon's dungeon with no idea what Morgan's up to, occasionally goaded by Sybil (Sinéad Cusick), until she managed to escape by agreeing to have sex with a guard ("who's your king!") and plunging the guard's own dagger into his back during the act. How's that for penetration? Inevitably the two Igraine's came face to face when Morgraine returned home, having slept with Merlin and told Leontes about his wife's affair, so I'm sure everyone at Camelot will soon know about Morgan's undercover mission. It just remains to be seen if Athur's regime is about to crumble to pieces if Leontes tells everyone what the king's been up to with Guinevere, and there's surely the possibility that Morgan will now find herself pregnant with Merlin's child. Is this how Mordred will be introduced into the show?
Overall, "Igraine" wasn't anything special but I really did enjoy Forlani's twin performance, and as a piece-moving episode it sets up some rather big events to come--and they're all from a character standpoints, which is great. There was also the scene with Leontes seeing a wolf in the woods to take note of, which Morgraine also saw in her bedside mirror while having sex with Merlin--which I'm taking as the symbol of the dark force Morgan's allowed into her life. Does this mean the same Evil is now after Leontes, perhaps intending to use his resentment of Guinevere/Arthur against him?
- Merlin has some rather elaborate, mystical scars on his back.
- The fact Merlin's self-proclaimed powers of perception failed when he kissed Morgraine should have been a warning sign, right?
- Vivian now appears conflicted over her loyalty to Morgan when faced with Igraine's pleading in the dungeon, eventually turning a blind eye to her escape.