Contributor: Gregg Wright
This episode can really be boiled down to two main story threads; one of which I think worked, while the other didn’t. I’ll start with the one that worked.
A murder is committed in a local village, and Arthur and his men have to rush in and stop a mob lynching. Arthur then decides that Camelot needs a tribunal so offenders can get a fair trial. I liked this storyline. It tied in really well with Arthur’s steady progress in becoming a worthy leader of Camelot. Arthur has come surprisingly far in only a few episodes. I’m still not sure if he’s the best choice for the part, but the character has become a lot more tolerable than he was at the start. On a related note, I liked that Arthur has put aside pursuing Gwen (at least for now), and even manages to work together with her to solve the mystery. Arthur’s affair with Guinevere was most likely very important in the long-run, but the storyline did feel like a bit of a lead weight on Arthur’s journey to becoming King. I’m relieved that we’re seemingly past it, though I’m sure it will crop up again sooner or later.
While all this is happening, Merlin has locked himself away somewhere. True to the show’s previous representation of magic so far, Merlin seems to be suffering from some sort of withdrawal (or something) as a result of his recent usage of magic (which he claims always happens after he uses it). The fact that he’s also wracked with guilt over what happened with Excalibur makes his situation all the worse.
I was glad to see such direct follow-up to the previous episode’s events. I expected Merlin to just bury his guilt and keep up the facade. But the withdrawal symptoms attract Igraine’s attention. As a result, Merlin and Igraine bond, and they almost share a kiss before Merlin breaks away, muttering something about “people who get close to me get burned.” The moment was a bit too cheesy for me, but I do like this aspect of Merlin’s character and how it relates to the family he apparently once had.
Unfortunately, the developments regarding Morgan and Sybil didn’t work so well for me. In concept, Sybil’s attempts to aid Morgan in gaining favor with the people, as part of a long-term bid for the crown, make sense. Sybil helps Morgan paint herself as someone the people can get behind. But I thought that the local nobles were far too easily fooled. Morgan’s manipulations seemed way too obvious. And I really don’t see how slitting a man’s throat in front of everyone is supposed to engender trust. I did like how the episode contrasted Arthur’s justice with Morgan’s so-called justice by jumping back and forth during one of the later scenes.
The poor handling of the Morgan storyline drags this episode down quite a bit, but it’s a relatively strong episode in almost every other regard. Maybe the fact that this is the first episode where Chris Chibnall wasn’t involved in the writing has something to do with the episode’s flaws. I was surprised to find that the Arthur-centric storyline was my favorite one this week, considering how much I’ve disliked the character in the past. I guess I just liked seeing Arthur actually becoming a competent leader, and I liked seeing he and his men coming together as a cohesive unit to solve a problem. Hopefully, the next episode will see a return to form for the Morgan storyline, and a continued emphasis on Arthur’s growth.