Contributor: Gregg Wright
I’ve been hoping for an episode that would buck this trend of underwhelming “Camelot” episodes. Unfortunately, this isn’t it. Like the previous three episodes, it isn’t bad, but nor is it particularly good either. This is disappointing, because “Camelot” is still a show of fantastic production values and enormous storytelling potential.
For her part, Claire Forlani does a pretty decent job as the disguised Morgan. But really, it’s hard to feel interested in a Morgan-centric episode where Morgan isn’t played by Eva Green. The body-switching concept is always tricky to pull off. Often you’ll end up with an actor who just can’t convincingly play the part of a fellow character. Body-swapping was an extremely prevalent part of “Stargate Universe”, but the show managed to come up with, what I consider to be, a pretty decent solution: don’t switch actors. Let the actors play themselves, even if they’re in another body. Sure, it’s illusion-breaking, but seeing actors painfully attempting to mimic each other is even more illusion-breaking. (This solution was actually first introduced in “SG-1″, if you want to get technical.)
My biggest problem with body-swapping in TV is that too much of the time it’s done solely for the amusement that comes from seeing the actors switch roles, rather than for actual story reasons. “Stargate Universe’s” solution may not have worked with “Camelot”, given how much emphasis they’ve placed on showing Morgan’s actual transformation. And as I said, Forlani does a serviceable job of playing Morgan, but I’d have rather they just stayed away from this concept altogether. It doesn’t help that the whole “oops, had sex with your double” thing is starting to feel like a cliché. And I’ve seen it done better elsewhere, like in “Fringe” for instance. Now I’ll have to watch the predictable angst that will occur as a result of it.
I’m probably one of the few to defend Joseph Fiennes’ acting in the past, but I’m finding it more difficult than usual this time around. I actually find him quite good in the role, most of the time. He manages to make Merlin seem mysterious and potentially untrustworthy, and I think Fiennes’ performance fits with this image of the character. And when it came time to show a more human side to Merlin in “Lady of the Lake”, I thought that Fiennes successfully integrated that element to the character.
But in this episode, it’s a mixed bag. Much of the time, we’re supposed to be seeing Merlin opening up a bit more here. But Fiennes performance doesn’t reflect that. He continues to play the character in roughly the same way he always has, trying to imbue his every word with a sense of mystery and ambiguity. Normally, I’d like this, but it’s totally wrong in this context. Fiennes did a much better job of expressing genuine emotion in “Lady of the Lake”.
It’s also a little disappointing that Merlin completely failed to recognize that Igraine wasn’t Igraine. Morgan never managed to get very good at pretending that she was Igraine. And the fact that Merlin completely misses this makes the character feel less intelligent than he’s been made out to be in past episodes. I kept hoping that the writers would subvert my expectations with a twist in which we see that Merlin figured out that Igraine was Morgan fairly early on. Aside from the obvious “cool” factor, it would have made for a much less predictable episode.
I liked seeing Vivian turning her back to let Igraine escape. They’ve been building to that for a while now, and it’s likely the start of further rejection of Morgan, or at least Sybil. I do get the sense that, though Vivian’s loyalty to Morgan may be waning as her doubts increase, this was really more about her lack of loyalty to Sybil. I think Vivian will maintain a certain level of loyalty or sympathy for Morgan, even as her secret dis-loyalties steadily increase over time.
Surprisingly, the hunting expedition ended up being the most interesting aspect of the episode. I liked seeing more development of these primal, natural forces at work. I think it’s no coincidence that Morgan is shown reeling in pain directly after we see Arthur and Leontes killing a couple of pheasants. This concept of nature itself being directly connected to magic fits well with certain pagan belief systems.
I like the contrast in this show between the old pagan beliefs and the more recent arrival of Christianity. The wolf seems to be some sort of personification of whatever force/being exists in the forest (though I want to point out that I don’t think this force/being is relegated solely to the forest, given Morgan’s previous interactions with it). I must say, they managed to get a terrifically vicious and spooky-looking wolf for this show. It’s probably a very friendly, well-trained wolf. But it has incredible screen presence as a living symbol of the supernatural. Leontes had an interesting reaction to it, seemingly acknowledging that it was supernatural in origin, and that it had some purpose for him. I wonder how he fits its existence with his Christian faith.
The last two episodes of the season are where the show needs to really step up its game. A good season ending can make up for a lot of mid-season mediocrity, especially if it finds satisfying and fresh ways to tie off existing plot threads, while opening up enough interesting new threads to carry us into the next season.