Contributor: Gregg Wright
This episode puts some of the wind back into the sagging sails of this Arthurian re-telling. The show is still suffering from flawed writing and acting, to a certain degree. But the episode still manages to be the best since “Lady of the Lake”, largely because this is the point in the show when, as the saying goes, the fecal matter hits the fan. It’s a pretty good lead-up to the finale.
The fall-out from Leontes discovery of Arthur and Guinevere’s infidelity is decidedly brutal, which is, of course, exactly what Morgan wanted. Merlin’s discovery that he was duped by Morgan gives him time to attempt to cover everything up, but he’s too late. He might have been able to tell Leontes the truth about Morgan’s plan, and how he factors into it, which would have at least bought them some time. But the truth was going to come out eventually. The problem is that the truth is coming out at the worst possible time. Kay seems almost as upset as Leontes. Arthur has shown a dramatic maturation over the course of the first season, and the men have all come to respect him as a worthy king. That brotherhood is an extremely important part of why Camelot has become such a strong force for good in the land. And this revelation threatens to destroy all of that.
As it turns out, Sybil’s order to Harwell to attack Bardon Pass and get Arthur killed in the ensuing battle really was sanctioned by Morgan. I guess I didn’t expect Morgan’s plan to turn Arthur’s men against him would go down so fast, and I didn’t expect Harwell’s attack to be delayed as much as it was. Regardless, Morgan’s timing is perfect. In fact, things are working out much better for her than I would have imagined. Arthur is effectively offering himself up to Morgan’s forces on a silver platter by using himself as a diversion so the rest of his army can escape. He still sees Leontes as a good man, and refuses to let Leontes be the one to stay behind and potentially sacrifice himself. Of course, this only proves to us, the audience, how much Arthur really has changed since he first became king.
I’m actually a bit disappointed that Merlin was virtually oblivious to her planning, and therefore could do nothing to stop or even partially impede her. He was certainly suspicious enough of her (and Sybil), but it lead to no real action. His attempt to arrest Morgan single-handedly was also a pretty serious miscalculation, especially considering his unwillingness to use magic. Still, I have to give Merlin credit for his reaction to all of this. He recognizes that he was stupid not to see through Morgan’s shape-shifting, given that he already knew that she had that power. And once captured by Morgan, he sees that this is not the time to make things worse with rash decisions. Using magic to escape would only help to build Morgan’s case against him, and further strengthen the people’s loyalty to her. I also liked that he pointed out to Igraine that this would result in Arthur finally seeing Morgan for who she really is.
Having an actual battle scene certainly helped in making the episode more engaging than the last four have been. Despite the feelings of betrayal Arthur’s men now feel toward him, the men of Camelot are still an extremely superior fighting force. A direct assault doesn’t go very well for Harwell’s men (though the unfortunate red-shirt Orpheus does die in the assault), so they pull back and start shooting some arrows while they wait for re-reinforcements. Kay gets an arrow in the torso.
It’s pretty much a given that Arthur will survive the finale, but the episode doesn’t seem to offer up any obvious clues as to how he could possibly survive. His men are all busy escaping with the injured while Merlin and Igraine are being taken to Camelot under guard. Maybe if Arthur can buy them enough time, he could then escape on his own, but it’s not looking very good. Morgan doesn’t seem likely to have a change of heart, and Merlin doesn’t seem likely to use magic. I think the most likely possibility is that Leontes will return and sacrifice himself to save Arthur just in the nick of time, but to me that would a bit too predictable and convenient.
In spite of its weaknesses, “Camelot” is still a respectable effort in the Arthurian genre. The concept and overall plot have carried it really well, even during the less interesting middle chunk of the season. I’m expecting a good finale, but the flawed build-up to it has lowered my expectations for it and the overall show from what they were much earlier in the season.