CAMELOT 1.03 ‘Guinevere’

Arthur gets a one beach stand with Guinevere, but it's Merlin who ends up with Morgan... in bed!

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Guinevere"

Story by: Chris Chibnall & Louise Fox

Teleplay by: Louise Fox
 
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
 
Previously on "Camelot":

With the death of King Uther Pendragon (Sebastian Koch), Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) summoned his illegitimate heir, Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) to take his throne… much to the consternation of Arthur's half-sister, Morgan (Eva Green) who already went through the trouble of poisoning her father. Morgan aligned herself with King Lot (James Purefoy), who then practically pulled Arthur's adopted mother out of thin air and killed her. But Arthur practically forgot his dead mother when he saw Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) emerge on a beach, despite her apparent disinterest in him.

Morgan lost her faith in Lot after he treated her badly, so she warned Merlin and Arthur of his attack ahead of time. During Arthur's coronation, Lot and his men were defeated and killed. Although Arthur was grateful to Morgan for the warning, she rejected his hand of friendship and went deep into the woods to bare herself to a dark force of magical power… or maybe it was just a wolf.

Story:
 
Morgan decides to clean up her castle, first by stripping the dungeon of most of its torture racks and by making an African girl with facial tattoos into her newest servant. Elsewhere, the home of Guinevere and her father is raided by bandits and they flee to Camelot for protection. Meanwhile, at Camelot, Arthur wanders aimlessly and he seems stunned that people expect him to actually lead and make decisions. When Guinevere and her father arrive seeking sanctuary, Arthur overrules Merlin and gives them a room. In retaliation, Merlin invites Guinevere to get married to her betrothed, Leontes (Philip Winchester) in Camelot — despite Arthur's obvious lust for her.

Morgan's servant soon arrives at Camelot inviting Arthur to a feast in his honor at her castle. He accepts the invitation despite Merlin's obvious distrust of Morgan's motives. Meanwhile, Arthur's adopted brother Kay (Peter Mooney) and Leontes go off in an attempt to recruit a great knight named Gawain (Clive Standen). At Morgan's castle, Arthur and Merlin are greeted warmly by Morgan and her servants. Although both Arthur and Merlin are hesitant to taste Morgan's meal, she defuses their suspicious by eating from their plate first.

After the meal, a mostly drunken Arthur is wakened from near sleep by Morgan who pretends to be friendly with him before cutting his chest with her nails to get some of his blood. He accepts her apology and passes out to dream of Guinevere naked on the beach. Elsewhere in the castle, Morgan coaxes Merlin into drinking wine that knocks him out and leaves him helpless. Arthur wakes up and decides to return to Camelot, but he leaves Merlin behind because he thinks that Merlin is about to score with his (half) sister.

When Kay and Leontes find Gawain, he's not interested in joining them and he even fights them briefly. But once they sell him on the idea of Arthur as a new kind of benevolent king, he gets more interested. Kay wins him over fully by agreeing to teach him how to read. Back in Camelot, Arthur sneaks into Guinevere's room and coaxes her to the beach. In an incredibly awkward and poorly acted sequence, he seduces her. Later, she feels guilty about cheating on Leontes and takes the blood of a baby deer to fake her virginity later.

Back at Morgan's castle, Merlin wakes up chained to a bed with Morgan clipping his nails. Through his own gifts, he reads her mind and he sees that she killed her father. She also demonstrates that she can change form slightly, but at a physical cost. Eventually, he breaks free and warns her of the consequences of playing with dark powers. In Camelot, Arthur reluctantly presides over the wedding of Guinevere and Leontes while Morgan observes his lust through his eyes. That night, Guinevere consummates her marriage with Leontes and uses the deer blood to fool him as expected.

Breakdown:

I'm kind of conflicted about "Camelot." I admire the craft of the production, the lush locations and the great orchestral score… but the acting and the writing are leaving me cold.

I hate to keep harping on Jamie Campbell Bower's King Arthur, but he's horribly miscast in the part. The script portrays Arthur as largely a clueless guy who cares more about f***ing Guinevere than anything else. So it does no favors to Bower at all. For someone who is supposed to be a beacon of idealism, Arthur is mostly an empty shell on which people project their desires upon. But he's not a leader and nothing that Arthur does is inspiring. We're three episodes in and Arthur STILL hasn't done anything heroic!

Guinevere doesn't fare any better and her sex on the beach with Arthur made very little sense for either character. They're both treating Leontes like dirt despite their so-called love for him. And honestly, it makes them both look bad in the process. It doesn't help that Bower and Tamsin Egerton don't seem to have much chemistry together either. I did laugh at the two deer blood scenes with Guinevere, but I'm not sure those were meant to be funny.

I had the same issue with Merlin's brief stint as Morgan's captive. It was amusing to see Merlin wake up to Morgan trimming his toe nails (and I'm sure she promises not to turn him into a newt). But the entire sequence hinged upon Merlin drinking Morgan's wine without being suspicious of it first, which seemed out of character for him. Unsurprisingly, most of the interesting scenes took place between Morgan and her guests as she tried to convince them of her good intentions. And despite my problems with Bower's Arthur, watching him make genuine attempts to reach out to Morgan does make him seem kind… provided he doesn't want to sleep with her too.

Morgan's blood collection is also starting to get a little ridiculous, especially with that "accidental" cut on Arthur. "I'm sorry, brother! I promise I won't impregnate myself with this blood I just stole from you!"

Arthur's brother Kay has been one of the few bright spots so far and Gawain seems like he has potential. It was also the only plotline of the week that really showed someone trying to make their assemblage of knights into something greater than before. But with Arthur in charge, there's a serious lack of real leadership.

Honestly, I would love to be able to fully embrace "Camelot," but it still feels half formed at best. If the writing can come together and Bower's annoying tendencies are toned down, it could be more fulfilling.

But for now, it's just disappointing.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.