Episode Title: "Lady of the Lake"
Writers: Louise Fox & Chris Chibnall
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Previously on "Camelot":
Hoping to gain some insight into Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) and hasten his downfall, Morgan (Eva Green) invited Arthur and Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) to a banquet in his honor. Before Arthur passed out afterwards, Morgan stole some blood from him and she later tricked Merlin into drinking drugged wine. While Merlin struggled to escape being chained to Morgan's bed, Arthur left her castle to rendezvous with Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton). Despite her initial protests, Guinevere gave into Arthur and they had sex on the beach shortly before her wedding.
Meanwhile, Guinevere's betrothed, Leontes (Philip Winchester) and Arthur's adopted brother Kay (Peter Mooney) recruited Gawain (Clive Standen) to train the knights. Later, Merlin escaped from Morgan and he warned her that her magical powers had a price. She ignored his advice and used her abilities to see through Arthur's eyes as he married Guinevere and Leontes. And she quickly realized that Guinevere was Arthur's greatest weakness.
On the morning after Guinevere's wedding, Arthur sulks in his throne room. Or at least he does until he orders all of his knights to be awakened early as a way to get Leontes away from Guinevere. Having gathered the knights for training, Gawain sees through Arthur's BS and quickly disarms and threatens the inexperienced king. He even destroys the Sword of Mars that Arthur pulled from the stone. The rest of the knights draw swords to confront Gawain, but he releases Arthur without harm. Seeking a new sword for Arthur, Merlin is told by Gawain to find Caliburn (Vincent Regan), a reclusive sword maker.
Across the kingdom, Morgan attempts to visit Camelot with a gift for Guinevere to press Arthur even further. But she is overcome by sickness along the way and forced by her servant Vivian (Chipo Chung) to turn back. Once home, Morgan is enraged that an unnamed Nun is waiting for her within the castle walls and she has her removed by force. Elsewhere, Merlin meets Caliburn and convinces him to create a special sword made just for Arthur. He also meets Caliburn's young daughter, Excaliber (Lauren Coe). Back in Camelot, Arthur corners Guinevere and he has the nerve to ask if Leontes was better than him in bed.
After telling off Arthur again, Arthur's mother, Igraine (Claire Forlani) warns Guinevere to stay true to her husband. Meanwhile, Morgan takes a turn for the worse and she is forced to allow the Nun to treat her. Morgan seemingly dies during her ordeal and she is reborn in the form of Igraine, much to her horror. She eventually recovers and reluctantly allows the Nun to stay within the castle. At the same time, Merlin is haunted by dreams of Caliburn murdering Arthur. When Caliburn insists upon bringing the finished sword to Arthur personally, Merlin refuses.
Incensed, Caliburn refuses to give up the sword. In the ensuing confrontation, Merlin kills Caliburn with a burst of flame. Distraught, Excaliber takes the sword and runs out to the lake. She tries to row away in a boat, but Merlin freezes the lake around her. When she tries to escape again, she falls through the ice. She manages to get the sword through the ice, where Merlin claims it. But he is unable to free her before she drowns in the frozen water. Back in Camelot, Arthur continues to act like a spoiled child and he fights dirty with Leontes during training in order to humiliate him.
Finally, Merlin returns to Camelot with the new sword in hand. But he lies and says that Caliburn was dead when he found him. He then spins a tale about meeting a mystical Lady in the Lake who handed him the sword fit for a king… a sword she named Excaliber.
The story of Camelot has been told so many times over the years that it's understandable when writers try to bring a fresh perspective to it.
However, I've never seen anything take a s*** on the legend the way that "Camelot" has in just four episodes.
Once again, the biggest problem lies with Jamie Campbell Bower as the whiniest King Arthur of all time. When Arthur asked Guinevere if Leontes was better in bed, my jaw literally dropped. For you comic fans out there, it was a verbal miscue on par with "I'm the Goddamn Batman!"
I can live with Starz sexing up the story to a certain extent, but Arthur has become an unlikable twerp. He's not only a mediocre king and a horrendous leader, he's also a self absorbed lover and he's just a bad friend to Leontes for continuing to pursue his wife… the day after he married them!
Then there's Arthur's two training battles, the first of which he loses soundly to Gawain and the second in which he viciously humiliates his "champion," Leontes. In all honesty, why would anyone follow this guy? Especially after that display? This Arthur isn't a riveting speaker and he still has yet to do anything heroic in this series. It's almost amazing to see that the people behind "Camelot" have the audacity to put forth this version of Arthur as England's greatest hero.
As for Merlin, I was enjoying Joseph Fiennes' portrayal of a less magic based Merlin who seemed to at least act with purpose. So to see him losing control and playing with fire (so to speak) felt wildly out of character. And that was before he was responsible for the death of a young girl and her father! Admittedly, the frozen lake thing was a cool visual moment. But the entire situation seemed ridiculously contrived. Merlin had to kill them BOTH to get the sword and save Arthur?
Also, how far down on the names list did Caliburn have to go to name his daughter Excaliber? Not exactly a convincing name for a girl.
I'm sure the intent is to add some darkness to the overall story, but this doesn't fell right for either Merlin or Arthur. At least Morgan is meant to be the villain, so it's not jarring to see her fall prey to her own ambitions. There just isn't a true hero in one of the greatest heroic myths of all time. Nor is there anything here that makes me eager to see the next episode.
From a technical standpoint, "Camelot" is really well done. But the story and some of the performances are really dragging down what could have been an amazing series. The producers will have their hands full trying to dig themselves out of this creative hole for the rest of the season.
And that's if they can even do it at all.
Crave Online Rating: 5 out of 10.