This review contains spoilers.
There is nothing better than an awesome guest star, except maybe two awesome guest stars. While not quite hitting the heights of the James Purefoy/Sean Pertwee combo, Camelot has scored another two of Britain’s finest in the form of Liam Cunningham (Centurion, Dog Soldiers and the BBC’s ill fated Outcasts) and Steven Mackintosh (The Escapist, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels). They’re the focal point of this episode, as Arthur and his knights come across a village dispute that has seen Liam Cunningham’s Colfur brain a man with a rock and about to be lynched.
Determined that his realm sees a new era of justice, Arthur orders Colfur and Mackintosh’s character, Ewan, who was the victim’s brother, back to Camelot, in order to oversee the trial and administer justice. The scene is set for a courtroom drama Dark Ages style.
Fear and justice are the main themes of the episode, but whereas Arthur aims to win the hearts and minds of the people through justice, Morgan aims to do it with fear. It seems that no matter what century it is, there’s always a portion of the British population that think their country is going to the dogs, so Morgan’s mysterious nun, Sybil, suggests they be taken advantage of.
She proposes Morgan influence a group of merchants and village elders, who have become disillusioned with Arthur’s realm and fear they may be losing their country. Sybil’s plan is simple: justify their fears, win their support and win the crown. How does one do that? By showing that no one is safe in the kingdom, not even nuns.
This is probably the best episode of Camelot thus far. Not only are all soap opera antics dispelled with (with Guinevere contributing something to the plot), but all the characters get their time in the sun. For Arthur, the trial lets him show the people his is a fair and just king, while his knights and Kay show they’re more than simple willing subjects, but are also his conscience, and if the time calls for it, his wrath.
Morgan’s schemes are also much more intriguing, showing she aims to win the crown through political means rather than magic. At the start of the episode, she mentions she could turn into Igraine, infiltrate Camelot and kill Arthur, but seeing as she had the young king as her guest merely a few nights earlier, one wonders why she just didn’t do it then.
Sybil’s plan of power through the people makes much more sense and is much more interesting to watch, with many of the social manipulations echoing the likes of Rome and, in the case of the trial and the community’s dirty little secrets, Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I just compared Camelot to Battlestar Galactica.
While Morgan’s plan is wrapped up a little too neatly (who would want a monarch who simply slices open a man’s throat without even the hint of a trial?), it does show how ruthless she can be, not to mention her mysterious sister of the cloth.
Merlin, meanwhile, has placed himself in isolation for the past four days, punishing himself for the death of Excalibur and inflicting what looks like Chinese water torture on himself. While the scenes between him and Igraine hint at more of his backstory (and his unwillingness to become physically close to anyone), it doesn’t detract from the episode’s main storyline.
Overall, it’s a wonderful return to form, with the trial providing an insight into the daily challenges Camelot with be facing, the religious intolerances plaguing the realm (Arthur is referred to a as a “Christian boy king”) and the promise of future clashes, as the kingdom looks set to be divided into two, with Morgan and Arthur each playing to win the love of the people.
Read our review of episode 4, Lady Of The Lake, here.