This review contains spoilers.
6. Three Journeys
Camelot may slowly be growing into a community, but for the people of the kingdom, the new king’s influence has yet to affect their daily lives. Bandits and robbers still prey on the weak, and families are being routinely slaughtered. Never mind, though. Arthur and Merlin have a plan: to plant big red banners and build a library.
The young king is eager to show the people of the land that they’re under his protection, and aims to do this by placing Camelot standards every mile. One may argue that his knights would be better used protecting local villages, but, hey, we’re not the king. Merlin, on the other hand, feels that books are more important than swords and leads Kay, Gawain and Leontes on a field trip to find Kay and Arthur’s father’s long lost library.
Daddy issues seem to be the order of the day, as word arrives to Guinevere that her own father is dying (Sharpe‘s Daragh O’Malley in an underused role). As all the knights are out planting banners, only the king is left to provide an escort. Now, even if we are to believe that there are no able-bodied men in the kingdom capable of escorting a young lady to her dying father’s bedside, do we honestly think no-one would be around to protect the king? Well, apparently this is the case, and the scene is set for Arthur and Guinevere to bond over a long and treacherous journey.
Considering the two’s past, I was expecting the trip to descend in multiple encounters of the fleshy kind, but instead we got a long, clichéd number of incidents designed to bring the two closer together.
Firstly, Arthur hears first-hand how the people aren’t happy with his rule, leading Guinevere to console him by telling him he’s doing a wonderful job. Secondly, they’re attacked, allowing Arthur to show off his sword skills and protect her in a manly fashion. And thirdly, they’re able to lie out under the stars and talk about each other’s hopes, fears and dreams.
Considering Guinevere’s father was close to death, you’d have thought they would have put some urgency into their travels, but it seems the two were stopping every few hours for a picnic or to allow Guinevere to go skinny-dipping.
Meanwhile, Merlin’s abilities are becoming of more and more interest to the knights of Camelot.
Merlin, as we’ve learnt, is incredibly cagey about his abilities and in this episode he refuses to aid a mortally wounded man. The knights believe he can do anything, but as Merlin says, his powers come from thought, not from any natural ability or teachings. In fact, he says his abilities come from “shaping natural elements to some small degree”.
However, it’s clear he’s fearful of his powers and their consequences. This leads to a heart to heart with Gawain, where the knight compares his reluctance to how soldiers train for combat. In essence, Merlin must man up, overcome his fear and learn how to control and embrace it.
Merlin is arguably the most interesting character in the show and Fiennes plays him incredibly well, balancing the sorcerer’s mischief, such as mocking Leontes’ religious beliefs, with his justified fear and wonder of his own abilities. Hopefully, this episode’s acceptance of his powers will lead to him unleashing some magical fury in later episodes.
Things are less interesting in the court of Morgan, where her popularity as the people’s princess has led her to overseeing domestic court cases like some sort of Dark Ages Judge Judy. In fact, currently Morgan’s entire subplot is becoming less and less interesting, with her drive for power replaced with a meddlesome nun and her dull backstory of ‘chosen girls’, ancient customs and the burning of nunneries.
Hopefully, the writers will figure out what to do with Morgan, as currently the wonderful Eva Green is wasted and the series is missing more scenes with her going head to head with actors like Joseph Fiennes and James Purefoy .
Considering last week’s return to form, this week saw Camelot slip back into contrived and plodding storylines. Arthur may be maturing slowly as a king, but I still don’t understand why people would accept him as a ruler, especially with silly ideas such as leaving a massive hole in the castle roof. Does he not think that it will ever rain?
Read our review of episode 5, Justice, here.