I’ve defended Camelot more than most, I’d like to think. I’ve never claimed that it was trailblazing television, but the very fact that I write about it on a weekly basis means that myself in particular and The A.V. Club in general are more interested in analyzing it than many others. But holy flying orphans, Batman: this outing was pretty terrible. To spend the eighth episode in an ten-episode season progressing the story a half-inch when it should be pushed forth at least a few feet is baffling at best, and downright incompetent at worst.

Claire Forlani wasn’t the problem this hour, let’s be clear about that. Last week I wondered if she could rise to greater heights if given better material on the show. And lo, she did. I particularly liked the way she modulated her voice and overall posture to better emulate Eva Green’s performance and form a hybrid Morgan/Igraine (Morgraine?). Still, her storyline (Morgan was never loved as a child, and sees a possible future being loved in Camelot) was told in a way so brazenly melodramatic that Lifetime would have sent the script back, citing a lack of emotional credibility. There simply have to be better ways to engender sympathy for Morgan other than giving her a Dungeons & Dragons-loving moppet that gives her a glimpse of love before his swan dive off the balcony.

After all, the show’s spent quite a bit of time this year exploring just how much behind the 8-ball that Morgan has been all of her life. She latched onto Sybil for lack of a better parental figure, and her unrequited crush on Merlin didn’t abate once she started feeling hungry like the wolf. The glimpses of the girl Morgan was before being sent to the nunnery peek out every once in a while, and Redwulf’s “Today was the BEST day” gave her a momentary glimpse into the type of domestic life she could potentially enjoy if only she wasn’t psychically giving it up to the Dark Lord. The idea behind giving her a glimpse into “what could still be” sounds fine on paper. But given all the ways in which they could have gone, Camelot opted for a cute kid and cheap sympathy.

While I am sure advocating for less Eva Green won’t make me the most popular kid in school, I honestly could have seen the benefit of letting Morgraine insinuate herself in Camelot longer. All of the nominal storyline beats necessary for her character to play were there, but all packed into about 30 minutes of screen time. (And seemingly 8 of those involved people telling her good morning. Lord in Heaven, I kept waiting for her to burst into song about how there must be more than this provincial life.) Keeping Green in her trailer wouldn’t have given Harwel any good masturbatory fodder, but could have been a way to build complicated relationships between Morgraine and Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Leontes, Redwulf, and the concept of Camelot itself. Spending two to three episodes with her undercover would rob the show of one of its biggest stars, but could have provided a sounded story.

It also could have given us infinitely more Merlin doublespeak, which for the first time actually worked as a viable rhetorical strategy and not just a way to blueball anyone that wanted to know something about him. Each thing he says has a myriad of meaning tonight, which isn’t unusual. What IS unusual is that he’s doing it to slowly chip away at Morgraine’s defenses, seeking a fault in the exterior armor. His own armor has been wounded plenty (just check out those mystical scars on his back), and while he eventually suspects something amiss about Morgraine, his initial deflections are in tune with his previous ones towards Arthur’s mother. When he does play his final card (his apparently psychic touch), he feels nothing amiss, much to his surprise. That surprise indicates that whatever this Dark Wolf Lord is, it’s evolved far past the power that Merlin once tapped into. It’s an interesting hint at its power, a far more effective example than trying to make Leontes soil himself in the forest.

On the Leontes front: I liked that the wolf presented itself to the one person in Arthur’s current court that would understand it as metaphor. I love me some Gawain, but he’s not much with the subtext, you know? Leontes understands that the wolf is an omen, an omen cashed in on almost immediately in the castle’s chapel by Morgraine’s medieval Gossip Girl. Do I care about him knowing? Not especially, in that the relationship between Arthur and Leontes isn’t terribly strong at this point. They have had scenes together, to be sure. But I always feel more camaraderie between the men in Arthur’s circle rather than between any one of them and their king. Understandably, Arthur should stand as one of them yet also apart from them. But that needful delineation doesn’t necessarily translate to the type of bond necessary to make the impending shitstorm actually have operatic resonance.

And quite frankly, if Leontes beats the crap out of Arthur and leaves, at least that means we won’t have to deal with the Arthur/Guinevere stuff anymore. At this point, Arthur is confessing his feelings for her in an open courtyard within earshot of fifty people. We’re unfortunately a few centuries too early for Shakespeare to coin a phrase involving the words “discretion” and “valor,” so we’ll have to forgive his Royal Whippedness for being so brash. At least Kay gives him the seeds for what should eventually become the Knights of the Round Table through a “council of champions.” Maybe in Season 2, he can stay at home and let the big boys play while he composes poetry in his “I Miss Guinevere” journal.

Random observations:

  • The show clearly has no idea what to do with Vivian. She was helping out with incantations a few episodes ago, but is now against kidnapping?
  • In medieval times, “Who’s your daddy?” = “Who’s your king?” Duly noted. I now have to throw up.
  • Fun with names: STARZ named this episode Igraine, but spells the character’s name as “Ingraine” on its own website. Even though the URL spells it without an "n." And it's without an "n" in the short description. I’m giving up and calling everyone “Chuck” and “Serena” from now on, just to keep with the Gossip Girl reference above.
  • I can’t believe the one question Morgraine asked Merlin concerned his feelings for Igraine. Talk about a wasted opportunity.
  • Given Merlin’s distaste for Uther’s style of punishment, it makes more sense on a weekly basis why he ensured Arthur got all of the nature and none of the nurture.
  • "I don't mind. I'm very grown up."
  • "My soul is without stain. Only one of us whored ourselves and sired a bastard."

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