I started watching this show without expecting much in the way of quality, as I’ve found very few Arthurian movies or television shows that I really enjoy.
Episode four, however, was a vast improvement. It was as if the writers stopped setting up the legend and started focusing on stories about the characters they’d created. I was worried the follow-up episode would go back to the pattern of the first three but, instead, it maintained quality.
I could get hooked on this show. And here I thought I’d be hooked more on Showtime’s The Borgias or HBO’s A Game of Thrones. Alas, the first is gorgeous but somewhat empty and the second has a very long setup.
Justice is split about equally into three separate plots that center around Arthur, Morgan, and Merlin.
Arthur and his party are returning from somewhere when a teenage girl runs to them for help, saying her farmer father is killing the head man of the village. The king and his knights are too late, as the farmer has already killed someone and he’s in the middle of being hanged for his crime. Arthur intervenes, claims that justice will not be done without a proper hearing, and moves the trial to Camelot.
It’s fairly clear to a viewer what is really going on, namely that the “respected leader of the community” was at the farm to rape the teenage daughter. It takes a while to uncover exactly why the father won’t talk about this part. Eventually, it comes out that the leader and his family had been raping virgin girls for years. Except they don’t call it “rape,” they call it their right as leader of the community to get the “first taste.”
So, the rapist who was killed was also actually the girl’s brother, as their mutual father had raped the farmer’s wife before their wedding night. Arthur commutes the farmer’s sentence to banishment but all does not go well when the farmer goes back to his home to collect his things.
A fight breaks out between the villagers and Gawain. Eventually, Arthur and the rest of the knights show up (though Gawain really didn’t seem to need much help) and some of the villagers are killed. But the new head man, the brother of the man who was murdered, is left alive. Arthur says he’s already lost face in his community. I’m thinking this is a mistake that’s going to come back to haunt him.
As Guinivere is the one who gets the full story out of the girl. Arthur thanks her for that. In the meantime, Guinivere also decides to “organize” everyone inside the castle walls because it’s too chaotic and a goat keeps showing up in her bedroom. Still, she’s doing something useful this episode and that’s a big improvement over pining for Arthur. And Arthur actually behaving like a leader was an even better development.
Meanwhile, at her home of Castle Pendragon, Morgan also wants to help the “common people” so they’ll be her friends and support her bid for power. Since she’s so selfish, she can’t quite see how to do this, so the Abbess staying with Morgan comes up with a plan.
It involves inviting everyone to a feast and listening to their complaints and offering to help. As Morgan is completely self-centered and not really capable of empathy, I suspect this won’t go well. But the he Abbess has a secret plan. That involves paying a mercenary to beat her up, so she can enter Morgan’s dinner battered and bloody. This causes everyone to question whether Arthur can keep the peace in his kingdom if even a nun isn’t safe. That was exactly what the Abbess wanted. Morgan is thrilled with how it’s going until the mercenary shows up and is about to give away the secret. Thinking on her feet, Morgan identifies the mercenary as the man who attacked the Abbess and slits the mercenary’s throat before he can protest. He takes a long time to die, as he remains upright and bleeding while Morgan makes a speech about protecting everyone.
Arthur let his enemy live. Morgan, not so much. The Abbess didn’t seem too upset about being responsible for the man’s death either.
The shortest subplot centered on Merlin going crazy in reaction to having killed poor Excaliber when he obtained the sword for Arthur last episode. Merlin is shaking and writing all sorts of stuff on parchment that doesn’t seem to make sense but looks suspiciously like Leonardo Da Vinci drawings. Igraine is the one who finds Merlin in his hidden lair and brings him food and eventually settles him down. They talk about their pasts and what they wanted out of life, which is a nice scene and adds a lot to Igraine, who had previously been a one-note character. Igraine tries to kiss Merlin but he goes insane again, screaming at her like Hamlet screamed at Ophelia. Merlin has issues with women.
I rather like the idea of an Igraine/Merlin pairing in this show. They’re both older characters who’ve seen a great deal and know about being pawns to power.
Now, if they could only get Igraine to act like the chatelaine of the castle, which she really should be as Dowager Queen, instead of letting Guinevere take on the job.
At the end, a hidden Merlin witnesses Arthur passing judgment and he’s proud of him.
So all three characters are feeling the effects of power. Arthur is trying to flex his muscles to make things just, Morgan is using “protecting the people” as a way to gain power, and Merlin is simply trying to survive after having unjustly committed murder with his powers in what he sees is a good cause.