Camelot Episode 8: Excessive Desire and Fragmenting Identities

A report on Camelot (the Starz television series, headed by Chris Chibnall) episode 8.  It continues from the last episode in its status as build up to whatever action is the climax of season one, in the two remaining episodes.  It appears from the end of this episode that the big action will start with Camelot on fire.  

As we saw in the last episode, Arthur’s half sister, the sorceress Morgan (Eva Green) has transformed herself in appearance into Arthur’s mother Igraine (Claire Forlani), giving Green a rather quiet time as an actress in this episode.  The Igraine persona is maintained throughout the episode  At the end, the real Igraine, who has escaped from Morgan’s Castle Pendragon, and galloped through the night to Camelot, enters Camelot and encounter false Igraine setting up a problem for the next episode of how Arthur’s party will recognise the real Igraine.  Morgan’s Igraine is a real double who acts on Igraine’s desire to seduce Merlin (Joseph Feinnes).  Merlin, defined as reserved and wily, makes the biggest possible error as he fails to notice that fake Igraine is a fake and lowers his guard to make love after what appears to be a long gap in such relationships.  

This relationship has many aspects, all of which will be highly disturbing to Merlin when he realise what has happened.  Before the seduction, he bonds with Igraine when they act as surrogate parents to an orphan boy of Camelot.  Merlin declares that day is the boy’s birthday and gives him toy armour for playing as a a champion of Arthur.  He also gives the boy a toy soldier for a model castle.  It is this castle that fake Morgan-Igraine sets fire to at the end of the episode to start a fire in Camelot proper.  The boy has died by then, because Morgan-Igraine was trying to stop the boy telling anyone about a moment in which she is in great pain and struggling to avoid reverting to the appearance of Morgan.  Merlin declares the killer, unknown to him at that moment, to be beyond all limits and to be someone who should be burned.  Add to that, the previous sexual tension between Merlin and Morgan, so that in some way he has had an orgy with both Igraine and Morgan; a realisation of his desires in a form that he will presumably find extremely disturbing on discovery, given that he is portrayed as someone who very much would not want to give way to their most extreme fantasies.  

The real Igraine has an even more disturbing sexual experience in her dungeon at Camelot, but an experience that enables her to escape.  She talks to her guard through the door of her dungeon and shows him that she remembers his name, from the time she was the wife of Arthur (and Morgan’s) father Uther, and was the Queen of Castle Pendragon.  She offers to make a deal if he will help her escape.  He overlooks the chance for material and social gain, and gives way to his extreme fantasy, having sexual relations with the Queen.  In no way can that moment be described as love making.  It is ended soon when Igraine stabs him in the middle of what quickly turns into an obvious rape, in addition to the rape inherent in bargaining with an imprisoned person to make her consent to sex, in a rather weak sense of consent.  Vivian (Chipo Chung), a servant at Pendragon before Morgan’s take over, and who is adopted by Morgan as a leading servant, shows her lack of loyalty by Morgan by ignoring Igraine’s escape.  It is unclear at this point whether she is motivated by moral concerns, old loyalty, or by resentment that a mysterious nun (Sinéad Cusack) has taken over from her as Morgan’s principle confidant.  

Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower), and his man, are mainly shown in this episode as hunting on an overnight trip.  This shows a lot of masculine banter and bonding, emphasising that Arthur is in a largely equal relation with his main knights.  The democratic spirit is expanded in a discussion of a future senate containing champions-representatives from the villages of the kingdom.  Either the knights or the script writers appear to confuse the Roman senate (a gathering of the aristocracy) with a representative assembly.  The more precise comparison would be with the Gerousia of Ancient Sparta which was partly elective in principle.  During the night, while on guard, Leontes (Philip Winchester) sees a mysterious wolf which appears and disappears in front of him, without attacking.  Leontes himself is too surprised to drive way or kill the dangerous animal.  As we see in other scenes the wolf is linked with Morgan, and the opening “previously on Camelot” sequence of the episode reminds is that Morgan was visited by a supernatural looking wolf in an early episode.  The wolf appears to be linked with Morgan’s magic powers, as is the nun.  Presumably more of this will be explained in the last two episodes of the current season, the only two left.  The last major incident of the episode is that Morgan-Igraine hints to Leontes while he is praying (he is portrayed as the most religious of all the characters in Camelot, particularly in contrast with the completely sceptical character of Merlin) that Arthur and Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton).  Leontes is very distressed, but it is not clear that he has come to believe that Arthur and Guinevere made love.  We just see him waking up in the morning with Guinevere and looking at her with deep curiosity.  Another area of suspense regarding what will happen in the concluding episodes.  One possibility must be that Arthur and Leontes fight until the death of Leontes, Arthur marries Guinevere, and then has a new champion called Lancelot, leading us into the well established Arthurian story of the adulterous love between Lancelot and Guinevere.  Or maybe not.  

The most important aspects of this issue concern desire that overwhelms and destroys, linking with confused and multiple identities, themselves linked with the confusion brought out by desire breaking bounds.  Morgan is a huge mess of desires for magical power, political power, intimacy with Merlin, destroying big buildings, and controlling people which are associated with a split within her identity between being power mad resentment driven Morgan, and the more relaxed giving identity of Igraine.  The craziness has now inflected the real Igraine, who has half submitted to rape and killed the perpetrator, and now faces her fake self.  The mystery of Merlin’s past and inner identity, is itself further confused by the liaison with Morgan-Igraine.  Leonties’ assumptions about himself, his life, his wife, and his king are on the point of collapse.  

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