I’m glad that Starz decided to give us an advanced viewing of the pilot for one of their newest series, Camelot. It premiered on February 25th after Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, and I’m just reviewing it thanks to my DVR.
The story of King Arthur has been told many times, in a variety of ways, and this is the newest interpretation. I am hoping for something similar to Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but set in Medieval times. After seeing the pilot episode I think we may be in store for something similar. It seems to be a retelling of the Arthurian Legend much like in the 2004 film King Arthur starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, where they attempted to tell a more historical version of the tale with no magic or myth. Camelot is similar to King Arthur in the aspect that, the magic thus far, though present, is not over the top. Merlin isn’t some long bearded, long robed wizard throwing fireballs left and right, and Morgan le Fay isn’t a full-blown sorceress.
*Spoilers throughout – except the ending*
The pilot opens with King Uther receiving a guest in the form of his banished daughter Morgan (played by the lovely Eva Green), claiming that she has returned home as his only child. Uther turns her away after she insults his wife, telling her she has been gone too long without his guidance, and orders her to leave once more. It seems that she does this and festivities follow that night in Uther’s castle. All seems well until a serving girl poisons the King’s food, and as Uther dies the serving girl transforms back into her original appearance of Morgan. Merlin arrives as the King draws his last breath, and has Uther sign a document before he dies and give over his ring.
After the opening credits we are treated to a naked picnic involving a young man and woman. The woman looks way too hot to be a 6th century chick, but why should I complain? Anyways, up runs the girl’s boyfriend, revealing that the guy is in fact Arthur, and this isn’t the first time. So in this retelling of the Arthurian legend, our boy is a smooth talking player… interesting. The boyfriend in question is actually Arthur’s brother Kay, so he doesn’t get a royal beat down. This Arthur is still a young man who is very carefree until he gets home to what his brother came to retrieve him from his sex romp for. Merlin is there, revealing very quickly to them all that Uther is dead, and then to Arthur that he is in fact the son of the King. He was taken away from the King at a very young age to be protected from any danger surrounding Uther at the time. Arthur is less than pleased when Merlin kneels to him, going so far as to put a dagger to his throat before being stopped by his adoptive father.
In the meantime, Morgan is busy consolidating her new-found power at Uther’s castle, summoning and forming an alliance with Uther’s most hated foe and rival King Lot, played to perfection by James Purefoy, who I know best from his role as Marc Antony in the HBO series Rome.
In Rome, Purefoy was excellently sly and cunning, and he appears to be ready to play an equally conniving character in Camelot. It would seem he is destined to be betrayed by Morgan after he has given her everything she wants, but one can hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon, and that he is allowed to run rampant for at least a season. He certainly earns lifelong ire from the young King Arthur by the end of this episode.
Back at the Arthur residence, the young heir accepts his fate as Uther’s son and decides to go with Merlin if his brother Kay will be allowed to accompany them. In this part of the pilot there is a pretty intense sex scene between King Lot and Morgan, where she definitely duped him into an alliance with the almighty horizontal mambo. I really love Eva Green in this show (And not just because of the sex scene, which was awesome.) and now can’t imagine anyone else playing Morgan. She is perfect in the delivery of her lines, always coming off as if she is talking down to everyone and her piercing gaze looking right through even the most imposing individuals. Green has not yet had the opportunity to play a true villain on-screen. Granted, she did turn out to be a bad girl in Casino Royale, but she wasn’t a true villain. She was just James Bond’s bed buddy who wanted lots of moola. In Camelot she finally gets the chance to be truly evil and executes perfectly.
Merlin and the two brothers finally reach the castle of Camelot, which is a very stunning sight. I still credit Starz with their production value on shows such as this and Spartacus: Blood and Sand. No expense was spared, and even though this version of famous Camelot is run down and overgrown with vegetation, that makes it look all the more spectacular.
Arthur meets his allies at this new seat of power, and the following day the rulers from the surrounding areas including, Lot and Morgan, are invited to see the new King. This is a great scene with Morgan circling the young would-be King like a predator, even going so far as to sniff at him in disdain.
I won’t spoil what occurs between Lot and Arthur in the last meeting before the pilot ends because it sets the stage for what proves to be a very promising series.
I enjoyed everything about Camelot in my viewing. From the superb acting talent, to the set pieces, wardrobe and even the soundtrack. The season will be ten episodes with several seasons afterwards if viewer reception is good. I will definitely be watching the show and it seems there will be plenty of swordplay to last until A Game of Thrones premieres April 17th on HBO. By that time I’ll have two fantasy shows to watch each week.
I highly recommend Camelot to any fantasy fan out there. It premieres on Starz this Friday, April 1st 2011, at 10 PM eastern time.