TV Review: Camelot Season 1 Eps 1 & 2–Homecoming and The Sword and the Crown

Hey, everyone.  New here, happy to be contributing.  I’ll be reviewing Starz’s Camelot, starting from the beginning, even though it’s halfway through its 10 episode run here in the States.

Camelot is the latest in a long line of productions taking on the story of King Arthur, the most recent being the BBC’s Merlin.  Make no mistake about it, though: Camelot is NOT a family show.

While Starz offered an advance peek of the pilot “Homecoming,” the first two episodes aired together when the series officially premiered on April 1, 2011.  I really think that’s how they should be watched, so I’ll be reviewing them together, and thus this review will be longer.  Beware: Spoilers Ahead…

Brief Episode(s) Summary:

Morgan Pendragon, King Uther’s exiled daughter, returns and poisons her father (nothing kicks off a series like a good regicide, I’ve always said).  While she makes a bid for the throne through an alliance with one of Uther’s rivals (King Lot), Merlin rushes off to collect Arthur, Uther’s illegitimate son.  Arthur lives in a rural village, raised there by foster parents and ignorant of his true parentage.  Armed with Uther’s will acknowledging Arthur as his son, Merlin convinces Arthur to come back with him to the ancient castle of Camelot.

Morgan (who was ignorant of Arthur’s existence) and King Lot oppose Arthur from the start, murdering his foster mother in an attempt to break his spirit.  He is given five days to mourn and then leave.  Instead, Merlin sets his plan for Arthur into motion.  Realizing that Arthur needs the people’s support, Merlin brings him to the Sword of the Gods, which is embedded in a stone at the top of a waterfall.  Arthur successfully removes the sword, which, according to legend, means that he will be the king to unite all of Britain.  Immediately upon doing so, he falls and is gravely injured.

Word spreads to Morgan and King Lot, who quarrel about it.  Lot resolves to attack Arthur immediately.  Morgan rides ahead to warn Arthur; not because she cares, but because she’s angry with Lot.

When Arthur wakes from his injuries, he finds a castle full of people ready to swear fealty to him.  He is crowned King, but Lot’s men infiltrate the celebration.  When all is said and done, King Lot is dead, and Morgan has to find another way to try and take Arthur’s throne, making it perfectly clear that they can never work together.

Review:

I’ll be honest.  I watched “Homecoming” on its own when it aired a month prior to the premiere date and didn’t care for it.  I didn’t like Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur, and I thought that Joseph Fiennes’s Merlin was a total creeper.  Even so, when Starz aired the first two episodes back to back on premiere night, I decided to give it another chance.  I’m glad I did.

Episodes 1 and 2 are very much about Arthur’s transition from a boy to a man and king.  At first, there was nothing about him that gave any indication that he could become the great King Arthur of legend.  But as the episode went on, with Merlin’s guidance, he learned to stand on his own two feet and by the time he gave his coronation speech I was nearly convinced.  In retrospect, I think Jamie Campbell Bower did very well with the character, taking him from a young, scared village boy to the young King Arthur, around whom people are already rallying.

The biggest surprise for me was Merlin.  After seeing the first episode, I didn’t like him at all.  He’s very intense about Arthur; you learn that he orchestrated the circumstances surrounding Arthur’s birth, and that he’s been watching him ever since.  It’s a bit creepy.  But put into context with the second episode, you see that the intensity comes from believing so strongly that Arthur will be this great king, and he’s willing to do anything to make it so.

Interestingly, we learn early on that Merlin has sworn off his magical powers, saying that they are “cursed,” but offering no further explanation.  He often looks tormented, primarily when someone mentions his powers.  On the other hand, he’s also funny, and intelligent, and seems to be genuinely proud of Arthur.  Joseph Fiennes does a great job juggling it all.

Eva Green is spectacular as Morgan.  She’s the “bad guy,” yet I also found her sympathetic.  Deeply affected by Uther’s alleged murder of her mother, she seems to take issue with King Lot killing Arthur’s foster mother.  Even so, she is definitely determined to unseat Arthur, guided by magical forces that Merlin very clearly warns her away from.  I would love to know more about the history of their relationship—definitely something to look forward to.

The supporting cast is great.  Guinevere is played by Tamsin Egerton—we only see her a few times, just enough to establish the attraction between her and Arthur, and to find out that she’s already betrothed to another.  Claire Forlani is Queen Igraine, Uther’s widow and Arthur’s biological mother.  She’s one to watch, because you get the feeling that her guidance will be very important for Arthur as he goes on.  Peter Mooney and Philip Winchester play Kay (Arthur’s brother) and Leontes respectively, the two who are closest and most loyal to Arthur.  We’ll see how that changes when Leontes loses Guinevere to Arthur.

All in all a very enjoyable two episodes, but again, I highly recommend viewing them together.

Episode 1 Rating: 3/5
Episode 2 Rating: 4.5/5
GS Reporter: Mirjana

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