The Complete First Season
Anchor Bay / Starz
Arthur is reckless, both to his benefit and detriment. He leaps into danger with no concern for his personal safety, causing the people to hail him as a brave and fearless hero; but he is likewise reckless in his personal life. He takes actions with no concern for others, causing them to decry him as a selfish traitor.
The true power in Camelot is Merlin. Merlin is very much like a modern politician, less concerned with the real-world situation than with the optics. His goal is to make Arthur appear ‘king-like,’ knowing that he must construct a compelling narrative if he is to win the people over to their side. For his part, Arthur is not all that reliable as a political figurehead. His arrogance makes him a good orator, as he truly believes that he can save the nation and make everyone happy; but a bad person, leaving Merlin to clean up after him.
Morgan, Arthur’s half sister, plays from the same handbook as Merlin, but from opposite angles. While Merlin pushes Arthur as the king who will bring peace and freedom to the land; Morgan presents herself as the queen that will protect the people from danger. Both are selling the same message, but they do so by appealing to different emotions, hope and fear, respectively. As we all know, fear is usually the stronger of the two, because it is the most immediate, and most visible.
Morgan is, ironically, a more likable character than Arthur. She has suffered, and her anger towards her family is (at least as far as she knows) justified. It’s also true that Arthur is neither suited to nor deserving of the crown. Arthur is only perceived as a king because of the machinations of Merlin, so is it really all that evil for Morgan to manipulate people to her own ends? Especially when she’s probably the better choice, when all is said and done? Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Morgan is played by the gorgeous Eva Green, a fact which may be swaying my opinion in her favor.
Arthur, played by Jamie Campbell Bower, isn’t very likable. He has a certain Matthew McConaughey-quality that just makes you want to punch him in the face. I think it’s partly because of the way the character is written, and partly the actor playing him. Really, they could have found someone more ‘kingly’ for the role.
Camelot more-or-less follows the old Arthurian legends. They were good stories with complex characters to begin with, so there’s nothing wrong with that; but it does cut back on the surprises. In particular, there’s a major death in the season finally that we know from episode two will have to happen at some point. There are a few changes to the original, especially with the more fantastical events of the story.
Camelot aired on the same network as Spartacus: Blood and Sand, it’s not quite as graphic as its sister series, nor as rousing; but it’s still a well-produced and entertaining historical adventure in the vein of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena.