Customer Reviews: Camelot Season 1
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on December 5, 2012
*Two very mild spoilers below*

You must understand, I am a big history buff. So when a friend and I went to the theater some time ago and I saw the trailer for this, I was both elated and saddened (as I don't have Starz.) When I learned that the brilliant mind that helped craft The Tudors, another of my favorite (albeit historically innacurate) series, I was on board, one hundred percent. And while I may have had to wait for streams to go up online to see it, you better believe I was waiting eagerly in front of my computer screen every weekend.

The basic tale of King Arthur is known by all, so no need to repeat that. Here, King Uther has recently died, and his quick witted daughter Morgan sees this as her perfect opportunity to claim the throne she has so long coveted. Merlin, however, has something else in mind. Arthur, having been raised in the countryside unaware of his parentage, is quite surprised to find the sorcerer in his home spewing tales of being the son of a king. Merlin sees a future in this boy, a way to mend a country torn apart by warlord kings, and it will all start in one place, a crumbling stronghold that will stand as a beacon for a new era: Camelot.

It's pretty much common knowledge that a lot of peopele don't like this series. Even as a fan, I admit there is some to be desired, and certain things could have gone better. But there is still a lot to appreciate.

A big sore spot for a lot of people is the casting of Jamie Campbell Bower as the well known king. While yes, I'm sure someone out there could have carried the role better, this choice wasn't a horrible one. This Arthur is not the one we tend to immediately think of. This is a young, aloof Arthur, who doesn't know a damn thing about being king, and would frankly rather be at home with his foster family than thrust into the middle of medieval politics. Even halfway through the series, he's still coming into his own. Had the series continued, I feel like we'd have gotten to see different sides of him, and see him grow.

There are, as to be expected, historical innacuracies. This is a medieval show, after all, and sometimes that is forgotten. A previous reviewer mentioned the episode where a young girl is nearly forced to offer up her virginity as compensation for the land she and her father live on. And they were right; in a teeny tiny medieval settlement like this town, this is commonplace. Even far after this time period, landowners were able require women's virginities as payment from those beneath them, and there was no denying a person who was above you in station. This is given a modern treatment of "ohhh, that poor sweet child shouldn't have to give up her virginity to the big bad man", and while in the end it turns out it is mostly because the two are secretly related, it still is something that would probably have never come to light in real life. Now, in the show's defense, as I said, this is a young Arthur, one who would probably still believe in childish idealism and who would undoubtedly take trouble with this sort of thing. On a completely different note, something that really irritated me is the big boo-boo that is Morgan's parentage. Morgan is the child of Igraine and the Duke of Cornwall, along with her sister Morgause. She is NOT a Pendragon.

Despite the ups and downs, there are two shining gems that really make this show: Eva Green as Morgan, and Joseph Fiennes as Merlin. Firstly, this is a different Merlin than the wizened, bearded figure everybody imagines. This is a dark, brooding Merlin, one whose past is filled with sins and who may not be all that sane. The series seems to hint that the reason he hides his power is that it once got out of hand and killed his family, but this was never cleared up before the cancelation. Then, of course, my favorite part of the series, the goddess that is Eva Green. Not only is she stunningly beautiful, but she pulls off the role of cold, calculating enchantress like she was born for it.

Really, I think that Camelot had many chips and cracks, but with a little patching up (that is, to say, more seasons) it could have had a lot of success. Every show starts off with baby steps, this one just never had a chance to work on its toddler years, so to speak.
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There are some classic tales that have been so oft told, I could probably go my whole life without revisiting the topic. The legend of King Arthur is certainly one of those stories which has been covered from every angle possible. And I've seen them all--from classical interpretations (Boorman's Excalibur), musical productions (Lerner and Loewe's Camelot), modern day variations (Romero's Knightriders), introspective art house pieces (Bresson's Lancelot du Lac), and countless other incarnations. Yet the story is so vivid and enthralling, it's hard to resist its allure. When I heard that the Starz network was planning to reinvent the legend of "Camelot," I was somewhat apathetic, somewhat worried, but also strangely hopeful. The network is coming off a huge success with its over-the-top bloody sword and sandals epic "Spartacus." So it makes sense they wanted to tackle another period adventure. Love it or hate it, though, "Spartacus" is a graphic spectacle that will assault your senses and leave you reeling. "Camelot" doesn't attempt the same type of visceral in-your-face aggression, but it seems to want to have it both ways. This version is completely sanitized for modern viewers (I'll speak to that later) but still wants to be edgy and provocative (oh look, there's Guinevere topless).

I'm not going to recount the plot of the boy King, other than to say that this version sticks to the primary elements of the tale while trying some creative sleight of hand to reimagine peripheral aspects. When King Uther dies under mysterious circumstances, his sorceress daughter Morgan (Eva Green) seems the likely heir. But cunning Merlin (Joseph Fiennes), who is having visions of foreboding, has a big secret to reveal. Uther had a illegitimate son Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) who has been raised on an idyllic country farm. Merlin brings the boy to court and starts to build a new kingdom around Arthur--a rule that hopes to combine the disparate and warring factions of the land. The boy seems an unlikely leader (always does, in my opinion) but is soon learning the laws of the land while establishing new ones. His rule is challenged in many ways, most subversively by his own sister Morgan, but through all the power plays and political intrigues--don't worry there is still time for that expected dalliance with the lovely Guinevere (who happens to be married to one of his most trusted soldiers).

A lot of elements work just fine in this version. Green's Morgan begins and ends every scene with a glower, and truthfully, it's hard not to root for her success over the hapless wet noodle (I mean, King). Her plots and machinations, in cahoots with some intriguingly complex female advisers, provide much fun and menace to the series. Fiennes seems to be having fun with his role--a cross between genius and madman--and is certainly one of the more unpredictable Merlins you're likely to encounter. This can be both good and bad--I certainly could have lived without his isolated bout of depression. Arthur's men are strong and interesting. The sets, costumes, and production values are all noteworthy as well. Fight scenes are well choreographed and the momentum is kept at a nice clip.

For my money, the show still gets dragged down in several significant ways. First, I never bought, believed in, or rooted for this boy King Arthur. Campbell Bower is introduced as a charming and irresistible womanizer (in fact, in the hilarious opener--he has seduced his brother's girlfriend into a tumble. Classy, huh?). He's so slight, with the look of an angry and petulant child, he hardly cuts the inspiring figure we're supposed to believe in. But appearance aside, he also lacks the appropriate gravitas in demeanor to champion a nation. Guinevere has been updated to a modern woman status--she single handedly sets about righting the chaos in Camelot in very era inappropriate ways. What strong independence! This Camelot wants to exist as a politically correct entity. In this land, children aren't used as commodities and women aren't exploited. It's all so proper--but has nothing to do with the barbaric time in which this all transpires. One particularly painful episode dealt solely with a teenage girl who was going to made to have relations with a powerful land boss. Arthur and his crew liberated the town from such tyranny--when, in fact, such acts would be commonplace not abhorrent by medieval standards. Even manipulative Merlin, as I mentioned above, doubles over in painful remorse and depression when his acts cause an unnecessary death.

Playing to every modern day sensibility of right or wrong absolutely renders the time period details ineffectual. Take, as a comparison point, HBO's brutal but stunning "Game of Thrones." It is graphic and uncompromising, but also smart and sophisticated. A definite must-see for adult viewers who crave powerful character driven drama. "Camelot," however, plays largely as a kid's fantasy with flashes of skin for grown-up viewers. I still liked many elements--and thank goodness for the over-the-top zeal of Eva Green. But the show muddies its message by playing it safe and then acting like it's dangerous. 2 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 5/11.
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on February 16, 2013
I wish they never made season one of this series as there will be no more seasons to come. According to IMDB a number of the actors are scheduled for other projects & that is why production has stopped. I love Arthurian themed tv and movies and the castles & village sets seemed so much more authentic to the era.

Arthur starts off as this skinny kid with no regard for Guenevere's relationship and the actor seemed positively wrong for the roll. He started evolving into a man and king and a 2nd season would have developed his character much further, stronger and better. Merlin was magnificent. An entirely different yet fully workable & fascinating spin on the man. I was sorry to see a few of the characters killed off in the first season, I think they were rich for more storytelling.

I truly am extremely disappointed that this has come to an end. I really am. I find myself waiting for whispers of a second season with the original cast even though there is no evidence to support my wish.
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on February 23, 2013
more people liked it than disliked it.

Really had a hard time accepting the boy who plays Arthur, seems to me he should have been cast as the farmers pig boy, not as a ledgenday warrior king. I tried very hard to finish watching the series. Well I watched it, it's pretty much crap, but 2 stars for being better than staring at the wall.

It was not even close to the anything like the legend, I guess the names were the same, that's the only nice thing I can say.
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on August 28, 2014
I bought three episodes and had to drop it. The casting of the boy for King Arthur was just plain bad. He comes off as a skateboard kid from Cally totally confused by the role. All his supporting actors would make better kings than him. The best actor of the show plays Morgan. She is beautiful, strong, intelligent and interesting. Merlin, as a bald headed young guy, actually pulls it off with some good acting. I like the actor who plays Gawain, but alas I can't sink anymore money into a King who would be better suited as a pageboy for Gawain.
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on January 26, 2013
This is an interesting take on Camelot. The writers bring a new slant to the old stories. I liked the other stories but this one is really unique. I would recommend buying the first and only season if nothing else but for the novelty of a new story line on Arthur.
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on March 6, 2014
This is well acted well done all the way around but it is not your typical tale of knights and maidens. In fact, it has rubbed the shining off of the Excalibur, the Camelot and the King along with being very human in it's story telling......and you know how we humans can disappoint each other. I loved it along with my daughter who has been watching it with me. Sorry there will not be more than the first season in the horizon for this STARZ series.
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on December 12, 2015
WOW. I'm stunned. This was made by at least some of the people who did "The Tudors," which, for my money, is one of the most astonishingly done series ever, in every way. So, I was thrilled to think of these same people having their way with the Arturian myths. I bought season 1, certain of enjoying it - and I find I can barely watch it. I'm fast forwarding in seach of scenes I believe, into the fifth episode. With the exception of certain amazing actors, not seen nearly enough, like Sinead Cusack and James Purefoy (though there are others, you'll recognize them), many of the key roles are just boring. I have no idea what they have Joseph Fiennes doing with Merlin, but whatever the concept is, it and he, I'm sad to say, are annoying as hell. Guinevere and her role in it -- just silly, and it gets sillier. The writing is so often ridiculous and reductive. There are moments throughout of interest, of some terrific acting, but mostly, really just not much fun at all.
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on January 14, 2016
Well, if this is anything at all like the original concept of Arthur, then I have grown wings and feathers. since I am not airborne and feather-brained, this mess is just simply goofy. Laugh out loud goofy? No, that would signify some enjoyment of the show. No, I doubt I am alone in the opinion that finally, Hollywood has crossed the final frontier of stupidity. No insult to star whatever, but that was also annoying. I wasn't expecting much in terms of watchable moments, so that's a bonus. But, honestly...If you're aged anywhere above the age of 12, you've either never heard of things such as cinematic license....I could barely recognize this production as coming even a nails shred close to the immortal tale. In plain english, this sucked. First, for verite, no one is dirty. They all wear clean, most likely pressed, "peasants" garb, they're all apparently well fed and dirt in daily life has conveniently been swept away. By pixies, one imagines, but there is that troublesome pixie union to deal with, should you defame then in any way! Wouldn't want that on my conscience. So pixies are out, and Merlin, a dark, broody and not-quite-sneering Finnes, quietly killing the series all by himself. He just didn't have the presence of command in this role. He makes it look somehow more foolish than it needed to be. So, back to the forest...Arthur's character had me wincing in pain at every snide glace and smoldering temper shot, especially around that naughty dame, Gwen. BTW, Gwen isn't married to Arthur...No, she's hanging her skirts up for Leontes, Arthur's alleged hit man. Way to snarky and always with beautifully crafted hair, just so. I think the entire production was tired of her, after a bit. Whiny, pouty and sneaky, Ol' Gwen gets hooked up on a beach the English countryside, no less. Limited water right next to a forest. So she loses IT to Arthur, then tries to fool poor old Leontes that the blood on their connubial bedding is, of course, hers. I call foul (fowl?) on that. What hooey.

I could expound on the other aspects of the show, but won't bother. If, as I have stated, your mind hasn't fully matured and grown up for you, say such as that of a teenaged will probably like this series. But if you are educated, mature, aware of the realities of actual life, then this garbage is just not meant for adult eyes. The kiddies will love it, but for a more advanced audience, chug some wine, smoke a fattie and find something, anything else to watch. This production cannot hold its own, which I am guessing, is the primary reason for its short-lived tenure.
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on April 21, 2014
The show is slow, dark, bloody. and there are added unnecessary & explicit sex scenes with Arthur and two different women and full nudity shown. I was checking the show out for my kids...definitely a no go and not compelling enough to hold my attention either. The writing/dialogue is extremely predictable.
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