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The one that got away
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.