Sunday, 7 August 2011

Camelot, the once and future series

Last night Channel 4 showed the final episode of Camelot Series 1. Which is also the last episode of Camelot ever, seeing as the second series was canceled.

Given that there is not much on TV during the summer I thought I'd give this a go. At first I was a bit "meh" about it but as the weeks went by I found myself enjoying the show a little more and then one day I realised that I was actually looking forward to the next episode.

The first episode opened with king Uther Pendragon getting poisoned by his shape-shifting daughter Morgan, played wonderfully by Eva Green, who thinks getting her hands on the crown is a done deal.

But Morgan didn't figure on Merlin (played by Joe Fiennes) coming up with a secret Pendragon offspring called Arthur. In the best Star Wars/Harry Potter tradition the infant Arthur had been spirited away to be brought up in secret and in safety by Sean Pertwee.

Merlin installs Arthur in the ruined castle of Camelot while Morgan glowers and plots from Castle Pendragon.

As this production comes from the people that gave us The Tudors you can be sure of the requisite amount of naughty bits, especially when Arthur and Guinevere head down to the beach for some quality time in the sand.

And this is a neat twist on the King Arthur legend which has Arthur being betrayed when his wife Guinevere hooks up with Lancelot. In this version it's Arthur doing the betraying as Guinevere is to wed Leonties who by all accounts is your trademarked Decent Chap.

I found the last few episodes particularly gripping. At one point Morgan captures Arthur's mother Igraine and shape-shifts to look like her so she can go plant some discord in Camelot. Claire Forlani did a great job playing Morgan pretending to be Igraine, even getting a little Eva Green inflection in her voice.

She lets slip to Leonties that Guinevere and Arthur were doing the naughty stuff and that manages to cause a lot of tension among Arthur and his knights as they go off to defend Bardon Pass from some bad men that Morgan sent to attack the fort.

And what of Arthur himself? Jamie Campbell Bower has been the recipient of a lot of criticism, mainly to the effect that he's "just not right for the part". But I think that's the whole point. We're seeing Arthur start from being a young guy who has grown up without much of a care in the world. He's told he has to be king and has to grow up fast.

There was a noticable transformation in Arthur in the last couple of episodes when he sent his men away from Bardon Pass while he stayed behind to single-handedly defend the fort out of guilt. I think if we had seen seasons two, three and four we would have seen more of a transformation.

But overall I'll miss Eva Green's Morgan the most, constantly scheming how to get the people to love her more than Arthur, willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to get her way.