This review contains spoilers.
I haven’t been shy in my thoughts when it comes to Camelot. Despite a promising start, the series has had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster, with last week’s illogical clusterfuck being a particular low point. However, it seems the writers have learnt their lesson with the season finale, sending the season off with a surprisingly emotional and affecting episode.
If the first season was about setting up the ‘legend’ of Arthur and the conflict between him and Morgan, then the series made the mistake of bogging down the proceedings with too many superfluous storylines – a prime example being Morgan and Sybil. However, the finale essentially cut the fat away from the storyline, killing off three of the show’s more useless characters in quick succession.
Leontes, Igraine and Sybil – they have all gone the way of King Lot. But where James Purefoy’s early exit handicapped the show, their demise might benefit it. Firstly, Leontes’ days were always numbered. Anyone who knows anything about Arthurian lore knew that Guinevere and Arthur were going to end up together. It was just a matter of when and how.
As a result, we had the agonisingly awful soap opera dynamics of Arthur falling in lust (he claims it was love after a single day), sleeping with his champion’s wife and the inevitable fallout when the tryst is revealed. I have nothing against Philip Winchester, and have enjoyed his work in Fringe and Solomon Kane, but apart from being squeaky clean and God-bothering the other knights, there wasn’t really much to Leontes.
Compared to the likes of Gawain and Kay, who had some character to them, he was positively dull. Ah well, at least he got a warrior’s death. You always knew the knights would come back to help Arthur, which beggars the question, why did all four of them retreat to protect that tiny family in the first place? Yes, I know it made for a more exciting finale, but the lack of logic just makes it all the more frustrating.
Still, it did mean that Arthur had to survive by his wits alone, and as action sequences go, his Dark Ages Home Alone defences were quite exciting to watch. Some of the booby traps were actually quite ingenious, and the leader of Morgan’s men was made to look even more foolish by being unable to kill one man, despite sending three waves of troops against him. Implausible? Yes. Did it really matter? No.
I guess, compared to Game Of Thrones, Camelot’s failings are even more clearly highlighted. While Thrones has had tightly written episodes and characters with mixed motives, Camelot’s have wandered all over the place. And while I have frequently pointed out how stupid many of the main characters appear to be, compared to the common folk of Camelot, they are practically Einsteins.
The scene where Morgan announced Arthur’s death, and started to ponder who should lead the country, was particularly painful to watch. If I were a citizen of Camelot, I would probably have started to ask a few questions about the whole situation.
Firstly, the messenger who bought you Excalibur, is he the sole survivor of Bardon Pass? If not, where are the other knights? If he’s your man, why did you have men at Bardon Pass? What were they doing there? If you’re acting on behalf of Arthur, why are you imprisoning his mother? Who is this crazy nun? Why does she keep telling everyone you’d be a good Queen? Is she on your payroll? What’s going on? Who are all these knights pointing spears at us?
But no, no one asks any questions. And after Sybil starts unsubtly suggesting that her mistress become queen, it doesn’t take long for the whole of Camelot to take up the chant. Thank goodness, Sybil is now dead. Maybe we can actually get some actual evil deeds done, instead of merely suggesting rebellion to the more moronic people of the kingdom.
However, Morgan did show her evil side with the episode’s two best moments. Firstly, the stabbing of Igraine was genuinely surprising, and her later death in Merlin’s arms (after a crawl that echoed Sean Connery’s death in The Untouchables) was quite shocking.
Joseph Fiennes has arguably been the best thing in the show and, despite being lumbered with some rubbish sub-plots, his reaction to Igraine’s death was touching. In fact, the image of Merlin with blood pouring from his eyes and nose while cradling Igraine’s body was probably the most powerful image of the entire series.
Secondly, Morgan’s seduction of Arthur was actually quite a good twist. Sure, we had just seen the Dark Forces suggest to Morgan that she “give birth to a king”, but when ‘Guinevere’ appeared in Arthur’s doorway, I thought the writers had completely lost their marbles.
Leontes’ remains weren’t even cold, and I thought they had decided to turn Guinevere into the Dark Ages equivalent of Imogen Thomas. The final twist actually came as a relief, as I was about to write that the last five minutes had completely ruined everything that had gone before it.
So there we have it. Season one of Camelot is over, and it’s been a rough ride. However, the stage is now set for a potentially solid second series. Morgan is clearly now pregnant with Mordred, the Round Table is being built, and Merlin has gone off to “discover himself”.
My advice to the writers would be to pull a Battlestar Galactica, and set the next season a couple of years later. Let Arthur actually have an army instead of five knights. Let him be married to Guinevere so we don’t have to see their painful and inevitable courtship. Let Camelot be firmly established, let Mordred be already born and acting as a potential rival to the throne, have Lancelot show up at court, and have Merlin return stronger, wiser and more powerful.
The possibilities are endless, but let’s not have more of the same soap opera histrionics that we received this season. It has put off a lot of people who demand something a bit more satisfying from a show of this nature.
Writers of Camelot, go watch Game Of Thrones, take notes, and get back to us.
Read our review of episode 9,The Battle Of Bardon Pass, here.
All our reviews of Camelot can be found here.