This review contains spoilers.
2. The Sword And The Crown
A month after Starz previewed the first episode of Camelot, the series premiered fully this weekend with a two hour double bill. As we’ve already reviewed the first episode (linked below), we’re going to jump straight into the second.
The problem with doing a new Arthurian show is that everyone is already familiar with the legend. We all know the stories, because we all grew up with them. Elements like the sword in the stone, the knights of the round table, Morgana and Mordred and the quest for the holy grail are all well known and well established, so the producers of any new adaptation can either trot out the same old things we’ve seen before (BBC’s Merlin), leave them out completely (Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur) or attempt to do something different. The creative team behind Camelot have opted for the later.
Fresh from the murder of his foster mother, Arthur is doubting whether he can rule the country and stop Lot (the awesome James Purefoy) from following through on his promise to take Camelot. However, Merlin has a plan up his sleeve for Arthur to retrieve the Sword of the Gods, an ancient sword that has been encased in rock for hundreds of years. Sound familiar? Well, it should. The only problem is that this sword in the stone is at the top of a 500 foot waterfall.
If Arthur was to retrieve the sword, he would not only fulfil the legend that whoever pulls the sword from the cliff face would become king, but he would unite the people of Britain behind him. Rather than simply pulling the sword from the stone and claiming his destiny, Arthur has to literally overcome an uphill struggle to secure the throne.
It’s a nice twist on a familiar story and a gripping scene to watch, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would have been easier to find another way up the cliff and work your way down, rather than climb the sheer face of a waterfall. Meh, but what do I know?
Likewise, the filmmakers have found a new way to introduce Guinevere (literally as a Lady coming out of a lake (okay, the sea, but my point is still valid), and the whole Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere story. Granted, no character of Lancelot has yet been introduced, but Arthur’s most loyal soldier is Leontes (Philip Winchester, Solomon Kane, Fringe) and he is Guinevere’s betrothed, so the link isn’t that tenuous.
On the bad guy front, the alliance between Lot and Morgan began to fracture as, for some reason, the alpha king didn’t take kindly to being called a “c**t” in front of his men. Strange that. Purefoy is always at his best when he’s being a complete bastard, whether he’s playing Marc Anthony or Solomon Kane (pre-conversion), and it’s no different in Camelot.
His face-off with Sean Pertwee’s Ector is one of the highlights of the series thus far. When asked by the furious Ector if he even knows who he is, Lot just looks bemused. “I’m the husband of the wife you killed,” Ector states. “And?” Lot replies, completely unconcerned. It’s a great exchange and one can’t help think the series might be poorer for the two actors’ departures.
However, we still have Fiennes and Green as Merlin and Morgan. While the series has portrayed the world of Arthur as realistic and gritty, the new episode saw the mystical qualities begin to come through. Be it Morgan practising dark arts in the woods and summoning an unknown evil or Merlin shrugging off Igraine’s observation that he hasn’t aged a day in twenty years, it seems clear that Camelot won’t be completely magic-free, which, judging from the finale which saw Eva Green completely disrobe to talk to a wolf, may not be such a bad thing.
Read our review of episode 1, Homecoming, here.
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