This review contains spoilers.
Starz clearly isn’t afraid to take risks with its new Arthurian series. Not only has it risked alienating its main audience by casting Arthur as a young, fey, pretty boy who has roles in two Twilight films, but now the once and future king is not above sleeping with his champion’s bethroted.
Arthur has always been portrayed as a noble leader of men, who himself was wronged when his wife Guinevere had an affair with his champion, Lancelot. Now it appears that the boot is on the other foot, as Arthur, overcome with desire simply because he dreamt of Guinevere (and who wouldn’t?), decides to seduce her.
It’s hard to know where Arthur is coming from. In the first episode, he was portrayed as a bit of a Jack the Lad, who was sleeping with his brother’s girlfriend, but now, after meeting her twice and dreaming of her, we are meant to believe he is in love with Guinevere? Not just that, but her fiancé is Leontes, the man that saved his life last week. It’s a bit of a stretch, especially when it looks like everything he has struggled to gain could be lost, simply because he can’t keep his Excalibur in his scabbard. If you get my meaning.
Guinevere, on the other hand, has been engaged to Leontes for over three years and his sweetheart for another eight. Yet, just because she’s having second thoughts about her marriage, she opts to drop her knickers for a man she’s met twice and played around with on a balcony. Granted, he’s the king, but still! It was all a bit too sudden and easy for my liking.
I guess that’s the thing, though. If Starz really want to give HBO a run for their money in producing quality adult programming, then the characters can’t simply be black and white, like in the BBC’s Merlin. Life isn’t simply right and wrong, especially in the Dark Ages. But, while it’s nice to see our heroes painted in a nice shade of grey, some of their actions didn’t ring true.
I’m fully expecting this storyline to go all Tristan + Isolde over the next few weeks, with longing glances, secret trysts and the affair threatening to break the kingdom in two, but hopefully, it won’t be that predictable.
Elsewhere in the realm of Camelot, Leontes and Kay set out to find a warrior worthy of Camelot. In what is clearly the first step in establishing the Knights of the Round Table, the duo recruit Gawain, a knight who as grown tired of the world’s politics and only aims to better himself. With the promise of being taught how to read, it’s not long before the young knight is riding to Camelot to serve the new king.
Meanwhile, Merlin is ensnared by Morgan after Arthur accepts a dinner invitation. Considering how much death and destruction his half-sister has bought the young king, this did appear to be quite a stupid decision. He didn’t even seem that alarmed when he awoke to find her sitting in his room.
Like I said, it’s hard to know exactly where Arthur is coming from or why Merlin places so much faith in him, especially when he currently seems to be nothing more than a petulant, horny, reckless man-boy.
Merlin, on the other hand, seems content in letting himself not only be captured (as it seems he can escape at any time), but getting his toenails clipped by Morgan for some dark purpose. Though it’s great to see Fiennes and Green going toe to toe in the most dramatic and watchable scenes, one wonders why Merlin is allowing himself to get played like this, especially when he normally seems to be several steps ahead of everyone else.
Considering what has gone before it, I was rather disappointed by this episode, not just by the predictable Arthur/Guinevere lust story, but by the fact that the new king seems to be a bit of an idiot, while his greatest enemy seems content to host dinner parties instead of doing something really evil. Still, perhaps this is just the calm before the storm.
Read our review of episode 2, The Sword And The Crown, here.
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