Episode Titles: "Homecoming" & "The Sword and The Crown"
Story by: Michael Hirst & Chris Chibnall
Teleplay by: Chris Chibnall
Director: Dennis Smith
Hundreds of years ago, Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) manipulated a young man named Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) to assume the throne of Britain to lead its people to a new age of peace and prosperity. However, Arthur's worst enemy is his own half-sister, Morgan (Eva Green); a formidable woman eager to take the thrown herself. It's an age old legend told with "Twilight" age actors.
And even with the best retellings, the story never ends well for Arthur and his knights of Camelot.
After many years away in exile, Morgan returns to confront her father, King Uther Pendragon (Sebastian Koch) and his wife, Queen Igraine (Claire Forlani) about her claim to the throne. Uther banishes her again, therefore Morgan assumes a magical disguise and poisons her father. Merlin arrives too late to save the King's life, but he does get the King to sign a document naming his heir. With Uther's death, Morgan wastes little time in summoning her father's enemy, King Lot (James Purefoy) and forming an alliance with him… in bed! She also exiles Igraine from the kingdom.
Elsewhere, the teenage Arthur is proving what a scamp he is by sleeping with the girlfriend of his brother Kay (Peter Mooney). However, Kay doesn't seem to mind too much as he brings him back to their father, Ector (James Purefoy) and their mother. Merlin has come for Arthur after secretly leaving him with Ector's family years ago. Arthur is a whinny brat about it at first, but he comes around when he learns that he can be king and that he can take his brother with them. On the way to the run down castle of Camelot, they encounter a scouting party and Arthur kills one of their attackers.
Learning of this threat to their new power, Lot and Morgan ride with soldiers to Camelot. Morgan is too subtle with her warning towards Arthur, moments before he learns that the man he killed was Lot's son. Conveniently, Lot pulls out Arthur's adopted mother and has her run through with a sword, before leaving the grieving would-be king with five days to give up his claim to the throne or be killed. At his mother's funeral, Arthur waivers between bratty and stoic behavior. But his grief is soon lifted when he sees Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) nearly naked on the beach.
However, Arthur's attempts to embrace Guinevere are rebuffed and Kay calls him back to the castle. There, Merlin gives Arthur a new task to rally the people around him: withdraw the Sword of Mars from the stone… from high above a waterfall. After cheating his way past the early climb (with the help of his brother), Arthur makes it to the top and pulls out the sword as a crowd of people look on. He then heroically falls into the water below and knocks himself out. Is that literally falling ass backwards into power?
While Arthur lies comatose, Morgan grows disillusioned with Lot. When she calls him a c*** in public, he nearly rapes her in front of the kingdom… which she only gets out of by encouraging him to do it! In anger, he leaves her tied out in the far fields for the night where she encounters a dark power. Back at Camelot, Arthur awakens and finds that his forces have grown from word of his feet. The next day, Lot releases Morgan and tells him about his plans to attack Arthur a day early. She then slips away and warns Merlin out of vengeance for herself.
At his coronation, Arthur encounters Guinevere again and he learns that she is engaged to one of his knights. He also spots one of his mother's killers in the crowd and realizes that the attack has begun. As the knights slip Arthur away, Ector confronts and kills Lot, dying in the arms of his sons afterwards. Later, Arthur attempts to make peace with Morgan, but she refuses to share power. Merlin gets a sense of what she encountered in the field and warns her to stay away from it. But instead, she strips naked for a wolf and asks for what she needs to realize her goal.
While the production values of "Camelot" are impressive and it appears to be technically well made, its biggest weak link is its King Arthur, Jamie Campbell Bower. I was only kidding when I mentioned that this story was being retold with "Twilight' actors. But Bower really was a "Twilight" actor! Sure, that's not enough to dismiss him outright. Bower does that all by himself with a wimpy performance, a complete lack of charisma and the silliest of facial hair this side of Sean Walker from "The Event."
This is the once and future king?! I wouldn't let this guy clean my stables.
Bower isn't helped by Arthur's poorly written actions and dialog. For someone who is supposed to have some sort of inner nobility, he sure seems more concerned about getting laid than anything else. His mother isn't in the ground for even a few hours before he starts trying to put the moves on Guinevere. Even Arthur's speeches to his followers lack the conviction and heart that could make us believe that people would follow him. Arthur needs to be an inspiring figure. He can't just be some dude!
And the most damning thing of all is that Arthur doesn't do anything heroic at all! His foster dad, Ector gets the fight with King Lot and avenges the death of his wife and Arthur's foster mother. But when the main character is being sheltered and he can't even fight his own battles it makes him a hard guy to get behind. Plus, it appears that Arthur is being set up as the "Lancelot" of Guinevere's current relationship with his loyal knight. He better not be surprised when she ends up cheating on him years later in a similar pattern.
Joseph Fiennes gives the strongest performance of the ensemble, but you'd think he'd be having more fun as Merlin… Merlin, who the show doesn't seem to even want to acknowledge as a wizard besides several hints that he can perform magic. Fiennes can make almost any scene work, but there's a definite lack of joy in his performance. The only really intriguing thing from Merlin's side is that he seems to be afraid of whatever it was that Morgan encountered in the woods. I love the idea that there's something that scares the s*** out of Merlin.
I enjoy watching Eva Green as Morgan, but she also needs more real development. We see that she wants the throne but it isn't clear why she wants it so badly that she's willing to essentially sell her soul to get it. It also seems like "Camelot" is going to follow the "Spartacus" model of random nudity because they can. For Eva Green, I can give it a pass… this time. But if this is just going to be another show that overly relies on naked people to get a reaction then it's going to get old real fast.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.