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You Should Be Watching: 'Camelot'

If you just can’t get enough of King Arthur stories, then binge-watch Camelot. Presenting Arthurian legend for the era of big-budget cable network fare, Camelot offers a gripping, racy take on this timeless British myth.

Title: Camelot

Year it began: 2011

Where it can be seen: STARZ; Amazon; Hulu; DVD

Who’s in it: Joseph Fiennes; Eva Green; Jamie Campbell Bower; Tamsin Egerton; Claire Forlani; Chipo Chung; Peter Mooney; Philip Winchester; Sinéad Cusack; James Purefoy

Typical episode length: 44 minutes

Number of episodes: 10

Brief plot description: After the death of his father, King Uther, Arthur becomes king with the help of the magician Merlin, his brother Kay, and loyal warriors. Meanwhile, Morgan Pendragon strives to become Britain’s greatest power.

Why it’s worth watching: Camelot offers a vivid version of Arthurian myth that combines traditional elements with some striking innovations. Featuring lush scenery and spectacular sets, Camelot takes full advantage of pay-television freedoms to display the lust and violence that has always been central to Arthur’s story. Camelot compellingly presents the politics of civil war and birthright as foundational to Arthur’s rise: after a frivolous young Arthur (played with fine naivety by Bower) learns of his hidden royal lineage, he must tame a violent Britain destabilized by his warlike father’s death, and in which his vengeful sister is more aggressive and cunning than he. Two stellar performances make Camelot a fascinating study of magic’s benefits and costs. Fiennes is fantastic as Merlin, presenting the wizard as an intensely aloof strategist who chooses to be more of a military and political adviser than a sorcerer. Green offers an absolutely spell-binding performance as Morgan Pendragon. Green plays Morgan as fierce, lustful, and ambitious—an appropriate combination for Arthur’s half-sister, who traditionally uses sorcery, shape-shifting, sexuality and intrigue to compete for power in Britain. One of the most charming aspects of the series is its presentation of Camelot as a ruined Roman castle that is brought back to life by a young Arthur channeling the good will of his growing kingdom. This is very much a show about making Camelot happen. Many fine performances flesh out Arthur’s court. Winchester’s stalwart, yet loving Leontes offers a fresh take on the Arthurian love triangle in which he is the victim of an Arthur lusting for Guinevere, while Mooney brings loyalty and bravery to the traditionally important role of Arthur’s foster-brother Kay.

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