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Series / Camelot

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"You're not made of kings, boy, but of common clay."
—Morgan Pendragon

A series co-produced by Starz and GK-TV, Camelot is an adaptation of the Arthurian Legend. The show claims to be based on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, though many liberties have been taken and Arthur, Merlin and company are characterized differently from common perceptions.

After King Uther Pendragon’s sudden death, the sorcerer Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) brings his unknown son and official heir, the young and impetuous Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower), into the limelight. However, Arthur's elder half sister Morgan (Eva Green) believes the throne is rightfully hers. Morgan battles Arthur with dark arts which may be beyond her control. Meanwhile Arthur has to deal with his feelings for Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton), who is betrothed to another man (a man who on at least one occasion saved his life, no less).

It premiered on April 1, 2011. A special preview of the first episode was shown on February 25th, 2011. Starz announced it was not renewing the series on June 30th 2011.

Not to be mistaken with the BBC1 series Merlin (2008), another series based on the legend, the musical of the same name, or the French series with a similar name.

This series contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The first scene Uther appears in has him hitting Morgan. He was also responsible for banishing Morgan to a nunnery, killing her mother, and overall treated her like garbage when she returned.
  • Accidental Murder: Merlin's trip to get a specially forged sword for Arthur results in the deaths of the smith and his daughter In his guilt, Merlin then provokes two random guys into beating him up.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Morgan views Igraine as this to Uther's abuse, and their second scene together is the page quote.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: Morgan le Fay once again gets this treatment here, though only to a certain extent as she's still firmly the villain. Morgan was abused and all but disowned by her father Uther; after he murdered her mother to marry Igraine - who did little to intervene in the abuse - Morgan was sent away to a convent. When she returns to reconcile with Uther, he brutally rejects her, so she poisons him to finally claim the throne she believes is hers by right. Then at her moment of triumph she finds out she has a secret half-brother and he’s ahead of her in the succession purely because Merlin thinks he should be.
  • Addictive Magic: Merlin apparently stopped using magic due to this, since he liked it way too much.
  • Aerith and Bob: In this series, Excalibur is a girl's name.
  • Almost Kiss: Merlin and Igraine. And then came Morgan in the guise of Igraine...
  • And Then What?: Sister Sybil queries Morgan on what she plans to do after she's killed Arthur and seized the throne, revealing that she has no plans beyond "I'll rule". Noting that it could be simply taken from her by someone else after that, she wisely advises Morgan to build up alliances with common people who want order and also help improve her image among them to get supporters.
  • Annoying Arrows: Zigzagged. It's mostly averted, with people on both sides of a battle being killed or seriously injured by them. However, when Kay takes an arrow to the gut, he gets back on his feet and into battle much sooner than what would be realistic (assuming he'd recover at all, which isn't certain).
  • Ascended Extra: Igraine, Arthur's biological mother, has a far more prominent role in the series unlike in the medieval texts and most other adaptations where she disappears after Arthur's birth. Here she becomes the Team Mom to the Camelot crew and has a romantic subplot with Merlin.
  • Bed Trick:
    • How Arthur was conceived. As usual, Uther had disguised himself and he slept with Igraine doing so.
    • Then there is the episode "Igraine" has Morgan impersonate Igraine, having sex with Merlin in that form.
    • Last we have Morgan impersonating Guinevere to have sex with the king.
  • Berserk Button: Mentioning Merlin's family in the middle of a fistfight gets you burned to death.
  • Betty and Veronica: Leontes and Arthur for Guinevere. We all know who gets her in the end.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Arthur's knights who return to Bardon Pass to help him fight against Morgan's men
  • The Big Guy: Gawain, who agrees to work for Arthur if Kay will teach him to read.
  • Black Dude Dies First: One of Arthur's companion knights, Ulfius, is played by a black actor, and he's the first and only one to die before Leontes.
  • Black Vikings: Vivian, Morgan's servant, is black. However, Vivian tells Morgan her ancestors were brought over as slaves from Africa by the Romans, which is actually possible, as some British archaeological findings show that people of African descent (both free and slaves) really did come from Roman Africa to Roman Britain. This could also explain Sir Ulfius, Arthur's black knight, though the show doesn't acknowledge he is black as it does with Vivian.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Arthur and Morgan in the form of Guinevere, so that she can conceive Mordred.
  • Cain and Abel: Morgan and Arthur respectively. Adoptive brothers Arthur and Kay avert the trope.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Morgan calls Uther out on sending her to a nunnery for fifteen years following her mother's death and remarrying. Uther responds by disowning her.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • Leontes, Guinevere's first husband.
    • Morgan's henchman Harwel who is in love with her. Though he could be loosely based on Sir Accolon.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Morgan discovers Harwel spying on her in the bath and asks "What were you doing with that hand before you used it to sully my dress?".
  • Chained to a Bed: Merlin finds himself in this state after being drugged by Morgan.
  • Child by Rape:
    • Arthur, due to his father using magic to impersonate his mother's husband (in keeping with the original legends often). Unlike in most examples, it's actually called rape as well (by Arthur himself, when he finds out). Even so, no one else seems to mind, and he doesn't bring it up again (to be fair, he's quite busy).
    • It later comes up in another episode that the head man of a village takes his "tithe" through raping the women before they've been married. One of the girls who's a result of this was going to be next, leading to her father (not by blood, but she still considers him this) killing the head man when he comes.
    • It's also likely that in the series finale Morgan's rape by fraud of Arthur-they had sex while she was transformed into Guinivere-caused Mordred to be conceived.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Leontes and Guinevere are childhood sweethearts and have been betrothed for the last five years.
  • The Chosen One: Arthur, entirely because of Merlin's legwork and Because Destiny Says So according to Merlin, who is following a grand design that only he knows of, and the purpose and content of which is only hinted at for the audience. Merlin has planned for this ever since before Arthur was even conceived, made possible the Bed Trick which conceived him, sent him away to grow up away from Uther's court, makes the dying Uther designate him as his heir (even bending the rules after Uther dies while signing his will, by grabbing Uther's hand and finishing his signature), and brings Arthur to Camelot to be crowned following Uther's will.
  • Composite Character:
    • Morgan is paired with King Lot, traditionally the husband of Morgause, another sister of Arthur.
    • Morgan is also the daughter of Uther and his first wife, whereas traditionally her parents are the Duke of Cornwall and Igraine. In older versions of the legend (as in Geoffrey of Monmouth) Uther does have a daughter named Anna, though her mother is Igraine and thus she is Arthur's full sister. Anna is often combined with Morgause.
  • Consummation Counterfeit: Guinevere puts some pig's blood on her bedsheets after her wedding night with Leontes, worried he would know she lost her virginity to Arthur otherwise.
  • Deal with the Devil: It is implied that Morgan made one at the end of the second episode, with a mysterious being whom she meets (nude, for some reason) in the form of a wolf, apparently in exchange for power.
  • Demythification: While the show has overt magical elements, some parts of the legend are given mundane equivalents.
    • The Sword in the Stone is rigged by Merlin to release when pushed down instead of pulled.
    • Excalibur is just an exceptionally well-crafted sword.
    • There is no magical Lady of the Lake handing over Excalibur. Merlin makes the whole thing up to cover up Accidental Murder at his hands.
    • Camelot is a former Roman fort. In Post-Roman Britain, an Advanced Ancient Acropolis.
  • Disaster Dominoes: A chain of events in the fourth episode introducing the sword Excalibur leads to two Accidental Murders. While Arthur's new sword is being forged, Merlin dreams of Arthur getting stabbed. The swordsmith wants to present the sword to the king himself, but Merlin rebuffs him since he thinks the smith, an ex-warrior with admitted violent yearnings, might do the deed. The smith takes this as an insult and refuses to hand the sword over. This leads to brawling, and Merlin ends up burning the smith to death when he mentions Merlin's family. The smith's aggrieved daughter snatches the sword away. Merlin chases her to a nearby lake where she plans to discard it. To get to her, Merlin freezes the surface, but then the girl falls in and drowns despite Merlin's efforts to save her.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come:
    • Arthur foresees a relationship with Guinevere.
    • Merlin foresees Arthur's death.
  • Droit du Seigneur: The episode "Justice" reveals that at least one village's head man enforces this principle on local women before they're married. It results in him being killed by a girl's father after he comes for her (later she's revealed to be the result of such a rape, but considers this man her father anyway). Arthur's forces end up abolishing the custom in the village, though he speculates that many others may also suffer from it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Implied. The source of Merlin, Morgan, and Sybil's power seems to be some sort of superhuman intelligence. This is show-cased by Morgan having 'interactions' with an invisible entity. Or their powers may have simply rendered them bat-shit crazy.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • As mutual enemies of Uther, Morgan convinces King Lot to create an alliance with her so they can rule Camelot together.
    • Later, after Morgan figures she'd be better off ruling alone, she betrays Lot's plans to attack Camelot to Arthur. In return Arthur places her under his protection. He even proposes that they rule jointly, but she rejects this.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Merlin warns Morgan that magic has a physical and/or spiritual price. She's endured painful transformations, psychic nosebleeds, Tears of Blood and Blood from the Mouth.
    Vivian: There's blood... everywhere!
  • Everyone Can See It: Merlin and Igraine are painfully aware of the forbidden relationship between Arthur and Guinevere and set out to put a stop to it. As a result of using magic to find out what lies in Arthur's heart, Morgan knows too.
  • Evil Counterpart: Morgan is a bit of one to Merlin. Or Merlin is one to Morgan, after Episode 4. Upon her introduction, Sybil is one to Merlin.
  • Expy: Leontes is an inverted Lancelot. Like the legendary knight, he is the king's champion and involved in a Love Triangle with Arthur and Guinevere. Unlike the legendary knight, he is actually Guinevere's husband instead of her lover, and it is with Arthur that she commits adultery.
  • Extreme Doormat: Igraine starts off as this, which is one of the reasons Morgan detests her.
  • False Flag Operation: Morgan has her castle attacked by her own soldiers, making it appear as though an enemy king was responsible and getting closer to Arthur as they fight together, along with impersonating Igraine.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Arthur's dreams about having sex on a beach with a woman. He wakes up to find Merlin staring in his face and angrily demanding to know who she is, and he has no idea. She's later revealed to be Guinevere.
    • After Guinevere has sex with Arthur in the finale, she wakes up with a nosebleed and runs out of the room while he's still asleep. Seconds later she's revealed to be Morgan, and the bloody side-effects of her using magic had been shown throughout the whole season.
  • Girl of My Dreams: Arthur first encounters Guinevere in a dream prior to meeting her in person.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Merlin says on two occasions that "There is no God". With the implied deaths of his family in the past and the context for when he makes these statements, it seems likely he believes this based on the misfortune he along with many other people suffer.
  • Humiliation Conga: Morgan gets one in the second episode from King Lot. After insulting him in public he hits her in the face, rips her dress open, threatens to rape her in front of everyone and ultimately tethers her to a pole at the top of a mountain. Being Morgan, she gets revenge.
  • I Have No Daughter:
    • Uther towards Morgan.
    • I Have No Sister: Arthur to Morgan in the season finale.
  • In the Blood: Despite not having been raised by him and not even knowing they were related for most of his life, Arthur managed to inherit Uther's inability to keep it in his pants. Morgan is as ruthless as her father, but she was at least reared (read: abused) by him before she went to the nunnery.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Morgan in the fourth episode. She shifts into Igraine and doesn't like it at all.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Arthur tortures an injured enemy soldier after they capture him to reveal that Morgan is the one who hired the mercenaries whom he's with.
  • Judgment of Solomon: Morgan decides a dispute between two parents over custody of their son in a fashion much like this. She offers to take the boy as a servant, which his father willingly haggles with her for over his mother's protest and Morgan, seeing this, gives him to her.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Morgan, a royal sorceress as dark as she is elegant.
  • Large Ham:
  • Left Hanging: The show ends with Merlin leaving Camelot, the construction of the Round Table (with Arthur making a reference to what could have been Galahad and the Siege Perilous, stating that no one can sit in Leontes's seat save the one who is worthy of it) and Morgan visiting Arthur's bedchamber in Guinevere's form which presumably leads to Mordred's conception. Thanks to the show's cancellation, we'll never see how all of this pans out.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Igraine, while captured, managed to nearly kill Sybil, stab the guard who had raped her, and escaped.
  • Light Is Not Good: Sybil is a nun. Yet she has done some nasty things in past and present.
  • Love Triangle: Arthur, Guinevere, and her betrothed, later husband Leontes. It's a surprising fresh twist considering Lancelot seems to be absent from the series.
  • Lust: Uther's primary weakness. In this retelling of Camelot, they also gave it to Arthur.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Igraine: You haven't aged a single day. How is that possible?
    Merlin: It is not possible.
  • Mercy Kill: Gawain kills a villager who's mortally wounded to end his suffering, after the man accepts his offer for this.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Morgan gets quite a bit of nude scenes in the show. It also helps that she's played by Eva Green.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job sending Morgan away from Uther so he wouldn't kill her, Igraine. Didn't expect her to become obsessed with taking her rightful place, did you?
  • Older Than They Look: Merlin. Igraine notices that he hasn't aged a day in the twenty years since he took Arthur as a child.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Like most medieval versions, the Sword in the Stone (this is not the same as Excalibur). Here it's called "the Sword of Mars" and lies atop a waterfall.
  • Painful Transformation: Shown from the first episode, where Morgan's use of magic (specifically shapeshifting) takes a toll on her body.
  • Parental Favoritism: Kay believes that his parents favored his adoptive brother Arthur more than him.
  • Perspective Flip: In this version, Arthur is the interloper in the love triangle since Guinevere is married to another.
  • Pet the Dog: Morgan has shown that she feels a bit bad that Arthur didn't listen to her warning before his mother is killed, as it probably reminded her of her own mother's death.
  • Precocious Crush: Morgan mentions to Merlin how she adored him, as she was a child when he cured her father of an illness, and even wanted to marry him.
  • Pride: Lot's primary weakness. It is also why Morgan prefers to rule alone.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Both Merlin and Morgan suffer from it as a side effect of their magic.
  • Race Lift: Morgan's maidservant Vivian is of African descent. She is the namesake (at least) of the woman who ensnared Merlin and banished him from the earthly realm, who wasn't. In some versions she's Morgan's agent and in others her role (if not also name) is taken by the Lady of the Lake.
  • Rape as Drama:
    • A guard demands Igraine have sex with him in return for allowing her to escape. She uses his own dagger to stab him during the act, and escapes that way instead.
    • Morgan disguises herself as Igraine to sleep with Morgan.
    • In a cruel Bed Trick, Morgan rapes Arthur. Interestingly, it's not treated as Double Standard Rape: Female on Male in-universe, but by the fandom. Because Arthur is seen as The Scrappy, many fans of Morgan overlooked this and still adored her, some even seeing it as a victorious moment for her. If Arthur did anything close to this, he would be even more hated than he is.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Merlin again. Arthur guesses that Merlin was the one who placed the Sword of Mars in the stone... despite that event having taken place several hundred if not thousand years before the Romans arrived in Britain, since the sword was already there when they showed up.
    • The legend tells that the sword was placed there hundreds of years ago... but did it really exist for so long? Merlin could have just planted it in peoples' minds using magic and/or his own wiles. However, Igraine and Morgan definitely state that he hasn't aged for a long time.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Played with. Merlin's magic does work, but he implies that there is something that must be given back as well.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: The show depicts Morgan and Arthur as paternal half-siblings fathered by Uther, with Igraine being Morgan's hated stepmother. In the original legends, Igraine is the mother of both of them and Morgan was fathered by Gorlois. This drives much of the conflict in the series, as Morgan never knew Arthur existed until after Uther's death and believes she should be the rightful heir as Uther's firstborn.
  • Scenery Porn: The show is shot in Ireland. The producers make sure you know it.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Morgan kills Uther in the first episode through shapeshifting and poisoning. King Lot claims to have killed his own parents as well.
  • Sex Equals Love: For Arthur anyway. Even the fact that it was All Just a Dream doesn't stop him.
  • Shout-Out: Ector's death scene (impalement by a spear, then pulling himself down the shaft to stab Lot) echoes that of Arthur versus Mordred in Excalibur.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Morgan and Arthur take this up to eleven, though Arthur tries to mend the rift at first. It was Morgan who started this since he was a sudden rival heir to the throne.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Besides the usual spelling choices with Arthurian works, this show's version of Morgan le Fay is called "Morgan Pendragon", (and like BBC's Merlin which has "Morgana Pendragon") unlike the traditional legends where she's not Uther Pendragon's daughter.
  • Succession Crisis: The core and the main conflict of the series. Morgan is Uther's legitimate child by his first queen, but she is a woman and therefore not a suitable heir to the throne. Arthur is revealed to be Morgan's half-brother and a potential heir to the throne, directly opposing her.
  • Sympathetic Magic: Morgan takes Arthur's blood and Merlin's toe nails, which is used to work magic against them.
  • Taking The Arrow: Leontes for Arthur in the series finale, as he leaps into the path of an arrow shot by enemy soldiers.
  • Taking You with Me: Ector, who even when he's been speared through the gut by King Lot, pulls himself along the shift to stab him fatally with a dagger before dying himself.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink:
    • Uther is killed by Morgan with poison in his soup.
    • Played with in the third episode. Merlin suspiciously eyes the quail soup brought during dinner, which is received by both Arthur and their host Morgan. Morgan tastes Arthur's soup to prove there's no poison and even dramatically pretends to gag.
  • Their First Time: Arthur and Guinevere have sex on a beach, echoing a recurring dream he had of this before they'd even met. She's very worried afterward that her soon-to-be husband will know she's no longer a virgin though.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Merlin about Redwald's death. If only he knew he was talking with his murderer...
  • Token Minority: Ulfius on Arthur's side and Vivian on Morgan's. Both are the sole Black people among the cast, who are otherwise White.
  • Token Religious Teammate: While the cast are all probably Christians (or pagans in some cases maybe) except Merlin only Leontes is portrayed actually praying and expressing religious sentiments regularly.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Morgan and King Lot, although they didn't actually marry, just planned to.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Gawain here is not related to Arthur (his maternal uncle in the legends) or Morgan (who is otherwise combined with Morgause, his mother) or Lot (his father).
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Lady Morgan has an unshakable belief that Britain would be a better place with her as its ruler and she's willing to do anything to get the throne. Merlin's delusional faith in Camelot means that he is capable of anything when it comes to protecting and improving Arthur.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Morgan begins increasingly painting a good image of herself in people's minds to help gain supporters that will turn against Arthur (who she's made look bad by comparison).
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Morgan can take the form of her younger self at will. Later, however...
  • We Can Rule Together: Arthur offers this option to Morgan. Morgan has other ideas.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At several points during the series, Morgan is visited by or has visions of a wolf. In one episode, Leontes also has a brief encounter with it. Its purpose is never explained, but implied to be a demon or Satan, as Morgan appears to be bargaining with it for power.
  • Zen Survivor: Merlin appears to be this. There's something about his bloodstained past and apparent immortality.