The beauty of adapting the King Arthur legend is its historical vagueness. If experts can't even agree whether or not the man lived, then that leaves plenty of freedom to mess around. At turns the legend has been magical (Excalibur), sanitized (The Sword in the Stone) or cheeky (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Friday's premiere of Starz's Camelot had moments both unexpected and unsettling. Here's how this umpteenth version distinguished itself:
1. It's rather tame. Oh, Eva Green's breasts pop up eight minutes in, but Starz's other semi-historical series Spartacus has desensitized us to graphic violence and sexuality. Still, we don't need stomach-churning action nor feel like drawing the blinds closed every Friday night just to watch television — so it's not necessarily a critique. And if the extreme is what you want, fear not: Plenty of people do die and many more bosoms are bared.
2. Young Arthur just wants to get some. This paragon of what's right begins his journey as a randy dude who sleeps with his brother's girl and is more interested in scoring than saving England. Boys!
3. Morgan spent 15 years in a nunnery. And we thought Maria Von Trapp was rebellious! Morgan definitely seems more worldly than everyone else in the series and even though she's evil, she has a streak of healthy feminism too. When she scorns Igraine for confessing, "No queen questions her king," we're on Morgan's side. What kind of cloister was she living in anyway?
4. Merlin's gone bald — everywhere. Okay, not everywhere. And we do give the show credit for completely destroying all of our preconceived notions about how Merlin looks. But chrome dome or not, we at least figured there would be a sorcerer's beard or some kind of magical goatee.
5. What potion has Merlin been slipping everyone? Even if you believe in magic, what's his proof that Uther actually masqueraded as the other dude to impregnate Igraine? Why does Igraine continue to ask Merlin to perform life-saving miracles when he keeps letting her down? And why does Arthur let creepy Merlin just hover by his bed and yell at him about women in his dreams? How magical is Merlin, really?
6. Someone should call child services on Merlin. Not to keep harping on Merlin, but didn't he promise to watch over Arthur? Time and time again, Arthur puts himself in harms way, whether it's climbing up a waterfall or wandering off to the beach where any passing person with a sword (or angry chick who doesn't like being stared at) can hurt him. In each case, Merlin does nothing to safeguard his Once and Future King. No bodyguard, no spotter, no royal taste tester. What good are you, Merlin, except to spout cryptic nonsense?
7. It's just so '80s... 1980s not 1180s. Speaking of cryptic nonsense, we really didn't expect Camelot to resort to the protagonist who, in a time of crisis, remembers someone else's words and then speaks them aloud to emerge victorious. We're talking about the "Stop pulling at me and start pushing yourself" situation with Merlin that led to the successful extraction of the sword.
8. Arthur likes girls and gives good speech! That Arthur, despite his youth and inexperience, is pretty good with the speechifying. Perhaps this is part of why people follow him. "I am Arthur Pendragon and I am proud to be your king." No doubt the "And I approve this message" part got cut for time constraints.
9. Bieber gets Guinevere. Some knight with good hair named Leontes is already betrothed to Guinevere. Did you know that? We didn't! Girl gets around!
10. Hector's painful walk will stick with you. In a Spartacus-worthy moment, Hector gets impaled by a long staff and then walks forward, pushing the stick deeper and deeper through his bowels and out the other side of him, just so he can stab King Lot in the back. Ouch.
How did you like the premiere? Were you surprised by this interpretation of the legend?