I am a huge fan of the Arthurian mythos and a bit uptight when it comes to altering it too much. I have enjoyed various re-tellings of the legend of the Knights of the Round Table. Some like the musical film "Camelot" and the 1953 film "Knights of the Round Table" offer fairly faithful versions of the main legend and are quite good. Others like "First Knight" and "King Arthur" (2004) I found disappointing due to their reinterpretations of the source material. The former due to its representation of Lancelot as a rogue rather than as in the traditional legend a deeply flawed man who tries so hard to be the perfect knight but comes up short. The latter due to its supposed presentation as a "realistic" version of the story which ends up neither being realistic nor being faithful to the possible inspirations for the legend. And still others like the TV movie "Merlin" I found to be taking such liberties with the legend that I found it distracting. And the most recent television version also entitled "Merlin" has taken broad liberties as well but its fun enough whilst occasionally throwing something from the tales into the plot to keep me entertained.
That brings me to Starz first two episodes of "Camelot". I have to say I haven't been this satisfied with a version of King Arthur since the magnificent film "Excalibur" (1981). So far this is the version of the tales I have wanted to see told in a serialized format for years. The problem with films is the shortness of the running time. When it was compiled by Sir Thomas Malory he incorporated as many legends as possible together so its an incredibly massive work. With a television show, however, they have the ability to take their time portraying more of the story than ever before.
Included in this version for example is King Lot who was Arthur's chief opponent when Merlin revealed him to be Uther's rightful heir. He is rarely included in films and yet he is one of the two main villains of the first two episodes. We also get Sir Kay (Arthur's foster brother) and Sir Ector (Arthur's foster father) in very prominent roles which is rare. There are are even references or cameos of other Arthurian knights like King Nentres, Sir Brastias, Sir Ulfius and King Pellinore.
Of course there are some liberties and/or combining of characters as in any retelling of Arthurian stories. Morgana is, as usual, combined with her sister Morgause into one character and one of Pellinore's chief deeds is actually done by another character. While it would have been nice to not have those changes, it is understandable as there are so many characters that even in a television series they are going to have to pick and choose whom to use.
There's also one major character named Leontes who is totally an invention of this series but who he turns out to be makes for an interesting unexpected plot twist.
As usual for a made-for-pay channel show there's plenty of sex and violence incorporated into the plot but with this legend that's certainly not forced into it as much of the original story's plot is driven by who slept with whom and a lot of killing so its a big plus in the win column that they have the liberty to portray those things without the hindrance of a censor.
I hope the rest of the season turns out to be as good as the premiere. I have hopes that they will be willing to show some of the other tales that are often skipped in the films. I would love to see some of the quests of Lancelot, Gawain and the quest for the Grail told in greater detail. Not to mention my favorite quest, the tale of Sir Gareth. In it he battles not only the famed Black Knight, but also Green, Blue and Red Knights as well whilst being harassed and berated by an ungrateful maiden he repeatedly saves on the way to rescue her sister from Sir Ironsides. Perhaps that's a bit much to hope for but if the series lasts for a while, who knows what they might do? Hopefully they remain faithful.