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Merlin: The Wicked Day
Oh, it's wicked, all right.
Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 2
Arthur sacrifices himself for Camelot... almost.
Merlin: The Darkest Hour, Part 1
Morgana unleashes a ghost army on Camelot.

Camelot vs. Merlin: TV Grudge Match

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The first season of Camelot ended last Friday, which means it's an excellent time to see how it measures up to TV's other King Arthur show, Merlin. This comparison will, of course, be completely fair, as I am completely unbiased. We will ignore the fact that Merlin has had more than three times as many episodes to find its footing. We will also ignore the fact that I really didn't like the first season of Merlin at all. You know what? I'll stop pretending this will be fair. This is not Fox News. Be warned though, there are some spoilers for both series after the cut.

Uther and Igraine vs. Uther and Igraine

I group both of Arthur's parents together, because each show has chosen a different one to feature as a character on their series. Anthony Stewart Head entertainingly portrays Uther Pendragon on Merlin, while Claire Forlani blandly portrays Igraine on Camelot. Despite this, there are some similarities. Igraine is never thought to be anything other than kind, loving and a victim of Uther's manipulations, while Uther is just a dick. Morgan may have murdered Uther in the very first Camelot episode, but the fact that he was not at all the daddy she wanted him to be is the motivation for all of her wicked deeds, and on Merlin, Morgana has been trying to kill Uther since late in season one.

Winner: Merlin - The zero tolerance policy on magic gives Anthony Stewart Head's Uther the bastard edge.

Knights vs. Knights

Again, I am grouping them all together because there are some differences between the two shows, but their still just a group of guys who follow Arthur around. For example, Camelot has Kay, Arthur's foster brother from the legends, and the cutest, most likable character in the series. Merlin has Sir Leon, a character created for the series, but who has become popular enough with the fans that his role has increased with every season. Gwaine is the only knight to appear on both series (technically he is Gawaine on Camelot). On Camelot, Gawaine had some potential. He was recruited to teach the other knights, and agreed to join Arthur's men on the promise that they would teach him to read. He didn't appear on Merlin until the third season. Nevertheless, he is my favorite character on Merlin because of the drinking and brawling and the luxurious hair and shirtlessness. He's like the funnest shampoo commercial ever. Other really cute knights were brought in during season 3 as well. If I were to base it solely on the first season of both shows, the winner of this match would be different.

Winner: Merlin - Its commitment to cute guys with swords is commendable.

Leontes vs. Lancelot

I seperate these characters from the rest of the knights because they play another role, as they are also the third part in the Arthur and Guinevere love triangle. I'm not even certain if they are supposed to be the same character, just with a different name, or not. For most of the season, I was leaning towards that being the case, but after the Camelot season finale, I no longer think that. The first clue probably should have been that Leontes didn't infuriate me with his every appearance. He was a decent guy, devoted to his wife and his king, only to find out that they are both huge, lying jerks. And still he loved them and sacrificed for them. Frankly, he was a lot more like the Arthur than Lancelot. In fairness, Lancelot only appeared in one episode of Merlin season 1(only 3 episodes of the series in total), and he wasn't particularly hate-worthy at that point. The writers made sure to rectify that situation though. I wanted to punch him in the face by the end of his second appearance.

Winner: Camelot - Leontes wins for not being Lancelot

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Guinevere vs. Guinevere

The thing about Merlin's Guinevere is that she is really likable, and not at all like previous versions of the character I am aware of. For starters, I have a really hard time imagining that she will one day cheat on Arthur. She seems completely incapable of being unfaithful, in any regard. In addition to that, she's strong, in a very feminine way, caring, protective - almost motherly. As a character, she might actually be a little too good. Camelot's Guinevere, on the other hand, is almost defined by her unfaithfulness. It's not that she doesn't possess other, good, qualities. She's certainly caring and can be kind of funny. It's just that everything comes back to the fact that she cheated on Leontes on the morning of their wedding.

Winner: Merlin - I just like Angel Coulby.

James Purefoy vs. Not James Purefoy

James Purefoy guest starred on the first two episodes of Camelot as King Lot. James Purefoy has never once appeared on Merlin. While the latter series has had some fun recurring villains in the second and third seasons (Morgause and Cenred were a big reason for the rise in quality), none of them were James Purefoy. For good measure, after they stopped having James Purefoy, they at least had the good sense to add Sinead Cusack and Morgan's evil nun lackey.

Winner: Camelot - It had James Purefoy.

Morgan vs. Morgana

Both characters have severe daddy issues. Both characters have beautiful, long, dark hair and wear incredible dresses. Both actresses are gorgeous. One actress has a serious problem with trying to conceal her Irish accent. Still, as much as I like Morgana and Katie McGrath on Merlin, I'm not even going to pretend this one is an actual competition. Eva Green is amazing as Morgan. She's the reason to tune in to Camelot every week.

Winner: Camelot - I think I've explained sufficiently.

Merlin vs. Merlin

This may be the most difficult category. One of the things I enjoy about Camelot is just how messy and raw the magic use is. It's dangerous, painful, and possibly addictive. This was best illustrated by Joseph Fiennes' Merlin through his struggles with trying not to use magic, and his confrontations with Morgan (the episode "Excalibur" being the highlight of this arc). Unfortunately, the last few episodes had him focus on a dull relationship with Igraine. On Merlin, he's the title character. His magic is easily dispensed, but he has to contend with Uther's oppressive anti-magic laws. He also has about three jobs and is constantly being abused. Honestly, I found him annoying in the first season, but have since grown to love him.

Winner: Draw - I may be trying to make things a bit more even.

King Arthur vs. Prince Arthur

While part of me wants to give Camelot credit for sticking closer to the legend, I can't. King Arthur doesn't appeal to me at all. I don't like the actor and I don't care about the character. His development from the irresponsible youth we were introduced to to king has been unconvincing. While everyone else was doing interesting things, he was making time with Guinevere. Then they tried to make him a badass at the end of the season. Whatever. Even if I didn't like Merlin's Prince Arthur as much as I do (and it's kind of a lot), the winner would be clear.

Winner: Merlin - Bradley James is also much cuter.

There you have it. In a lopsided competition between two shows about the same mythical characters, but otherwise wildly different, Merlin is the clear victor. Not really because of anything discussed above, but because it has a dragon named Kilgharrah, voiced by John Hurt. Dragons are always better than no dragons and John Hurt is always better than no John Hurt. As you can tell, this has all been very scientific. Which show do you prefer? Is there anything I missed in my comparison?

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Comments (2)

Curlybean:

Ive only seen Camelot once, so I may be a little biased. I agree with you on most counts, though. Merlin is, by far, the better show and is definitely one of my guilty pleasures.

I'm not too sure why you dislike Lancelot so much. I like him, just not as much as I like Arthur. It saddens me to think that Lancelot and Gwen might betray Arthur in such a way and I, too, find it hard to believe that of Angel Coulby's Guinivere.

I didn't like Merlin much in the first few episodes, but I think the banter between Colin Morgan and Bradley James has changed that. Those two are so great together. I do have to say, though, that Camelot's Merlin is pretty impressive.

My favorite part of the Merlin series is definitely the relationship between Uther and Arthur. I love watching how Arthur is changing and growing constantly into a better man/king than his father will ever be. It is fascinating how Uther is trying to fit Arthur into his own mold, but Arthur is constantly creating his own.

Overall, Merlin is a much better, more enjoyable show. Impressive since I'm sure it has a much smaller budget, not that you can tell. The costumes, set pieces and CGI effects are really well done. Well, I guess it doesn't hurt, either, that there is a great talking dragon voiced by John Hurt or that Bradley James is so cute.

Thanks for the comment! I just hate all Lancelots universally. the one on Merlin is better than most, but he still leaves when he should stay and thinks he has the right to make decisions for other people, so he's a jerk.