As Someone Who Loves Arthuriana and Hates AI, I Support ‘Mrs. Davis’s Wild Ride
Look, I don’t try to keep it a secret that I absolutely have hater tendencies. I don’t keep abreast of every single screen release because the hater in me maintains most movies will be mediocre at best. I’m not saying I’m right in being this way—it’s just been my way since the day I was born. Born 2 Hate, etc. etc. However, the things I do love are things are entities I’ll end up appreciating with reckless abandon.
One such niche is the Arthurian canon. I discovered Arthurian lit in middle school, and ever since then it’s colored how I view sagas, how I write my own stories, and what I hope to see in media. But something I’ve always lamented is how poorly Arthurian media has been modernized. Oh, sure, we had some camp and pulp films here and there, but aside from the joys of seeing Richard Gere’s bare chest in the rain as Lancelot in First Knight, I always felt like these films lacked a certain spine that the canon required in order to stand out. The only film I can think of that really spoke to that special something-something about Arthuriana was 2021’s The Green Knight: It was intense, it was vague with artistic intention, it was mythological, and it was sexy. Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!
So, after watching the film for a third time (and burdening my poor friends and parents with trivia they couldn’t care less about), I got excited at the thought of there being even more modernized Arthurian films. I never, not in my wildest dreams, thought I’d get that in the form of an apparent parody film that follows a nun’s quest to destroy the Worst AI to Ever Live:
Yes, on the surface it looks like a pro-Christian anti-Technology spoof, but I beg you to stay with me on this, because there are layers. Let’s get the obvious out of the way, which is that I’m a proven hater of AI in the sense that I think we’re largely using it for the wrong reasons—-reasons that are dumb, self-indulgent, and dangerous. That seems to be the angle this show is taking, albeit to a deliberately hyperbolic level for the sake of comedy. We good? Okay. Back to the fun parts.
The original Arthurian stories were just a collection of oral stories that only later came together to form the canon we know today. Established from a series of Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) and Celtic myths, they represented a mixture of humanistic ideals, notions of nationalism and virtue, and our relationships to the mythos of our homeland. These things would take on a different form with the introduction of Christianity to the region, and with Christianity came the myth of the Holy Grail.
The Grail is often considered a must in modern renditions of Arthurian retellings. BUT. There is a structure to it! Like most heroic cycles in literature, there are a series of steps that lead to one following the Grail. You receive a call to action, you seek the Grail alone, eventually you are joined by fellows, and then, your fate is individually awarded by the Grail, after a series of temptations and tribulations.
What I’m loving about Mrs. Davis thus far (from what little we’ve been given) is that it delivers ALL of this, but from a purely modern and original perspective. The most obvious example is in the round table with all the coins they place upon it, as well as the seemingly Camelot-y settings, but come on y’all, we can go deeper.
Simone, our nun protagonist (played by GLOW’s brilliant Betty Gilpin), could be synonymous with either Percival or Galahad: both of whom were introduced with Christian influences in mind. Indeed, Percival was designed with “purity” as one of his key traits, while Galahad was specifically designed to look for the Grail. In my favorite retellings of these stories, the two often develop intensely close bonds, and in Mrs. Davis, Simone will have a partner in her ex-boyfriend, Wiley. I’m curious to see who will be who, as Galahad often is taken in by God and dies as a result, while Percival lives on without him. Oh, delicious tragedy!
Other aspects of the Grail story include: Lancelot going on a personal journey to cleanse himself of his sins (we still smell Guinevere on you, sir); Gawain being a wild-card (I love his stupid ass); and various other tertiary knights whose quest is brought to an end by their own pursuits of vices. Based on what we’ve seen of the supporting cast, I can definitely already see how various characters will fill these roles! Depending on the author, these tales are either dreadfully boring, or utterly delightful. I’m particularly fond of T.H. White’s rendition (The Once and Future King), where King Pellinore wants to join but he keeps getting sidetracked by that goddamned Questing Beast.
I’ll end on The Once and Future King, because unlike other stories, which reduce the characters to archetypes with sparse internal monologues, White made them very fallible, faulty people. Arthur in particular only begins to seek out the Grail in White’s edition because he’s desperate to put an end to human corruption in his realms. Similarly, Simone’s quest against this all-powerful AI is done not solely because “God wants me to,” but because the AI in this story is a genuine threat. And, to tie it back in with my hatred of AI, I think it’s a slightly funny, but mostly cool commentary that, in this story, AI has become such a despotic function of human society, it will literally take the “purity of God” to fix.
Of course, I could entirely be reading too much into it, and this show will release and just be a whole lot of randomness with no connecting strings. But from what I’ve seen, it’s got the makings to be one of the neatest Arthurian retellings in modern times.
… I mean yes, I would RATHER see the story of Sir Gareth and Lynette in the style of The Green Knight, but whatever, WHATEVER.
(Featured Image: Peacock)
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