White Queen 1×7 “Poison and Malmsey Wine”

FINALLY, this show has joined the ranks of a proper history soap opera! The costumes are looking up, they took a moment for simply a beautiful nature shot, they left room for some mystery…it has arrived. This is definitely my favorite episode so far.

SPOILERS:

-Margaret Beaufort, turns out you just needed things to Do other than mope around about your son and Lancaster in order to enliven the screen. The baby thing in itself and as your way in was dumb, but you went for it and by golly, anything that makes you stop bellyaching and start spying and speaking with dignity is excellent. However, it would have been that much better if you’d been seen subtly scaring off the other maid before she asked the queen to leave court, so it would be clear you’re still backstabbing and scheming away.

-David Oakes, your Juan pt. 2, the English One ends as outrageously as I had hoped. From the moment I saw you stroking your dog while watching brother-sex I was worried about the relationship. I was relieved to see it ended in a superstitious death. Also, I shall go ahead and give you credit for brainwashing Isabel for that year we didn’t see-getting her so afraid of Lizzie she could have died of voodoo-inspired fear was quite the accomplishment. Still a big fan of your hissyfits, but seeing one start with you in a bull mask was a special treat. Also, choosing a colorful way to go literally gains my approval.

-Edward…I love your lion outfit. Why do you keep whoring around and pretending to go to war so much when you’re obviously way too tired to make any kind of decent decisions ever and merely bend to wife, brothers, or the letter of the law without much foresight or zest? The year has not been kind to you, has it? Perhaps you’ve already got STDs and that accounts for it.

-Anne, why does everyone else get new clothes but you remain stuck in the one plain silhouette ALWAYS? I feel like this episode had you wanting to jump ship to Revenge, wanting to destroy someone for your fallen family member, clearly not knowing everything, needing Victoria’s advice about controlling powers that be instead of just having to choose a side…yeah, you’d fit RIGHT in. And they’d liven up your wardrobe, too.

-Elizabeth, I feel for you. One snarky comment about your womb being able to beat up everyone else’s womb and suddenly court is exploding in your face. What I’d like to know is how everyone somehow realized you were responsible for the storm that killed Izzy’s firstborn-don’t think that’s ever been comprehended before and it had no realization moment. However, storming after George in front of everyone served no useful purpose except to show off your sparkly gold dress. This is a schemey political show and you’ve got witchcraft-why bother to go after him yourself? It’s the least interesting choice. Your problem here seems, in fact, to be that you are too direct and honest. You let everyone know how you feel, you’re consistent, and you try to come at problems head-on. These are not the most useful problems from a TV perspective, but you’re doing them with flair.

-Richard, I am glad they let you speak up for George. On the other hand, your dealings with Anne are becoming too focused on dark looks. Your best moment really was when you got to blow up at your mom over her favoritism. Also, you at least have been paying attention to the foreshadowing. Please, let that not be played out as a self-fulfilling prophecy instead of actually your decision.

-Dear show, see how that works out for everyone when there’s not absolute clarity about a suspicious death? That’s what we’re looking for. That and more present complexities instead of filling in with repetitive foreshadowing. And more masquerades/intriguing scenery. Take note!

The White Queen 1×1 “In Love with the King”

A War of the Roses TV show, complete with the excuse of being based on a book to explain away historical inaccuracy, and a sideline in witchcraft!  What’s the worst that could happen?  Truth be told, I’m not sure yet.  The pilot was a decent entrance.  However, it manages it without doing anything to allay fears that it will fall apart soon or compel audiences to much of any definite emotions.  *side-eyes show*  Nevertheless, let’s saddle up.

 

SPOILER-FREE:

First and foremost, I feel that the entire drama played up by so many other shows for HOURS about Anne Boleyn playing for the hand of Henry VIII has been condensed, juiced, and served up as a pre-entree refreshment, because that Entire Storyline fit right into this pilot.  They had time left over for a heap of introductions, their magic sideline, and of course, gratuitous sex, even.  This amuses me greatly and gives me hope for more surprises in this show.

 

Second and side-eyed, are some of the casting choices.  WHY does the future Richard III look like he’s about to be in a high school geek movie??  Not happy.  MUST Warwick’s portrayal be so easily demonized so early?  Of course, this is balanced by the great choices of Elizabeth Woodville herself, her mother, and David Oakes (JUAAAN) as the Duke of Clarence.  I would almost be willing to watch this show solely for that, truth be told.

 

Third and thoughtful, why are the costumes not more amazing?  The whole look of the show is very “treat me seriously, I’m played down and authentic”, which is NOT the way something based on a Philippa Gregory book should go.

 

Fourth and finally, the magic sideline could be a lot of fun and humorous for people who love their history, or it could just be heavy-handed foreshadowing boring to those in the know and frustrating to those who aren’t at this point.  I very much hope it’s the former.

 

So, basically, my thoughts are still pretty up for grabs with this show.  How’re yours?

 

SPOILERS:

1. The fact that this century’s “love” arrangements are laid completely bare both rattles and pleases me.  I am torn.  On the one hand, probably-yeah, like that.  Plus, things that give Elizabeth excuses to play with knives are fun.  On the other hand, the fact that somehow the show is simultaneously trying to play out the love story as some kind of revamping of Edward IV’s character is…strange and disconnected.  At least for me.  So basically, what I’m left with is that I don’t know what to think of this Edward IV incarnation.  Cause on the one hand, he was this kind of bastard.  On the other hand, he’s not a glorious bastard enough for me to enjoy that part of him and it’ll be much easier to enjoy this show if he doesn’t rub me the wrong way all the time.  Plus, I feel like the actor is doing his best and it was mainly some gaps/rushing in the writing that is causing the disconnect.  So, we shall see.

2. I am deeply looking forward to the royal brotherly loves being foiled by the Woodville brotherly loves.  There should be a lot of that.

3. I do really enjoy Jaquetta.  I’d like to watch shows with her-I know she’ll be yelling out the reasonable advice right along with me.  Plus, you’ve just got to enjoy that kind of brashness.

 

The Borgia Bulletin (World of spoilers)

I have conflicting feelings about this episode.  On the one hand, it’s an excellent penultimate episode content-wise and there were several excellent scenes.  On the other hand, it fell a tad flat for me.  The pacing felt odd, I was too aware of where in the series I was while still watching it, and I felt like the direction, particularly in its overlapping scenes, lacked the energy and spark that it usually has going for it.  In any event, next week looks properly stepped up and the world of this week’s episode was full, if not of wonders.

On excommunication: Adding the trappings of a curse to the excommunication of Savonarola did not cut it for me this week.  While the clear connection between the Pope damning him to hell’s fire and Savonarola literally walking through fire makes me understand why the show wanted this there, it held no real punch for me.  Mainly, my disappointment stems from the fact that every word Machiavelli said only showed the  astuteness of my original suggestion a few weeks ago of threatening the entire city to be excommunicated if they didn’t disown the heretic.  Watching this “disgrace” could not be pleasing while thinking of other ways it could be done.

On Antonello: This plotline continues to coast along, not doing much.  We don’t see the original interview for him, by the time he’s put up for the job at all it’s made clear he will get it.  Events clearly indicated that the poisoned jug wouldn’t reach its mark.  Whatever.

On Lucrezia: There is a return of PANTHER.  Who shall he be gifted to next???  I’ll never grow tired of PANTHER.  Also, her acting for me shone this week.  From the brush-off of her ruined betrothal and managing to use it to remind her father of what she’s owed to the demand for poison, Holliday Grainger kept me enthralled.  By far my favorite moment this week was when she brought Paolo’s murder out for an open confrontation with Juan after keeping it unspoken for so long.  That moment, with Lucrezia’s single tear and Juan’s immediate escalation, is the leaven that made this episode rise.  It made the incident with baby Giovanni-a foolish thing in itself-extremely poignant.  I really wish we’d seen what happened before Giulia Farnese went to ask for his baptism.  Scheming with Lucrezia?  A gesture of goodwill with Vanozza?  Her own plan to bring Alexander out of his “wilderness” and fasting, by using his beloved family member as leverage?  Any way you look at it, it’s an excellent thing.  And the baptism itself brought back to glory and costumes that I expect of the Borgias!

On Cesare: Finally, you get to have more drama!  I loved that bitchy little moment with Juan, the juvenile appetizer to warm-up to that delicious dinner of explaining to Juan just how little gets by you.  Eeeverything just came out with Juan this episode.  No wonder he had to die-his fights were over and he’s hardly up to new shenanigans.  Excellent sense of timing, my Cesare.  On the other hand, it’s so echoey of your stabbing of Lucrezia’s ex that it is likely to slide over into protection of your sister’s interests, doing the damning act yourself to save her, instead of being a whole new deed that you did for your own reasons.  After all that flack Juan gave you, you deserved to kill him for yourself alone.  I sympathize that you got to do it so simply.  Thank god for quips with Michiletto!

On Juan: How wonderful an effect opium can have on a person!  Just look at the difference between party!Juan and opium!Juan.  You played it off wonderfully, David Oakes.  Add to that how I wanted to laugh during your speech with your own cock, but couldn’t because you had too much feeling and it is a performance mightily ended.  I salute you, David Oakes.  Juan-this is the night that the wine came back, for goodness sake.  It is not the time to mess up.  You did have an endearingly blind faith in your father’s love as a shield though, didn’t you?  When you use it as a weapon against both siblings, it becomes a weapon that will bring you down.  It all fits in.  Unfortunately, I expected you to put up more of a fight during your death-at least say something more.  I sympathize that the writers gave you nothing for that.

On Pope Alexander VI: I believe my favorite line this week was your commending your ex-taster’s soul to Heaven and “damn yours!” *step* “and yours!”  to Lucrezia’s brotherly suitors.

On Vanozza: Writers, please to be giving her more time next week!  She rocked it!  Pointing out that Borgias love who they choose, defying double standards for the genders, and turning Juan’s best gibes into mere trifles to scorn…the Pope may have had my favorite line, Lucrezia my favorite scenes, but you and your gumption provided the gel that kept this episode together.  I hope to hear more from you next week-nay, I depend on it.

The finale should prove far better-once more, the Borgias shall be flung at each other, instead of each one drawing off to confront their own demons and put off the world.  It’s when they’re constantly working against, and for, other Borgias that this family really thrives.