Get out your chain mail, swords, and ornate costumes because the period piece is back with the series premiere of The White Queen
Let’s bitch it out…
Disclaimer: The White Queen is based on a series of books by Philippa Gregory (crazy popular books if the number of women reading them on the subway is any indication). I have not read these books so the reviews will be solely based on the TV show. If you have read them, feel free to discuss book/tv comparisons in the comments, but no non-historical fact spoilers past the current episode please!
We open in 1464, a few years into the War of the Roses between the Lancastrian and York houses in England. The Yorks have just taken over and King Edward (Max Irons) now has the throne. A Lancastrian lady, Elizabeth Woodside (Rebecca Ferguson) has lost her lands and her husband as a result of the war. She goes to the woods to intercept the new King and beg for her lands back, in what I guess can be classified as a “meet cute” in the fifteenth century. Because, OF COURSE, as soon as he locks eyes on Elizabeth, the King is smitten, and tells her he’ll come back to hear her plea.
Just as I start to wonder how historically accurate the plot is, about ten minutes into the episode we learn that Elizabeth and her mother are witches. Like, legit witches. Apparently they are descendants of the River Goddess Melusina. Umm…okay? So Elizabeth selects one of several strings wrapped around a tree to determine her future and I guess she picks the right one because on it is a ring shaped like a crown. Score!
When the King returns to Elizabeth’s home he fights with her family (they support Lancastrian rule), vows to give Elizabeth back her lands, and tries to seduce her. “I may die in battle tomorrow. You’ll deny your king one last night of happiness?” he says after being rebuffed. Ladies, this dude is smooth. Smooth enough to get her to agree to meet him for a final goodbye.
Um…here’s where I become “over” the entire situation. King Edward, who reminds me of a super skeezy, entitled frat boy, tries to rape Elizabeth when she meets him in the woods. The only reason he doesn’t succeed is because she pulls his knife on him and threatens to kill herself before he can get close enough. He leaves, tail between his legs, and vows never to see her again.
One beat after I think to myself “wow she’s got some spunk,” Elizabeth laments to her mother that she’s going to regret not sleeping with the King if he dies. Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta (Janet McTeer), by far the most pragmatic and intriguing character, tells her that she cannot fall in love unless there is some profit in it for the family.
In order to maintain enough forces to fight, King Edward must pick up recruits from the Woodville estate. This means his vow never to see Elizabeth again is broken as he comes back begging her to marry him in a secret ceremony, saying he is “mad for her” (for about the tenth time).
You know who’s not happy about the King’s marriage? His advisor the Earl of Warwick (James Frain), the “Kingmaker,” who needs Edward to marry the princess of France in order to secure an alliance. Edward, who has no room in his life for political strategy, thumbs his nose at Warwick and introduces Elizabeth to the court as his new queen.
So far I’m not that impressed. I haven’t seen charisma or emotion from the two leads which is essential for me to care about what happens to them next. The show also has awkward pacing, focused on running through a checklist of plot points without spending time on character development. I’m hoping that’s something that will sort itself out once all of the preliminaries are out of the way. I’m not sure how likely that is when The White Queen is trying to cram three books’ worth of content into 10 episodes…
- Cinephilactic suggested this show because it’s a similar genre to The Borgias, which I loved. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that both Jeremy Irons’ son and David Oakes (Juan from The Borgias) are in it
- I’m willing to buy love at first sight, but lust, attempted rape and love, all in the span of what seems like four hours total? Umm…not so much. It will be interesting to see The White Queen actually addresses that King Edward and Elizabeth don’t really know much about each other
- It’s a nice touch folding in the white York and red Lancastrian roses in the premiere
- Hands down my favorite scene involves Elizabeth and her mother sparring with Duchess Cecily (Caroline Goodall). More scenes like that will help this series live up to its tagline that “men go to battle, but women wage war.”
- Elizabeth (to Edward): “Don’t doubt my courage, your grace. I’m a match for any man”
What did you think? Did the pilot get you excited for the rest of the season? Do you have reservations about how this series will play out, too? What do you hope to see in future episodes? Comment away below
The White Queen airs Saturdays at 9 pm EST on STARZ