“The White Queen”: Episode 8 The King is Dead

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Image: ©Starz.

I am longing to dance on the grave of Faye Marsay’s Anne Neville. In the writer’s attempt to portray her as Richard III’s Lady Macbeth, she spends most of this episode, whining, smirking, nagging and plotting, all whilst still looking fourteen and clad in her mother’s too-large dresses.

This should have been the pivotal episode; Edward IV goes fishing, catches a cold and dies to everyone’s shock. It was sad to see the running joke from the book “Wife, to bed!” finally depicted while Edward was in the throes of agony. Rebecca Ferguson and Max Irons did a wonderful job depicting the tense and upsetting final hours of his life. Edward appointed Richard as Lord Protector, much to Elizabeth’s chagrin. Anne spends most of the opening scenes nagging and sniping. Cecily Neville makes a reappearance to take over Margaret Beaufort’s role as chief-plotter and plots by the bedside, plots over her son’s body, plots in shadowy corners and insults Elizabeth whenever possible. She is joined by Arthur Darvill’s delightfully greasy and devious Buckingham, who spends most of the episode switching camps.

Edward is trying to placate Elizabeth in the final moments of his life, who wanted her brother Anthony as Lord Protector “The Rivers are esteemed by the people but not by the court,” he says, begging her to “Please don’t make me waste my last words on matters of state.”

Elizabeth is terrified after Edwards death, begging Anthony to bring her son Edward back to her, saying only he can protect her. But Richard seizes young King Edward on the road. She flees to sanctuary with the rest of her children.

Historically, Richard III seizing the throne has been the subject of much debate, his action baffling some and damning him in the eyes of others. In the attempt to explain Richard’s actions, the script-writers have decided to make Richard a hapless and rather stupid pawn in everyone else’s games. While he snaps at Cecily and Anne to “Leave being Lord Protector to me!” he then proceeds to let them manipulate him throughout the entire affair. Aneurin Barnard isn’t given much range, going from looking agonised in his decisions to looking determined to do the right thing, or determined to do the wrong thing, then actually doing the wrong thing and to look agonised again.

The truly terrible executions of Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey are neatly explained away as Richard being duped by Stanley and Margaret Beaufort. They tell Richard that Jane Shore is plotting against him, and Richard discovers Anthony has taken her in after he banished Jane from court. Which is a very weak reason for Richard deciding that Anthony is a traitor. Meanwhile Margaret is plotting with Elizabeth Woodville behind Richard’s back, intent on getting her son on the throne one way or another. But Elizabeth does not truly trust anyone. Her last Grey son, Thomas, helps her smuggle her younger son Richard out of sanctuary and he is replaced with a poor boy who looks like him. “You are doing a great service for the King”, Elizabeth tells him. But she is afraid she is sending him to his death.

Richard is talked into taking the throne by Cecily and Anne over dinner (no mention of Titulus Regius here) and Anne takes her place at his side during their joint coronation with one of the most ridiculous triumphant faces I have ever seen, somewhere between smirking and trying to suck on a lemon. Her rival in lemon-sucking, Princess Elizabeth of York, spends most of the episode shrieking and flapping and whining.

The stand-out in this weeks episode was young Edward V, played by Sonny Ashbourne Serkis. When Richard III comes in with young Geoffrey, the boy posing as young Prince Richard, Edward snaps at his uncle that his father “would be ashamed of you, if he saw how you were treating his sons.” His face is unfathomable as he looks at the boy pretending to be his brother.

“I’m not yet King brother,” he tells Geoffrey calmly who accidentally addresses him as Your Grace “Call me Edward.” It was a chilling reminder of the awesome burdens on the shoulders of a twelve-year old boy.

 

nerdaliciousBy Olga Hughes. 

Olga enjoys Philippa Gregory and history, to the horror of many. She runs the online magazine Nerdalicious (http://nerdalicious.com.au/) with her partner C.S. Hughes.

Olga Hughes

Olga runs the online magazine Nerdalicious with her partner C.S. Hughes. Nerdalicious is the best source of Game of Thrones and other pop culture news, including books, film, sci-fi and medieval history.

4 Comments

  • I will dance with you. Aneurin Barnard’s performance was the best thing about this episode, but what can he do about a botched script.

    • Reply October 15, 2013

      Jaime Adair

      I’m a huge Aneurin Barnard fan. I think he brings an extra dimension to this interpretation of Richard III. (Also, it doesn’t hurt that I think he is cute.) But I’ve only read one of Philippa Gregory’s books, so I don’t know them well enough to know where the books end and the script begins. Olga, what are your thoughts?

      • Reply October 15, 2013

        Jaime Adair

        (Olga, btw, is the one who wrote the review.)

  • Reply October 15, 2013

    Olga

    Young Annie has been delightful, despite him being handsome 🙂 I read an interview where he said he “wanted to find the truth” of Richard III. I agree he has done an excellent job with a lacklustre script, but Faye couldn’t do much with Anne Neville, the way she was written. Unfortunately the show smacks of sexism where the books don’t. The women are shrewish or hysterical, or devious.
    I know Philippa was involved in both producing and writing but unfortunately you are never going to get things to translate perfectly from book to film. I have said many times that the thing the series lacks is the excellent cross-over of perspectives in the books. I don’t know why they only shot one series, it simply hasn’t given them enough time to explore the characters and the show has suffered for it. Richard is not quite such a shining saint in the books, and certainly not manipulated by everyone else.

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