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.