Directed by James Kent, episode two of The White Queen, the Starz production of Philippa Gregory’s historical novel series The Cousins’ War is called “The Price of Power.” It could have been called The Wedding Rebellion because there are all these weddings being planned. There is so much to be had at a wedding, and not just the gift bags and the cake. I didn’t actually see cake in The White Queen. What I did see was a lot of marriage brokers breaking hearts and taking names. With one eye always on the purse. I suppose that’s what in-breeding does, even more if it’s Royal in-breeding.
Ooh, finery, confetti and horses, The White Queen (Rebecca Ferguson) has a coronation and there’s dancing in the streets. Well, not quite dancing, even at their jolliest, English revelry doesn’t get down and boogie. That’s reserved for Liverpudlians at soccer matches. The coronation is more to shut people up who don’t like the new queen than it is a passing of a loving cup. Warwick (James Frain) doesn’t want to see his daughter in those horrible dresses bride’s maids have to wear and snubs the new queen by not letting them be her ladies-in-waiting. How does somebody who isn’t sangreal, royal blood, who’s old enough to be the new king’s babysitter and who’s widowed from a man who tried to kill the king become the queen anyway? She must have white roses for pubic hairs.
The White Queen, Elizabeth, is a conniving thing. The plots as she schemes and she squeeks when she’s done. She talks politics as foreplay right before Eddie disrobes for some coronation conjugals, I suppose that’s a form of talking dirty, but it’s not exactly a carnal mood-setter. I was already rooting for Duke Warwick just for saying this out loud, but I’m a little afraid it will change history and I’ll wake up in a parallel universe.
A wedding and a birth in the first 25 minutes, I didn’t even realize she was that far along. It seemed like only yesterday they even noticed the baby hump and here she is pushing it out. I knew she was magic, but when I saw the kid whose title was stripped in the very next scene, I mistook it for the little girl grown up and thought I was in a Ridley Scott movie for a second. I thought British Royals only transformed into reptilian aliens in conspiracy theories.
Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) is a couple of cards short of a full deck. And the fig doesn’t fall too far from the newton. Her son, Henry Tudor, is only five and having a title is his whole world. It’s all he has. Well, that and a legitimate claim to the throne. Sure, the York’s gave us peppermint patties, but what have they done for us lately? Beaufort cozies up with Warwick and Due George of Clarence (David Oakes), King Edward’s (Max Irons) brother for all the good it will do her.
Starz has as much regard for female characters as the royal family. When the Yorks find out that their baby was born female, they all but suggest leaving it on a doorstep. But not only that, all the women on the show are secretly loathsome. I thought the way they showed women characters was misogynistic until I saw in the credits that it was scripted by a woman writer, Emma Frost, then I realized it was some kind of self-loathing. The men are simple creatures, except for Warwick, but the women are all equally backstabbing and entirely soulless in their ambitions. They could use a good cat fight, a little AbFab ass-biting, to let out the tension.
Three years later. Three daughters later. The Wedding Rebellion isn’t working out and it’s time to flee. If only from the sad, sad sex. So sad is the sex that it causes an uprising among the people. King Edward tells Elizabeth to “Show them you are Queen” as he sneaks out into the night. She puts on a crown because nothing says everything’s under control like Queenly headgear as Warwick rallies support, lops off a familial head or two and locks Eddie in an upstairs closet.
That ending curse was only cursory. “I curse you.” By my will you will die? What kind of curse is that? On HBO’s Rome, they knew how to throw a curse. Where’s the “may you taste only ash and iron?” May all your family get the bends while on holiday in Greece? May your genitals shrink to the size of BBs? Anything. You’d think Lady Rivers (Janet McTeer) would have taught her young witch daughter a little bit of flash at the least. But then, she does her magic with fishing line.
There is little humor in The White Queen, at least, little humor that works. But wit would give some humanity to the characters. It is not impossible to infuse a little humor into a historical drama, even if it is English, The Lion In Winter is a laugh a minute and it’s hardly a comedy. Starz has a problem with mixing the funny into its dramas. It really should go the extra mile because humor can be character development. If Game of Thrones is heroin to fantasy junkies, this is why The White Queen is only methadone. The writers on Thrones take the time to add humor, to give that witty rejoinder. To at least have the characters strive for a line of the week.
Den of Geek Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars