Numerous times during the past two months, I’ve had to bone up on my medieval history while watching The White Queen. Wikipedia has really been my friend as I’ve attempted to navigate through the various relationships between the characters and who’s actually next in line to the throne. Though the history lessons have calmed down in recent weeks, tonight instalment really confused me indeed. It wasn’t so much because of the historical aspect of the episode but rather that everybody seem to keep changing sides every five minutes so it was impossible to relax into the story.
This week’s main plot sees Margaret, Lord Stanley and Buckingham attempt to bring down King Richard by plotting with Elizabeth. They want to get Henry Tudor on the throne and feel the best way to do this is to unite the Tudors with the Yorks through the marriage of Henry and Princess Elizabeth. Elizabeth is opposed to the match as she feels her mother is more concerned about winning the crown back as she is about the welfare of her children. This was proved by the fact that she swapped around her sons allowing Jeffrey to go to the tower over Prince Regent Richard who has now fled to Flanders. The princes in the tower are a bone of contention for Anne who believes that her husband should have them killed off to strengthen his claim to the throne. But Richard cannot bear to kill of his nephews and refuses to do anything that might harm his brother’s children. However, little does Richard know that Margaret has already ordered her husband to kill off the two princes in order for Henry’s claim to the throne to be strengthened. Though Margaret acts like her men are attempting to free the boys from the tower they eventually use Buckingham’s contacts to kill both Edward and Jeffrey. At the same time Margaret is tricking Buckingham by making him believe that he’s meeting Henry and Jasper at a different part of Wales to the area in which they’re actually arriving.
Margaret’s plan is all going well until she sends her physician off to Elizabeth to inform of the death of her two sons. When Elizabeth tells the physician that Richard is safe, he wonders what she means as she alludes to separating her two sons. However, she smells a rat when he tells her outright that two boys were killed in the tower. At this point she realises that Margaret is not her ally and now wants Henry and Buckingham’s plan to fail. At the same time the dastardly Lord Stanley informs Richard of the plot against him and fingers Buckingham as the main culprit. Margaret finally realises how devious her husband is, as he confiscates her fortune and puts her under house arrest. Meanwhile Elizabeth and her daughter plot a curse on Buckingham allowing it to rain heavily which ultimately sees Richard’s men catch up with him. Buckingham is soon executed as a traitor, while Margaret tries to find a way to communicate with Henry and Jasper.
As Anne tries to convince Richard to drag Elizabeth out of sanctuary, he visits his sister-in-law to try to broker some sort of truce. He tells her that he didn’t have anything to do with the death of her sons and wants her to believe that her family will be safe back at court. At the same time Elizabeth still doesn’t know who to believe, so she decides to put a curse on whoever it was that ordered the death of her sons. However, unbeknownst to Richard, it was actually his wife who first ordered the death of the boys before Margaret actually successfully carried out her own plan. Anne is initially shocked when Richard tells her that he’s convinced Elizabeth to come out of sanctuary as she still believes her to be evil. But Richard seemingly wants to keep his niece close to him as a way of blocking the match made between her and Henry Tudor. However, despite Margaret killing her sons, Elizabeth still wants her daughter to marry Henry, something the princess seems utterly opposed to.
If you managed to watch tonight’s episode of The White Queen without getting a headache than you did better than me. For the second week in a row I feel that far too much plot has been packed into this hour-long instalment. While I appreciate Emma Frost’s predicament in having to adapt three books in ten weeks, I feel the pacing off the episodes has been fairly shaky since the series started. I think tonight’s episode was so confusing because it was hard to know who was fighting for which side as every character seemed to be lying to each other. It came to a head when Stanley deceived his own wife in order to stay loyal to both sides while Richard attempted to broker a truce with sworn enemy Elizabeth. I also found that there’s been very little attempt to flesh out the characters of Buckingham and Brackenbury, especially as the former has already met his maker. The most enjoyable parts of the last two weeks have been the interactions between Elizabeth and her daughter, confusingly also called Elizabeth. The portrayal of the princess as a rebellious teenager has been an interesting one and she’s definitely a character that will play a pivotal role in next week’s conclusion.
As always the performances have really lifted the piece and tonight it was Rupert Graves who really stole the show as the devious Stanley. Ever since he was introduced we’ve known Stanley was a character that played both sides and we’ve finally witnessed him in action as he betrayed Margaret after she’d ordered the death of the two princes. Graves seemingly relished the scene in which he forced Margaret to say that she wanted to slaughter the two youngsters and I found the he excelled at playing a character who appeared to have no morals. Graves and Amanda Hale have made an excellent on-screen team and they were great in the scenes where she realised just what he’d done to her. I’d also like to praise Aneurin Barnard for his subdued portrayal of Richard III, whose presented completely differently to the Shakespearian version of the monarch. Barnard’s Richard is a fairly considered king who actually comes across as one of the more reasonable characters in the entire series. After weeks of criticising the fact that the characters didn’t look like they’d aged, I wanted to congratulate the make-up team for finally making me believe that time has moved on. Most notably Anne Neville looks to have aged about forty years in two episodes, but that might just be all the fretting over Elizabeth being a witch.
Overall, this was an incredibly confusing instalment of The White Queen which again tried to cram in far too much plot into the one episode. Thankfully a couple of assured performances made the instalment interesting and I’m still greatly looking forward to the final episode. I’m just hoping that the final battle is well-paced and the final act of the story doesn’t feel rushed.
What did you think to tonight’s episode of The White Queen? Did you find it as confusing as I did?
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