Season 1, Episode 8
Airdate: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 9 pm ET/PT on STARZ
“Only fools wait to see if their enemies might be friends.” – Elizabeth
When I learned this week’s episode of The White Queen was called, “Long Live the King” I felt a sense of dread since I know the full proclamation is typically, “The King is dead. Long live the King.” Considering the amount of major characters dropping like flies lately, this doesn’t look too good.
As the The White Queen nears its end, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the characters we have grown to love and love to hate over the past few months. This week’s episode serves as a game changer and darker time, chronicling one of England’s most notorious royal figures: Richard III (Aneurin Barnard).
The opening shot of “Long Live the King” reads: “1483 England is at peace” while in the background two men sword fight. It’s a contrasting image, and gives the scene an ominous quality. After several failed attempts to steal the throne from King Edward IV (Max Irons), the Lancasters have relented and no one seems to challenge him anymore. If there is any lesson learned from the past few episodes, it is that peace is, ironically, a product of bloodshed and battles.
The End of an Era
The only tender moments throughout “Long Live the King” are in the first act when Edward IV is at the head of the table with his family feasting on dinner, and during his final hours. It’s an odd image, a complete about-face from how he has been depicted recently with his mistress Jane Shore (Emily Berrington). It’s a peculiar adjustment to make, but necessary to get to the root of the problems Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson) faces later on.
It’s not long after dining with his family that Edward IV falls mysteriously ill with a fever; an illness that eventually takes his life. Enter in Richard, Anne (Faye Marsay), and Duchess Cecily (Caroline Goodall) who are all too eager to take advantage of the situation. Included in the circle of vultures Lord Stanley (Rupert Graves) and Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale.) The tension reaches its pinnacle when Edward IV decides to make Richard, not Anthony Rivers (Ben Lamb), the Lord Protector of the next future king: Young Prince Edward of Wales (Sonny Ashbourne Serkis) who is not old enough to rule on his own. Elizabeth doesn’t agree but acquiesces for Edward IV’s sake. The final moments between Elizabeth and Edward IV are heartbreaking despite their recent conflicts:
Edward: “You are the love of my life. Thank you Elizabeth, for waiting under that oak tree, for wanting me.”
Elizabeth is now ultimately vulnerable, without any strong alliances; the Rivers are esteemed by the people but the royal court thinks little of her. Eventually Elizabeth and her grown children seek sanctuary (along with the kingdom’s war chest of gold and jewels) in Westminster Abbey. This is also the time we get to see a much older Princess Elizabeth (Freya Mavor)—I know, they were not too creative in the name department back then—who, unlike her mother’s ambition to secure the throne, desires peace.
Richard and Anne are older, and more settled into their marriage. Yet, there is a coldness there, Richard exudes a menacing demeanor not seen before in previous episodes. Now here is one of the major issues I have with The White Queen; Richard’s change in personality feels very erratic. I get the impression we’re supposed to accept he is ambitious, but we’ve never seen it as clearly depicted like George’s (David Oakes) claim to the throne. It’s hard to estimate. Richard always came across as a follower, and a staunch conservative which is seen when he attempts to honor his brother’s wishes of protecting young Prince Edward.
Then there is the matter of Anne who has presents no warmth or happiness. It’s strange since she showed a romantic side with Richard not too long ago. She is more manipulative and conniving; spiteful and determined to undermine Elizabeth. Anne goes so far as to believe Elizabeth is a witch, explaining to Richard, “She poisoned Isabel.”
A large percentage of Anne’s scenes in “Long Live the King” consist of her manipulating Richard who seems so insecure with his place.
Tudor Takeover: Plan A
In a maneuver worthy of the reality show “Survivor,” the alliance between Margaret and Stanley are the game changers who tip the scales this week. Taking advantage of the chaos left in the wake of Edward IV’s death, Margaret is the one who suggests Stanley and her “sustain” the tension within the royal court.
Margaret hopes Elizabeth and Richard will inevitably destroy one another allowing her the chance to get her son back to England and bid for the throne. And the sad thing is it doesn’t take much manipulation to watch their plan work out perfectly.
It’s astonishing how much Margaret continues to surprise me; it’s enough to make me wish Elizabeth and her were friends. Margaret has shed her awkwardness and temper to become one of the most conniving and treacherous characters in The White Queen.
Dark and Dangerous Times
Margaret and Stanley’s manipulation go exactly as planned starting with egging on Richard’s trust issues with Elizabeth. Initially, he hides Edward IV’s sons in The Tower of London to protect them. Again, after an earful from his mother and Anne, Richard starts to consider his claim to the throne for himself. He later captures Anthony Rivers and executes him for alleged acts of treason. All these events are what will later cause painful outcomes.
Richard goes against his brother’s wishes, and uses his influence in court, along with the Council, to invalidate Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward IV thereby making her children bastards. Edward IV’s heirs are in immediate threat with Prince Edward in The Tower of London, and his younger brother Richard (Ted Allpress) next to be captured. Elizabeth, understanding she has few options, has a servant boy pose as Richard while the real prince is sent off to safety. Watching Elizabeth part ways with her son make this one of the saddest scenes of the episode. In a span of what seems weeks Elizabeth has lost her husband, her brothers, and sons.
Meanwhile, Henry Tudor (Michael Marcus) is a man now, situated in Brittany, and awaiting the right time to do what is necessary to prepare for his return to England. He will be a major player, it seems by the episode’s end, if Margaret has her way. The real question remains: To what end will Margaret go in claiming the throne for her family?
By the end of the episode, Richard is crowned King with Anne as his Queen by his side. Oh if good old Warwick (James Frain) could see her now. She is her father’s daughter.
“Long Live the King” is well paced, and the suspenseful set up made it a strong episode. We also see how quickly Elizabeth is lost without support from her mother, Jacquetta (Janet McTeer) or Edward IV. What’s even sadder is this could have been prevented in some ways. If Elizabeth just went to Richard, spoke with him directly, and privately, there would be less tragedy. Interestingly enough, this episode depicts Richard in a better light, and doesn’t appear to be the historical figure notorious for his cruelty.
The direction by Colin Teague was great. The best scene shows Richard embracing Anne about the waist as the light from the window outlines his face, and brilliant light eyes. It’s a wonderful staged scene with much attention to the lighting. The writing by Malcolm Campbell works in detailing the plots and schemes from Margaret to Elizabeth. All in all, the series continues to improve each week with few flaws.
Tune in to The White Queen, Saturdays at 9pm ET/PT, only on STARZ.
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All photos © 2013 Starz Entertainment Network. All Rights Reserved.
© 2013, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.
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