In the first episode of this lavishly stupid new period drama, Lady Elizabeth – Woodville, widow and wearer of eye-poppingly pristine white nighties – of the Lancaster persuasion, seeks out the young York King, Edward IV, to try and get her dead husband’s lands back. She waits for His Handsomeness in a clearing in nearby woodland (fifteenth century woodland is obviously different from the modern kind; people may still hang about it, nowadays, but it’s not the reigning monarch they’re waiting for) and lo! King Too Cool to Rule appears, as if conjured up by the CW Smirking Bad Boys Unit, and he is captivated by… her hair? Face? Eye-poppingly pristine day-dress? (Fifteenth century washing powder must’ve been AMAZING.) I don’t know. It matters not: all that does matter is he burns for her, he longs for her, he…. you get the picture.
As does Lady E, since Too Cool is so into her that he ditches his entire army in favour of wandering around enemy countryside with her, unguarded, and manhandling her in her house full of Lancaster loyalists who hate his guts and want him dead. (Except Lady E’s mum, who’s totally down with the Crown, whoever happens to be wearing it right now.)
What’s this, though? An obstacle to their romance-at-speed-of-light? Oh dear! Lady E refuses to get busy with Too Cool in his woodland “office”, denting his confidence (for about a second) and they are momentarily estranged. Till Too Cool changes his mind and marries her in secret, so they can wax boring about how much they buuuuuuurn for each other and have an abruptly cut, dreamily-lit, super-dull love scene before he goes to war.
Victory is his, of course, but, in case we don’t already know from things like books or the internet or are unable to follow the extremely basic plot unfolding right here in front of us on this thing called the television, there is a problem: “The King has done what he should not. He has married from another house and a commoner at that.” Well! (For this uncanny insight, we can thank Lady E’s aforementioned mum, who is not only a “Seer” and a Witch but a sort of walking Wikipedia – Witchipedia? – whose entire function is to deliver lots of bland and obvious lines EXPLAINING the story to the audience because heaven forfend they should work it out for themselves.)
But Too Cool is undeterred by the prospect of war with France (he’s already at war with his cousins, right? The more the merrier.) or a feud with his mad mum and angry relatives, so before you can say “Surely the book’s not as bad as this?” Lady E is taking up her throne as Queen E, the next love scene is even more abruptly cut and the plan is as follows: “Now let us make a son to scotch the Lancastrian threat and start our dynasty.” Ah, the language of love….
More pants than Plantagenet, this is nicely shot, pleasantly acted, total rubbish. Max Irons is a very handsome King, Rebecca Ferguson is a very beautiful Queen, and the costume department are very much enjoying themselves but the dialogue is asinine, the characters one-dimensional and the whole business a little embarrassing. If it were autumn, I’d ditch The White Queen pronto but, since it’s summer time and silly season, she gets another week or two to try and impress me for now.