The White Queen ep 3

So The White Queen is still appalling, just in case anyone’s wondering.

Max Irons as Edward IV is still manfully trying to keep proceedings afloat with sheer force of swagger, bless him, but with a rebellion happening off-screen just about every 15 minutes and still no interesting or coherent portrayal of the reasons why – unless the entire Wars of the Roses can actually be boiled down to an outbreak of profound asshattery among the fifteenth-century English nobility – he’s fighting a losing battle. The “magic” stuff is idiotic – I appreciate that was a favoured rumour amongst her enemies at the time, but reducing Elizabeth Woodville to a Wicked Witch figure when we really should know better by now is a stupid, sexist cliche – and I hate everything about the ludicrous Margaret Beaufort love triangle (including Margaret Beaufort herself) so so much, I can’t even find the words. Which is probably a sign that I should stop looking for them. I may watch The White Queen again, I may not, but I think I’ve run out of things to say about it, so unpopcult will just bow and take its leave of Her Grace now.

The White Queen ep 2

I feel a bit bad now.

I mean, I gave The White Queen a hard time in general last week, but I was particularly snarky about poor Casanova King Edward. Little did I know his smirking it up was the best thing about this nonsense – episode 2 had a lot less of him and his swagger and it sucked lemons.

Everything about it was off. The dialogue was bad enough, being incongruous as well as infantile – who said “Stay safe!” in the fifteenth century? Time travellers? But the characters were even worse. Lady Margaret Beaufort in particular is supposed to be a pivotal figure in the whole story so turning her into a drama queen loony with two principal settings – rapture and whinge – both of which are equally grating doesn’t seem like the best idea. The scene where she announced to her kindergarten-age kid that she had a celestial vision he was going to be king (at this point, who isn’t?) almost made me switch off. I appreciate she’s right and all but does she have to be all crazy-face about it?

At the other extreme, Warwick’s daughter came across as less demented, but her behaviour equally bizarre in its own way – having simultaneously just had sex for the first time, not enjoyed the experience and just realised her marriage to a Royal Duke was merely a pretext for a royal coup, she was mildly perturbed for about five seconds before shrugging it off (sex, coups, sham marriages, bygones!) and putting on a shadow puppet show about wolf-queens or some such flummery for her sister instead.

Um…. what?

The other real problem was the pacing, though. Bucketloads of stuff happened: the Queen gave birth to three daughters (three!), half the court got married, two kings were captured, Elizabeth’s dad and brother were beheaded and there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rebellion (as successful as it was speedy) demoting poor King Too Cool to Rule to Sir Smirk-A-Lot-Less almost as soon as we heard of it. But all of that (three or four years-worth of stuff) was crammed into about ten minutes tops, which was roughly half as long as we spent faffing around with the Queen’s coronation and after-party. And I don’t mean a “Remix to Ignition“-style after-party, either – this was neither hot, nor fresh out the kitchen. Just slightly tedious.

So, good plan, that. Ignore all the exciting stuff, spend ages on the boring bits, turn one of the most important women in the story into a teeth-gratingly whiny nutbar and watch the ratings sink. I thought last week’s was bad but it turns out last week’s was magic compared to this mince.

The White Queen ep 1

Sigh.

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….

*Rolls eyes.*

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.

Public Service Announcement 23 of 2013: The White Queen, Burn Notice

Looking for some royal warmongering to fill the Game of Thrones-shaped hole in your tv viewing? If so, might be worth your while checking out the BBC’s latest historical drama, The White Queen, starting on Sunday night (16th) at 9pm, BBC 1. The show is an adaptation of Phillipa Gregory’s series of novels about three ambitious women and their power plays behind the scenes in the palace corridors, while the Wars of the Roses rage on, so, um…. “Dame of Thrones”, then?

The fact it’s a co-production with Starz means it’ll probably have plenty of sex (although less than the US cut apparently) and violence, and it’ll equally probably be terrible (see Torchwood: Miracle Day) but it has a decent cast and, if I can’t have Starks and Lannisters, Yorks and Lancasters will have to do – for this week anyway. I’ll review at least the first ep and see how we get on.

On a much less grandiose but much more reliable note, meantime, this week also brings the penultimate season of Burn Notice to UK screens – Fox UK, 9pm, Monday. We don’t always make a huge fuss about it but unpopcult HQ is very fond of Michael, Sam and the gang and it’s always nice to see them back doing their modern-day Macguyver/Robin Hood thing in Miami, the city where the heat is on…etc. Last season’s bleak finale left Fiona and Michael in trouble in more ways than one; here’s hoping this season gets them out of it and shot of uber-villain Anson sooner rather than later. Either way, we’ll be watching.