Mon
Aug 19 2013 2:58pm

The White Queen Season 1, Episode 10 Recap: With Both a Bang and a Whimper

Elizabeth and Cecily in The White Queen episode 10****SPOILERS FOR THE WHITE QUEEN EPISODE 10****

Are you freaking kidding me, The White Queen? You are, right? You are joking, and jesting, and making with the japes. That is the only explanation I have for the final 45 seconds of this, your very last episode. Or your very last episode of Season 1, at any rate; I suppose it’s possible we’ll see The White Queen 2: This Time it’s Personal at some date in the future, perhaps depending on how well the series performs on its new US cable home. But regardless: man, did you anti-climax the hell out of this thing. Honestly, I have no words.

But, back to the beginning!

(Need to catch up? Don't miss Rachel Hyland's recaps of The White Queen episode 1episode 2episode 3episode 4episode 5episode 6episode 7, episode 8, and episode 9. The series is currently airing in the UK on BBC and on Starz in the United States, so beware of SPOILERS; episode 2 just aired on Starz on Saturday.)

We kick off this time around seeing our good Queen Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson) returned to her beloved Rivers manor, where all of this wackiness began so very long ago. For us, it has been a mere ten weeks since she waylaid a King by the roadside and magicked her way into his fickle heart, but for her it is twenty years, ten kids, five uprisings and a bunch of dead relatives ago that she last made this place her home. Ferguson gives us a Lizzie smiling and at peace, away from the tumult of political chicanery and just happy to be living in comfort with most of her remaining children.

Richard and Lizzie get too close in The White Queen finaleThe eldest two, the Princesses Elizabeth (Freya Mavor) and Cecily (Elinor Crawley), are not allowed any such respite, however, but have been summoned to Court to serve at the pleasure of a very displeased Queen. Anne (Faye Marsay) has become a hatchet-faced old shrew, and still hates Lizzie and all her issue with a fiery passion. She hates them even more after her once-loving husband Richard (Anuerin Barnard) is seen making all kinds of inappropriate eyes at the beauteous Lizzie the Younger, dancing music-less measures with her to the astonishment of his courtiers, and snubbing Anne in her favour. All of this leads to much gossip that he plans to “set aside” his barren wife – they only have the one son; what a failure she is! – and take his brother’s eldest daughter onto his throne in her stead. Just like he’s believed to have already taken her into his bed.

Okay, so: ew. That’s your uncle you’re falling “in love” with there, Lizzie. Get your head straight. Sure, there were papal dispensations allowing such things to occur in your unenlightened time – Richard and Anne are close cousins, after all – but surely you realise it’s just... icky? And pretty silly of you, too, since Richard is very believable when he tells Anne that it’s all a charade, and he’s only pretending to admire you to make your in absentia fiancé and would-be King, Henry Tudor (Michael Marcus), appear a cuckolded fool. But then, there is that look in his Frodo-like eyes when he gazes upon your pre-Raphaelite form. Like you’re the One Ring and he cannot wait to put you on his... um. Anyway. That look is very unsettling, and really makes one question Richard’s general fitness to not only rule, but to breathe the same air as good, decent folks.

Then again, good, decent folks are hard to find anywhere in the vicinity of these happenings. Certainly the villainous Lady Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) and her opportunistic husband Lord Stanley (Rupert Graves) are as black-hearted a pair as ever plotted for power and influence, for all that Maggie B remains convinced that her son Henry’s eventual reign is the divine will of God. Lord Stanley is less sanguine, and questions the Lord’s commitment to the cause, especially if Richard is to beget himself a few spare heirs on his niece, who we know comes from an especially fecund line. The certainty and disgust with which Maggie B declares young Lizzie a whore at this suggestion is among her creepiest moments in this series (of which there have been many), and is but one of many examples of Amanda Hale’s remarkable, utterly discomfiting, ability to make such a hateful character almost endearing in her fanaticism.

Cecily, Queen Anne, and Lizzie in The White QueenFaring less well is Faye Marsay as the much-beset Queen Anne, who has a lot asked of her in this outing and perhaps isn’t quite up to the task. When all royal bitchface and jealous wife, sure, okay. When a concerned mother for a sickly son, oh, absolutely. But when young Edward, Prince of Wales succumbs to a mysterious illness (and this despite his father’s clear instructions: “I command you to breathe. I am the King and you will breathe for me!”) her histrionics are tiresome rather than tear-jerking, only cementing for the Court the inappropriate closeness of Richard and Princess Lizzie, as well as my general dislike for her.

It isn’t long at all before Anne succumbs to a mysterious illness as well – this slow march to death executed somewhat better by Marsay – and her last anxiety on this earth is assuaged when she asks the King’s Burly Enforcer Guy if he did, in fact, kill the little princes as she had all-but ordered last episode. Turns out, he didn’t (or, at least, says he didn’t), so at least she can go to her reward knowing that... well, that her son didn’t die due to a Rivers witch curse, after all. He just died for no reason at all. Which I guess is comforting? And, actually, it may have been a Rivers witch curse that killed the pair of them anyway; Lizzie was none too fond of Richard after he took her son’s throne, and curse-like words were definitely said.

But whatever its cause, the death of Anne – during a solar eclipse, of all dramatic things – makes everything quite awkward for Richard. Since he’s been so convincingly besotted with Lizzie, gossip begins to spread that he poisoned his wife in order to hurry up the heir-begetting process, now that his only son is gone. (Hey, why didn’t Henry VIII think of that? He could have avoided religious schism with some judiciously applied hemlock.) For the sake of appearances, then, he sends Lizzie to Maggie B in her country exile, since her betrothal to Henry Tudor still stands and this makes the women practically in-laws. In the process he also yells at Lizzie and tries to disabuse her of any notion that he has feelings for her; that this was all a game, and that she is assuredly the loser. (It doesn’t work.)

Maggie B is in a poetical ecstasy after the eclipse, seeing in it a sign that the House of York is soon to fall and her Henry will devour it “like a dragon.” But even so, canny Lord Stanley warns her to be careful in her treatment of Lizzie, since if Richard wins the forthcoming battle he might still make her queen.

So don’t bully her, Margaret. I do not bully. I will merely help her to move closer to our Lord.

Ha!

This she tries, with a bunch of praying that looks a lot like punishment, but eventually she can’t suppress her inner witch-burner any longer, and calls Lizzie “monstrous in the eyes of God.” But Lizzie is no cowering miss to be so addressed, and she gives back as good as she gets: “You are the monster, for murdering my poor brother!

Lizzie and Richard in The White Queen 1x10Okay, let’s just stop here. Lizzie, you are jeopardizing everything! “For murdering my poor brothers!” should have been your biting comeback, lest somebody figure out that the young Prince Richard was not, in fact, the child who died in the Tower after all. It’s a good thing that Maggie B is so distressed by this (true) assertion that she manhandles you roughly and silences your unguarded tongue, you ninny. But oh, there is more fun to be had here! Because Maggie B has, by this stage, so taken against Lizzie that she declares Henry will never marry her. “Yes. He will,” replies Lizzie simply. “If he wins. Because that’s the only way he’d have the support of England for his backside on the throne. So whatever happens in this battle, I will be Queen. And this is the very last time that you will ever sit in my presence.”

Aw, Lizzie. Lady Jacqetta would be so proud of your right now! Except... you do realise that you have sisters, right? Wouldn’t Cecily be just as good at uniting the Houses of Lancaster and York as, say, you? And she’s far less slept-with-her-uncle-y, as well. I vote Cecily for queen! Who’s with me?

So yeah, anyway, battle. We haven’t really seen one of those in this series since way back in Episode 5, when the not-at-all-lamented Lord Warwick (James Frain) met his ignominious, well-deserved end. It was a pretty good battle scene back then, all told, but really it was only remarkable for the sheer unsportsmanlike viciousness of our handsome Edward IV (Max Irons) and the fact that finally, in this series about the Wars of the Roses, we were seeing some actual war.

This one eclipses it so utterly it might as well be Braveheart and the last one was two kids playing with their miniature Warhammer armies on a table top. This is one well-shot battle scene, is what I am saying, and Richard is a fearsome sight to behold—though his bangs are totally in his eyes and he might have wanted to consider a haircut. Richard goes into this battle as something of a hot favourite; the men of Wales had decided not to fight for Henry, whose French army consists mostly of liberated prisoners, and so numbers and abilities are definitely on the Yorkist side. The wildcard here was always going to be Lord Stanley; he had presented himself to the King as unwaveringly faithful, but he was always playing a deep, double-faced game, and even on the very eve of the battle Stanley and his brother and their substantial armies had not picked a side.

A wild-eyed Maggie B, of course, pleaded with her husband to fight for Henry; even though Stanley’s son, Lord Strange (Andrew Gower), was held as a hostage against his loyalty to the King. “You son will be honoured as a man of courage, the first to fall in Henry’s service,” she promises him, as though conferring the most generous of favors. Yeah, cause that’s the kind of argument that will endear you to a loving father. So when Lord Stanley arrives on the field of battle the next day, to a call of “Charge!”, there is a tense succession of slow motion moments as both Henry and Richard hope wildly he will come down on their side – but in the end, he and his men are “for Tudor!” and Richard is swiftly dispatched, though not before Burly Enforcer Guy can call out hopelessly: “Get the King a horse! Get the King a horse!”

That’s for you Shakespeare fans, who got the quote almost right, it seems.

Henry in The White Queen 1x10You know what’s the worst part about Henry Tudor’s victory this day? Oh, it’s not that he’s about to become progenitor to a line of sociopaths, nor is it the defeat of Richard, who may have been drawn in a more sympathetic, non-nephew killing light here, but did, nevertheless, betray his dead brother and usurp his nephew’s throne. (And then sleep with the kid’s sister.) No, the worst part is the fact that damn Maggie B gets exactly what she has always wanted here, and gets to infuse herself with all kinds of reflected glory. Her whiny son (“Why won’t Stanley declare for me?” he pouts as battle looms – jeez, wanna-be King dude, have a cry, why don’t you?) has won the day and has just been given the dead Richard’s crown, and she swans onto the battlefield full of “I told you so” and proclaiming beatifically: “I am the King’s Mother. I am Margaret Regina.”

Ugh. Rather than proof of God, I tend to think Maggie B’s triumph here is proof of the infinite nothing.

So now, we’re left with the throne in the hands of a madwoman and her son, who hasn’t stepped a foot in England for over a decade and so is still up for marrying Princess Lizzie, so that people might actually care about him at all and/or recall his name. (Remember how she was made illegitimate when her parents’ marriage was declared illegal by Richard? That’s all forgotten about now.) The former Queen Lizzie is also for it, despite Cecily sensibly pointing out that if her sister marries Henry Tudor, her sons will die “because you cursed the line of whoever killed my brother.” (Oh, and by the way? New Rightful Heir Prince Richard shows up, swearing vengeance for the death of his brother, Edward V. Here we go again...)

But here’s the thing: just how potent is this magic of theirs? After all, this battle clearly did not turn out the way at least one of them – the one in love with her uncle – wanted, and yet here there was no eldritch fog, no lashing rain, no twinge in the sword arm to forestall a Tudor victory. Really, where were all your witchy powers when they were needed here, Lizzie x2? We can only assume that you wanted a Lancaster victory, and Richard dead, after all. (And if the guy seriously was molesting his teenage niece – good on you. Indeed, I like to think her lack of supernatural intervention here was the abused Lizzie’s subconscious crying out for justice.)

Elizabeth and two of her daughters in The White Queen finale episode 10You may recall though, I mentioned something about an anti-climax earlier? Yes, indeed. You see, sure, the game of thrones, the clash of kings, all of that gave this episode a rather potent punch that this series as a whole has, for the most part, been sorely lacking. And so to end with something so utterly prosaic as having both Lizzies in a quiet moment, with the elder telling her daughter simply: “You will be Queen of England. As I once was” and then, boom, credits? Letdown. For ten ever-improving episodes, this has been a show full of pomp and pageantry and grand, garish gestures. It’s a show that should have ended with a joyously shouted “Hell, yeah!” and instead, just kind of finished on a muted “Huh.”

And in that vein, I will end this series of recaps on a similarly undramatic note. Thanks for making it the distance with me! Perhaps I’ll see you next time, for The White Queen 2: Electric Boogaloo. (The Queenquel? The White Queener? 2 White 2 Queen? The possibilities are endless! Get to it, BBC. You’re welcome.)

 


Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.

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10 comments
Geli
1. Geli
What did you think of the relationship between Anne and Richard? I've been following your reviews on this for a while, and I never got the gist of that opinion. Do you think he truly loved her in the end? The scene when he talks about how Anne should not have died yet is particularly telling, however I'm just not sure. What is your opinion?
Rachel Hyland
2. RachelHyland
@ Geli

You're right, considering the thousands of words I have expended upon this topic, I haven't really come down on one side or the other of the Richard/Anne question, have I? Weird, that, and most remiss of me.

Bear with me, because I have some Thoughts.

Certainly, in the early episodes, it was evident that Richard had a soft spot for his meek cousin Anne, and he was definitely not happy to learn she had wed the Prince of Ice, for personal as well as political reasons. His simple declaration of love when he proposed to her made me think yes, definitely, he loves her, but when his brother George the Asshole accused him of marrying Anne for a share of the Warwick fortune, he didn't exactly deny it. Aneurin Barnard's perpetual look of vague bemusement didn't help matters much -- it was like, is he trying to seem sly here, or is that just his face? It was never very easy to tell. (Let's just be charitable and call him "enigmatic," shall we?)

I guess I would say that Richard was fond of the young Anne, at least enough to save her from battlefield rape, but he probably wouldn't have championed her to Edward nor eventually married her had he not gained something from it. Still, in the early days of their family life he seemed quite content (even if he did attend Edward's live sex shows), and she definitely seemed to have grown on him... I mean, he didn't have their marriage annulled after getting his hands on the Warwick fortune, despite Anne's mother's dire prediction that he would.

But the years after Izzy's death made Anne bitter and proud and far from the sweet, rather pathetic, helpmeet he had once held dear. By the time Richard took the crown, I think he considered her a partner, but there was very little tenderness in his manner towards her. He was very disdainful of her superstition, as well, and the fact that she didn't enter into his black despair about the princes widened the gap between them.

By the time Lizzie grew "very beautiful," Richard didn't care enough about Anne to spare her the pain of public humiliation, when hurting her would further his own agenda. To his credit, he did try to set her mind at ease by explaining it was all a ruse, but we know that was a big fat lie. Dude had the hots for his niece, no doubt about it.

I guess the measure of how much you truly love someone is how profoundly their death affects you, and Anne's death seemed more a political embarrassment to Richard than a matter of abject grief. On the other hand, when he tells Lizzie he can't look at her, as he is sending her away, I think it's because he feels guilty that their dalliance caused his wife to suffer.

So, to sum up: I think Richard loved Anne as much as he was capable of loving anybody. But unlike Edward, who threw away dynastic alliances to get into Elizabeth's pants, he wouldn't have married her were she a mere commoner he met one day beside the road, and when she died, he was covered more in guilt than in sorrow.

And probably what he loved most about Anne, even in the early days, was how much she loved him.

Whew! Does that answer your question?
Geli
3. TiffanyNH
So I do have a question for you. This series was extremely close to history, based upon my indepth research on the matter, minus the witchcraft. However, we didn't not live then and have no idea if these spells actually took place. How did you intend on them ending this? By rewriting history? It eneded very close to what actually happened. Henry won and married Elizabeth of York. That is a fact, it happened. They could not have eneded this any other way except maybe at their wedding or coronation. Incest and infidelty was the norm back then. Most royals "kept in the family" to keep the crown in the blood line. So what would've been your "hell yeah" ending?
The part I was a bit confused on was when the Princes in the Tower only consisted on Edward V, not both sons. And Richard re appears with Thomas Gray? Thomas had the affair with Jane Shore, per historians. A little confused on some of that. But then again, it was made for TV and we weren't living among these people so we don't know exactly what happened. Just a few thoughts of mine.
Rachel Hyland
4. RachelHyland
@ TiffanyNH

You're absolutely right that there couldn't have been any other ultimate outcome here, battle-wise. Historical dramas, like prequels, are constrained by the known facts of how events must inevitably play out, which does mean they tend to lack a certain, well, uncertainty.

But it was not Henry's victory nor his inevitable marriage to Princess Elizabeth that so irked me in this finale, but rather the utterly ho-hum manner in which this future was established. There was so much scope here for the final moments of this series to really keep us thinking about it long after the credits rolled. I mean, either of the Lizzies could have had a Seeing, foretelling their inevitable dooms, or maybe providing them a worrisome glimpse into the sordid future of their heirs. Perhaps there could have been yet more witchcraft, as the two tried to undo the curse that will take Lizzie the Younger's first born son, or they could have brought Original Lizzie, Maggie B and the ghost of Anne together to have tea, commemorating all three heroines of the books on which this was based. Hell, even a dramatically-lit gallery tour past the portraits of all three women would have done the job.

Instead, it just... ended. Finis. And pretty much mid-conversation. They really could have done so much better -- even Maggie B's "I am Margaret Regina" proclamation would have made for a much more compelling exit line.

Oh yeah, and the Prince Richard thing. According to the Gregorian Theory of the English Monarchy, the real-life "pretender" to the throne known as Perkin Warbeck was indeed the younger of the two York princes, who had -- as Warbeck himself claimed -- been spirited away by Edward loyalists. He forms a major plot point in The White Princess, which tells of young Lizzie's trials and tribulations as one of the most boring and woebegone Queens you'lll ever read about. If we do get a Season 2 of this show (The White Queen 2: Havana Nights?), then that book is going to need some serious revision.
Tim Jones
5. dalinian
Hey Rachel,

Thank you Soooo Much for your, witty, insightful, opinionated, and intelligently written commentaries upon all the Machiavellian machinations of the C15 British aristocracy, as dramatised in 'The White Queen'. Despite being a Brit myself, sorry to say this sorry period of local history was a bit of a blank – but thanks to Philippa Gregory, to the writers, cast, and crew of the BBC's 'The White Queen', to your wonderful Episode Recaps, and to my own autodidactic research inspired by the series, I'm now much more clued in on the warlord-centric bloodletting that passed for "civilisation" in medieval Britain.

What's best about this retelling, and what seems to characterise Philippa's oeuvre, is that it's a HERstory, rather than just another MCP HIStory. So I've very much enjoyed the synergy of reading a contemporary womanly critique of the series as it unfolded. What's unwelcome, but unsurprising, is the standard bourgeois historicist cant of "It's the Great Women (and Men) of Great Britain that make Our Great History Just So Great!", while politely ignoring the underlying economic, social and political forces at play in the changing fortunes of ruling class power plays. But I guess a historical materialist War of the Roses TV mini-series epic will have to wait till after the revolution. ;-)

Nevertheless, as a historical tale imbued with feminism, I was particularly taken by the variety of ways in which these feudal ruling class women were portrayed – not as mere adjuncts to male aristocrats and kings, or backgrounded broodmares, but as canny, driven, and sometimes monomaniacal seekers after power, wealth, and privilege in their own right. While being dominated by a grossly oppressively patriarchy, they still found ways to assert their own womanly interests, often in ways that paint unflattering portraits of vain and egotistical harridans – but to get ahead within such a patriarchy, a very believable mixture of tactics gets portrayed, from Maggie B's self-serving religiosity, via three generations of Rivers women practicing witchcraft, to Margaret of Anjou personally commanding military campaigns (and much else besides).

From a perspective of C21 rationality and atheism, I was especially struck by the dual ways in which our multiple protagonists' wishful thinking were projected into irrational and theistic C15 behaviour (both of which were then, to a greater or lesser degree, widely believed to be valid).

(1) Maggie B's reputation for having "Saint's Knees" was a grand encapsulation of her own personal God delusion – that all her Machiavellian manipulations of those around her to guarantee her boy's ascent to the throne were in reality the way in which her God's Will got to be played out on Earth, as it is in Heaven. All her (often evil) real world womanly agency – in bending history to her cast iron will – gets reified into the desires of a patriarchal bronze age sky god. But considering the bloody body count wracked up by the brutal enforcers of Yahweh in the Old Testament, a convincing argument can be made that she is only acting in the 'best tradition' of "My God, Right or Wrong!" fanaticism that has informed the expediting of soooo much human suffering at the hands of the religiously righteous.

(2) Ah, but Jacquetta, Elizabeth, and Lizzie have (apparently) an altogether more ancient and effective (albeit outlawed and illegal) means of Getting Their Way in the World: Witchcraft! Depending upon appeal to the power of an archaic pagan river goddess, Melusina, Ancient Faery of the Waters ( » http://loveofthegoddess.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/melusina-ancient-woman-of-waters.html ), their means of bending history to their will is waaaaay more dramatic – necessarily secretive, uniquely womanly, spectacularly social (triple the witches, Triple The Power!), and intensely intergenerational. What's more, as portrayed, Watery Witchcraft Works – to befuddle your enemies with a fog, to flounder a fleet with a sea storm, or to rain on the bad guys' parade.

However... call me a typical blokey pedant, but for a historical epic grounded in a massive civil war, IMHO the actual portrayal of that war left a LOT to be desired. In an age of large scale pitched battles on open plains, where longbow arrow storms and free wheeling cavalry made all the difference, what did we get to see? Small scale skirmishes, exclusively fought in a copse or a forest – including the Grand Finale, the Battle of Bosworth FIELD, which, instead of 20,000 men clashing for hours on a Leicestershire plain, seemed to consist of a few dozen fellas having a quick fight in a wood! While I appreciate the budgetary limitations of TV Drama cf. Blockbuster Movie, since they were happy enough to use CGI for Big Fleets at Sea, then why on Earth not for Big Battles on Land?

I do agree with you about the ending, though but – with much drama to be made of the fact that Henry Tudor insisted on Kingly Coronation preceding Monarchal Marriage (another victory for counter-revolutionary patriarchy), the pathetic anti-climax ending was a major let down. Still, it did provoke me in to finding out what really did happen next, so solely as a stimulus to further research, it succeeded.

Nevertheless, those quibbles aside, when considered in the round, 'The White Queen' (and your post-show commentaries) have been a hugely Reithean success – I've been educated, informed, AND entertained, for which all involved have my eternal gratitude. Now I'm off to treat myself to the twin episodes of 'The Real White Queen and Her Rivals', as presented by Philippa her good self, thanks to YouTube.

Peace-&-Love, Tim
Geli
6. Alexsau1991
"Wouldn’t Cecily be just as good at uniting the Houses of Lancaster and York as, say, you?"

Erm, no. Of course not.

Cecily is neither a York or a Lancaster, she is a Neville. A widow of a pretender and the mother of a King. Elizabeth on the otherhand, is the heiress of the House of York, and the daughter of a King.
Rachel Hyland
7. RachelHyland
@ Alexsau1991

Princess Cecily is most assuredly a York -- younger sister of Princess Elizabeth, and all. Duchess Cecily and Henry Tudor? Ugh. The thought never even occurred.
Lynne Connolly
8. Lynne Connolly
Please, please don't believe in this series as anything but entertaining hokum. There is very little history in this book and a lot of "reinterpretation." If you take it as the columnist has, then no harm, no foul (I found it pretty boring and ratings over here in the UK were a bit dismal, so a second series largely depends on the US ratings). But it isn't history, not as most historians, or even herstorians, would have it. Try Paul Murray Kendal's magnificent biography of Richard III for a better retelling.
Personally I believe that Richard was so grief-stricken by the death of his son and his beloved wife (there is absolutely no historical evidence to support any attraction for Elizabeth of York) that he gave up, and although he fought bravely at Bosworth, he no longer cared. His brothers were dead, his wife and child were dead.
Geli
9. Ann89
wow! I loved your review and your analysis of the Richard/Anne relationship! I was pondering on the question of whether Richard still loved Anne towards the end, but your analysis that he was more covered in guilt than sorrow after she died makes a lot of sense to me.

I think that unlike Edward, Richard's priority is not love at all. He definitly puts things like wealth and power above his feelings. I don't know how much he was capable of love after he became king since everything seems to be so politically driven. In the 10th episode Starz version, Elizabeth actually goes to see Richard and asks him if he loved her or it was all for politics, he replies that he fell in love with her even though he's not supposed to and he 'hates himself for it', then they slept together. Do you think that he really fell in love with her or was it to sustain her affinity? I know that this comment came quite a few months late but I'd love to hear your take on that!
Geli
12. terri klein
I LOVED THE WHITE QUEEN! Couldn't get enough of it. I must have watched the whole series at least ten times! Can't wait for sequel. Thanks for bringing it back STARZ!
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