Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The White Queen

The White Queen
Episode 1: In Love with the King
By: Carlos Uribe

The White Queen is a show about three women seeking power amidst the War of the Roses. It concentrates specifically on Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I like the idea behind the White Queen. I'm so in love with history that I'm going to get a minor in it, I love court intrigue, and the War of the Roses is a pretty interesting period of time for England. There is a lot of potential for engaging and compelling drama from the story that the show is telling. This is why I'm so disappointed that the White Queen is a mind-numbingly dull show that gives viewers no reason to come back. Viewers that are interested in this time period will find nothing of value in the White Queen. There might be an educational element of the historical drama but it's doubtful that will do any good when the show is putting people to sleep. The White Queen is the most boring pilot that I've had to sit through. I try my best to find the saving grace for every single show so I'm not a negative Nancy but it's really hard to point them out. I'll admit there was a single scene in the episode where I was actually intrigued and interested in what was going on but it's so short that it quickly reverts to losing my attention. The White Queen had a lot of promise for being the next, great historical epic but I doubt anybody will remember this show existed in a year's time. This is a British show that was sold to Starz. It's pretty interesting that the producers added extra content for American audiences to make it more of an adult show. The American version is not necessarily more violent but it's rather more sexually explicit. It's a bit interesting that they would have to add more nudity and sex scenes for Americans considering how it's the Europeans who have a more laissez-faire attitude towards sex. It's the violence they usually have a problem with. Of course, adding sex scenes and nude women don't really add any value to the show and it comes across as tacked on. I guess people who pay for premium channels to get the adult material might be happy but it's not like they can't find nudity and sex elsewhere. I don't mind it in my shows when they serve a purpose but it feels like a weak attempt to justify the show's presence on Starz.

The plot for White Queen never really gets to be compelling. The first half of the pilot is preoccupied with the protagonist, Elizabeth, attempting to regain her inheritance after her husband dies on the losing side of a battle. She has to go to the new king, the one her family opposed, in order to get her wish. I guess it could have been interesting if she really had to go through treacherous political waters but there's never any question she would get her lands nor is there any real reason to care. The issue might have been made interesting by the journey but it's not a strong plot on it's own. The tension wasn't there, the stakes aren't captivating, and it was mostly boring. This request for her inheritance sets her on a love story with the king. They have some sort of forbidden romance where the two flirt, he almost rapes her, they secretly get married, and then they announce it to the world when it looks like he's won the war. It's shocking that the White Queen got this secret romance between the two so wrong. Despite the sex scenes, it really isn't sexy. The element of fantasy is barely there, the chemistry between the two characters is non-existent, the sex feels like it's going through the motions. When such a large part of the show is the relationship between the two characters, it's a major problem when I couldn't find myself caring one bit about the two. That's most of the pilot as the show promises that this marriage will lead to murky political waters. We even get a taste of that when Elizabeth and her mother meet the king's mother, Anne, and they have a delicious political battle. It's that kind of drama that the White Queen should primarily be composed of rather than left to a single scene. It's the one scene where I actually found myself engaged by the show. Sadly, it was soon over and it wasn't long before I didn't care anymore. The White Queen ends on a note where maybe things can get better but I could care less. There is no reason for me to come back and watch.

A large problem with the White Queen is that it's full of lifeless characters. The main character in the pilot is Elizabeth Woodville. She's supposed to be a strong female protagonist but she largely comes across as bland. It's hard to really connect with her when we're really given such a wooden personality. She's not even written consistently as one minute she doubts magic but the next she's trying to use it. It's all very frustrating. She's in love with Edward. Edward is the new King of England but we're never really shown why that is. What about him makes people rally to put him in the crown? His entire character is built around his obsession with Elizabeth. He marries her because he loves her and then makes it public when he has to. There is very little sense that he is an actual character. The person who put him on the throne is the kingmaker, Richard Neville. Richard is largely presented as an antagonist but he's a very two-dimensional character. He's opposed to Edward's marriage with Elizabeth because he wants to solidify their alliance with France. It's a strong political move but Edward's refusal basically puts Richard at odds with him. This will create conflict in the future but it's not really strong because we have no idea why Richard backed Edward. There is no sense of there being any relationship between the two which is odd considering how Richard is the person putting Edward on the throne. Of course, we would be able to get this backstory if we didn't begin nine years after the War of the Roses begun. Alas, we begin right when their relationship starts to fracture so we don't really get to see how they are before. This removes any real understanding of why exactly this relationship actually matters to the king beyond the political ones.

The rest of the characters are no good. We get to meet Elizabeth's family but none of them really stand out. Her brothers blend together, her father is largely forgettable, and her mother is a witch. Her mother has some semblance of a personality and has the potential to become a stronger character than her daughter. A character that does stand out is the mother of the king but she's the typical stone-cold aristocrat who values her reputation. We get to meet a few other characters but none of them really stood out. The show is supposed to be about three different women vying for power but we really only get to meet one of them in the pilot. In fact, watching this episode alone would give the impression that there really isn't any conflict between the women. The only enemies named are the kingmaker and the king's mother (who isn't one of the three women) so it's a bit strange that they don't really have any importance in the pilot at all. We do meet at least one of these women in the pilot but she's largely a background player. The side characters of the White Queen are a largely forgettable lot that add very little to the show. The two women who are supposed to be Elizabeth's rivals aren't really introduced at all.

The White Queen is a chore to get through. The pilot is not only dull but it contains a weak plot that could have been focused a bit more. It has some layers but their not as neatly woven as they should have been. It probably should have begun a little earlier into the War of Roses to get a sense of who these characters are and to hopefully have gotten more compelling drama beyond a dry romance and a boring inheritance plot. The main characters are all very bland with very little personality or reason to root for them. The side characters are largely forgettable while the other two women who are supposed to be important don't really play a factor into this episode at all. The White Queen is a show that provides no reason to check it out in the first place. It's not worth watching the whole episode just to get to that awesome scene between the two mothers. Of course, you could probably find that scene on Youtube.

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