Is it possible to marry above your station and not have to deal with the consequences? That’s part of the premise behind the new Starz drama “The White Queen,” which followed one woman’s rapid rise to power that could cost her everything if she trusted the wrong person. The story has some promise, but the premiere episode showcased some minor flaws that should be fixed once the overall story has been revealed.
“The White Queen” followed how one Lancastrian widow named Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson) who had a gift of intuition that she inherited from her devoted mother Jacquetta (Janet McTeer), which led her on a path that she never expected. Elizabeth was having visions of the new King of England, which proved useful for her when she set out to meet him to help secure a life for her children. Once she meets King Edward IV (Max Irons), Elizabeth suddenly felt a strong pull to the King that was mutual. After her brother Anthony Rivers (Ben Lamb) warned her of the King’s past behavior, Elizabeth was hesistant to trust him, even after they got married in a secret ceremony. The King was hesistant to reveal the marriage because of how his controlling mentor Lord Warwick (James Frain) would react to the news. Even though Elizabeth was close to giving up, the truth was revealed but the overall reaction was mixed at best. Lord Warwick didn’t react well to the news of the King’s marriage and he plotted to end the marriage before his plans were truly over. Warwick planned to use his daughters Anne (Faye Marsay) and Isabel Neville (Eleanor Tomlinson) in his efforts to undermine his protege, which could be either succcessful or a disaster for everyone. Will Elizabeth be able to have a happy marriage or will someone destroy it before she has a chance to truly be Queen?
In terms of questions, “The White Queen” asked a few important questions, but the biggest one remained whether the show could go beyond a single season. It’s too early to say judging from the premiere episode alone, but there was some potential to be had because of the show was based on the books written by Philippa Gregory that carefully examined what it meant for power to truly corrupt from the inside out. Sadly, the premiere had some shortcomings because the show’s set-up has been done before on various dramas, such as “The Tudors” and “The Borgias” with somewhat stronger results. It also didn’t help that the premiere didn’t entirely sell the idea that Elizabeth and The King had a genuine relationship because it happened within a matter of minutes. The episode did manage to sell the idea of lust at first sight very well, which came with some very charged sex scenes that left viewers wanting more. Future episodes should try to find a careful balance between sex, love and power to help keep viewers interested. A promising step in the right direction would be to give Amanda Hale’s Margaret Beaufort a chance to shine because she demonstrated that she had the potential to shake up everything without even trying. Hale’s brief scene towards the end of the premiere showcased that there was more to her character than met the eye. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, McTeer and Frain led the pack as two very deceptive people who were eager to come out on top at all costs. McTeer’s Jacquetta was trying to come off as the supportive mother, even though she had a clear ulterior motive from the start. Her most memorable scene was when McTeer bared her motherly claws as she defended her daughter’s honor to Elizabeth’s new mother-in-law. She was able to knock her enemy back into submission for the time being without having to lift a finger for the moment. McTeer embodied Jacquetta with the right amount of ruthless and dark sarcasm that made her a character worth watching, especially when her character had a plan that could lead to trouble. Frain, on the other hand, had the opportunity to play another moral ambigious character who had the potential of being a great villain. Sure, Frain has played villains in the past on various shows but he had a chance to showcase what it meant be a man who was completely corrupted by the power that the king bestowed upon him. Frain embodied Warwick with a sense of arrogance and ruthlessness that made his character a force to be reckoned with. His most memorable scene came towards the end of the episode when Warwick started to plot with his family to undermine the King’s marriage. It should be interesting to see how the story unfolds as the season progresses.
because of the diverse supporting cast that included a wonderfully deceptive Frain who relished
“The White Queen” premiered on August 10th at 8:00 PM on Starz. New episodes will start airing at 9:00 PM starting on August 17th.
Verdict: Ferguson and McTeer were at their best when they were plotting against their enemies, even though the show could help to develop some of the supporting characters a little more than being mere stereotypes.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)