It is, of course, terribly unfair to measure the BBC’s The White Queen (which ended last night) against HBO’s Game of Thrones, since one purports to be a serious historical drama, while the other is fictional Fantasy… but I was just coming down from the third season of GoT when TWQ started, so I couldn’t help comparing the two shows, and finding the Beeb’s effort woefully inferior.
Watching GoT regularly trains you to expect the unexpected, because you never know when the next gut-wrenching plot-turn is going to leap out of the shadows and attack you… so, as I sat through the first episode of TWQ, I was unconsciously bracing myself for a shocking surprise that never came. In fact, it all played out in the most plodding and predictable way possible… with witless dialogue, and a disappointing lack of gratuitous sexposition. Even the incest was boring… heavily implied rather than explicitly consummated. Where’s the fun in that? And how can anyone expect me to care about a pretty blonde widow scheming to win the throne by seducing a pretty blonde king into marriage, and hedging her bets using watery witchcraft, when I’ve just seen a pretty blonde widow scheming to win the throne by freeing armies of fearless slaves and razing cities to the ground with the help of her DRAGONS!!! Tch! But GoT is about more than just the showy pyrotechnics… I care about ‘Daenerys Targaryen’, because I’ve seen her suffer and strive, so I can take pleasure in her moments of victory, because I feel they’ve been earned… whereas ‘Elizabeth Woodville’ (aka “The White Queen”) just came off as spoiled, unscrupulous and obnoxious from her very first moment to her very last. Perhaps that was intentional… perhaps that was more “true to life”… I don’t know. All I know is that I had zero sympathy for her, and zero interest in watching her fuss over her douchey, adulterous husband, or her equally obnoxious children. Essentially, she was ‘Cersei Lannister’, without any of the venomous wit or vulnerability that makes her such a loveable villain.
Really, the only reason I kept slogging through the series at all was Amanda Hale’s turn as ‘Lady Margaret Beaufort’ (aka “The Red Queen”). Of course, her character is equally determined to win the throne (on her son’s behalf), but she achieves her goal through prayer and political manoeuvring, trusting in her family’s divine right to rule. There was something very compelling about her unshakeable faith in her family’s fate… and the glee she exhibited every time God sent her a “sign” was straight-up adorable. Honestly I would’ve much rather watched ten hours of Lady Margaret chit-chatting with the Almighty, uninterrupted by all of the tedious tosh that usually went on around her scenes. Apparently this series was based on three Philippa Gregory novels (making it an unofficial prequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, I guess?), one of which is titled in The Red Queen’s honour… and I can’t help wishing they’d just focussed on her story over everyone else’s. Even with my poor grasp of History, I knew that she was eventually going to be vindicated, so it made all the other faffing about even more exasperating, and rather took the suspense out of the big battle in the finale… though I did still get a little teary when she finally saw her son being crowned. God save the king’s mother!
[Note: The usual complaints about biopics also applied here, as they dashed through decades’ worth of (usually off-screen) battles and betrayals, with perfunctory exposition filling in for actual footage… and the main cast never seemed to age a day, even as their offspring were recast from babies to full-grown adults!]