In the last two episodes, The White Queen has really pushed its Game of Thrones-esque gore and brutality. This seems a shame, since the show’s most compelling elements are the parts away from the battlefield — in fact the parts that are far from Edward vs Henry as possible. Now that we know all the characters, the political scheming has become more compelling, and some of the characters’ suffering has the power to hit me right in the gut. Yet with all the back-and-forth on the battlefield, the story as a whole just isn’t holding together.
The history of this period has some badass moments, but I’m left wondering whether the show is poorly executed, or whether it just doesn’t make for good TV. There’s so much to-ing and fro-ing over who’s king and who’s not that it’s difficult to get invested. Why should we care that Edward has been defeated, when he’s bound to return to the throne within the episode? He’s going to lose permanently eventually, but I feel like I’ve been hardened to the whole issue — or maybe that’s just the fact that I find Edward and Elizabeth to be two of the least likeable characters in the show. At least Warwick is compelling in his schemings.
As far as our main players go, every episode seems the same. Margaret Beaufort cries that her son is God’s chosen king, and is ignored. Edward goes to battle. Elizabeth hides with her children. They do some magic. Edward is triumphant again… but for how long?? It’s historically accurate, but it’s also rather tiring. We get it. There’s a war. Things are unstable. Can’t we get to Richard already?
Perhaps this is why my favorite characters continue to be the ones who seem on a more constant path. The Neville sisters may be thrown about in the war, changing sides constantly, but they are consistent as young women thrown in over their heads with little choice in their situations, and their character growth over the episodes has been compelling as a result. Although Anne seemed the less likeable sister, these past few episodes truly belonged to her, as we saw her develop into a strategic woman who can speak her thoughts and stand her ground. It’s also really exciting that the show’s emotional heart recently has not only been the relationship between two women forced on different sides of of the war, but two sisters, something that we rarely see explored on TV.
Meanwhile, we finally got to meet the famed Bad Queen, Margaret of Anjou. She is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and with all the political scheming and disingenuous declarations of loyalty going around, it was fun to see a true queen sweep in and call everyone out on their bullshit. Add in her unloving but increasingly admiring relationship with and mentoring of Anne, and I now wish she would be in every scene. Who cares what’s happening in the capital when we can see Margaret bring out Anne’s independent, intelligent side? Now I’m hoping against history for her to be the victor of the war. She might not be nice, but she has a brave, no-nonsense imperious nature about her that makes her compelling on-screen.