Honni Soit Qui Mal Y Pense
Beyond money, loneliness, fear and time, there’s always boredom. So, even one is not a subject of Her Royal Majesty, one felt compelled to suffer not one, but two episodes of Her apocryphal biopic, uncertain that it has been aprooved by Buckingham Palace. But surely it should have been, considering how innocuous it is? Anyway, one watched the second episode first by mistake, and it was as good as a debut such an unsurprising hagiography should have. Discovering one’s mistake demanded to watch the first episode altogether. And boy, was that a bad idea. Anyway, long live the Queen, and here we go.
S1E1: Wolferton Splash
The King Is Dying
“There was a spot of blood when I coughed this morning, should I be bothered?” asks George VI (Jared Harris, in too brief a role for his talent) to his butler after his doctors have left him in the dark about his condition. There is indeed a spot of bother, Your Majesty, considering they have to take away one of your lungs in what appears to be Buckingham Palace’s grand ball room, but you still cough heavily. So why not shoot ducks by a freezing morning and keep on smoking heavily? It’s not exactly as if the Windsors were the Einsteins, but what the fuss is all about during this very long and very stiff episode if not one’s duty to the Crown? The King would be wishing – heaven forbids! – for an emergency exit that he wouldn’t act otherwise. Fortunately Princess Elisabeth (Claire Foy, properly ordinary) is ready to assume the Commonwealth Tour with her newlywed husband Consort Prince Phillip (Matt Smith, dubiously cast), so why not to focus on the destruction of his other lung?
The big event of the week is Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage. The former is first glimpsed with crossed arms, waiting with a touch of impatience that the latter is deprived of his foreign titles in order to receive proper British ones including, of course, The Duchy of Edimburgh, via some kind of a Gotha Extreme Makeover ceremony. Poor Philip is expecting an obedient wife and has to be gently slapped on the wrist a couple of times in order to understand who’s wearing the pants, or should one more aptly says the crown, in their holy matrimony.
But, he objects, are we gonna leave the children (Charles and Ann, in a suddden plot rush, are already 7 and 5)? “The children are too young, they won’t notice we are away for months”, comes the reply. Ah Britain, Britain, Britain… it is very difficult for the educated viewer not to interpolate Little Britain lines in all the undertatement taking place, the Duke of Edimburgh’s pecs and glutes being the only diversion from endless, hushed dialogue about the elephant in the room.
Apart from Philip’s athletic prowess, the best thing on display here is John Lithgow’s turn as Winston Churchill. Octogenarian but relentless, the Father of the Nation is a more than welcome respite from stiff upper lips, even though his dialogue seems lifted up from the Churchill Cliff Notes, greatest hits included. Jeremy Northam is not bad either as Anthony Eden, who has the ambition but not the shoulders for the Prime Minister job.
Episode 1 is shooting a sitting duck, really. Queen Elizabeth (George’s wife, yeah, it’s confusing) is a non-entity, which comes as an – admitedly mild – surprise since she’s to become Queen Mum (Victoria Hamilton has a great name to play the Queen of England but not much else). Queen Mary (Eileen Atkins, who else?) Is an exemple of the contrary, stealing the few scenes she has as Queen Mary (Queen Mum before she reincarnated in an ocean liner, very confusing indeed). Hold your horses,, this is only the beginning. Life, as art, is long, sometimes oh so very very long…