Ok, now we’re getting somewhere! I’ve often said that I’m in it for the Shakespeare, and tolerating all the other bits. Tonight, and I realize I’m a day behind, I’m happy.
We open with Shakespeare’s family still in London with him, and it’s not long before Hamnet is lost in the crowd. Just like last week they play “family” well, with the kids pointing at everything in every direction, wanting to buy everything they see, the parents having to slap hands away and say no. I like Shakespeare as family man – although the more they do it, the more plain it looks that he is too young to be father to these children.
There’s soon a riot as the pro-Catholics start handing out literature and the fighting begins. Enter the Queen’s guard who just start….stabbing people indiscriminately. There’s literal blood spraying everywhere. This I guess is the reminder that we’re trying to be Game of Thrones. We get it already. This is a violent time. Move on.
Shakespeare’s trying to come up with his next play, and nobody likes his idea for the sequel to Henry VI, so Alice convinces him that he should write the prequel. Meanwhile the flippin’ Dark Lady is introduced! Of course “Big Dick” Burbage wants her, and commissions a sonnet from Shakespeare to woo her. For some reason Shakespeare pulls Sonnet 29 out of nowhere and gives it to him, but she immediately sees through it, tells Burbage, “You didn’t write this,” and demands an audience with the real poet.
In other news, James Burbage is trying to get funding for a new theatre so we have plans for the Blackfriars Theatre in the works. That’s kind of nice to keep the chronological pace of the story moving forward, as it’s a minor story arc at best. In a show that’s so interested in pushing the boundaries of sex and violence, it’s odd to see the devote any time at all to real estate deals. But, looking at the whole episode, we can predict where that story is going and what’s going to happen next.
Speaking of which, I continue to be embarrassed by the sex in this thing. It’s like softcore, it reminds me of when we first had cable when I was in middle school and we’d come up with reasons to stay up until midnight so we could catch a show on “Skinemax’ that never really showed anything but at the same time didn’t leave much to the imagination. We even get a walk through of the brothel where there’s a fully naked woman bouncing up and down in the lap of a customer. Move on already, unless the audience for this show is horny twelve year olds. We have the internet now, if we want that we know where to get more, more easily.
I wish I knew more about Marlowe’s history, because his story is getting interesting. Last week he met a new friend, obviously someone very important to him, but I have no idea who it is. This week we see Marlowe’s portrait! Now I’m hoping a Marlowe historian fills me in and tells me everything I’m seeing is historically accurate.
The “urchin” story (I’ve learned his name is Presto) gets as dark as it’s going to get this week, where we’ve not only confronted the child rape angle, but when the sister tries to rescue him we get to watch her whipped until he comes back. I won’t spoil how it all plays out, but I hope they’re done with it. We really don’t need it to be that dark. Who do they think they’re appealing to, exactly?
In the WTF scene of the week, Anne comes to visit Shakespeare at the tavern and meet his friends. This is incredibly awkward – they don’t know anything about her concerns (like the price of fish) and she hasn’t even bothered to see their play yet. But then Kemp appears and it’s wonderful. He starts flirting with her, composing a poem on the fly that turns into a song. It feels so in character, his personality perfectly matches the action on screen and how he makes himself the center of attention…
…and then it turns into a music video set to James Brown. I’m not kidding. I loved it right up to that moment, then it was just laughably stupid.
Overall I liked this episode (even the urchin stuff, dark though it may have been, did move the plot forward). There’s plenty of content, lots of Henry VI action (Anne does eventually go see the play), sonnet 29, Burbage, Kemp, Dark Lady, Marlowe … if they focused on those stories and less on the violence and torture (I haven’t mentioned Topcliffe at all this week, even though he’s here), I’d be much happier.