The White Queen Episode (1×06) “Love and Marriage” – MVA Revealed
From a supporting character to our leading lady – this week’s MVA has been a long time coming: The White Queen herself!
She’s been everything we would hope for in a leading lady, but perhaps as more and more ingredients have been added to the cake (it’s a big ensemble cast) she’s been lost a bit. This week she is well-placed to make an impact, what with the prior game-changing cliff-hanger in which she saw her husband, King Edward suffocate the old King! Whatever Elizabeth Woodville is destined for, Rebecca Ferguson seems determined to show us to the best of her ability. And she really is destined to face a lot this week… Yes, Rebecca Ferguson is our Most Valued Actress for this episode of The White Queen!
The White Queen v. The Kingmaker’s Daughter
Elizabeth reveals herself as a bit of a bitch this episode, which is great fun. She is stern when Anne Neville is begging for forgiveness, Ferguson still and arched as if she’s waiting to pounce. Admittedly, she lost her brother and father at the hands of Anne’s father, but not Anne directly so this misplaced hatred opens up an interesting insight into the character. It’s not quite fair, but because of Ferguson’s subtle performance, we can absolutely understand why she feels that way. Ferguson makes it clear that King Edward’s forgiving of Anne, and telling her she can live in their castle (rent-free I imagine) is a direct snub to Elizabeth. She turns her head away stiffly. With no dialogue in the scene, it’s a real accomplishment that Rebecca Ferguson draws our eyes.
“The King has appetites…”
The next twist Elizabeth must face in “Love and Marriage” is her husband’s unfaithfulness – another storyline well-addressed and well-played by Ferguson. It is a shock for Ferguson so it is a shock for us. We feel her pain, and that is a testament to the rapport that Elizabeth has built up with the audience over the preceding episodes.
Her entire face tenses, but that’s really the only reaction Ferguson gives at this shocking sight. It’s mostly this underplaying of the story that earns her the MVA; it works because she is a Queen, she is a figurehead, and a strong woman. She can’t and wouldn’t flap about and cry. In the next scene she is sat down like a lost child, looking up at her advisors who remind her that it is an acceptable part of courtly life. Elizabeth grapples with this, but keeps calm, insisting that “she is different… he cares for her, I saw it.” It feels like she is essentially told she can’t hate the mistress for doing what mistresses do, so she has to find an excuse to hate her. She really becomes human in this episode, thanks to Ferguson’s light touch in emotionally-complicated scenes.
The slow-motion sequence in which Elizabeth feels the eyes of the court on her is a feat of direction, but also a feat of Rebecca Ferguson’s acting. The way she sways, lips pursed, as the camera wobbles around her and courtiers bow and scrape is really disorientating and affecting. Ferguson finds the fine line between a miserable and a solemn expression, when most actors can do one or the other.
“We are not those two people that met at the side of the road.”
Ferguson knows, however, when to pull out the big emotions, and really goes for it when her mother and her newborn baby pass away within seconds of one another. Because we have established such a closeness with her this week, even the least involved viewer couldn’t fail to cry with her. Her entire face crumbles, the very thing her static expression had been avoiding throughout all of the rest of this week’s perils. Utterly drained by everything else that’s happened to her, Ferguson gives us a pensive, lethargic Elizabeth at the end. The contrivance of the script that she is just going to roll over and forgive the mistress stuff would otherwise be unconvincing is only convincing because of Ferguson’s weary performance.
History is against us. Ferguson has proved herself to be a tremendous actress but she is given precious little else to do than give birth. That’s a real shame, as its unavoidable in this story, but it makes moments like these when she excels in other areas all the more precious. It must be said, though: she’s great at acting giving birth. For that reason alone she would deserve the MVA!
The White Queen Airs Saturday at 9|8c on Starz