The White Queen episode (1×07) “Poison and Malmsey Wine” – MVA Revealed
There really could be only one MVA (Most Valued Actor) this episode, and that is the man that this episode is all about!
Way back in week 1, Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, cursed the King’s brothers – Warwick, now deceased, and George… soon to be deceased! George may have been cursed but actor David Oakes clearly was not, bringing so much integrity and life to the death of the Duke of Clarence. Yes, David Oakes is our Most Valued Actor for this episode of The White Queen!
And it all started so poorly. Well, David Oakes’ performance has never been poor, but his opening scene, where the actor was instructed to stroke a white dog in his lap, is definitely poor. A silly cliché barely obscured by the fact it’s a dog not a cat, and although it sets up what happens to the dog effectively, it needn’t be on his lap! Oakes is great though, with strong and almost pitying eyes washing over his wayward brother, King Edward.
David Oakes has it all, particularly clear diction and hair that flows out elegantly when he turns around. He frequently takes sharp breaths before his lines which lends a real urgency to his scenes, meaning he appears to be on the cusp of grabbing power at any moment. He is just sublime as the snubbed brother whose mask drops when the King leaves the room.
He gives us a coy smile like he’s flirting with politics. “We take France!” he announces. David Oakes is very commanding, and ensures that George takes his rightful place in authority. This smile turns embarrassed when Edward accuses him of counting Richard’s counties, yet Oakes never loses that dignity. When they do come to take France, it feels – thanks to Oakes’ performance – that George was a real driving force.
When holding the baby, Oakes’ villainous smile becomes even more sinister. Proof of Oakes’ talent can be found in that the quality of his performance is high when he is alone and when he shares the screen. Both with the baby and Isobel, a great pairing, he is adept. He shows real blustering confidence, “Why would he die?”, when Isobel suggests the fate may befall their next child, as though no one associated with George Duke of Clarence could ever be so weak. This of course ramps up the irony further but also offers a great insight into the character, all thanks to Oakes. When he poisons the dog – after stroking it with a well-judged mix of rough-handedness and adoration – Oakes opts for George to be as convincing a liar as Oakes is an actor. This is a good move that really highlights the strategist in him.
Love Thy Brother?
“And none shall divide us,” George contributes, with more than a hint of irony from David Oakes. The brothers’ fractious relationship has been the second core of The White Queen, and it comes to a head here. The scene in which he refuses to toast the King and Queen is performed with restrained swagger by Oakes; he is the most watchable aspect of a really watchable scene.
But the best scene – and I don’t just mean of the episode, I mean of the entire series – is the masked party, for which David Oakes deserves some sort of award. It is a disorientating, unnerving and vibrantly gothic sort of underworld, and then Oakes cuts through that with his convincing ranting fury. Unfortunately the camera neglects to follow him as much as I would like, but the snippets we do see are top notch acting. It’s like Hamlet. David Oakes would make a fantastic Hamlet.
His death is beautifully shot through the crimson wine and utterly devastating, but only because of all the hard work David Oakes has done for the last hour. “Has no one come to see me?” he asks. Yes, David, millions of viewers, and you were great.
Oakes is so appealing as an actor that he makes us root for him regardless of his villainy. This makes it doubly sad when he dies. Oakes shows all dimensions of George – from calm malice to bestial anger. It is for this reason there is no other option for this week’s MVA, and he will be sorely missed from the series.
Also, did I mention he is handsome?
The White Queen Airs Saturday at 9|8c on Starz