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Dead Man Walking. Episode 13 of Age of Kings, Reviewed

October 30, 2020
An Age of Kings: 'do I see three suns?' | SCREEN PLAYS

There’s a lot going on in this final Henry VI instalment. Here is Paul Daneman as Richard of Gloucester, a chipper, congenial villain with a 1970s Millwall supporter’s haircut.

I was taken aback at the very beginning by John Warner’s little comic turn as King Louis XI. I could have sworn I was watching Alan Cumming. The French king is wearing a very odd hat to reduce credibility. It’s a strange performance, in that it seems like a rather desperate attempt to extract comic potential from a scene that really has very little going for it from a humorous point of view.

Most magnificent in this episode, yet again, is Mary Morris as Margaret of Anjou. She looks truly resplendent in full armour and her speech, replete with maritime metaphors, on the eve of the Battle Tewkesbury is superlative in its icy over-articulation. Then her hopelessly beautiful but not very bright looking son Edward (John Greenwood) pipes up. It’s an odd thing – but I’d never before properly recognised the parallel between Edward’s eve of battle speech, in which he implores anyone who’s frightened to go home, and the same point made by Henry V on the eve of Agincourt. Edward is even told he sounds like his grandfather. The paradox is, of course, that the Henry VI plays were written some years before Henry V. It seems that a speech that works at Agincourt is not going to work at Tewkesbury. Sometimes, it seems, stirring speeches just aren’t enough.

Julian Franchise King Glover’s Edward IV is a fiery warrior and a wretched king, one of oh so many historical figures who think they want power but have no interest in governance. He is shouty and annoying. He can barely command his own brothers and indeed his reign illustrates the peculiar and distinctive violence of what you might call “Fratriarchy”. It is notable that both he and Henry VI, despite being utterly opposed personalities, incited rebellion as a result of an impolitic marriage.

Terry Scully, playing a king who is not yet fifty, has been made up to look so antiquated and skeletal that he looks like a version of the thing that played chess with Max Von Sydow three years earlier, albeit a version that Bergman might regard as too extreme and insist on toning down somewhat. Henry gets to croak out a prophetic blessing to the pre-pubescent Henry Tudor, who later gets to sit on the throne “just for fun”.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a better performance of the “I am myself, alone” speech that Richard declaims having just put poor Henry out of his long long misery. This is delicious close up acting and Daneman pulls of the consummate trick of attracting sympathy while explicitly repelling it.

As the closing titles roll, Clarence leans to far into a vat of wine and Richard has to pull him back laughing. The laugh immediately dissolves into a look to camera that instantly communicates the notion of a cunning plan.

I have some thoughts on other episodes in this series:

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

Episode Five

Episode Six

Episode Seven

Episode Eight

Episode Nine

Episode Ten:

Episode Eleven:

Episode Twelve:

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