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Mary & George

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What it’s about:

Set in early 17th Century England, just after Queen Elizabeth I’s era, Mary & George dramatizes the scandalous true story of a widow from humble beginnings, Mary Villiers, who plots a new path to fortune and power by encouraging her charismatic young son to seduce the newly crowned King James I, the son of Mary Queen of Scots.

Names you might know:
Starz

Oscar-winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Boogie Nights) takes the lead as Mary Villier, and Nicholas Galitzine (Purple Hearts and the upcoming Anne Hathaway film The Idea of You) stars as her son George. The lovestruck King James is played by Scottish actor Tony Curran (The Outlaw King, Deadwood: The Movie). The seven-part series was adapted from the 2017 nonfiction book The King’s Assassin by Benjamin Woolley and created by playwright English DC Moore.

Why it’s worth your time:

Set in a breathtaking Jacobean-era England, Mary & George is a clever, dark and salacious
series that brings a much overlooked chapter of European history to vivid life. With bawdy and
often twisted humor that’s reminiscent of The Great, the Hulu series about Catherine The Great,

Mary & George’s richly drawn world can also be rough and raunchy – but always perfectly
timed. In the first scenes, baby George is accidentally dropped on the floor right after his birth by two maids. Mother Mary suggests that maybe he should just be left to rot on the ground; he is only a second son, after all, so he will inherit nothing. Then she takes a sharp turn into anger as she threatens the maids with their life for having dared to drop him.

From the intensity of the acting to the deadpan humor to the costume balls, the series drew me in from the start. What kept my interest was the plotting and tensions between mother and son. In the beginning, Mary wants to send George to France to learn etiquette and poise so he can find someone wealthy to marry. If he does not, she fears that he will never survive. George, on the other hand, is a sensitive soul who only wants to marry the household servant he is in love with.

The first episode really tugs on the heartstrings, as we see how absolutely ruthless life can be in
the 1600s. It informs the stakes, as each character’s hopes and intentions become greater than
a quest for just money and power. It is a fight for survival.

King James Court in England
Starz

The most eye-opening revelation is Mary’s most ambitious plan for her son: to seduce King James I, the monarch who ruled both Scotland and England. The man who launched the King James Bible was not so secretly gay, during a time when homosexuality was not only criminalized, it was massively taboo.

How she orchestrates her plan and gets her son on board is what propels the story. One of the things that really stood out to me was how alike mother and son are, with stubborn wills that cause some fascinating dynamics and fights. They ultimately share common goals, and we can see the potential for them to unite into something fierce. This is especially true when George first sets out to get King James to notice him, trying to outwit everybody else by following him to a place without crowds. Of course, every courtier and schemer has the same idea! George and his mother quickly realize that they are going to have to be more clever than the others, and it will take more than George’s pretty face to impress the king.

As the series unfolds, the chess game becomes more complicated with greater risks to Mary and
George as the stakes ratchet up. You will want to set a reminder for each new episode drop.

Watch it with:

The Borgias, about the rise of the first Borgia pope in Italy and his ambitious yet very scandal-plagued family, set in the 15th century (you can find it on Showtime).  Follow it with The Tudors, set in 16th century England and covering the reign of Henry VIII’s as he goes through six different marriages. (Also on Showtime).  The political and religious tumult that occurred during the eras of the Borgias and the Tudors set the stage for the reign of King James I.

Worth noting:

George & Mary is definite TV-MA for language, nudity, and violence. This includes full on graphic sex scenes with nothing left to the imagination. And when they say language, they mean it – it can be over the top. There are also some major heavy topics like domestic violence and suicide attempts and graphic depictions of all the injuries incurred.

Where to stream Mary & George:  Starz

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