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The White Princess (2017)

Starz
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/29/2017

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/21/2017

Looking back, aside from math, the subject which most failed to ignite my passion for learning was history. At the time, I thought that this was due to the fact that I was very much a modern, forward thinking person and had little interest in things from the past. Now, I realize that it may have had less to do with the subject matter than with the way in which it was presented. History has some fascinating and intriguing stories, and when the focus can be on the individuals involved, rather than simply on dates or locations, history truly can come alive, as corny as that my sound. 2013's The White Queen took a very detailed look at The War of the Roses and the battle for the British crown. This intense story now continues with The White Princess.

The White Princess picks up right where The White Queen left off. Having won The Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry Tudor (Jacob Collins-Levy) is crowned King of England. Dowager Queen Elizabeth (Essie Davis) is essentially arrested, and she and her daughters, including Lizzie (Jodie Comer) and Cecily (Suki Waterhouse), are taken to Court (just as Elizabeth sends her son into hiding, as she fears for his life). Once in Court, Elizabeth finds herself at odds with Margaret (Michelle Fairley), Henry's mother. It is then decided that Henry and Lizzie should wed, thus uniting the warring York and Tudor houses and mending a broken England. Lizzie is opposed to this idea, but knows that she has no choice. Therefore, she's forced into a marriage which she's forced to sabotage. Meanwhile, unrest persist throughout England, France, and Spain, as royals and peasants alike continue to question Henry's claim to the throne.

The White Queen introduced us to the world of treachery, lust, deceit, and violence which engulfed this ancient world and The White Princess takes the baton and keeps moving. Again, the major themes here involve the pursuit of power and how corrupting that can be. Margaret has devoted her entire life to seeing Henry gain the throne, and despite the fact that this has involved crimes as heinous as murder, she still sees herself as a pious person. (Also, despite the fact that she's married and yet constantly flirts with Jasper Tudor (Vincent Regan)). The spotlight in this season is on Lizzie, and her arc from innocent to tyrant is quite clear and also somewhat heartbreaking. She begins as a teenager who is devoted to her mother, a woman who has certainly had her share of ups and downs. And, as noted above, Lizzie is not in favor of marrying Henry. But, as she settles into her role as queen, she begins to enjoy the trappings of power and fortune and her decisions become less and less endearing. (Although, she does have two grand gestures which make her somewhat appealing.)

The other big thing in The White Princess is the question of who has the right to the throne. While Henry claims the throne based on his victory in battle, there are those who still believe that the next living York heir should be king. This leads to people being wrongly imprisoned so that they can't take the crown and the puzzle of who really is or isn't a York. From a historical perspective, this is quite fascinating, as the implication is that anyone could step forward and claim to be an heir and there would be those who followed them. This also leads to some of the saddest moments in the show, as we see people tortured and murdered just so Henry can maintain the throne.

The White Princess is a very impressive effort. As with many European productions, the show makes use of the castles and historical buildings in England. The sets and costumes are also rather elaborate, and one can follow the character's personality changes through the colors used in their clothes. The one drawback here is the same one which existed in The White Queen. There are so many characters, and so many characters who have the same name, that unless you are a historical scholar, things can get confusing. Characters and situation from The White Queen are mentioned offhandedly and I can imagine watching The White Princess without having seen The White Queen. (My recommendation would be to watch them back-to-back.) Even if it were seen as pandering to the audience, I wouldn't have minded some pop-ups to remind us who certain people are or what they are talking about. That aside, The White Princess is juicier than most modern-day soap operas and does a great job of bringing history to life.

The White Princess is all about locking people in towers on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Starz. The two-disc set contains all eight episodes of the series. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably blues and greens, and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The crispness of the image gives it a great amount of depth and the level of detail is notable. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The battle sequences deliver nice subwoofer effects and notable surround sound action. The surround sound effects work well in the Court scenes, as we can hear the chatter of the crowd from all sides.

The White Princess Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long