Apparently this is a sequel to The Devil’s Whore, which I have to admit I haven’t seen much of. I started to watch it once, and for some reason never even got through the first episode. But after having watched this show, I’m starting to understand why the previous programme failed to hold my attention.
We start off in 1680, with some background text that tells us that Charles II has been restored to the throne and is ruthlessly hunting down the people who killed his father. Which you can’t really blame him for, right? One of the remaining regicides is in Massachusetts, so that’s apparently his next target. Seems like an awful lot of effort to go to to track down one guy when he has a lot to deal with back in England, but ok.
In the verdant hills of Hadley, Massachusetts, the colonists are having a meeting to complain to a blonde representative of the Hawkins Bay Company about how they keep having their crops ruined and livestock stolen by the natives. Well, maybe you shouldn’t have stolen the natives’ land to begin with, folks. Goldilocks is apparently the representative of the company, which is owned by his dad. A dark-haired young woman speaks up for the colonists, so we’ve got our Feisty Female Protagonist. The discussion is interrupted by a disembodied head being rolled up the aisle of the meeting house. Meeting adjourned!
Outside, natives are attacking. Dark Hair grabs a pistol, goes out, and starts shooting. She also uses a knife to gut one of them, and looks weirdly turned on by that. The natives’ tactics confuse me—if they wanted to get rid of this settlement, why not barricade everyone in the meeting house and burn it down? Why send the head in and then wait for the colonists to come out and fight? Did it just not seem sporting or something?
A guy with long white hair and a comically large buckle on a strap across his chest arrives on the scene and starts ordering everyone around, lining up a firing squad to take out a whole bunch of charging natives. The remainder turn and flee.
At the Tower of London, a man named Colonel Blood who apparently tried to steal the crown jewels is being interrogated, along with his son, by a man with a giant wig and supercilious air whom we all just know is aristocratic and eeeevil. The son claims the whole thing was his idea, but BigWig ignores him for a moment, then orders him to smile. Blood Jr does, so BigWig knows he can be ordered about. He recruits him to go to a house in Oxfordshire which he’s convinced is a nest of republican vipers. It’s the home owned by Angelica, who was the heroine of The Devil’s Whore. These days, apparently, she prefers to spend her time twirling around her garden with her teenage daughter, both dressed in their nightgowns. Yeah, that’s kind of stupid. No countess would be running around practically undressed outside like that. BigWig tells us that she has a papist husband, which is yet another strike against her.
BigWig goes to the king and tells him he’s sure Angelica is at the centre of a web of conspirators and that her letters should lead them to William Goffe, the last of the regicides. Charles orders him brought back alive so he can watch as his heart’s cut out. He also orders Angelica arrested. BigWig says they don’t have enough proof, but hopefully Blood Jr will provide it.
In the woods near Angelica’s home, three young men hunt down a dear, shooting it with a crossbow bolt and chasing it into the gardens of the home. Which they’re allowed to wander into in broad daylight, even though poaching was a hanging offense at the time. Sheesh. A young woman—maybe another daughter?—spots them as they come to collect their illegally obtained deer, and they call her over to dip her hands in the blood. The hell? She does, even though you’d think that any sensible woman would be running in the opposite direction from three armed, ragged strangers. The teen daughter—Beth—comes out and the other girl calls her over to do the hand dipping too, because allegedly the blood’s magic is good for the skin. Whatever, I still say this whole scenario is bizarre and highly unlikely on any number of levels. Beth approaches, and the one of the poachers slits the deer’s throat, spraying her with blood. Dick. Angelica comes out and orders the men away. One of them says this’ll feed some people for a week and adds that Edward Sexby wouldn’t have denied food to the hungry. Well, he’s not here, you’re dealing with Angelica now, dude. He asks to take the deer, promising to help Angelica in return someday. She spits that they won’t need his help, but he thinks they will, because allegedly the ‘chaos’ will envelop all of them. They walk away without their deer, and Beth asks her mom who Edward Sexby is. Angelica doesn’t answer.
Later, Beth’s finally gotten some clothes on. She fantasizes about the lead poacher for a minute, then goes up to an attic in her home, where she finds a trapped raven. She lets it out through a window, then spots a trunk that contains, amongst other things, a letter signed Edward Sexby. If Angelica was hoping to keep that person a secret, she did a lousy job of it.
Downstairs, her parents are taking a meeting with some man who wants to buy land from them to turn into clay pits. Angelica refuses to sell, because the people who work there are miserable. The guy hard sells by saying that the king wants bricks to build his lovely new London, so if they refuse to sell the land and deny him his bricks, they’re practically committing treason. That’s a serious stretch, there. Also, this scene is rife with some of the most awkward expositionary dialogue I’ve ever heard. And it’s not the only scene this episode that’ll be like that. Angelica still refuses to sell. And we learn that Charles’s bastard son, the Duke of Monmouth, is coming to visit, which apparently displeases Charles, who no longer trusts this son.
Beth takes Edward’s letter outside to read. Seems Edward was Angelica’s husband and he wrote the letter just before dying, presumably in some kind of battle. He urges her to call the child she’s carrying either Edward or Elizabeth, depending on the sex. Kind of convenient timing that Beth found this letter the very day someone first mentioned Edward to her, right?
Back in London, Blood Jr. gets his marching orders from BigWig, who tells him that Monmouth is travelling through the country, visiting other rich people with his friends and his advisor, the Earl of Shaftesbury. He’s also got some actors with him who enact the frankly ludicrous claim that Charles was actually married to Monmouth’s mother, Lucy Walter, which would mean Monmouth was a legitimate claimant to the throne. It’s a claim that never made any sense, because why would Charles, who never had children with his queen, Catherine of Braganza, not acknowledge a legitimate heir, who would have supplanted Charles’s Catholic brother, James, in the succession and kept England from a holy mess after Charles died? And Lucy Walter died long before Charles married Catherine, so it’s not like he was worried about being labelled a bigamist or anything. Anyway, it was a totally bullshit claim, and most people knew that, but of course Monmouth wasn’t going to admit that. And we now get to see this in play form, narrated really unnecessarily by some guy in the audience for his mask-wearing daughter, even though it would have been more graceful to have the actors narrate what’s going on. And what’s the purpose of this play anyhow? To win over people who are clearly already on your side? That makes sense.
While the poorer folk get their theatrical entertainment, Angelica and her family entertain Monmouth while Shaftesbury badmouths the king for his excesses. Angelica warns him against being a kingmaker and dragging the country back into civil war. Monmouth seems to be enjoying the company of Beth, whose birthday it is. Angelica’s husband drinks a toast to Beth, who calls for everyone to get the midsummer revels started. As they head out into the garden, the young woman wearing the mask presents herself to Monmouth and reveals she’s suffering from scrofula—the king’s evil—which could only be cured by the touch of the king or his heir, according to legend. Monmouth obligingly lays a hand on her and gives her a coin. Everyone applauds and he takes Beth’s hand and leads her outside.
Someone’s being tortured while BigWig tries to get information about some seditious pamphlet out of him. Blood Jr, who’s there for some reason, throws up and then asks what BigWig wants him to find at Angelica’s. This guy’s having the longest new employee orientation ever. BigWig wants him to find letters from Goffe, apparently. Off he goes.
Back in Massachusetts, the settlers regroup after the attack. Goldilocks goes into some building and is met by Dark Hair, with whom he appears to have a bit of a thing going on. She warns him that if he stays, he’ll become an enemy to the English king. He’s fine with that, and goes upstairs, where he finds Buckle, who introduces himself as Goffe. Thank god at least one of these people finally has a name. Goldilocks knows all about him. Dark Hair’s dad, the local reverend, tells Goffe he has to leave, quickly, because the king’s agents are in the neighbourhood. Dark Hair and Goldilocks are going to accompany him.
Off they go, crunching through snow, which, given it’s midsummer, seems a bit unlikely. They must be really high up in those hills. Goffe’s a crappy hiker. When they stop to make camp for the night, Goffe burns some letters that would be bad news for his friends back in England if they were found on him. He also asks the kids to send his ring back to his wife, if he dies in Massachusetts. He knows Goldilocks’s dad and calls him a land pirate. Goldilocks asks why he calls him that, when he buys land, rather than stealing it. Goffe reminds him that the land was totally stolen from the natives. He says that Charles Stuart was the biggest land thief of all and needs to be struck down.
Over in England, the midsummer party has been taken out to the garden. The three poachers watch for a bit, then put on masks, stroll into the garden, level a couple of pistols, and demand everyone’s jewellery. So, a potential king is out partying in the garden and these three guys were able to just walk right up and hold him at gunpoint? Ladies and gentlemen:
There would be armed servants or something nearby. These were fairly dangerous times, after all. And the family knew there were some bold poachers in the neighbourhood. No way would this have happened.
The leader tells Beth she can keep her jewels, since it’s her birthday, but she pulls them off and holds them out, daring the guy to cut her throat next. Oh please, drama queen. Such a teenager. Another one of the men is taking Monmouth’s rings, stupidly poking the bear by mockingly asking if he got his baubles from his mollie. Monmouth responds by reaching into the guy’s belt, grabbing his knife, and belly stabbing him. Poncy noble: 1, Outlaw: 0. Leader points his pistol at Monmouth, and Beth puts herself in between them. So, Leader grabs her and takes her hostage so he and his buddies can flee. And everyone just…stands around and lets this happen.
Massachusetts. The king’s reps have apparently arrived and demand the settlers surrender the regicide. Nobody speaks up, except some kid who asks if the angel will come again. It’s always some kid’s ill-timed comment that ruins things, right? The man in charge asks about this angel and the kid says he went and stayed with Pastor Russell. Russell says the man won’t be found in his house. He gets a gun butt to the face.
Goldilocks and Dark Hair talk about the natives. Dark Hair thinks they should just pack up and move west or something, because it’s that easy to leave the place your people have lived in for hundreds of years and acclimate to another area. The two of them are just wandering around for some reason. Where’s Goffe? They spot the king’s agent’s tracker, a native. Dark Hair kills and scalps him, so it’ll look like ‘one of his own kind’ did the deed. Dark Hair also tells us that the natives killed her mother. Ok, then.
Dogs and men on horses are sent out to track Beth, who’s being held hostage by Leader, who hides with her in the underbrush, a hand clamped over her mouth. But then he lowers the hand and they have A Moment. She demands to know what he knows about Edward Sexby. He tells her to ask her mom, but she says that’s clearly not going to do any good. He says his dad fought with Sexby, who died trying to kill Cromwell. She informs him that Sexby was her father.
Angelica stands in the garden, looking worried. Her other two daughters (presumably) join her. She kisses them, sends them back inside, and then sees that the window in that one attic is open. She goes upstairs and finds the Sexby letter missing from the trunk. Busted!
Out in the woods, Leader (Abe, I think?) derides Charles’s court and says that his father, whom he never knew, escaped to America to keep fighting the good fight. In a truly atrocious bit of writing, even for this show, Beth blandly observes that her world is a fairy tale, whereas his is…the woods. Jesus, did Stephanie Myers write this? This is like some of the worst YA drivel ever. Abe goes on to say he studied medicine, but he can’t practice because he’s the son of a regicide. Can’t you change your name or something? It’s not like there were ways to really check or track someone’s identity back then. He tells her to go on home. But, of course, she can’t do that because she’s fulfilling the Rich Girl Who Falls for Poor Guy trope. She asks how many live in the forest and he says there are many, because there’s nowhere for them to go. He accuses her of slumming and she reminds him that he stole her from her friends. She asks what he intends to do with her, ravish her? Darling, don’t give him any ideas. Also, he clearly intends to let you go, since he just told you to get on home. Heavens, she’s stupid. And none of this makes sense.
Someone rides through the night, and Monmouth takes aim with his pistol, fires, and actually manages to hit the guy. On a galloping horse. With a 17th century firearm. Sure. Also, is he just firing at random people? He demands to know where Elizabeth is, but the man says nothing. Monmouth orders him hanged.
Beth wanders through the woods, alone, and suddenly Abe comes out of nowhere and kisses her. What the hell is this? Are we supposed to believe this or buy into this ‘relationship’? This hasn’t been developed at all, not even a little! This is nonsense! He starts going on about being all in tune with the oppressed and tells her to open her eyes and see how bad life is for the great unwashed. They hear what sounds like a ship’s horn, which he claims is the ‘sound of the chaos.’ He takes her to see some raggedy poor people who look like leftover extras from Les Miserables tromping off to work in the clay pits. Abe says that this land used to be common land, available for all the locals to graze animals on, but now it belongs to a man named Hardwicke (presumably the guy we saw with Angelica and her husband earlier), who uses the poor to make bricks to make houses for rich people. ‘What world is this?’ Beth asks, weirdly and awkwardly. ‘This is the world we live in,’ Abe answers. Well, yes, clearly, Abe. She takes one last look and follows him to the path home.
The king’s representatives have found Goffe, who climbs to the very edge of a very high cliff. Guess killing that tracker was totally pointless, then. They corner him there, and he tells them they won’t be taking him back to be butchered on the scaffold. He jumps off the cliff as Goldilocks watches from below. Well, that was predictable.
Beth, presumably near home, blandly wonders how she should live. Abe kisses her and tells her that her heart will tell her. The actress playing Beth is easily one of the most boring actresses I’ve ever seen. There’s no conviction to anything she’s saying, and most of the time she does that annoying young actress thing of standing around with her mouth partly open, which makes her just look stupid.
Goldilocks makes it back to the settlement, where Dark Hair (her name’s Hope, apparently), tells him he’d better leave before he’s arrested for treason, as her father has been. She tells him to get in touch with Angelica for money and help and to warn him that Goffe has been found and she’s in danger. She hands over Goffe’s ring and gets on a cart to accompany her father to wherever he’s going. Goldilocks asks where he should look for this Angelica and Hope calls back that there’s a house in Oxfordshire. Well, thanks for that, Hope. There are many houses in Oxfordshire, it’s kind of a big place!
Blood Jr. finds Beth on the path and asks for directions to her home. She just stares at him.
Dear God this is horrible. HORRIBLE. So poorly written and poorly directed, with an unbelievably charmless cast of bland, pretty actors. I’m not even sure what the story is that I’m supposed to be getting invested in. The out of nowhere romance between Abe and Beth? The oppression of the poor? The arrest of Hope’s dad? What is this? Will part two be any better? Can it be worse? We’ll just have to see.