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Mary & George Series Premiere, April 5, 2024, Starz

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Starz Acquires UK Drama Mary & George

In Starz limited series Mary & George, premiering on April 5, we are transported to the decadent and treacherous world of 17th-century England, where a power-hungry mother, Mary Villiers (Julianne Moore), schemes to propel her son, George Villiers (Nicholas Galitzine), into the bed of King James VI and I (Tony Curran). Based on Benjamin Woolley’s book The King’s Assassin, the show explores the rise of a charismatic young man and his manipulative mother as they navigate court intrigue, sexual politics, and their complex relationship.

The series, created by D.C. Moore and directed by Oliver Hermanus, presents a unique take on history, blending fact and fiction to showcase the infamous affair between George Villiers and the king. The show delves into the lengths to which Mary is willing to go, including sending George to France to learn the ways of courtly love and seduction, all to secure her family’s future and enhance her own influence.

The early episodes focus on George’s transformation from a rebellious teenager to a cunning political operative. We see him struggle with his identity, his sexuality, and the weight of his mother’s ambitions. Nicholas Galitzine portrays George’s character with a nice mix of naivety and growing self-assurance, capturing the nuances of a young man finding his place in a cutthroat world.

Julianne Moore’s performance as Mary is a standout. She embodies the complexities of a woman driven by ambition and a mother’s instinct for survival. Moore navigates the character’s ruthless determination and her softer moments with equal skill, showcasing Mary’s unapologetic pursuit of power and her ability to manipulate those around her.

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The show also features strong performances by Tony Curran as the mercurial King James, Laurie Davidson as the Earl of Somerset, and Niamh Algar as Sandie, a prostitute with a secret past. The dynamic between Mary and King James is particularly intriguing, as the king, known for his preference for young men, finds himself both enamoured with and manipulated by George.

The series is unapologetically lustful, with a focus on the sexual dynamics of the era. It embraces its salacious premise, presenting a world where “bodies are just bodies,” and the characters use their physical attributes to gain power and influence. The show doesn’t shy away from depicting the bacchanalian nature of court life, with frequent displays of skin and sexual encounters.

While Mary & George is primarily a historical drama, it also incorporates elements of comedy and tragedy. The dialogue is laced with witty profanities and ribald humour, providing a refreshing take on the traditional costume drama. The narrative arc is a headlong rush to tragedy, as the characters’ machinations lead to an unrelenting rush to destruction, mirroring the decline of King James’ reign.

Mary & George airs on Friday, April 5, 2024, at 9:00 PM on Starz.

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Andrew Martins, reviewer, recapper, deep diver, scifi specialist. Thinks Blakes 7 is better than Star Trek. Yes I do go to fan conventions and no I don't dress up. Well okay maybe I do a bit.

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