TV Review: The Serpent Queen, Episode 1 + 2

I sample the first couple of episodes of The Serpent Queen and if there’s not as much Samantha Morton as I was expecting, Liv Hill more than makes up for it 

“I would like somebody to…distract me”

Leading heavily with its promotional images of the brilliant Samantha Morton, it was something of a surprise that the first couple of episodes of The Serpent Queen feature her basically as a supporting player. That’s because this raucous take on the life and times of Catherine de’ Medici features a good deal of flashbacks to her early years, where Catherine is played by Liv Hill who, fortunately, is entirely complementary in her acting style to suggest that she could grow up into Morton.

Showing on Starz and created by Justin Haythe from Leonie Frieda’s biography Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, the show follows that channel’s historical ventures with its Philippa Gregory adaptations but is closer kin to the anarchic spirit of The Great (which I’ve started but not yet finished) as it attempts to blow the dust off period dramas. And on this evidence, it looks set to be an entertaining addition to the genre.

We first meet Catherine as a much-feared Queen of France whose unexpected connection with new servant girl Rahima leads her to telling the story of her girlhood. Traded by her uncle Pope Clement VII (a wonderfully dry Charles Dance) into the French royal court as a marriage prospect for second son Henri, she soon realises her intelligence will be the key to her survival as she battles frenemies (Ludivine Sagnier’s delicious Diane de Poitiers), brattish brothers-in-laws and brutal fathers for Henri’s attentions. I’m hoping it maintains this level.

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