The Medici Bitch
For those wanting one more dose of Medici history, need look no further. The Serpent Queen premiered on STARZ on September 11, 2022. The show tells the story of Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France who led a very tumultuous life.
From being born to the most hated family in Europe to being one of the most powerful figures of the 16th Century, Catherine de Medici was a powerhouse. The show stars Samantha Morton in the titular role, Liv Hill as young Catherine, Charles Dance as Pope Clement VII, Antonia Clarke as Mary, Queen of Scots, Alex Heath as young Henry, etc. The show is based on the 2004 non-fiction book by Leonie Freida titled ‘Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France’.
Episode 1 of The Serpent Queen titled ‘The Medici Bitch’ shows Catherine de Medici’s childhood and how she came to marry Henry I. The episode opens in the present with the queen dressed in all black and preparing for her son, Henry II’s, coronation.
A maid is summoned to give the queen her breakfast. The maid, whose name is revealed to be Rahima, is referred to as ‘It’ by the other maids and house help. The queen catches the maid’s attention and narrates a story of how she rose from a regular noblewoman to the Queen of France. She offers her an orange but the maid is reluctant as she has heard nasty rumours about the Queen. The Queen eats a slice herself to prove that it is safe, and offers the rest to Rahima who soon gobbles it down.
The young Catherine is very steadfast, and always finds her way around because of her smart brain. The character often breaks the fourth wall and interacts with the audience, making them feel more involved in the story. She walks through the highlights of her adolescence where she was subjugated to bad treatment, ill fate and no voice of her own.
Catherine is transferred to a church where she grows up into a fiery teenager. She is hit by a blind nun for stealing an orange. Catherine is sought out by the Pope as he has arranged for her marriage to Henry I, the next in line to the throne of France.
The Pope and the Italians are at a weak spot as they have no resources for the carrying on their luxuries or to engage in another war. Hence they arrange this marriage to strengthen their political standing. The preparations for Catherine’s wedding procession soon begin. She is inspected by a man to check if she is ‘intact’.
Catherine is smart as she points out that since she is not beautiful, they must allure the French with a grand show.
The wedding procession reaches France and they are greeted by the French royalty. Henry is out jousting with the soldiers. Diane de Pontiers, Catherine’s cousin, constantly gives her tips on how to behave when she is around Henry.
When introduced to her groom-to-be, Catherine is taken by the charms and innocence of her young husband. She falls in love at first sight. Catherine and Henry get married, but the marriage is not a success because on their wedding night, Henry kicks her out of their bedroom after a round of ‘jousting’. When Catherine goes back, she finds Henry in a compromising position with Diane de Ponteirs, her cousin and also Henry’s mistress.
The scene cuts to the present as the Queen gives Rahima words of advice. She says that after that incident with her husband, she learned to trust no one. She then commands her soldiers to take away the maid. The episode ends with the Queen smiling as she sees that an orange is missing. The maid is put in a holding cell and she laughs as she whips out the orange from her skirt pocket.
The Episode Review
Despite being 47 minutes long, the series moves quickly through the microscopic issues that build up the story. The opening segment is only a few seconds long but works its magic of creating an eerie suspense around the Serpent Queen.
The actors play their roles perfectly. The costumes and the set reflect the medieval ages and the exuberant lifestyles of the rich with a nuanced taste.
Samantha Morton’s appearance in the first episode was limited, for it focused more on Catherine’s early years. But her movements, her dialogue delivery, and even the way she speaks with her eyes are a treat to watch.
Catherine de’ Medici was allegedly known to be involved in the occult arts and Samantha Morton’s appearance certainly gives off that vibe. It remains to be seen how the makers portray the infamous queen’s life in the forthcoming episodes. If the first episode is anything to go by then the viewers are sure in for a treat!
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!