‘Becoming Elizabeth’ Season 1, Episode 4 Recap

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Become Elizabeth

Light up our darkness

Season 1

Episode 4

Editor’s Note

5 stars

Photo: Nick Briggs/Starz Entertainment

This show props for his refusal to bow to made-up history in the name of salacious history – he knows that Tudor history is salacious enough on its own. I’m sick of historical fiction that delves into rumors like Anne Boleyn committing (almost) incest when lies like that were spread to gratify the wishes of an asshole king. We are not dependent on Henry VIII for patronage! We owe him nothing! There are two stone legs without a trunk in the desert! I continue in my delight with how this series fills in historical gaps using clever guesswork but refrains from ridicule.

That being said, if I get really angsty “We can only be together, even if we want to” between Mary and Pedro, I’ll be so happy.

Elizabeth is with Kat Ashley’s sister, after being exiled from Catherine Parr’s household. Kat’s sister’s husband is Sir Anthony Denny, who was groom to Henry VIII, and yes, he was in charge of ‘assisting the king in excretion and hygiene’. Anthony’s wife, Joan, was also good friends with Catherine Parr, so while it sounds like a “hustling for a place to stay” situation, she was still someone related to Catherine.

As we all feared, Elizabeth’s period is late. Kat realizes what happened at home and says they will both lose their minds if people find out. But we also learn that Elizabeth is subject to irregular menstruation, therefore. It could just be the stress of the extremely stressful situation in which she finds herself. While we don’t have definitive proof that Elizabeth and Thomas had IRL sex, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If so, and she witnessed these consequences, as well as the extremely dangerous fate that marriage and sex brought on her mother, three of her subsequent stepmothers, her sister, and virtually every woman living at this time, it would make sense for her to later avoid both things like hell. Except for that time in her twenties where she may have been fooling around with Robert Dudley, but we don’t have to. go there right now.

Back at the Seymour house, Catherine is very close to her due date and Jane Gray is still staying with them. Catherine and Thomas remain close to the king, proclaiming him “the new Josiah”. Edward celebrates the publication of the common prayer book, which further shifted the country towards Protestantism. Edward reads a prayer and everyone applauds him, which is quite funny in the context of formal 16th century Protestants. Edward looks like a tiny Henry VIII. (It is not a good thing.)

Catherine loses it to Thomas because Elizabeth writes to her every week, begging for forgiveness, and Catherine cannot bring herself to answer her. She rightly criticizes Thomas for having made her lose compassion for a child. “A CHILD, Thomas! Yes! Exactly that. Catherine may not be able to respond to Elizabeth’s letters, but (1) it would truly show Herculean strength, and (2) she is aware that this teenage girl Thomas is picking on is, indeed, a child. Thomas, who then goes straight to the lovely Jane Grey? Leave the children in your house alone, Thomas!

Meanwhile, the men ransack the Catholic churches for their gold because of Edward’s growing Protestant fanaticism and Somerset’s need to fund the war. A priest loses an eye and is called a “dirty Catholic whore” when men steal his candelabra. When the priest later reports this to Mary, he tells her that the men stole the chantry’s gold, and she looks horrified. Being a Presbyterian, I didn’t know what that meant, but apparently a chantry functioned as a “trust fund” for the individual church. There is more than that, but above all we must know that this act impoverished the churches and also stole the prayers of the dead. If, you know, you believed in that, which the Catholics of that day certainly did.

Mary visits Elizabeth at Cheshunt Manor, and I continue to to like this depiction of Mary as someone other than a half-mad, paranoid religious fanatic. She and Elizabeth walk the grounds, and when Elizabeth thinks Mary is angry at her letter, Mary clarifies that she is angry at Elizabeth for leaving herself open to the exact thing that Mary Told she would arrive. This is such a brother or close friend argument! I know I’m a sucker for the sibling dynamic, but it’s also so great to see this brief period where they all at least loved each other, especially as the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth come together. feel so lonely in comparison. Here, Mary is the older sister trying to help, and Elizabeth thinks she knows best. Mary admits that Elizabeth is probably smarter than she is but Mary has more (legitimate) experience. Mary has seen so much more than Elizabeth, primarily what happened at the whim of their incredibly mercurial father.

Elizabeth tries to tell Mary what happened at the Seymours, and Mary tells her not to give her the power to know this story. WHAT, I LOVE. It’s very Galadriel with the One Ring. Mary does not want Elizabeth to give her the ability to destroy it and then asks her not to use it. It’s prescient given what’s to come later, so great job, Mary. Also, wow, self-awareness. I’m such a fan.

Mary bonds with Edward at court by watching a cockfight. Thanks, I hate that. In the end, a bird died. It’s still used for entertainment around the world, but I’m happy to report that it’s a felony in almost every US state, because, you know, it’s a “sport” where animals kill each other. Either way, Edward is excited because his killer bird is the winner. During the fight, we discover that Pedro is a spy (nooo!) for Somerset. Pedro is upset, however, because he thought his spying would help end the rift between Catholics and Protestants. Disillusioned, he confesses his status as a spy to Mary. He says he became a mercenary because she is “the only player in this game who cares about the rules”. He’s waited his whole life for men to show themselves honorable, and now he’s met her. OMG. I love them.

It’s a heavy episode of Mary (yay!) because, in the middle of it all, she has a conversation with Catherine. When Mary asks what happened at home, Catherine tells her that in villages, when women gossip, they tie their mouths, and maybe Catherine should suggest it to the king. Damn, Catherine, did you come out of the portal with that one? Mary mocks Thomas (fair), and Catherine at least says she chose him instead of someone choosing for her (yeah, but… him?).

Oh, also, in the middle of all the cockfighting and gossip hallway conversations, Robert Dudley almost punches Henry Gray in the face for saying that Elizabeth is the daughter of a whore. His dad pulls him away and basically says, So you’re in love with Elizabeth. It’s not good. Robin does a very unconvincing “We’re friends, dad.” He goes out to visit her, however, and after a cute bonding moment, he mounts his horse, looks at her, and says, “Shit.” See, this is the true love story of the series. Well, that and Mary/Pedro.

Elizabeth got her period! No terrifying pregnancy that she would be forced to carry to term because there were no safe abortions back then, that was almost five hundred years ago. (Wow, I’m sure things have changed for the better in that regard, and we don’t have to deal with the horrible results of a forced pregnancy.) Catherine, however, has the baby she was afraid of. he kills her, and It does. (Side note: did you know that in 2020 the maternal mortality rate for black women was almost three times that of white women? And the rates have gone up for both? Wow sure glad those facts are considered now, in our most enlightened age.)

Damn, I’m gonna miss Catherine Parr. She and Elizabeth could have thrown Thomas in a ditch and lived together! Catherine could have advised Elizabeth on court policy since she survived Henry VIII’s perilous orbit. Instead, we have to face Thomas lamenting how tortured he is and how much better it would have been if his sister and wife had just died immediately, instead of looking like they were fine. .

Elizabeth receives Catherine Parr’s house, and she returns to find her letters to Catherine with the seals broken. She knows that Catherine has read them! Elizabeth goes to court to beg Edward’s forgiveness for her absence and to prove that the rumors that she was pregnant are false. As she kneels, we simultaneously see Mary holding a mass for Catherine Parr. Bishop Gardiner tells her that this will fan the fires at court, and Mary replies, “Let them burn.” Foreshadowing! Edward forgives Elizabeth. When Robin congratulates her on her rehabilitation, she tells her that the girl she once was was an idiot and that girl is dead. BOOM. Nobody sings “I’m Not That Girl” by Nasty – it’s inappropriate for this moment and I don’t know why you even think about it.

Just to cap Elizabeth’s stress for this episode, Thomas leans in at the last moment and whispers, “Marry me.”

Fuck you, Thomas!


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