Thursday, December 04, 2008

runnin' with the devil

how have i been spending the hours i haven't been blogging lo these last few weeks? why, by watching way too much british TV, of course. like the second series of the sarah jane adventures, which has been pretty fun, and my new favorite hit off the TV crackpipe, merlin ... but more on merlin later. and probs on sarah jane smith too, b/c i've been obsessing over her lately.

for now, howev, let's just stick to another thing that's been getting me through till the doctor who christmas special (less than a month away, w00t!): this miniseries called the devil's whore, a channel 4 historical drama about the 17th-century english civil war that focuses on a fictional aristocratic woman named angelica fanshawe (andrea riseborough). it has dominic west as oliver cromwell, michael fassbender as thomas rainsborough, and john simm as edward sexby (pictured at the top of this entry). john simm -- aka the master, aka DI sam tyler, aka cal mccaffrey, aka totes awes -- looks quite great with long hair and a beard, and a jaunty hat and a gnarly scar around his eye that you can't see in this photo. he gets totally beat up and disheveled in this show, and it's excellent.

everyone has wonderful hair, all wavy and messy curls and flowing, or even kinda greasy and gnarly, it still looks cool. the costumes are great, with lots of little buttons and many parts, and the fighting is excellent, a combination of swordplay and primitive guns. (although the indiscriminate slaughtering's not so great.)

the historical elements, however, have forced me to go to wikipedia and look stuff up, usually resulting in more time lost in the bowels of entries on sexby, cromwell, the new model army, charles I, the putney debates, and blah blah blah. if i'm not careful, i might actually learn something. but the show is mainly concerned with the incredibly pale angelica, who as a child got pissed off at god b/c her mother decided to go become a nun in france, and in a fit of pique demanded god strike her down if he really exists. you know, typical kids' stuff. anyway, angelica sees the devil up in a tree, lolling his tongue out at her. and this vision or whatever kind of sticks with her ... . it's some asshole man, of course, who labels her the devil's whore, but she's really just a human being who wants to be her own person. which as we know is a terrible crime for a woman to commit.

i just finished watching the third of four episodes, and angelica is shaping up to be quite the feminist. she's outspoken and independent, and one of her biggest early disappointments is how her beloved cousin and childhood friend, whom she marries, turns into this total macho asshole after the wedding. like he wants her to be silent during sex and obey her without question, and he scoffs at her for wanting her best friend back. (happily, he meets a bad end, and he deserves it.) she is often cornered by the patriarchal rule of the day, but she never goes down without a fight, which changes her, but she always does what she has to do and never loses her sense of self. even when she faces execution, she won't apologize for her alleged crimes, giving a speech to her tormenter about how HE'S the whore -- brilliant.

but angelica's drama shares the stage with the drama of the times, including cromwell being a bastard and the army riding about arresting the king and suchlike. in any case, john simm plays this mercenary type who kind of pines for angelica, but she's usually hooked up with some other dude. i can't really say they're made for each other, but he does fall in love with her while still seeing her as a person, and ultimately he manages to be OK with her being her own woman ... even though it's not easy for him. they're both outsiders who keep trying to find a place in the world. the real sexby seems to have been, well, much different, but whatev. it's tv. on the war side of things, he sees so much killing that he actually gets sick of it, even though in the beginning it's all he lives for, is the fight.

anyway, a couple of my fave moments so far are when sexby laughs after telling angelica that charles thought he could flee to scotland and find refuge, but the scots sold him to parliament. she doesn't think it's funny, but it is! another cool scene is after a battle, when the wounded sexby is lying there in the misty night, and he sees all the dead men's souls stand up and walk away. this show isn't very supernatural at all, but that little touch was niftily surreal. and the way angelica escapes execution is fairly spectacular too. it all wraps up next week, and i'm looking forward to it.

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