REVIEW: Will, S1 Ep 3 – The Two Gentlemen

I have to admit, Will is growing on me with each episode. There’s now more things I like (or at least don’t mind) than things I hate. Although one thing has stayed constant: I hate the Will/Alice relationship.

The third episode of TNT’s new series about punk rock Shakespeare explored Will’s struggles with writing, delved deeper into his Catholicism, and made an even greater enigma of Kit Marlowe.

The big event of episode three is Will’s writer’s block. He struggles to finish his new play, and then it is heavily criticized once it is complete. He loses his job with the theatre, loses his apartment, and, seemingly, loses hope.

I actually really loved seeing Will’s plays get criticized. I was so worried at first that the show was going to feature the cliche about a simple country boy who moves to the big city and immediately becomes a star. Instead, we get to watch him struggle; we see his his lack of experience win out over his innate talent. While it seems that the historical Shakespeare never lacked for ideas, this is one change that I can fully stand behind.

Alice and Will work on his new play late into the night

Will has no problems with poetry, but instead has trouble with the story. Alice Burbage comes to his aid, allows him to pour over her father’s collection of plays, and even steals the book from which Will draws inspiration for his next play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Throughout most of this episode, I really began to love Alice Burbage. I’ve always loved the idea of what she represents – the educated, intelligent woman in a world where women are expected to be nothing more than mothers, wives, and daughters. In fact, in this episode she delivered a wickedly self-aware speech about how reading and education are useless pursuits, especially for a woman.

So really, there was no reason for me to dislike her from the start – except for my hatred of the cheap forbidden love/cheating storyline, which I will admit I blamed on her. This could prompt a whole additional conversation about internalized misogyny and how though Will was more culpable in this situation, I chose to hate on “the other woman” – but for now, I’ll just say that it happened. I disliked her for what Will was, arguably, more to blame for.

I thoroughly enjoy their scenes together. The chemistry is definitely there. And were this a story about an unmarried man, I would ship those two so hard. But it’s not. Will is married, and in episode three, while Will tried to ignore temptation, Alice came on to him. I’ll admit, it made me feel slightly better for hating on her earlier. With so many other options to make Will sexy written by the man himself, I don’t know why the show is turning to this.

Due to Will’s writing and money struggles, he turns to his cousin, the most wanted man in London, Robert Southwell (Max Bennett). This character is tricky. I don’t know if this is a directorial decision, or how Bennett is choosing to play Southwell, but he seems shady. Obviously, from the perspective of Topcliffe (Ewen Bremner) Southwell is shady, but I was surprised to get an uncomfortable vibe from the Catholics, whom I assumed would be the opposite of the Protestants (and they are certainly not painted in a good light).

The home that Southwell (as “Mr. Cotton”) had been hiding in was raided, thanks to Kit Marlowe’s tip to Topcliffe. Luckily, they were warned ahead of time – also by Kit Marlowe – and were able to vacate the premises.

I knew from the start that Marlowe was going to be the most interesting character. He was the only one I haven’t understood, even in small part, due to his unpredictability. He is at times an arrogant, entitled, aloof man; while at other times, he is thoughtful and caring. Marlowe is an enigma, at once both self-centered, and the watchful guardian. He seems to have more than enough issues of his own. Plus, it looks like the man really knows how to throw a party.

I still can’t say that I love Will yet, but I do like it well enough. It’s got just enough drama and intrigue to keep me coming back for more, and my lack of historical knowledge is really helping me to ignore the parts of the show that are more fiction than fact.

Will airs at 9/8 central on TNT. You can stream the first six episodes on TNT’s website here.

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