REVIEW: Will, S1 Ep5 – The Marriage of True Minds

This week’s episode of Will was all about family visits. Anne and the children came to London from Stratford for a surprise visit with Will, Topcliffe’s family came from one of their other estates to visit him, and well, Kit Marlowe just had an interesting time on his own.

This week’s main plot made use of my least favorite device ever: the love triangle. Anne and the kids came to London for a surprise visit and interrupt Will and Alice mid-coitus. Every time I see Will’s kids, I wonder how old he’s supposed to be. Someone like Laurie Davidson could probably still play a high schooler, considering that anyone 30 and under (and sometimes over) is “high school age” in Hollywood. His oldest kid has got to be at least 8 years old. I know he married Anne at 18, but still. Laurie Davidson looks way too young.

Anne quickly figures out that something more is going on between Alice and Will. Alice, however, is the one who breaks down in tears. Now I love Alice for everything she is and her ambitions – other than the romance with Will. But she’s the one who pursued Will after he told her he was married, and now she’s upset that his wife is in town. That killed her in this episode for me. She has so much potential, but instead the writers are making her one third of a love triangle.

Topcliffe’s family doesn’t seem to know quite the man he is. Certainly, they know that he is doing “the Queen’s work” in hunting down Southwell and other Catholics, but it seems that they know nothing of his true brutality.

While the family is visiting, Will comes to tell Topcliffe that he won’t write the play for him. Topcliffe overhears his daughter reciting the nursery rhyme “Mary Mary Quite Contrary” and that reminds him of something – the letter that (unbeknownst to him) Will brought to London. He asks Will for help in decoding the message there, but Will feigns ignorance and gets out of the house as fast as possible to warn Southwell that Topcliffe with soon find him.

The “Mary Mary” story seemed a little off to me, so I immediately went to Wikipedia. Topcliffe’s claims about the rhyme are as follows:

  • Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary: Mary, Queen of Scots, the Catholic Queen
  • Silver Bells and Cockle Shells: Her torture devices

Now, I’ve heard the theory that the nursery rhyme Mary is Mary, Queen of Scots before, so that didn’t seem too unbelievable to me. The torture device bit was what got me. I know that plenty of nursery rhymes have darker meanings, but I’d never heard anything so dark about this one before. Wikipedia agreed with me, saying that the silver bells are church bells and the cockle shells refer to her husband’s unfaithfulness. So while this is an imaginative interpretation of the rhyme, it also seems to not be one that has ever been accepted in popular culture.

I’m not even going to start to think about how potentially anachronistic use of the rhyme is, since the show takes place in 1589 and the rhyme’s oldest known version was published in 1744. I’ve digressed far too much already.

Topcliffe’s son is definitely a gentler soul than he is, as the show seemed determined to push in our faces. First, he’s a young boy with a sweet face: innocent and gentle. Second, his father gives him a fancy gun as a gift and he doesn’t know what to do with it: innocent and gentle. Third, he’s scared and stops his father in the middle of beating a Catholic: innocent and gentle.

Kit Marlowe is still determined to pursue more, especially after episode four’s experiment with opium and “looking into the flames.” This week, he seeks to die so that he can be resurrected. He is beaten and buried overnight, and I’m sure that this is going to lead to something more, but I just can’t figure it out yet.

The one character I’ve never really talked about is Presto, the little street boy who stole Will’s letter in episode one. The theatre finally caught him after he stole the dress, but that’s not very important in the grand scheme of things. In this episode, the madame at the brothel where his sister works saw him wearing the dress, and decided to recruit him for one of her customers who has different preferences. Presto isn’t given enough time for me to really love him. I know what he’s supposed to represent, but with the little thought that he’s given, I’m just not that interested. Yet.

While Will has been moving a in a good direction and I do have hopes for the show, this episode felt very stilted and uninspired. There was very little of the color and excitement that I have come to associate with the show’s unique style, and much of the plot of this episode seemed unimportant in the long run. And no, I’m not talking about literal color – there was plenty of that in Will, Anne, and the kids’ tour of London.

Sure, Will’s family issues are a problem, and Topcliffe’s son was used to show that Topcliffe wasn’t born sadistic – but I think we all already knew that. The most interesting thing to come out of this episode was Marlowe’s bizarre experience with drugs and death. And I still don’t understand that.

Will airs at 11 eastern on TNT.

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