I had a more successful movie weekend this week than I had the week before. No, I didn’t do a Lord of the Rings rewatch. I’m waiting until I can get the extended editions from the library (they were checked out). I went the historical fiction route, a miniseries that on Amazon is called The Devil’s Mistress (on IMDB it has a different title that might keep this post from being suitable for all ages, which is probably why Amazon changed it). It’s about the English Civl War, a period I’ve only recently started learning about, and is the kind of historical drama in which a fictional character manages to interact with all the major historical players (with some of the real people being altered with dramatic license).
It’s about a young woman in the court of Charles I whose life is upended by the conflict between the king and Parliament, and she ends up on just about every side in the conflict at various times, not because she’s fickle but because everyone she aligns with ends up betraying her. I was intrigued enough by the things that were going on that I started reading up on it all, and it seems like there were no real “good guys” in that war. Both sides seemed pretty obnoxious and trampled the people who might actually have been good.
It was one of those things where most of the cast were at least mildly familiar faces. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, there was some amusement to be had because Peter Capaldi played Charles I and John Simm played a mercenary who ended up fighting for Cromwell, so in a way we had another round of the Doctor vs. Master conflict (though this series was made long before Capaldi was the Doctor, but I guess around the time Simm was playing the Master).
There were a few scenes in which it verged on being the kind of romantic fantasy adventure I’ve been looking for, if only there had been even a tiny magical element. At one point in the story, the heroine has been betrayed by the side she was on at the time and has pretty much hit bottom. A wealthy man tries to rape her, she kills him, and then she puts on his clothes to be able to travel disguised as a man. She comes across the mercenary who at one time had been hired to guard her, who’s been captured by enemy soldiers, and she rescues him. The two of them end up traveling together and working as highwaymen, with much swashbuckling. The whole “woman dressed as man, avenging herself against the men who wronged her and her family at the side of a man who’s secretly in love with her” would make an excellent basis for a rollicking adventure. But it’s only one part of this story that’s more about the history and how ordinary people in this era were affected by the conflict, as well as exploring the various factions that arose in the vacuum of a king.
If you’re into costume drama, this one’s worth watching for the cast, the costumes (such lovely gowns!) and the history, but you may find yourself imagining an alternate story about the lady highwayman.