Samantha Morton, a living legend, stars in Starz's The Serpent Queen, a dramatic recreation of the reign of the French queen Catherine de' Medici. As someone who has seen practically all of the network's historical dramas, The Serpent Queen manages to feel like a refreshing change of pace.
Though breaking the fourth wall by "talking to the screen" has long been a common technique in movies of all kinds, Fleabag took it to a whole new level. Everything from Enola Holmes to the newest Persuasion adaption has shown the effects of that, including the aftermath. The Serpent Queen is currently doing it well, despite the fact that it wasn't well accepted in the latter.
The idea is that we are just before Charles IX, the second son of Queen Regent Catherine de' Medici, is crowned. She needs a new maid and is replacing all of the servants. She eventually becomes attached to Rahima, a young Black servant. Catherine tells Rahima the tale of her rise to the position of Queen despite being deemed unattractive as a young orphan from a wealthy commoner family.
What makes this intriguing is that Catherine is a morally dubious character, in contrast to many of the noblewomen we follow throughout these historical tales. They don't have to be concerned about making her likeable or pitting her against a woman in a pointless argument. The story even shows compassion for her historical opponent Diane de Poitiers (played by Ludivine Sagnier).
"She is virtually demonised in history as this incredibly sinister figure, and she did commit some very heinous acts during her lifetime. But I believe that throughout history, when men have had to make difficult choices, whether [as] the commander in chief of an army or a nation, they are frequently exalted. However, when women engaged in the same behaviour, they were labelled as witches, harridans, or Babylonian whores. She was so ferociously intelligent, which I liked. Playing this powerful woman with weaknesses and vulnerabilities—a character that is typically designated for men—was really exciting to me because it gave her a deep and unique personality. That's what challenges you as an actor every time.
In these tragedies, the morality is frequently centred around a character who is either already well-known or connected to significant historical people. But like The Borgias, The Serpent Queen manages to flirt with historical reality and the villainy of the figures while simultaneously showcasing their humanity. You don't have to support them if you don't agree with what they're doing. Additionally, they have refrained from making Catherine become some sort of "female boss" because it is possible for women to be strong without being forced into combat while expecting.
I'm sick of constantly being battered down by the same Tudor Royal era. There is a weariness from Becoming Elizabeth having come and gone without being replenished (and they should have made it about Mary I anyway). Moving away from the British royal family will help us concentrate on some more nuanced individuals.