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Review of the Royal Kill List - Joseph Fiennes, Sheila Atim, and Jared Harris will provide an exceptional and enjoyable experience.
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Review of the Royal Kill List – Joseph Fiennes, Sheila Atim, and Jared Harris will provide an exceptional and enjoyable experience.

Do you believe that the royal family has access to Sky television? And if they do, would a new docudrama about the Restoration be deemed as a highly entertaining viewing experience (“Let’s witness our revenge on the common people! Roll up for the show!”) Or do you think Queen Camilla would send a message to the household, reminding them to keep King Charles away from the remote until the program has been added to the platform’s archives (“Chuckyegg doesn’t need to be bothered at a time like this, understand”)?

They should watch it. Royal Kill List is great fun. It follows the same successful formula as Royal Bastards: The Rise of the Tudors, by the same people two years ago, which had the actors Sheila Atim, Philip Glenister and Sophie Rundle embody the warring houses of Lancaster, York and Tudor (you’ll never guess who wins), with their factual narratives rounded out by scripted dramatic scenes – using different actors – throughout.

Once again, Atim returns to represent the perspective of the royalists. Joined by Jared Harris for the republicans/regicides and Joseph Fiennes on Charles II’s side, this cast is top-notch. Rest assured, the narrative side of the equation is in capable hands. And for those who may have been concerned upon hearing about “scripted dramatic scenes” (a thinly veiled term for historical reconstructions), do not worry! These scenes are just as well-executed. It seems we have moved beyond the era where such recreations were unimpressive and hastily put together, with mediocre actors and shaky camera work.

Currently, everything is appropriate. A genuinely gruesome beheading (Camilla, divert his attention with the coronation images!), along with a credible portrayal of Charles II (Ashley Emerson) gradually straying from heeding wise counsel on how to be a capable ruler who could maintain control and guide the country towards stability, towards seeking brutal retribution. Various other relevant characters are fleshed out enough for us to perceive them as genuine and add depth to the narrative.

We are also aided by the fact that Royal Kill List moves at a quick pace. In the initial episode, we are introduced to the background of the civil war, witness Charles I being executed (Fiennes calls it “murder,” while Harris argues it was “the lawful execution of a war criminal”), and see the aftermath of Oliver Cromwell’s death and the void of power that he leaves. Parliament proposes a deal to the exiled son of the Stuart line – the opportunity to return and be king, but with the new concept of “parliamentary oversight.” He cautiously returns from his 14-year exile in Holland on his 30th birthday, surrounded by individuals with ulterior motives. As wigs and Dutch corsetry are discarded during multiple sex scenes, Fiennes remarks, “It’s been enjoyable, but he ultimately wants to be king.”

The boy is eager to see the 59 individuals who signed his father’s execution order also be put to death quickly. However, he is a more skilled politician than his father and initially holds back, influenced by the advice of Edward Hyde (played by Antony Bunsee). As Fiennes points out with a script that uses informal language too often, “that’s where this man comes in”.

Hyde persuades him that executing a token seven signatories would be the perfect compromise. But you can only fight for so long against the natural inclinations of a bereaved son who believes in his divine right, and so begins the hunt for the death warrant (lost between decapitation and coronation) and the men who signed it.

William Prynne, a zealous supporter of the royals, leads this group (skillfully portrayed by Gary Bates with a disturbing fanaticism). As the signatories contemplate their choices between staying and possibly facing martyrdom, Thomas Harrison (played by Jem Wall) longs for the former while Edmund Ludlow (Jonah Russell), the commander of the New Model Army, ultimately chooses to err on the side of caution, despite his fate being execution by hanging, drawing, and quartering. However, he promises to return.

Royal Kill List manages to be a thrilling adventure story while still conveying the seismic, country-changing scale of the events. The three-narrator device allows pauses for reflection and assimilation of everything being presented. It induces that rarest sensation – of being genuinely edified and entertained at the same time.

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Source: theguardian.com