ORBzine - The Devil's Whore (2008) TV Review

[Season 1: The Devil's Whore (2008) !Season 2: New Worlds (2014) ]

The Devil's Whore (2008)

Season 1

The Devil's Whore (2008) The Devil's Whore (2008) [Season 1, Episode 1]
Shown 19th November 2008

The title character is Lady Angelica Fanshawe ( Andrea Riseborough ), an aristocratic girl who has visions of the devil - although that is not how she gets her nickname.

The other main character is Edward Sexby (John Simm - Dr Who (2005) ). He is a mercenary, veteran of the Thirty Years War in Germany, who is summoned to England to serve Prince Rupert (Harry Lloyd - Brave New World ). Rupert assigns him to Angelica's fiance, and he becomes her bodyguard of sorts.

The key event in the episode is the public flogging of John Lilburne, a Leveller who published political pamphlets about the corruption of the King and his High Church (pro-Catholic) courtiers. Angelica is a rich girl who is always soft-hearted towards poor people and those less fortunate than herself, so this opens her eyes but does little to really alter her viewpoint. The real character development is for Sexby himself, who starts as a cynical mercenary who lives to fight. By the end of the episode he has deserted the Royalist cause on a whim, joined the Parliamentary side for money, and somehow become a die-hard Leveller himself. In fact, this character is based on a real-life soldier who was a key Leveller ... but that man was never a mercenary for the Royalist cause, and thus never made such an unbelievable transition.

Angelica has Sexby take her to visit Lilburne in prison. There she meets Thomas Rainsborough (Michael Fassbender - X-Men: First Class ) and Oliver Cromwell (Dominic West - Punisher: War Zone ), who feature heavily in the storyline.

King Charles I (Peter Capaldi - Dr Who (2005) ), offended by the talk of the Levellers and Parliament, starts the English Civil War. This story totally ignores the wars in Ireland and Scotland, which were vital in the understanding of the causes of the English war.

The Devil's Whore (2008) The Devil's Whore (2008) [Season 1, Episode 2]
Shown 26th November 2008

After the events of the previous episode, Angelica Fanshawe ( Andrea Riseborough ) is homeless, penniless and starving. Her one career choice is to become a camp follower, although she is too naive to unedrstand this. So when Joliffe (Tim McInnerny - ) and his friend offer her a bed for the night, she accepts without any thought as to the consequences. This basically sets up her storyline for the rest of the show. In fact, we can consider the first episode to consist simply of setup and introduction to the main characters. This is when the real storyline starts.

Angelica, wanted for murder, steals her victim's clothes and flees. By incredible coincidence she bumps into Edward Sexby (John Simm - Dr Who (2005) ), who has deserted from the Parliamentary army. Yes, this is the second army he has deserted from.

Colonel Thomas Rainsborough (Michael Fassbender - X-Men: First Class ), a devout leveller like Sexby, is also interested in Angelica. He garrisons his soldiers in her family's castle, and she becomes his woman of her own free will. His aim is to become her second husband, although he knows that her previous marriage did not end well.

General Oliver Cromwell (Dominic West - Punisher: War Zone ) blames everything on Parliament. He teams up with his Leveller friends, Rainsborough and Lilburne, with the idea of a military coup to replace Parliament. Instead of a new election, Cromwell wants to appoint Godly men. Lilburne supports a free and fair election, although Cromwell realises that such an election would bring about a Tory government which would support the return of the King.

Joliffe, now one of the corrupt Members of Parliament, uses his status to have Angelica arrested. Rather than let justice take its course, Sexby tampers with the case by kidnapping Joliffe's innocent daughter.

The Devil's Whore (2008) The Devil's Whore (2008) [Season 1, Episode 3]
Shown 3rd December 2008

The twice-widowed Angelica Fanshawe ( Andrea Riseborough ) gives birth in prison, assisted by Mrs Lilburne ( Maxine Peake ). Joliffe will have her executed, which happens in tandem with another important execution.

General Oliver Cromwell (Dominic West - Punisher: War Zone ) presides over the trial of King Charles I (Peter Capaldi - Dr Who (2005) ). As we all know, the King is sentenced and beheaded.

Cromwell needs his army ready to liberate Ireland from the Irish, so he offers Sexby the Colonelcy that once belonged to Rainsborough. That is not all of Rainsborough's that Sexby wants, so he proposes to Angelica. She accepts, if only because her next career move requires her to be married. Having faked her death she reinvents herself as Mrs Sexby, and joins the Diggers, an ultra-radical sect like the Quakers who are the political equivalent of Far Leftists.

Cromwell and Sexby conquer Ireland. As was made clear in previous episodes, in this period the laws of war stated that the destruction of a besieged town or castle meant the execution of the entire garrison. However, this episode depicts fictionalised a massacre of non-combatants that comes from propaganda that exaggerated the executions with the political aim of besmirching Cromwell's reputation.

John Lilburne was imprisoned first by the Episcopalian King, then by the Presbyterian Parliament. Now he is put on trial by the Puritans of Cromwell. Yes, no matter who rules England he is always too radical. Or, another way to put it is that he is never satisfied and will always stir up trouble no matter how sympathetic the rulers are.

The Devil's Whore (2008) The Devil's Whore (2008) [Season 1, Episode 4]
Shown 10th December 2008

Angelica hangs out with the Ranters, and becomes a leader among them. She does not realise that Joliffe is aware of her survival, and he has a plan to dishonour and arrest her. Luckily, her abandoned husband Sexby is still stalking her. While she no longer sees visions of the Devil, Sexby seems haunted by visions of Thomas Rainsborough.

Cromwell is still worried about the Levellers. His spies tell him that John Lilburne is conspiring with the Royalists, which sounds extremely unlikely, but Cromwell decides to take this threat seriously. He tries to recruit Sexby to his side, but Sexby still prefers the ultra-extremist Levellers over the merely extreme Cromwell.

Cromwell gets sick of the prattlings of the corrupt Joliffe and his friends. His next move is another Purge, when he uses the army to clear out his Parliament. He also has Lilburne imprisoned without trial. But worst of all, Sexby assumes Cromwell was responsible for the assassination of Rainsborough.





The Devil's Whore (2008)

New Worlds (2014) New Worlds (2014) [Season 1 , Episode 1 ]
Shown th October 2014

Reviewed in our special supplement The Devil's Whore (2008)

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  • New Worlds (2014)

    Season 2: New Worlds (2014)

    New Worlds (2014) New Worlds (2014) [Season 1, Episode 1]
    Shown 1st April 2014

    This is set in 1680, two decades after the ending of the Devil's Whore. In the original series, Angelica Fanshawe was a member of the Ranters - an ultra-radical sect like the Quakers who were the political equivalent of Far Leftists. Now, twenty years later, she is married to a rich man named John Francis (Patrick Malahide - Cutthroat Island (1995) ) who is a member of the Roman Catholic faith. Yes, her alliances have flipped to the extreme conservative side. That said, when politics is discussed she seems to be a leftist. Even though she lives with a vast amount of inherited wealth, both her own and her husband's, she hates industrious merchants who buy land for its natural resources and then hire workers to perform labour in exchange for wages. This comes out when she condemns a merchant who wants to buy her land so he can have it dug for clay. The clay will be sold to make bricks for the rebuilding of London, still being restored after the Great Fire of 1666. His workers will be able to earn wages for food and rent and services such as health care, instead of just scraping a marginal living by growing a small amount of food. Yes, this era was the cusp of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And for all the suffering from the exploitation of workers in the 1700s, the end result was what amounts to a post-scarcity civilisation.

    King Charles II (Jeremy Northam - The Net (1995) ) and his advisors suspect that Angelica is the mastermind of a massive conspiracy. When they catch Colonel Blood and his friends trying to steal the Crown Jewels, they take the opportunity to recruit Blood's son as an informer. They send him to seek refuge with her, posing as a Catholic in fear of persecution. None of this makes sense. Blood and his family were Episcopalians, and could scarcely trick people who were raised as Catholics like Angelica and her newest husband. And since King Charles was sympathetic to Catholics - and his heir was his brother, the Catholic Duke James of York - they would have little to fear unless an Episcopalian like the Duke of Monmouth (Tom Payne - The Walking Dead ) managed to seize the throne.

    In the Americas, a small town named Hadley in Massachussets is attacked by bloodthirsty natives. Luckily, General Goffe (James Cosmo - Braveheart (1995) ) is there to organise a successful defence. Unfortunately Goffe is a Regicide, one of Cromwell's henchmen who signed the execution warrant of King Charles I. Now the Royalists are in charge again there is a warrant for Goffe's arrest. He heads into the woods, accompanied by tough frontierswoman Hope ( Alice Englert ) and Ned Hawkins (Joe Dempsie - Game of Thrones ), son of the landlord.

    Goffe and the American settlers blame King Charles for their problems, and follow the Leveller beliefs that border on socialism. The implication is that an independent America could become a democracy. In reality, the USA of the time when this show was made was a Republic, with a Presidency that is basically an elected monarchy. The only thing that Goffe really gets right is the fact that the natives are displeased because they feel that their land has been stolen from them. Ned says the land was bought, fair and square, but if the deal was fair then the natives would most likely have left the area rather than stay and try to drive the settlers out.

    Goffe's son Abe (Jamie Dornan - Once Upon A Time ) is living in poverty in England, in the woods near Angelica's home. He tries to rob Angelica's guest, the Duke of Monmouth, who has dropped by to gain public support by displays of regal behaviour such as curing Agnes ( Holly Dempsey ) of her leprosy. When the robbery goes wrong, Abe takes Angelica's daughter Beth ( Freya Mavor ) as his hostage in order to escape. Since she is the daughter of Edward Sexby, they have a lot in common.

    Abe says that his father fought to create a true Republic. However, such a thing would have been led by President Cromwell ... a King in all but name. Just because Cromwell chose the title of Lord Protector, it did not make him any different from a King or President. And if Abe and his friends wanted to prevent the Catholic Duke of York from getting the throne, their best option would be to support the Episcopalian Duke of Monmouth.

    New Worlds (2014) New Worlds (2014) [Season 1, Episode 2]
    Shown 8th April 2014

    John Francis (Patrick Malahide - Cutthroat Island (1995) ) once wished that his neighbour Hardwick's clay pits be blown up. Now Abe (Jamie Dornan - Once Upon A Time ) and his anarchists do just that very thing, as a diversion so they can steal the muskets in Hardwick's armoury. Of course, this coincidence throws suspicion on Angelica's household. And she can hardly afford to risk the attentions of Judge Jeffries. But her daughter Beth only cares about spending time with Abe, and cares nothing about the consequences of her actions.

    Ned Hawkins arrives in Oxfordshire in search of Angelica. All the major characters are at Fanshawe House at the same time, although they do not meet up. The good news is that Agnes ( Holly Dempsey ) has been cured of her leprosy no doubt by the touch of Monmouth.

    Judge Jeffries and his friend Hardwick conspire to entrap John Francis. They have Colonel Blood's son as their spy, and while young Blood wants to save his father he has no love for the untrustworthy Jeffries.

    Abe and his gun-toting rebels want to kidnap or assassinate the King. Because Beth has links to him, she has as good as convicted the pair of them. Judge Jeffries wants the two women to be burnt at the stake, as if they were victims of the Spanish Inquisition. Angelica makes a deal to plead guilty in exchange for her daughter being transported to the Americas. In truth Beth would probably be sent to the Virgina Colony instead of Massachussets, so she would have no further part in the storyline. Anyway, Angelica takes advantage of her execution and uses it as a podium to speak her brand of political rhetoric.

    New Worlds (2014) New Worlds (2014) [Season 1, Episode 3]
    Shown 15th April 2014

    Beth arrives on the shores of the new world. She is not enslaved in the Virginia colony - she is washed ashore after an off-screen shipwreck. A Native American man finds her, and she assumes the worst. However, she is welcomed into his tribe.

    The Duke of Monmouth (Tom Payne - The Walking Dead ) has been sidelined, and his ally the Earl of Shaftesbury has been imprisoned in the Tower of London. Now that King Charles (Jeremy Northam - The Net (1995) ) has gotten the Parliamentary opposition under his control, he turns his attention to other potential sources of rebellion. Massachussets is his first target, because he is unhappy that entrepreneurs like John Hawkins are able to expand the colony. Well, he is most unhappy that they are financially successful in doing so.

    The King offers a deal for Judge Jeffries' friend Hardwick. Angelica's mansion will be his, in exchange for the handing over of Abe Goffe (Jamie Dornan - Once Upon A Time ). Since Abe intends to murder Hardwick, it was only a matter of time before the two faced off anyway. Ned Hawkins is hiding out with Abe's gang, and tries to talk Abe into returning with him to Massachussets.

    Instead, Abe stays in Oxford and teams up with Agnes ( Holly Dempsey ). She is unhappy about her new career as a clay-digger, although her previous career involved carrying night-soil to the slurry pit so she is now shovelling clay instead of human excrement. The main change is her loss of status - she is now a field worker instead of a household worker.

    Abe ends up joining Colonel Sidney (Donald Sumpter - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) ) in a conspiracy that supports Monmouth's claim. He prefers a Republic instead of just changing the monarch, but he is willing to do the smart thing and compromise rather than risk James of York getting the throne. Unfortunately the conspirators are not the most competent bunch, and Judge Jeffries did not need much in the way of proof to start rounding people up.

    John Hawkins has been cheating the Native Americans out of their land. While the natives take their rage out on the colonists, Hawkins himself is the target of the King's men. Yes, King Charles might actually do something good if he brings the rebellious colonists to heel and prevents them from stealing land from the natives.

    Hawkins' henchman Henry Cresswell comes back from the Native American camp to discover that his arranged marriage to Hope ( Alice Englert ) is not working out as well as he had hoped. While he was absent, her old boyfriend Ned Hawkins has come home from England. Yes, this is real Scarlet Letter stuff. Anyway, Henry uses the same negotiation tactics as John Hawkins did - updated to include a friendly gift of blankets for the natives.

    New Worlds (2014) New Worlds (2014) [Season 1, Episode 4]
    Shown 22nd April 2014

    Hope ( Alice Englert ) discovers that she is a widow when Ned Hawkins (Joe Dempsie - Game of Thrones ) brings Beth Fanshawe to live with her. Since everyone knows that Ned wanted Hope for himself, and he was the last man to see her husband alive, many people might jump to the conclusion that Ned killed Henry himself. Meanwhile, Hope still blames the natives for the death of her mother and she is not exactly happy that Beth was married to a native.

    John Hawkins does what he has to do to cover for his son's mistakes. But the stress is too much for him. Is Ned man enough to run the Hawkins Bay Company? If he makes a mess of things, the King's men will move in and take over. He wants to end the policy of buying cheap land from natives and selling at top price to the settlers. Instead, he wants to politicise everything and make moves towards a Republic. Everyone except his love interests sees that this is a bad idea.

    Abe Goffe (Jamie Dornan - Once Upon A Time ) is being tortured by Judge Jeffries' men so that he will testify against his co-conspirators in court. Luckily Agnes ( Holly Dempsey ) wants him for herself, and helps him to escape. She has a day job as a household servant again, although her leprosy has come back again.

    Abe's friend Colonel Sidney (Donald Sumpter - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) ) was stupid enough to keep a private journal. He must have been well aware that it is technically Treason to imagine the death of the King. This law was over a century old by this time, dating back to the Tudors, and was certainly no secret. Once this journal was in the hands of Judge Jeffries, Colonel Sidney's fate is sealed. Luckily Abe manages to visit him in prison on Death Row inside the Tower of London, even though Abe himself is a recognisable face. The plan is for Abe to publish Sidney's writings and distribute the pamphlets in the Massachussets colony.

    Beth learns that Massachussets law states all boys must learn how to kill natives. This is presented as a horrible act of racism, but Hope points out that it merely combines a militia act with self-preservation. The alternative is to have a permanent garrison of the King's troops, which would be regarded as a bad thing for the colony. However, Beth decides her son should be with his father's people as there is no place for him in the white man's world.

    All of a sudden it is 1685, and King Charles passes away off-screen. Beth gets on the first ship back to England, in the hope that Monmouth will be in charge by the time she arrives. Agnes' grandfather digs up his old armour and sword, from his days in the New Model Army. Strangely it has not rusted during the last few decades underground. Even Agnes wants to dress up as a boy and join the militia. The only one who is reluctant to fight is Abe, who has retired from the path of violence and become a peaceful healer instead.

    Hardwick has supplied fifty thousand bricks for the King's palace, but has not yet been paid. Still, he stays loyal to his old friend Judge Jeffries. Since the business has a cash-flow problem, Hardwick cannot afford to pay the workers and he decides to let them all go. Rather than get a new job elsewhere, or join Agnes and her grandfather in Monmouth's militia, they just decide to riot and attack their former employer.

    The ending is somewhat downbeat, and the Glorious Revolution only gets mentioned in the end-card. However, it seems a fitting end to the whole story.