The focus of King Charles II (Rufus Sewell) is his court, his squabbling family and his glamorous mistresses - from the high-born and promiscuous Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine (Helen McCrory), through folk heroine and sex symbol of the day Nell Gwynne (Emma Pierson), to the French spy Louise de Kéroualle (Mélanie Thierry). It is an original take on a historical period written by award-winning Screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include David Copperfield (1999) and The Lost World (2001), which penetrates to the heart of the charismatic monarch who was deeply traumatized by the execution of his father.
The version shown in UK was titled "Charles II: The Power & The Passion" and its original running time is 235 minutes. It was broadcast on TV by BBC in four parts, as it is also on the UK DVD distributed by BBC. The longer UK version has also been released in many European countries (Finland, Netherlands and more) and Australia. The version shown in USA on A&E was titled "The Last King" and has a running time on 188 minutes, cutting it down by almost 40 minutes. The DVD released by A&E in USA is the shorter version. See more »
Exemplifies power, passion and sensuality- a riveting watch
King Charles II in comparison to other monarchs (primarily Henry VIII, Queen Victoria and Elizabeth I) is not a monarch that I know as much about. As someone who takes a great interest in history, kings and queens fascinated me from an early age, 'Charles II: The Power and the Passion' was an entertaining and riveting watch.
It is more than easy to see why it is so praised by many. At the same time, not everybody will be totally enamoured by it, especially those expecting rigid historical accuracy (something that 'Charles II: The Power and the Passion plays fast and loose with). Not everything about 'Charles II: The Power and the Passion' entirely worked for me. Narratively, it does feel jumpy in parts and time scales, events and dates are not always clear, a little narration or captions may have solved this a little without being too much of a documentary approach.
A couple of the characterisations felt a bit off, not the acting but the writing. It is agreed that Henrietta, despite being wonderfully played by Diana Rigg who has a blast with the role, is too vindictive and that her vengeful side is greatly exaggerated to sometimes pantomimic effect. It is further agreed also that Louise is made too clueless and the role is more annoying than charming.
Conversely, 'Charles II: The Power and the Passion' looks fantastic, beautifully photographed and richly and exquisitely designed costumes and scenery wise. The music is luscious and with energy and vibrancy without being intrusive or heavy-handed. All four episodes are very intelligently scripted, with little rambling and nothing feels too wordy with few of the characterisations ringing shallow too.
The story is not perfectly done, but is absorbing and makes one interested in knowing more about Charles and his life. The sexual element is played to the hilt, but done with taste, raw sensuality and passion, as is the rest of the storytelling. And there is nothing to fault the acting either. Rufus Sewell is just majestic in the title role and it has to rank up there with his best performances. Likewise with Rupert Graves as Buckingham. Helen McCrory is suitably cunning and Shirley Henderson really does touch the soul.
In summary, a riveting if imperfect series, definitely worth checking out as long as you take it for what it is and not a history lesson. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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