REVIEW: The Hottest Thing In ‘Blood, Sex and Royalty’ Is The Consent

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Blood Sex and Royalty - But Why Tho

Blood, Sex and Royalty is a Netflix Original documentary series dramatizing the life of Anne Boleyn, implying through its title it will take a gander at the most violent, hottest moments in the life of kings and queens. Narrations by royal experts and a frame story taking place in Anne’s final testimony are interspersed throughout Amy James-Kelly and Max Parker’s portrayals of Anne and King Henry VIII in this three-episode arc.

Three episodes walk us through Anne’s life, first her pre-royal life and her courtship of the king, then her height of power as queen, and finally, her downfall as she fails to conceive a male heir and the royal court turns against her. The show is marked by an exceptionally strong performance from James-Kelly as one of English history’s most storied women. She has a constantly sharp wit about her, interpreting the historical figure as somebody who was wry, sarcastic, funny, and, indeed, sexy. The show uses the now-classic Flea Bag head-turn towards the camera as a tool to make the character feel more intimate with the audience while dressing her in one immaculate costume after another.

Henry, meanwhile, is surly and sometimes brutish, played perhaps a bit more prince-charming-like than I may have expected but satisfyingly given the emphasis on sex the show is meant to hold. Alas, over the three episodes of Blood, Sex and Royalty, blood and sex make only brief appearances. For the latter, don’t get me wrong, there are indeed some titillating scenes. The early episodes of courtship, in particular, give some heat and get a tad more graphic. Still, ultimately, the show doesn’t actually feel like it focuses on sex or blood nearly as heavily as I expected, given their prominence in the show’s name. Sure, Henry seems utterly motivated by sex, but it often plays in the background of a show that’s really more focused on Anne’s political and familial tidings after the courtship period ends, save for a brief moment or two.

On the side of blood, there’s really none to be seen. For as violent a man and sometimes cruel a ruler as Henry was, the show focuses on none of that. Perhaps it’s because so many of his most violent episodes came after Anne’s execution, and therefore, the show doesn’t focus on it, but again, it’s just a matter of not living up to the expectations its own title sets. The literal only time the show ever even shows blood is whenever Anne miscarries. I’m not prepared to make a remark on this choice, but certainly, this is a choice that was made.

Where I will remark is that despite the lack of blood or sex to the extent that I anticipated, I am impressed with the way the show makes the slightest modernization approaches to its storytelling so as to make you feel like you’re watching not only a Tudor-era tale but a timeless one that requires no suspension of your modern sensibilities to enjoy it as either. This is evident through Anne’s aforementioned affect, but even more so, through the consistent demonstration of vocal and enthusiastic consent between Anne and Henry, especially throughout their courtship. It feels like a deliberate choice in the script to hear Henry repeatedly ask Anne’s permission or for her refusals to be met with no rebuttal. It’s something you rarely see in modern-set stories, let alone historical dramas, so it’s a very nice subtle scripting choice that, frankly, is one of the hottest parts of the whole show.

Blood, Sex and Royalty, drags on a bit too long and doesn’t offer nearly as much scintillation as its title might imply it will, but its value for what it does offer is satisfying enough. It entertains, it informs, and it feels preciously modern for a tale 500 years old. James-Kelly is especially excellent as the woman who changed the course of English history, and I hope to see more installments of this title in the future.

Blood, Sex and Royalty is streaming now on Netflix.


Blood, Sex and Royalty
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Blood, Sex and Royalty, drags on a bit too long and doesn’t offer nearly as much scintillation as its title might imply it will, but its value for what it does offer is satisfying enough. It entertains, it informs, and it feels preciously modern for a tale 500 years old. James-Kelly is especially excellent as the woman who changed the course of English history, and I hope to see more installments of this title in the future.

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