In the history of France, Catherine de Medici is an important and emblematic figure. That an American series is interested in our history and more particularly in this character of the French monarchy is not surprising. But The Serpent Queen also has a rather original story, a kind of satire of the monarchy that knows how to surprise its viewer. The Serpent Queen therefore mixes conspiracies, the misery of the times with a humor that goes out of the frame and offers an astonishing perspective. Samantha Morton is responsible for much of the series thanks to her performance in the title role. The Serpent Queen is therefore interested in Catherine’s rise to the court of Francis I and alongside her husband, Henry II. But rather than making a classic period series, The Serpent Queen prefers modern narration and then offers us a whole bunch of surprises in this sense. It’s not the most realistic series on the French monarchy that we’ve seen (Canal+ has already had some like Versailles or recently Marie-Antoinette) but it’s fun and rock.
In 1560, Catherine de Medici was at the height of her power. She is regent of the kingdom of France and above all feared by all. The Serpent Queen chooses to tell us the story by Catherine to one of her young servants. She tells him about her life and so we follow her whole story through flashbacks. The Serpent Queen quickly strikes the right balance between all the tones the series tackles. But Samantha Morton shines from the beginning to the end of the series, even more in the second part of the season when she is even more comfortable in her role. Moreover, the series is immediately more interesting and endearing when it focuses on the emphatic, contradictory and complex performance of the actress. This crazy queen is a character who deserved the attention that The Serpent Queen wants to give her.
The worst thing about it is that this character really existed. However, it is not a perfect series. It is not free from flaws, if only in the first part of the season which sometimes takes too long to install characters and details that do not add much. But The Serpent Queen is savored over the length, over the episodes. The series finds after two episodes its own style and manages to deliver the surprises that we want to expect. It kind of reminds me of The Borgias (Showtime). The Serpent Queen therefore finds the right balance between true historical events and this naughty side which is so accentuated that it almost looks like a kind of parody. By mixing the harsh reality of the time with something more funky, The Serpent Queen manages to deliver what is expected of it. The real decorations bring something strong. The series therefore relies on form, sometimes more than on substance, which is not always realistic.
Justin Haythe, the creator of The Serpent Queen has done everything to ensure that we have an ugly character that reminds us of some ugly characters from Game of Thrones. So here is a story series that has a lot of ideas and that already makes you want to see what season 2 will tell us about this emblematic character in the history of France. It’s pleasing to the end, especially because The Serpent Queen is fearless and allows itself all the freedoms possible while remaining in history around its explosive concept.
Rating: 7/10. In short, an amazing series about one of the most ugly women of the French monarchy.
Available on Lionsgate+
Star has renewed The Serpent Queen for a season 2