I’m a sucker for an English period drama, and I’m especially a sucker for English period drama featuring people of color, so I was definitely going to watch The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. The four-part drama on PBS follows the original The Hollow Crown series; in the follow-up we see how King Henry IV and King Richard III rose to power and eventually fell amid the court’s battle for the crown.

All of this is based on the plays of William Shakespeare, so I’ll say upfront that I’m not well versed in Shakespeare outside of Macbeth, Hamlet and Othello. Also, I haven’t seen the first The Hollow Crown, so I’m not sure if this sequel seemed like it was going to fast or if it was just because I’d missed the first part. However, I’ll say that if you love scenery-chewing performances, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses is for you.

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Two of the best performances from Part 1 include Sophie Okonedo as Queen Margaret and Hugh Bonneville as Henry’s uncle and protector, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Both of them keep you glued to the screen, hanging on their every word. On the one hand, you recognize Okonedo’s portrayal of Margaret as someone who is not just duplicitous, but also a woman vying for her own power, disgusted by having to be married to a man unfit for the crown as a means to keep herself and her father from prison. On the other hand, you have Bonneville’s Gloucester doing his best to keep his nephew safe and keep his late brother’s dynasty secure.

One of the best moments of the night include when Margaret, fed up with Gloucester’s wife Eleanor (who is also trying to put a hex on Margaret with a voodoo doll), tries to shame Eleanor by telling her to pick up her fan. What happens afterwards is amazing.

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Another is Humphrey’s speech after realizing he’s being boxed out of his job as Royal Protector. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video of this online, which is a shame, because it’s one of the finest moments of the two-hour night.

Overall, Part 1 sets us up for the introduction of Richard, the son of Plantagenet, Duke of York. It’s in Part 2 when things start getting really spicy.

What did you think of Part 1 of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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