This episode is a direct continuation of the last, but from James Maxwell’s king’s perspective. At least at the start, tragedies quickly start changing it up and Queen Norma West ends up with the most to do… then the episode brings Maxwell in and gives them a joint focus, then it shifts to Maxwell for the finish. In most ways, the episode fulfills the promises of the first couple episodes and nothing since. It doesn’t matter “In the Shadow of the Tower” turned into a phenomenal anthology series about Henry’s rule or went to crap because of the Richard Warwick episodes–The King Without a Face very ably rids the show of any residual Warwick stench. It’s a good closing episode, though problematic as far as the show’s legacy.
Anyway. The episode covers a lot of time and a lot of events and a lot of reactions to these various events, usually with West and Maxwell. The biggest supporting player here is John Bennett as the Spanish ambassador. He’s been kicking around the show for a while, at least the last few episodes, but he’s never gotten such a good part as in Face. He and Maxwell end up having this wonderful character relationship as events make Bennett the only political ally Maxwell can stomach being around. Doesn’t hurt Bennett’s a complete lush.
There’s a lot of character development for West and Maxwell (nothing about them arranging the murder of her cousin last episode but whatever, there’s still a lot of other good character reveals); the episode finally gives West a great part, something I’d been assuming the show would do since the first episode (and then didn’t). Maxwell gets an excellent arc too with some really chewy scenes.
“In the Shadow of the Tower” starts all right, ends all right, has some great episodes in the middle, and some middling and worse towards the end. It’s a mixed bag as an anthology. It’s still successful, but it’s nowhere near as good as it could have been. If only they’d cast Warwick’s part with someone who could act.
This episode makes up for a lot.