'The Devil's Mistress: The Complete Mini-Series'
(Andrea Riseborough, John Simm, Michael Fassbender, Peter Capaldi, Dominic West, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Set between the years 1642 and 1660, 'The Devil's Mistress' (aka "The Devil's Whore") charts the progress of the English Civil War through the eyes of the a 17 year old girl, the fictional Angelica Fanshawe.
DVD Verdict: Concerning the events of the English Civil War, the story is told through the eyes of a fictional young noblewoman, Angelica Fanshawe, played by Andrea Riseborough. Angelica somehow ends up experiencing almost every aspect of the civil war, born into privilege and a prominent place in Charles I's court, only to lose it all when her husband is executed.
With her sympathy switched to the Levellers, Angelica becomes some sort of highwayman (sorry, highwaywoman) for a time, before marrying a senior figure of the Levellers, Thomas Rainsborough, (Michael Fassbender), only for her criminal past to catch up with her. When her husband is assassinated, Angelica herself narrowly escapes execution. And that's only the half of it.
If you think this sounds far too convoluted to believe, well, you're right. Angelica's situation is far too convenient, to marry not one but two important figures of the English Civil war, to be on close terms with both the King and Cromwell, to consort with all manner of nobles, cavaliers, roundheads and puritans. It doesn't help that Angelica is firmly in the mold of other 'swashbuckling' heroines of pop culture such as Elizabeth of Pirates of the Caribbean and Arwen of LOTR, who, when not looking utterly ravishing in their gorgeous frocks are brandishing swords and smiting enemies. She also has a few politically correct orations of truth, justice and freedom to deliver.
Riseborough delivers a passionate and sympathetic heroine, but at some point, her efforts are not enough to keep an eyebrow from being raised, particularly when Angelica storms into a church and begins pontificating about heaven and hell. Maxine Peake's portrayal of real-life figure Elizabeth Lilburne, wife of agitator John Lilburne, is a much more historically accurate figure: she is a wife utterly devoted to her husband and to his cause, and breaks a few conventions herself.
When we do get round to the factual events they are impressively acted. Dominic West may look nothing like Oliver Cromwell but he makes him into a fascinatingly ambiguous character. In the first few episodes he seems willing to compromise with his fellow men, from Charles to his fellow revolutionaries, but as he gains more power he becomes a more ruthless, shadowy figure. Michael Fassbender and Tim Goodman-Hill are both excellent in their portrayal of men who passionately promote their causes. But who could forget the ever-versatile John Simm as Edward Sexby.
Sexby is driven by obsessions, first for blood, which he is soon cured of, then by the cause of the Levellers which is soon corrupted, and finally in his determination to assassinate a tyrant. But his enduring obsession is with Angelica, and their romantic plot-line is probably the best distraction from fact that the drama has to offer. Simm and Riseborough have an excellent chemistry which the writers draw out through the series. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of: