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No. 25 The Romans Are Coming

'Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man

Comes singing songs of love

-- Donovan

Here is number 4 on my list of top cultural experiences and influences of January 2019.

I’ve never been attracted to a “medieval setting” for a television show or film. Everyone is dirty, clothing is unkempt, and a lot of dudes and monsters fight it out for a ring, or a goblet, or a sword. The knight’s journey holds no interest for me unless the knight is surrounded by a lot of complicated female characters. And he rarely is.

Then comes Britannia. This first-rate television show is written by Jez (stage: Jerusalem, The Ferryman) and Tom (television: Doc Martin) Butterworth. They have another brother, John Henry, who, with Jez, wrote the Sean Penn and Naomi Watts film, Fair Game. Jez and Tom wrote the first season of Britannia and a second season is in the works.

My admiration for the Butterworth brothers motivated me to check out Britannia.

From the opening credits, set to the nerdy psychedelic groove of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” to the disturbing vulnerability of MacKenzie Crook’s druid king (the British The Office, The Detectorists) to the badassery of Zoë Wanamaker (Harry Potter, Prime Suspect), I was sold.

The dialog is clever, quick, and at times hilarious. The storyline is a smart soap opera with seriously bloody swordplay.

The central character of Cait played beautifully by Eleanor Worthington Cox (stage: lead in Matilda), is as equally heartbreaking as she is ball breaking. Cox more than carries the series on her 17-year-old shoulders.

Sure everyone is dirty and stinky but the dialog is so strong and the female characters so compelling, I’m willing to pinch my nose.

Here’s hoping in season two, Cox and Wanamaker go toe to toe.

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