Is it possible to live a life of wealth and power without paying the price? What happens when your past transgressions come back to haunt you, especially with the press eager for a story of their own? That’s part of the premise of the second season of E’s “The Royals,” which followed the comings and goings of the royal family as they tried to stay relevant without coming undone in the process. Sure, the show got off to a rough start last season, but it has somewhat improved with this new season.
“The Royals” followed England’s royal family as it dealt with the loss of a prince and a king due to violently tragic circumstances. The remaining members were dealing with their grief in their own destructive ways. Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley) continued to plot and scheme her way to becoming the only ruler of note that England had. She sacrificed love and the trust of her two remaining children for a grasp of power that might not even be hers to take. Her husband King Simon was killed unexpectedly and she confessed that her children Prince Liam (William Moseley) and Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) were the product of an affair. This confession prevented Liam from taking his rightful place on the throne and it gave Simon’s brother Cyrus (Jake Maskall) his ultimate desire to become king a reality. Sadly, the English people have not warmed up to his monarchy and prefer the Prince’s humbler approach to Cyrus’ brash personality. Not even an attempt at being charitable could help sway the people to his corner. It also doesn’t help that Helena was secretly plotting against him to have the line of succession changed to make his daughters unable to rule in case something happened to him. Unfortunately, she has met in her match in a new political rival that ruin her plans before they gathered any steam. Meanwhile, Liam struggled with dealing the King’s death and the possibility that he was killed as part of some larger conspiracy by a secret organization privately taunting his mother and grandmother (Joan Collins) over a past trangression. He wanted revenge for losing his loved ones and recruited Eleanor’s former bodyguard/lover Jasper (Tom Austen) to help, but he had to deal with his still lingering feelings for his ex-girlfriend Ophelia (Merritt Patterson) who was living in New York and away from Liam’s complicated world. He thought that he had a shot with her still, until he found out that she moved on. In terms of Eleanor’s grief, she preferred to be too high to function or even be in a serious relationship with anyone. She took a break from being with her true love, because she wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be with him or any man for that matter. Will Liam and Eleanor be able to uncover the truth in order find happiness or have to continue wondering about the past?
In terms of questions, the show has posed a few big ones involving the conspiracy of the mysterious organization tormenting the queen and killing off her family members. All the viewers know about them was a mysterious symbol and their ability to remain undetected. This story had the making of being a longer going mystery. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t go on for too long before the story loses any potential steam that could have. Another improvement that the show has made was resolving the lackluster Liam/Ophelia romance because it was obvious from the beginning that the story was doomed from the start. The characters were from very different worlds and that would always be a neverending obstacle no matter what they tried to do to overcome it. The show has also managed to embrace the campy charm of having such grand characters living the high life to the best of their ability, especially with all of the pomp and circumstance that a cable television network could allow. Hurley’s Helena has managed to become a character that many viewers aren’t sure if they love or hate her because of how she treated her children in her quest for power. In the end, it’s more interesting to watch her plot and scheme her way through life. Hurley’s best scene partners have been Park’s Eleanor and Victoria Ekanoye’s Rachel, who played one of the Queen’s devoted staff members. Rachel’s secret job as a dominatrix has helped her advise the Queen on various matters of diplomacy and when it was necessary to truly be ruthless with an enemy. It was always welcome to have Hurley and Park share a few scenes together because sparks and barbs always flew when it did happen. Hopefully, they will continue to trade insults as the season progresses on. Even though it’s still early in the season, the show needs to find a way to give Moseley’s Liam more of a sharper edge if he had any hopes of remaining in his family and finding out who killed his father. The character’s naive approach will only cause trouble down the line. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Park, Hurley and Maskall have led the pack so far this show as their characters tend to be the driving force behind a fair share of the first three episodes. Park’s Eleanor became an utter disaster in her grief as she plunged deeper into her usual self medicating in order not to feel her grief. She managed to make Eleanor both the usual complicated society girl with an extra layer of heart as she allowed herself a moment to honestly feel something before it got to be too much. Park also had a decent chemistry with Austen’s Jasper last season that should hopefully continue at some point this season with any luck. A promising upcoming storyline for Park involved Eleanor finding a new friend that could either help her or get her into even more trouble. It’s too early to tell either way. Hurley, on the other hand, had the challenging task of carrying the dual edged sword of playing villainess and anti-heroine at the same time. Hurley’s Helena was a tried and true schemer, but she also wanted to keep her family alive every possible way she knew how even if it was through betrayal. She also had the opportunity to share scenes with Collins that would make any “Dynasty” fans excited to see Alexis Carrington back in the swing of things in another powerful world. The show would definitely be wise to have Collins to make another appearance sooner rather than later. Maskall’s Cyrus was designed to be the show’s ultimate villain who desired greatness and fall short of what it was meant to make him feel that he wouldn’t be anything but second choice to Prince Liam. Maskall managed to make Cyrus complicated and comic relief at the same time, which was no small feat; even when he tried to eat a swan in an effort to demonstrate his power. Long live King Cyrus, for now. The character’s reign will likely be a short one.
“The Royals” premiered on November 15th and airs Sundays at 10:00 PM on E.
Verdict: Hurley makes for a wicked queen who plots and scheme her way to absolute power, but it will be interesting for her character’s lies to come back to haunt her sooner rather than later.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)