Episode 12 – Requiem of the Rose King

Now we approach the winter of our discontent, which is to say that this episode brings us out of Henry VI Part Three and into Richard III in terms of source material. That seems fitting for the finale of the first part of the series as it marks an emotional turning point for Richard. He has only recently realized that he loves Henry, only to find out that his love is in fact the man he blames for York’s death (even if it was actually Margaret), that Anne has betrayed him, and that his Edward was actually the prince , all in almost the same breath. It’s a lot to handle even if you aren’t as emotionally unstable as Richard is after years of his mother’s emotional abuse, and the return of his abuser into his life certainly isn’t going to help him to cope with anything.

And so he turns to violence, which has become his go-to method for coping with things he can’t actually handle. We’ve seen evidence of that from early episodes; While Richard is more than capable of emotional manipulation and other forms of machination, the Wars of the Roses have mostly offered him a bloody way out of his perceived helplessness. Even if he hadn’t experienced some sort of psychotic break after the death of his father (which is debatable) he’s not in a great position of mental health, and when we saw him run Prince Edward through, it looked an awful lot like the frustration of his miserable situation simply overwhelming him. He was lashing out in response to emotional pain, and that’s what he does again when he visits Henry in the Tower – when Henry begins repeating Cecily’s words about how cursed and evil Richard is and how the world would rue the day of his birth, Richard can’t handle it. He’s once again hearing hatred spewed from a mouth that should have spoken of love (and in this case actually did), and the only thing that he can think to do in the moment is to just make it stop.

What makes this particularly awful is that kissing Richard and moving their relationship from the (perception of) platonic to romantic is what causes Henry to begin repeating Cecily in the first place. Henry was traumatized by his mother Queen Catherine’s affair, which in Requiem of the Rose King caused him to instead embrace as sexless a life as he could manage, believing it to be more pure and honest than an act that made his mother say such awful things. But when he kisses Richard, he’s forced to accept that he also has those lusts within him, something he’s been denying for a very long time, and all of that old trauma comes rushing back. His words are less an indictment of Richard and more an agony directed at himself for breaking from his beliefs. Unfortunately for him, Richard has his own trauma, and hearing the man he loves repeat his mother’s imprecations is more than he can handle, especially right now.

It is, however, worth remembering what Catesby said to him before he forced his way into the Tower – that he had prepared a corpse to look like Henry. We do see Richard stab Henry and Henry fall over, but we never specifically see Henry’s dead body, and when Anne is weeping by the red rose-draped coffin in the forest, Richard is quick to tell her that this is not Henry. Anne interprets that as Henry’s mortal shell – which made him “Henry” – having left, but strictly speaking, that may not be what Richard means. As well, I could see the series playing with the fact that Henry VI was interred in Chertsey Abbey but later moved to Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel by Richard III as a means to back up the potential idea of ​​Henry only being mostly dead.

In any event, the title for this episode tells things truly: the Richard we’ve known thus far may well be dead, or at least on his way towards dying. Anne may be able to help salvage what’s left of his gentleness (even if she does appear to be in the early stages of pregnancy), but right now that doesn’t feel all that likely. It seems instead that he’s beginning to embody some of the last words he speaks to Henry in Henry VI Part Three: “And this word ‘love,’ which graybeards call divine,/ Be resident in men like one another/ And not in me: I am myself alone.”

“I am myself alone.” Does that mean that he is no one but himself? Or that he feels alone and friendless, adrift in an unwelcoming world? Either could be true. Time will show us which it is.

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Requiem of the Rose King is currently streaming on Funimation.

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