Prime Video’s ‘My Lady Jane’ Is Outlandish, Ahistorical and a Great Bit of Fun: TV Review (2024)

In 16th century England, Lady Jane Grey was a 16-year-old girl who became the Queen of England for a paltry nine days before her head was swiftly removed from her body. Historians and fans of the Tudors know this sad tale, but Prime Video‘s “My Lady Jane,” created by Gemma Burgess, isn’t interested in historical facts. Instead, the quippy dramedy, which is based on the best-selling novel by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows, bends and twists Jane’s story. In the same vein as Hulu’s “The Great,” the series is a rip-roaring and hilarious adventure full of magic, romance and bold female characters who take control of their legacies.

The series opens with a snarky narrator setting the scene for the audience. He asks viewers to recall everything they know about Tudor history before throwing it away. Instead of a pitiful headless teen, we meet Lady Jane Grey (newcomer Emily Bader), an aspiring herbalist, soothing her lady’s maid’s vagin*l itch using a homemade salve. (Though the setting and costuming by Will Hughes-Jones and Stephanie Collie respectively set the scene, this certainly isn’t the Tudor era we’ve seen previously.) Despite Jane’s personal ambitions, her mother, the conniving bulldozer Lady Frances Grey (Anna Chancellor), has other plans for her daughters. Determined to secure her family’s future and wealth, she decides to marry Jane off to the notorious rake Guildford Dudley (Edward Bluemel). Despite Jane’s protests and her desire for a life of freedom, even her beloved but ailing cousin, King Edward VI (Jordan Peters), can’t help her out of this pickle.

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From Apple TV+’s “The Buccaneers” to Hulu’s “Black Cake,” there has been no shortage of recent stories centering on young women forced into marriages. Unfortunately, in “My Lady Jane,” an irritating husband is the least of Jane’s worries. In Jane’s world, a war is also brewing between the Verity purebloods (ordinary, Muggle-like folks like Jane) and people called Ethians, who can change into their animal form at the drop of a hat. The Ethians have been banished to the outskirts of the kingdom, forced to hunt, beg or steal for survival. Meanwhile, King Edward, guided by his sisters Princess Mary (Kate O’Flynn) and Princess Bess (Abbie Hern), has let the attacks against the Ethians go unchecked.

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It wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that Jane’s plot to escape marriage to Gilford doesn’t go according to plan (she is a woman living in 1553, after all). Yet I won’t divulge the specifics of how an optimistic albeit naive newlywed finds herself sitting atop King Edward’s throne as the newly crowned Queen of England. Though Jane tries to rule fairly and justly, what she doesn’t expect is the vitriol the noblemen inflict upon Ethians. “My Lady Jane” does a terrific job of illustrating how rampant bigotry can fester in society when it goes unchecked, and how preposterous and disgusting these beliefs are. Moreover, the show explains how Jane’s privileged upbringing has failed to give her a diverse and clear-sighted perspective. (An essential trait if one is to rule an entire kingdom.)

The politics of the time are intriguing, but Jane and the female characters surrounding her are the real magic in the show. Jane is fantastic in her own right, even amid her annoying earnestness. Other standouts are her conniving and sex-positive mother, Lady Frances and her badass baby sister, Lady Margaret (Robyn Betteridge), who gives Lady Lyanna Mormont of “Game of Thrones” fame a run for her money. Still, the crowing jewel of the series is the diabolically and maniacally unhinged Princess Mary.

Villains are one thing, but then there is the vicious, cruel and bath-avoidant Mary. Undone by the fact that Jane is named her brother’s heir, Mary and her lover/adviser, Lord Seymour (Dominic Cooper), conspire to take the throne for themselves. Her sinister and shocking actions, both publicly and in her bed chamber, make her one of the most delicious adversaries on television. In Episode 5, “I’m Gonna Change the World,” Mary’s bitterness is especially thrilling when it comes spilling forth during an encounter with Jane. As evil as the character is, she adds to the fun of this tale.

Between the burnings and the beheadings, women living during Lady Jane’s era didn’t have much to look forward to. This masterful retelling, which is bursting with delightful expletives, iconic one-liners and a whole array of death plots and schemes, unveils an alternative universe where women (and some men) have the agency to gain control of their lives. While “My Lady Jane” clearly labels itself as a fantasy-filled reimagining, its outlandishness makes it a standout.

The eight episodes of “My Lady Jane” premiere on June 27on Prime Video.

Prime Video’s ‘My Lady Jane’ Is Outlandish, Ahistorical and a Great Bit of Fun: TV Review (2024)
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