Yes, ‘My Lady Jane’ Is Ridiculous. Is It Worth a Binge?

[Editor’s note: The following article contains light spoilers for “My Lady Jane.”]

“My Lady Jane,” Prime Video’s latest dramedy, is based on a 2016 bestselling YA book about Lady Jane Grey (Emily Bader). But, as a narrator informs viewers in the first moments of Episode 1, they’re going to be playing very, very loose with the facts.

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The show is a fantasy romance that imagines a new, more hopeful spin for Lady Jane. (In real life, she was queen for nine days and then executed alongside her husband.)

Of course, this isn’t just a historical romance about a GirlBoss Lady. This show has the twist to end all twists (buckle in): Half the characters in this version of Tudor England are Ethians, meaning they can transform into animals, which they do, regularly. Fifteen minutes in, it’s the kind of big swing that isn’t going to be for everyone, particularly those who thought they were getting a more traditional anachronistic adaptation of 1500s England.

Is the silliness of “My Lady Jane” worth your time? IndieWire editors Erin Strecker and Mark Peikert watched all eight episodes (all of which are streaming now) to find out. Join them as they work through their complex feelings about a show that has palace intrigue and a man turning into an angry bear.

Erin Strecker: Mark, I screamed so loud the first time Jane’s new husband transformed into a horse. I thought I had dating problems! How did The Big Twist work for you?

Mark Peikert: Well, I naturally assumed that her maid was a witch when she turned into a bird. But then the show makes a big point in saying that magic isn’t real. By the time people started earnestly talking about Ethians, I was so confused I just stared dumbly at the screen. And no, I was not ready for the man with whom Jane falls into lust at first sight to be a horse (but I do have such a filthy mind).

My bigger shock, truly, was when I realized that in this version of history, Princess Mary’s well-documented bloodlust is shifted to Ethians rather than Protestants. I guess that’s easier to explain? Or at least sexier. Also, don’t they say that Anne Boleyn was also Ethian, and that’s why Mary hates them so much?

Erin: I truly don’t remember because it has honestly been a while since I’ve watched a show that so seriously rattled me to my core every five minutes or so. One day you’re talking to a man in an ale house, the next he’s a bear! Oh my!

I understand Bloody Mary’s bloodlust, but truthfully, her and Dominic Cooper’s performance as her lover were so over the top to me that it was hard to get a handle on what this show was attempting to be. Like, the downright silliness of all the animals, sure, fine, we love kooky fun. But then in its attempt to meld that with the real awful history of Princess Mary, to me it made the show even more of a mess.

My Lady Jane
‘My Lady Jane’

Twenty things were going on at once for most of the show, from poisonings to presumed deaths to high-stakes wills. Were there any plots that really worked for you?

Mark: I love a deranged performance, and whatever evil scheming Kate O’Flynn and Dominic Cooper were doing as lovers Mary and Lord Seymour (including a naked Cooper bent over a bed getting whipped), I was there for. At least they had some verve. Too bad they’re in a totally different show, tonally, from the very earnest one that Lady Jane is in. She’s the Jimmy Carter of the Tudor era, which is not a compliment in this context. Mostly, I was deeply surprised at how sexual the show is, given its definite 2011 CW vibe. I expected sexy but chaste, and that is not what they delivered. Remember the long, lingering shot of a naked Guildford?

OK, but also. Erin. There is something else. It’s a testament to how bonkers “My Lady Jane” is that we have completely forgotten about her … unwell family. An overbearing mother selling her daughters into marriage for security? Been there, done that. (Love that she’s banging her son-in-law’s brother, though.) But that the youngest sister murders a different brother-in-law and then switches allegiance to Mary, who sentenced Jane to death, is a twist that, even in my fugue state, had me gasping. That she did it by shoving an apple in his mouth and pinching his nose closed was just the icing.

But as usual I return to a question that haunts me: If you’re going to so radically reinvent history (or an existing IP), then why bother? It’s not enough to have people suddenly transform into animals, we also have a drastically older King Edward who … doesn’t die? Then what are we even doing here, what is the fight actually about? As you can see, I have a lot of questions. But the dirty little secret is I also had a lot of fun!

Erin: WOW. OK. Wow. Jane’s family was another problem spot to me, again because they were all in different shows. The mom and son-in-law’s brother was playfully salacious, but her youngest sister being a demon child just felt like a nonsense add-on.

I had fun occasionally, but for me, too many parts of the show dragged, especially in the back half of episodes, for me to actually wholeheartedly tell people to watch. Any time the plot went away from Jane and Guildford my attention wained. And no amount of ass shots could bring it back. But what I’m getting from you is that you do, in fact, recommend this silly eight-episode Prime Video series as a weekend binge?

Mark: You’re putting me on the spot! I will say that there is a moment in one of the last episodes that finds Lady Jane Grey (er, Queen Jane) running through a castle in a giant gown while Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” plays, and my little gay heart just exploded. Do I recommend it … I think so? I think so! I certainly dreaded watching it far less than some other recent offerings, and there are enough delightfully bizarre performances — including that narrator, god, we haven’t even talked about the voiceover! — to compensate for the byzantine plot and affectless Jane.

As shocking as the whole human-animal thing is, I was even more surprised that it takes the entire series to get to the premise: Jane lives. If it gets a Season 2, I’m intrigued to see where it goes. But I won’t forget Jane escaping execution on her husband’s horseback any time soon.

“My Lady Jane” is streaming now on Prime Video.

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