Will S01E05: The Marriage of Two Minds

Director: Shekhar Kapur
Writer: Craig Pearce
Starring: Laurie Davidson, Olivia DeJonge, Ewen Bremner, Mattias Inwood, Jamie Campbell Bower, William Houston, Lukas Rolfe, Colm Meaney

A review by Samantha Pearson

Will S01E05, The Marriage of Two Minds, is a complex episode that dives into the morality of family, romantic love, passion, and religious order. Will runs up on a deadline with the dangerous Topcliffe, gets an unexpected visit from his family, and gets blackmailed by Presto. He has to make a lot of decisions in The Marriage of Two Minds and many of them are very obviously painful.

Meanwhile, Marlowe enlists the help of a friend to “kill him” so he can be “resurrected” as a better playwright and person. He ends the episode — after some frankly horrifying sequences — in bed with an older, obviously dying man. This man is apparently someone Marlowe cares deeply about, though his plot in this episode is clearly a precursor to future development.

Richard catches Presto in the dress he stole from the Burbages’ theater. Presto blackmails Will into covering for him, then ends up damning himself and his sister to more work at the brothel. Topcliffe also gets some backstory, with his family coming to London at the same time as Will’s.

The Marriage of Two Minds begins with Will reciting a bastardized version of Sonnet 116 while he and Alice are post-coital in his single room at the inn. The scene is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet’s first morning together in the 1996 Baz Luhrmann adaptation of the tragedy, as well as the lovemaking montage in Shakespeare In Love. That makes sense, since Will show creator Craig Pearce co-wrote the Romeo + Juliet screenplay with Luhrmann.

Like any good romance scene in a Shakespeare adaptation, Will and Alice are interrupted. The innkeeper kindly informs Will, while he’s naked in bed with Alice, that his wife is downstairs waiting for him. Anne’s visit to London is a surprise to Will, who, horrified, sends Alice away and runs downstairs to meet his family. From there, he explores the city with his wife and three children. They eventually end up at the Burbages’ theater despite Will’s several attempts to send them home so he can work (and, presumably, so they won’t run into Alice).

The usage of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” over this montage of Will and his family seeing the “sights” of London (including fire-breathers and a bear) works incredibly well. Olivia DeJonge’s performance is once again flawless. Alice suddenly has to confront the reality of the man she loves having taken a vow to another woman. The pain she feels is visible in her expression and audible in her words; every step she takes to move forward in The Marriage of Two Minds is made carefully, so as not to break her already fractured heart.

At no point is her pain more evident than when she actually meets Anne Hathaway (played by Deirdre Mullins). The usually confident, brazen Alice grows breathless in her nervousness and tries to hard to compliment Anne. Anne, for her part, immediately realizes that Will and Alice are sleeping together. Though she doesn’t make a scene about it, the way Anne’s eyes track Alice tells the audience everything we need to know. Anne has no doubts that Will has been cheating on her; making a scene in front of the entire company and their children won’t do.

Here, Will is finally successful in sending Alice and the children back to the inn. Then, Richard enters carrying Presto by the scruff of the dress he stole, demanding that he return the theater’s property. Presto’s blackmail here sets off another unexpected chain of events for Will, who ends up in several awful situations of his own making throughout The Marriage of Two Minds. He tries to assist Presto with his unexpected theater apprenticeship by offering to help him identify the prop list with symbols. The trick would hide that Presto can’t read and possibly help sustain his time at the theater.

Presto wants no part of Will’s charity, since he’s Catholic, and threatens Will with a knife before fleeing. We learn, during this odd but fascinating subplot, that Presto is so good with a knife because he uses it to cut himself. It’s a heartbreaking, shockingly real moment in an otherwise rather fantastical take on real history… And it hurts, especially considering what Presto’s sister is forced to endure in order to stay off the streets. 

In the midst of Anne visiting and Presto reappearing, Will also has just one day to complete an anti-Catholic play for the masses. Topcliffe commissioned the manuscript from him in S01E04, and his week has nearly run out. In Will’s bid to get out of the play by pretending to be too dumb to do it justice, two things occur. Topcliffe says he will help Will write the play, for it is not his fault that he’s too dumb to do it alone. Plus, Topcliffe asks Will to help him solve a coded letter using a nursery rhyme in order to find Will’s cousin, Father Southwell.

Again, Will plays dumb. Then he runs across London to help Father Southwell flee his new hiding place so Topcliffe won’t find him. He is only somewhat successful. Father Southwell narrowly escapes Topcliffe’s clutches, but the family that’s been hiding him is brutally punished in his place. Will tells Southwell to stay away from Anne and the children; Will won’t allow him to endanger Will’s family the way he has recklessly endangered others. He also shoots down his cousin’s insistence that God keeps bringing them together.

Back at the inn, Anne confronts Will about his infidelity and then, later, he asks her to stay in London. This request results in a fight about the future. Anne came to London to ask Will to come home to Stratford and take over his father’s business. Will has no desire to be anywhere but London. By the end of the Will S01E05, Anne decides that the family will stay in London so Will can write. The decision puts an official end to his tryst with Alice.

Following a talk with her mom, Alice promises to “grow up” and “do what is right”. In her mother’s eyes, that’s marrying Keenan for financial security. Will’s speech to her about “doing what is right” for his family prompts Alice to commit to her words. However, one of the final scenes of the episode shows her laying out her future plans. Once Alice elevates the reputation of her father’s theater, she’ll take it over. She says Will can be her partner, that they’ll be equals in a “marriage of the minds”. Even though they’ll have different spouses, they can still be together in this way. Alice quotes lines from Sonnet 116 to convince Will of the plan. The scene is incredible.

What Alice is describing is the actual, historic Globe Theater. William Shakespeare, William Kempe, Alice, Cuthbert, and Richard Burbage all opened the Globe together in 1599. It’s a reference that’s well-placed in an episode all about future plans and the importance of family, especially within the context of Alice and Will ending a romantic relationship with each other.

As I said above, Olivia DeJonge absolutely kills it in The Marriage of Two Minds; Alice is coming more and more into herself. Seeing her flex that independence to get what she wants — even if it’s a steep compromise — is incredible. It must also be noted that Will continues to feature scenes of Alice standing alone on the stage, something that is possibly indicative of her future tidings.

The lighting in these scenes of Alice, alone, is always significantly warmer than the lighting in almost any other scene on the show. Rich browns and ochers are just barely paved with light coming in through the ceiling, which makes Alice look angelic. The dresses she wears emphasize the effect, as well as her blonde hair and pale skin. She never stands directly under the light, but next to it, as if readying herself to step into her destiny. It’s a cool directorial choice by Shekhar Kapur, and I look forward to seeing the pattern develop and change throughout Will‘s future episodes.

Watch it.
 S01E05 is a pretty bonkers episode of Will, bouncing between several different plots without giving nearly as much due to any of them but Alice’s (not that I mind). Marlowe’s antics in this episode are… worrying, and terrifying, and feature some borderline horror movie sequences. I also thoroughly enjoyed the interplay of several strong women in The Marriage of the Minds. I would recommend watching it just for the women, if I’m entirely honest.

Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager residing in southern New England with her partner and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also loves vegan food. Her work has appeared on Rogues Portal, SheKnows, Femsplain, The Tempest, and elsewhere. For more, follow her on Twitter!

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