‘Mary & George’: Julianne Moore Loans Her Son Out for Sex in Lusty New Series


Look closely at the tagline on the poster for Mary & George—the lecherous new limited series about royal courts and courtship, beginning Apr. 5 on Starz—and you’ll find a curious detail. “Lust. For Power,” the phrase reads. The period after “lust” initially feels like a typo or an all-too-obvious wink, but it’s a bit of punctuation that ultimately reveals the show’s wickedly fun thematic double entendre. Mary & George is just as much about lusting for power as it is using lust to attain that power. It’s a clever design trick, one that fits snugly with the consummate excellence of the show itself. This series perfects even the most minute details, and its tagline’s cunning construction is only the first of countless decisions that make Mary & George a refined, nasty delight.

If you’re not a royal buff, fear not: I have less of a mind for the monarchy’s history than I do basic math and sciences, and was ensnared by Mary & George within the first two minutes of its premiere. Much of that is thanks to the great Julianne Moore, who sinks her teeth into the role of Countess of Buckingham Mary Villiers like she’s a Jacobean peasant, gnashing at a turkey leg for some long-awaited sustenance (with all of the feral carnage that image conjures). It’s fitting, considering that Mary is desperate to rise above her initial status and gain the favor of King James VI of Scotland and I of England (Tony Curran).

To worm her way into the king’s circle, Mary drafts her second oldest son George (Nicholas Galitzine) into service—not for war, but for pleasure. King James is known to favor young, beautiful men in his bedchamber, and George’s puppy-dog pout is exactly the kind of thing she can use to secure her family’s name and never have to worry about money or marriage ever again. This, of course, proves tricky, with so many other suitors vying for the king’s wandering eye. But Mary is undeterred and ruthless, and her methods of striving alongside Moore’s blissfully foul performance create a bacchanalia of iniquity that’s impossible to deny.

Mary’s station in life is not a pleasant one, at least not for a woman with high standards and even more lofty dreams. She’s mother to four children, John (Tom Victor), Kit (Jacob McCarthy), Susan (Alice Grant), and George, but only her second eldest is a viable candidate for any prospective cultural cache. John is docile in some moments and violently disturbed in others; Susan can barely form an interesting thought, let alone a driving aspiration; and Kit, though a promising mind, is worth little to Mary as her third-born son. With John’s instability making him difficult to marry off—and, in turn, obtain a sizable dowry from a prospective wife’s family—Mary sets her sights on George, who is as headstrong as his head game is strong.

Like any son being pushed into glorified sexual servitude by his mother, George is appropriately suspicious. But there are thrills to be had in the king’s court, and George is soon lured by all of the deception and desire traded by those currying the king’s favor. Creator and co-writer D.C. Moore continually finds new ways to up the tension, letting Mary and George fall from grace ever so slightly when one of their plans goes awry. But neither party stays down for long, with Mary always maneuvering. For her, the risk of becoming poor and helpless without a royal title is a far greater one than hazarding death should she be found out by the king’s consorts.

Julianne Moore in the series ‘Mary & George’ on Starz

Julianne Moore


There’s an element of danger keenly woven throughout the show’s seven episodes, which helps Mary & George feel like an actual limited series, rather than a film script, stretched to its limit to fit a cable channel’s episode order. The pacing is consistent and upbeat, with Moore’s writing doling out new, twisted little surprises around every corner. Though, attention must be paid. Mary & George is a show that rewards an eye undaunted by cell phones or the occasional bit of dense period dialogue. Everything, in every episode, matters. That’s a rare sight to see these days, even when series are shorter than ever. But Moore is refreshingly ambitious, refusing to cut corners in the scope of this sprawling, decades-long tale.

With the other Moore—Julianne—on board, that zeal is necessary. Wasting such a fierce talent would be damn near unforgivable, but neither Moore is willing to squander a single bit of the fun that Mary & George guarantees. Julianne Moore is a force to be reckoned with, moving through every frame with the commanding presence of a character so sure of their stature, despite not yet having insured any power. She fills each frame with a foreboding presence that sinks a pit into your stomach, as you wonder what kind of vile machinations Mary might have up her sleeve. Moore is no stranger to going full-tilt malicious with her characters, but Mary is a new and special kind of persona. She is exceedingly great at finding humanity in the most immoral creatures, and Mary Villiers is no exception.

Red, White & Royal ‘Bottoms’: Nicholas Galitzine’s Heartthrob Summer Is in Full Swing

Watching Mary grow into loving George, as opposed to tolerating his flighty, bisexual sensibilities, is one of the series’ most satisfying treats. The two form a bond that’s forged by the red-hot flames of power, and Galitzine, despite being a fresher face to the scene than Moore, is every bit as game as she is. After two banner roles in 2023 and staring down one of this year’s biggest movies, Galitzine is no longer just primed for superstardom, he’s at the threshold. Mary & George is the best showcase of his talents yet, with George forever swaying between his growing affections for the king and his part in his mother’s mission. Watching Galitzine’s pronounced lips curl upward into a wicked smile after George gets exactly what he wants is a gorgeous sight that the series employs over and over again, one that conveys just how irresistible the character is to the debauched King James.

Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine in the series ‘Mary & George’ on Starz

Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine


There is no shortage of scenes that depict this intensity. Plenty of orgiastic amusements await, all bare butts and barebacking. But for all of its scheming and sex—of which there is so, so much—Mary & George isn’t only reliant on bodily ecstasy. The series crafts a slick, intense seven episodes that lampoon the idea that our world today is all that different than it was in the 1600s. We’re still striving to rise above our station, still desperate for enough power and notability to mean something in this world, and still unafraid to use what God and/or science (take your pick!) gave us to get there. Mary & George is a look at what happens as the id battles the ego to supersede the other, and all of the libidinous, foul-mouthed carnal sin and wit that spills out of our most basic desires.

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