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‘Becoming Elizabeth’ Ending ExplainedShowrunner Anya Reiss Breaks Down the Finale

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Over the course of the first season of Becoming Elizabeth on Starz, we’ve buried Henry VIII, watched Catharine Parr (Jessica Raine) die shortly after childbirth, and seen Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen) beheaded for his brash attempt to kidnap young King Edward VI (Oliver Zetterström). So surely someone major had to pass away in the Becoming Elizabeth Season 1 finale! And someone does — but maybe not the person we spent the whole episode expecting…

Created by Anya Reiss, Becoming Elizabeth follows the tumultuous teen years of Queen Elizabeth I (Alicia von Rittberg). Long before she ascended the throne of England and became one of the most beloved monarchs in Western European history, Princess Elizabeth found herself enmeshed in a dangerous love triangle with her stepmother, Catharine Parr, and her husband Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth believes she and Seymour are in love, only to slowly realize he’s been both abusing her and manipulating her for his own political gain. Elizabeth’s experience with Thomas Seymour explain why throughout her life she not only staved off marriage, but also would quickly turn on her favorites.

In the Becoming Elizabeth Season 1 finale, Elizabeth finds her place at court shifting as it seems Edward VI might be dying. While the king is on his sickbed, the court makes moves to either put Elizabeth’s Catholic sister Mary (Romola Garai) on the throne or to keep her from it at all costs. As always, Elizabeth attempts to skirt both sides, but it does no good. By the end of the episode, Edward recovers and is horrified to learn how everyone plotted when they thought he’d die. Edward Seymour (John Heffernan) follows his brother to the executioner’s scaffold, while Mary and Elizabeth find themselves cast from the king’s good graces.

So what should we make of the ending of Becoming Elizabeth Season 1? Decider went right to creator Anya Reiss to find out…

Photo: Starz
BECOMING ELIZABETH ENDING EXPLAINED: DOES ELIZABETH’S BROTHER EDWARD VI DIE?

The final episode of Becoming Elizabeth Season 1 deals with the deathly illness of young King Edward VI. When it appears the young Protestant ruler is on his premature death bed, the various power players of the court begin making plans to figure out which of his heirs — eldest Catholic sister Mary or Protestant sister Elizabeth — they should back. However, in the end, Edward VI seemingly makes a full recovery. He’s horrified to learn that his sisters have apparently betrayed him with their political machinations. However one of the last shots of the season shows the young ruler coughing up blood.

Decider asked Becoming Elizabeth showrunner Anya Reiss about the choice to tease Edward VI’s death, only to have him bounce back. Was it a fake out or not?

“I think I’m bristling at fake out,” Reiss said. “It feels like a really important thing to explore and that thing of everyone showing their cards and everyone’s shown how ruthless they are.”

“It’s genuinely history. He was sick, he was sick, and he got better,” Reiss said, explaining that the fact that the court had a sense that Edward’s death was coming affected their actions. “I think if it had been a sudden illness and then he suddenly died, everything wouldn’t have happened the way it did.”

Reiss went on to explain the actions of Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward Seymour to the drama in the film Force Majeur, where characters learn how they’d react in a catastrophic moment to their deep shame and regret. “Everyone tries to cram it back in the box pretending it didn’t happen again,” Reiss said. But it did. And now Edward knows how people feel about him.

“Then that’s kind of how you end up with that conversation on the stairs. It’s like everyone’s laid out their daggers and that’s to go like, ‘I wasn’t going to do anything. Kind of.”

Photo: Starz

Reiss is referring of course to the final scene between sisters Mary and Elizabeth, two characters who can’t cram their feelings back in that proverbial box. The two have a heated conversation on the stairs outside their brother’s chambers where they commiserate about their newfound lack of power and the fact that maybe they don’t love each other.

“It would be the first honest conversation they have,” Reiss said, noting that the show is called Becoming Elizabeth. “It’s really meant to be that last scene where you just suddenly go like, ‘Oh, there’s the Elizabeth we know. There’s the Elizabeth and Mary we know.’”

“Having spent so much time dancing around kind of the themes and the stuff that we know about their relationship and who they are as people, it just felt really nice just to suddenly land on it and go, like, ‘There they are.’”

Reiss went on to explain that she felt like this was a pinnacle moment for the series and that it had larger implications for how we see women in history beyond Elizabeth I and Bloody Mary. This is a moment where the two realize they might just become, like many other princesses in history, mere footnotes.

“It should just be like, ‘Oh, Edward VI had a couple of sisters, and they’re not a big deal,’” Reiss said. “I think it was just bringing them online for a minute, with them thinking that they’re aware that they mean nothing.”

That is, they mean nothing so long as their brother lives. After all, there isn’t anyone else who could be Edward VI’s heir…is there?

Photo: Starz
WILL THERE BE A SEASON 2 OF BECOMING ELIZABETH ON STARZ?

We don’t yet know if there will be a Becoming Elizabeth Season 2. However, Reiss did admit that she definitely plotted the Becoming Elizabeth Season 1 finale to “hopefully springboard into another season.”

One major bit of foreshadowing sees Lady Jane Grey being hustled up the stairs past Mary and Elizabeth, hinting that Edward’s sisters will be passed over in favor of the seemingly pliable (and Protestant) girl. (Spoilers, but that’s exactly what happens in history and it ends up disastrous for young Jane.)

“Hopefully we’ve set up quite a savvy and smart Lady Jane Grey with her own set of ambitions and beliefs,” Reiss said. “There’s a school of thought that Lady Jane Grey was just then carried along with something that she had no idea was coming. Our Lady Jane Grey will have something to say.”

Lady Jane Grey isn’t the only historical character Reiss is hoping to explore in potential future seasons of the show.

“I can’t wait for William Cecil. There’s a few actually,” Reiss said, also name-dropping Frances Brandon, Henry Grey’s wife. “When I first wrote this, there were a lot more characters and they kind of got filtered out, because if they weren’t relevant to the plot, it felt like I don’t want to have a character who’s there as a background.”

“I don’t want to use women as window-dressing. But it’s a very female court that comes in with Mary and there’s some big players.”

Speaking of potentially seeing Mary’s court…

HOW MANY SEASONS OF BECOMING ELIZABETH COULD STARZ MAKE?

Becoming Elizabeth is obviously about how Queen Elizabeth I evolved into the iconic monarch we know today, but does that mean the show has to end abruptly when Elizabeth becomes queen?

Reiss wouldn’t reveal how many seasons she’d ideally like the show to run, but she did say, “I think there is some story at the very start of her reign that is under-explored…I think there’s also a lot of Mary story, so we wouldn’t like to sell that short. And Edward’s not even dead.”

So if you love Becoming Elizabeth, there’s definitely a lot more story to tell. Time will tell if Starz will want to explore it…

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