5 December 2014 | MacNessa
I gave this 10/10 because I believe that it succeeded completely in its intent, which was presumably to faithfully recount, as dramatically as possible, the rise to power and reign of one of Europe's most important monarchs. At over 39 episodes and more than 2500 minutes in length it is of course hard to be perfect all the time and there are moments when the acting or the scenery is not at 100% what it normally is but that is a minor quibble. If there are a few dodgy displays of cheap CGI scenes then there are a 100 beautiful ones. If there are one or two actors who appear again in different roles, then do remember that this is a relatively small country(compared to the US) with a smaller budget but with an ambition no less than anything conceived in Hollywood.
Two things stand out: The story with its countless subplots which appear at a dizzying rate (especially for the non Spanish speaker), and secondly the acting. Michelle Jenner as Isabel is a beautiful queen, but she does a fantastic job bringing to life the complex personality, so distant from our own time but which ultimately succeeds in turning a backwater kingdom in the middle of the Iberian peninsula into a world empire. Rodolfo Sanchez as Fernando/Ferdinand is also inspired, but for me the two most memorable performances were from two other duos, one at the start and one at the end :Carillo/Pacheco in the first series with their plots and counter plots are pure drama while Juana/Felipe in the third and final series is tragedy in its most bewildering form. Irene Escolar as Juana "la loca" is probably the best of all. You haven't seen intense if you haven't seen Escolar's Juana.
One thing bugs me though: as a non Spaniard who fortunately understands Spanish, I am nevertheless sad that the DVD box set does not come with English subtitles. As a ruler Isabel is there, somewhere in the top 10 of great rulers/tyrants with Napoleon, Lincoln, Genghis, Caesar Augustus and Charlemagne and well ahead of the Tudors or the Borgia in terms of importance in world affairs. Lots of good things, and to be sure bad things: Inquisition, the Discovery of America, the granting of Human rights to the Indians(later ignored by the conquistadors who caused the death of millions) and the financial and legal reforms which laid the foundations of one the greatest empires in History and whose influence is still felt in that 500million speak Spanish today. With such an important person in history, surely someone in the Spanish state television would have the in-site to market this on a world wide basis.