The comfort of period pieces | The Cook of Castamar

I would list out ‘running out of period dramas to watch’ as a legit fear. I love them so much that almost every other form of content seems lacklustre in comparison. And I don’t even distinguish between period dramas – any kind of it will do. Romance, action, fiction, non-fiction, bio-pics, movie, web series, from any country, featuring any kind of people, dealing with any kind of controversy; all of it will do as long as it’s a period piece.

The reason I’m so drawn to period content, I think, is the lure of a world without the fast pace of modern day communication and information technology. It was all comparatively slow and arguably more natural as man functioned more with natural intelligence than artificial. No matter the genre of content, period pieces are unfailingly emotional in nature as they have to revolve around people than plots that drive them. The lack of quick communication, the inability to travel long distances within hours and the grand drama of social events are elements that set period pieces apart for me. The creator of a period piece faces extraordinary challenges – and many of them have aced them with unbelievable detail.

‘The Cook of Castamar’ is a Spanish drama translated to English available on Netflix. It’s a simple story. A cook arrives to a Duke’s palace as a new recruit, the Duke falls in love with her and she with the Duke. What happens of their love story amidst the scheming foes of the Duke and their plans to wed him for revenge, the obligations of his position and the drama of court; is basically the whole story. The villain isn’t as intense as we’ve seen before and the hero isn’t as heroic as to make us fall madly in love with him. The villain is basically in love with a character that the hero wed and is revengeful, and the hero basically righteous. Quite the traditional plotline. And yet, it’s a story that manages to keep us hooked just because it flows easily and gracefully almost until the end. The final episode feels a little rushed and the ending could have been elaborated into couple more episodes – but the series is still worth a watch.

Cook of Castamar has everything that I could have asked of a period piece. The format of the plot resembles that of Downton Abbey and somewhat even The Crown, though not on the same level of execution. The palaces, the palace gardens, royalty with grave secrets to keep, extravagant costumes, servants and servants’ character arcs, horses, parties and affairs. That’s pretty much the whole checklist for a perfect period piece and The Cook of Castamar ticks all the items and does more. There are attempts to address some contemporary social issues through the lens of an ancient era. The cook, Clara, an agoraphobic girl talented in the art of cooking, makes her mark early on and earns the love of both the characters in the series as well as the viewers, making it easy to root for her.

I could get acquainted with practically every rule and cliché of period dramas, and yet I’ll choose them as comfort content because really, the slow pace is as comforting as entertainment gets. I just hope they never stop making those.  

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