Slam cut to black. Single drum smack.
The Tudors, almost certainly wearing leather or velvet with the neckline a shade too low sidles over, checks no-one else is nearby and would like to ask you if you’re ready for the first Grand Guignol section of the story . You Know. The most notorious one.
Titles first. It is definitely time to notice the portraits of Henry and Anne and The Birds of Foreshadowing in the flickers.
There’s several changes to the cast, Henry and Brandon get beards and aged up and there’s some Season 2 scenes in the flickers now. I plan on catching up with the titles occasionally to see how they handle the increasing ‘churn’ of characters.
And with that I and my very sensible neckline cock my eyebrow, check no one else is nearby and ask if you are ready for a lot of sex and power and violence, and especially for that part in the history books where everyone gets their first “Wait, he did what?” moment.
Are you ready for the break with Rome, England’s Admin goes from More to Cromwell, and the sheer brutality of 16th century politics? The emergence of the great monster of British crowned history? The first lumbering movements of a terrifying prototype state machine? Judicial executions? A midlife crisis with a body count? Assassinations? Torture?, Marital murder? And somewhere in the mid-section, to general disappointment (but not pointed or dangerous disappointment, not yet) one of the greatest monarchs in all of human history is born.
Well, We’re Clearly Going to Need a Montage
A short and efficient one, we have much to do. A minute of audio below.
The score is all winding tension, and the sounds you can hear over the music are:Henry and Anne in a church, publicly taking communion as a couple. Anne might not be Queen yet but she is now definitely inhabiting the role in many of the strict daily routines of the court. The other voices, later in the soundtrack, are Katherine praying privately with real intensity, as is Sir Thomas More. So, this is a lot about setting the atmosphere and the atmosphere is tense. As we’re being shown two sides it’s worth noting that one of those sides (Katherine and More) is separated already, and being shown praying in private against the bold public religious declaration Henry and Anne are making.
That they are all involved with religious expression shows us the battle ground. All these characters are coming into conflict over religion.
The Times We Live In
Okay, intense start. The score doesn’t let it go, however, and continues the winding rhythm into the next scene- Thomas More walking into Whitehall Palace to do some admin as a still fairly new Lord Chancellor.
It all seems much as it was when Wolsey held that post, but the further the scene goes on, the clearer it is that the times have changed.
Everyone stops what they’re doing and bows. So far, so good. Then Chapuys pops up, thanking More for his support of Katherine and offering him a letter from the Emperor. More refuses as politely as he can and drags Chapuys off to the side of the room. Sure, it probably wouldn’t even have been a great move for Chapuys to take with Wolsey, but Lord Chancellor More is clearly afraid to be seen to be too close to the Emperor. He asks Chapuys to ‘Consider the times we live in’. Chapuys understands and More continues…on his way to work?
Because it certainly used to seem under Wolsey that the centre of the work of government was wherever Wolsey happened to be, and it started when he arrived.
Now More, Lord Chancellor of England, begs the Imperial Ambassador to reel in the intrigue in the corner of a room and approaches the centre of power where the work of government is already going on, and that is now wherever Henry is, and the work starts when the King starts.
Henry and Cromwell started early today. More meets Cromwell coming out and they are so like mean girls meeting in a hallway that there is no way this isn’t getting giffed.
Henry has clearly spent a chunk of the morning getting briefed on all the religious scandals Cromwell could find, and that exaggerated deference Cromwell shows to everyone is starting to look a bit like it could be camouflage.
Henry and More get into their differing views on religion. It’s a refresher conversation and a standoff, More disagrees with Henry’s increasingly belligerent direction with the church but will not speak publicly against it. The camera holds on Henry, who is thoughtful for a moment when More leaves the room.
The fresh new Lord Chancellor smell is wearing off, and whatever it was Henry was hoping for when he appointed Sir Thomas, I don’t think he’s getting it.
Break With Rome – First Half
The Tudors hits accuracy quite solidly in its treatment of the politics of the Break with Rome. It is a bit simplistic, and streamlines the break into two major confrontations with Parliament, missing out the messy financial strong arming Actual Historical Henry heavily favoured, and which he used extensively during the struggle with the church.
I was ready to spank The Tudors for it’s geographical blindness again, particularly when I saw this.
The Tudors’ set dressers might have been able to make 8 sets look like 28, but this big building keeps shining through. It was Blackfriar’s Court for the trial last season, and it’s pretty damn hard to disguise.
Forgiving that, the idea of Parliament meeting in a church, particularly one that was housed in Westminster, it turns out is not outlandish at all. Parliament was itinerant at the time, meeting only when called to some building set aside for them for that session alone. It was finally given somewhere to settle down in 1547, very early in Edward’s reign – and that was St Stephen’s Chapel, in Westminster Palace. So, Huh.
Henry has something to say. Henry is asking for the submission of the church to the crown because he too made a holy oath to God, at his coronation for the protection of England. And he needs this submission in order to fulfill that oath. Clever.
Uh-huh, head nods from Henry’s people. Henry puts the question to Archbishop Warham, who would like to invite a guest speaker…
He describes the break as ‘Leaping out of Peter’s ship’ and ‘The tearing asunder of the seamless coat of Christ’. He does not save his gunpowder.
The words ‘As far as the law of Christ allows’ get inserted, and then I was surprised to find out that the silence that followed the question, and public declaration that “He who is silent is presumed to consent” apparently actually happened here. I always thought it was just a bit too convenient foreshadowing for Thomas More’s upcoming struggle. But there you go.
This is a failure for The Tudors’ Henry and as he leaves with the ‘holding in my insane royal rage’ walk and stare.
In Rome We Spent Our Budget Wisely
The Tudors had to spend carefully, so Rome with just 2 characters there most of the time (Pope Paul and Cardinal Campeggio) had to do a hell of a lot with a lot less than the main cast. But Rome is our window into continental politics, so they spent it on many things, including CGI.
Were we due a new Pope? Nope. Actually Historically it was still Clement VII (The Pope at the time of the divorce trial) until 1534, but if you can get Peter O’Toole…
Well, then I guess we have a new Pope, and he’s a sassy pragmatist pope. My favorite kind.
Cardinal Campeggio made it home, and he’s giving the Pope his own recap. Campeggio gets to the point in the letter he’s reading where Henry starts complaining about his treatment and he looks a bit curious about the (still quite new?) Pope’s reaction. This is what he gets.
Actually Historically: Err No? I really don’t think so. Fair enough there was a period in Italian history when disinterring the last Pope and having a shot at killing him again was basically one of your recreation choices on a Roman weekend (One of them got two posthumous trials) but I think we’re far too late for all that in 1532. And Clement VII was not one of the mob-disinterred Popes.
Campeggio and the Pope continue turning the problem over, on one side the Holy Roman Emperor and the other the King of England, wanting exact opposite outcomes. And then you get to look at a face that can decide “For the needs of the many….”, like 3 times before lunch. And he goes straight from ‘Beauty and truth” to…
Definitely my favorite kind of Pope. Mix the shit, Paul.
Father Is a Toned Down Ming the Merciless
Henry is about to put a brave face on his parliamentary step forward, selling it as a victory to Anne, who he finds in the palace reading a book.
She and Henry have an intimate little scene where…Jesus, how controlling is Henry? No don’t get up, stay there. You look so great. I must posses you utterly. I’ve got important news so let me gently grab your head and turn it so I can give you that news in a way I like.
Of course Anne seems quite happy, and is happy to manipulate too, coaching the news in ideal terms for Henry – making sure it’s all about him and what he will now be able to do with his just rights.
Henry’s presenting it as a victory to Anne but after a bit of a kiss and a feel, he leaves, and her father springs out of the side room he was hiding in. Anne is as perturbed as you would expect to find her father hanging out while she and the King explored bases, but I’m not sure Thomas Boleyn is noticing that even while she adjusts her dress. He is only here for the politics and as soon as he talks about it she drops into ‘practical politics’ mode, too.
Her father explains the halfway nature of the victory and they identify that the main source of resistance is Bishop Fisher. And then..
Goodness, we are all about significant pauses this week.
Catholic European Research Group
We then get introduced to England’s Protestantism think tank and its newest member, Reverend Thomas Cranmer, played by Hans Matheson. He’s a friend of Cromwell, and Cromwell mentioned him as the originator of the ‘go to the universities’ plan. Actually Historically – a little off. Cranmer started a closer friend to the Boleyns than Cromwell – probably serving as their chaplain at some point before royal service.
Then there’s Cromwell himself played by James Frain, , George Boleyn (Padraic Delaney) for the Boleyn family interests, and Thomas Wyatt, (Jamie Thomas King), currently working as a diplomat.
Wyatt starts the conversation introducing the fact that Cranmer is a churchman. You get the impression Wyatt makes a hobby of scandalising churchmen, but Cranmer is a comparable age and not likely to be easily shocked. He is a polite, shy man but he joins in with the joshing about Wyatt’s scandalous life before business begins.
The business is the break from Rome, and they are reviewing their opposition. Bishop Fisher, the name of the moment is back in the air again. But so is Archbishop Warham who has recently turned stubborn. Wyatt hits it on the head. Warham is old and sick, his heaven is close now, and according to his beliefs he is going to have to explain himself to God very soon.
Of course, from the Think Tank’s perspective the very best thing Warham could do for his church and his country and his people is give in.
The Return of The Corridor Set
I did not think I’d say this…but it has been a while.
A servant in a deliberately obscure livery, and a little man (and he’s going to a lot of trouble to appear a little man, hunched, with little steps, hands first nervously rubbing each other, then turning his hat) utterly out of his element pick door number 3.
Where a significant pause followed by a familiar voice awaits.
It names him, Richard Roose, and his profession, a cook. We never quite express the (significant pause, heavy intonation) ‘duty’ he is being paid so heavily for. Mr Roose gets threatened with something worse than death if he betrays the speaker- the destruction of his entire family.
And then his contractors, and the weapon he is to use are revealed.
Cranmer Bricks It
Cranmer finally gets to meet the King.
Cromwell formally introduces Cranmer to Henry, and Henry launches in with an erudite summation of Cranmer’s University suggestion and how useful it was.
And gets, just, nothing back.
Cranmer is in “OhmyGodHenryVIIIKingofEnglandIsRightInFrontOfMeAndOhmyGod” mode, and then Cromwell and Henry drop into a practiced routine. Clearly they have a highly functional working relationship, and this is not the first time this has happened.
Cromwell takes over, advises Cranmer he’s now personal chaplain to the King and then gently prods him to say thank you. Cranmer whispers ‘Of course’ and I think that might be the only complete words he manages this scene, and manages to get to one knee with just a bit of a wobble.
And then Henry is off out to see Brandon.
Romance and Memory and Forever
He and Brandon have a walk and talk by the pond in the Garden.
They discuss Brandon’s wife and recent marriage. It is worth mentioning, once again, that Brandon’s character is done large favours by the time telescoping. It evens out their ages a bit (I mean she’s stated to be 17, but the actress appears to be about 20, and anything’s better than the actual historical (14) truth) and makes everything lot less creepy.
They are both in an optimistic and romantic mood.
Oh Heck this is interesting.
The birds chirp and the music stays light and romantic and the sun shines into a bedroom. Where…oh my.
Anne Boleyn is in bed with what appears to be a man. Thomas Wyatt. Oh, It’s a flashback. And I know I said I’d censor nudity but they’re not nude, and it all goes forward distractingly suddenly.
Which is distracting because what they were talking about was great. It was about constancy and Wyatt was unexpectedly telling the truth. He loved her as long as she lived, but she wasn’t constant, she fell in love with Henry.
But when this Anne died, she came back to say goodbye, with a memory…
Oh, I just love the way The Tudors handles its supernatural elements, and it’s not something I’m normally a fan of. It has little, subtle moments like this, and sometimes more overt ones. But by the time it just lays out the structure of all this (Season 4) it comes to a character who may be sensitive to it, but by then is also definitely running a pretty heavy case of PTSD, and by then you’ve also been getting little bites of it like this moment for 4 seasons.
Back in the present Thomas approaches Anne. I just need to stop and note the visual here. Impassive expression, crowns on the gowns of the ladies that flank what is surely quite a grand chair. Rich fabrics if not over her head to make a cloth of estate then certainly draped around her. Everything about what a person sees coming up to this chair invites them to imply royalty (if not quite with a capital r yet).
Wyatt and Anne have a brief, quiet, coded: “I am so very pleased that you are so discreet” talk, and then Thomas introduces Mark Smeaton (David Alpay)
He demonstrates his ability with the violin he carries, and Anne, and everyone else is impressed. At this point musical instruments and accomplished musicians and composers are very rare, and quite expensive. A man who could afford music all the time would be a King, or very close to it.
Anne gets her musician, Wyatt keeps the peace, and one more gets added to the circle.
Across The Town, A Cauldron Bubbles
Well we don’t know who his employer is yet, but we clearly hear that Sir Thomas More is staying for dinner from other servants, offscreen. He’s got fear written on his face, but Mr Roose adds the powder in the phial to the bubbling stew (or is it a soup?). We follow the stewsoup…
It’s significant pause Bishop Fisher. Most likely Mr Roose’s employer. But that looks like a whole tableful of ecclesiastical resistors. Bishop Fisher starts a long prayer. It’s Hitchcock’s stewsoup slowly cooling as it’s dished.
Will they eat the soup? How much will they have? Even, so how Actual Historical is this? Well, that’s either “Wiki that”, Click right to the next recap, or endure a….
You knew this was coming…