Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Tudors: Season One, Episode 10

"How many have you burned, Thomas?"


And so the season ends, with a dramatic if historically inaccurate end for Wolsey and with harbingers of the massive religious strife that lies ahead in the next season. 

We start with the sexually frustrated King, ahem, masturbating, which is quite a contrast with the long subsequent council meeting scene in which we see him actually, er, kinging. There is a lot of talk, especially from the Duke of Norfolk, about Wolsey, and what he may be up to in York. After all, he may return to power and exact revenge against his persecutors; for the likes of Norfolk, Wolsey must die.

Ironically, while the psychopathic Sir Thomas More is busy torturing and murdering "heretics", the king, under Anbe Boleyn's and Cromwell's influence, is amongst their number. Very much drawn to ideas of kings being the supreme head of religious life in their realms, with no Papal involvement, he has an epiphany: "This book is a book for me, and for all kings!" This does not mean, as we will later learn, that the King will become a full-on Protestant. But it does, as we will later learn, mean that the kingdom will soon be turned upside down.

More is looking less and less sympathetic; the camera lingers on the burning of the "heretic" whom he has put to death. Things are not so simple as his being a tragic figure; we must not forget that his hands are steeped on blood.

The king makes a few more fruitless diplomatic gestures to the Pope and Charles V, but this is utterly pointless. Rumour abounds of an upcoming break with Rome. So it goes for everyone at court. 

There is also the more pragmatic matter of the kingdom's finances, however; as Henry angrily declares, Wolsey was, whatever else he may have been, a competent administrator, and the public finances are in the toilet now he's gone. Could there be a u-turn in the offing? Wolsey's enemies act quickly, led by Norfolk (now more openly Lutheran) and Cromwell, and Wolsey is finally charged with high treason. 

Things seem to be moving in a certain direction; Chapuys leaves court, disgusted at the Protestantism he sees on display there. There are scenes of Wolsey, praying in his cell, juxtaposed with Norfolk and other triumphant Protestants at court. It's a nice sequence of scenes, incorporating a play in which the Roman Catholic Church is mocked in ways which would have recently seemed unthinkable.

Wolsey's final prayer is moving, as he accepts that he will never see heaven. His suicide is not exactly the same as the massive probable stroke which history records, but then I suppose Sam Neill is not so morbidly obese as was the historical Cardinal. 

We end with a symbolic scene which points to the future; Henry and Anne, having sex in a forest. But Anne won't let him climax, and once again he flounces off in frustration...

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