Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Tudors: Season Two, Episode 1

"The time for Harry is over!"

It's a new season, but everything is in media res. the king's "Great Matter" is hanging over everything and there is much tension. It's now 1532, and we are still living in a very Catholic England. Things have changed, of course, such as the King's facial hair and Peter O'Toole as a splendidly cynical new Pope, but the only issue in town is the King's divorce. 

Behring the scenes, though, Anne Boleyn has increasingly been feeding ever more radically Protestant ideas to the king, ideas which happen to align rather well with his personal desires. On the other hand, Sir Thomas More is more and more outspoken in support of the established church and the Queen. Aligned with him is Bishop Fisher, who also sees any potential break with Rome as heresy.

There has been much commotion in Rome, with the papacy pushed and pulled between Francis I and Charles V, and realpolitik is the order if the day. Charles V remains omnipotent, and Henry is never going to be allowed to divorce his Aunt Catherine by any Pope.

We have new characters- Anne's ambitions and intelligent brother George Boleyn, a coming man; shy and nervous Thomas Cranmer, a Lutheran protege of Cromwell and suddenly the king's personal chaplain; and Mark Smeaton, a good looking violinist and simpleton at court amongst the wolves.

Other marriages are less weighty than the matter of the king's; he is much amused by Charles Brandon marrying his seventeen year old ward, which everyone seems to think is perfectly fine. More seriously, Thomas Wyatt is risking his neck by shagging Anne Boleyn, and Smeaton is playing with fire by publicly flirting with her. 

The atmosphere at court takes a turn for the worse with the attempted poisoning of the court Carholics, and it never really recovers; court is a dangerous place, where one risks random execution for a whiff of power. A lowly cook is arrested, tortured by Cromwell, and killed by being boiled alive, but the crime was masterminded by Thomas Boleyn, who is never implicated. 

There is tension everywhere- between the Queen and Anne Boleyn over who makes the King's shirts; between Henry and More, as the old friends realise they now have nothing in common; and between Henry and the recently evicted Catherine, where things are getting particularly ugly; the King even duffs up the Queen's messenger.

Even more alarmingly, Ambassador Chapuys takes up the Pope's suggestion and hires an assassin to kill Anne Boleyn. Things are slowly getting more and more tense...

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