Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Tudors: Season Two, Episode 7

"Now I am indeed Queen!"

No pre-titles sequence. That's weird. And then we get a dream sequence for Queen Anne that is even weirder; she ends up in a cage and set on fire in some bizarre Celtic ceremony, Wicker Man style. It's not hard to see what it symbolises, or what it presages. Still, she's not for the chop quite yet. What's impressive, though, is the parallel with last season, and Wolsey; we know where this is going, but this time the events are gripping, and it doesn't feel as though we're treading water.

In other news, the King needs money, so the monasteries are for the chop. Cromwell and the other Protestants at court are quite happy with the king just pocketing the proceeds, despite the fact that this is blatant corruption and thoroughly irreligious. Then again, truly pious characters in The Tudors are hard to find, especially with More gone and Catherine on her way out. 

Meanwhile, the King and Queen are not getting on, and Anne despairs of her future while Catherine and Mary still live. But Henry dismisses her opinions, dreams of an alliance with the Habsburg Empire, and warns her to keep her pretty little head out of politics. There is quite a contrast with Cranmer and his sadly unnamed (?) German Protestant missus who, to her husband's (and Cromwell's) admiration, is sounding very radical and, indeed, proto-feminist. Good on her.

The King, to great awkwardness, rudely brings Anne's party to a halt, ordering Mark Smeaton to play the violin for him. The scenes of Henry dancing with Anne that follow are juxtaposed with scenes of very rough sex between them, after which Henry cums hard. This nicely structured sequence tells us much about their relationship.

It's at this point, wisely and cunningly, that Anne chooses to tell Henry that she's desperate to conceive again, but can't while Catherine and Mary are alive. Henry is shocked, but too sex-brained to bite her head off.

Meanwhile, the inevitable contrasting scenes in the Vatican see Peter O'Toole's splendid Clement VII making sure that his son(!) will become a future cardinal, and the creation of the Sistine Chapel is directly contrasted with what is happening to the monasteries in England. Thematic contrast, as much as narrative, is the point of these Vatican scenes.

Henry, hunting with his good mate Charles Brandon, ends up staying at the house of a stereotypical local squire, Sir John Seymour, with whom he reminisces about the Battle of Spurs, a personal highlight of Henry's young and carefree days. Thus are we introduced to one Jane Seymour.

Catherine of Aragon finally snuffs it, tragically without seeing her beloved Mary for four years, except in an hallucination. And Anne has a right go at Cromwell over the dissolution of the monasteries and the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. Indeed, she goes as far as to threaten to have him "chopped at the neck". Interesting to ponder the eventual fates of them both...

Time passes. Thomas Wyatt finds his bit on the side, Catherine's lady in waiting, hanged in an obvious suicide; this is a perfect if devastating illustration of how he is far too flippant for this harsh world. In other news, Sir John Seymour is a regular fixture at court for some reason...

We end with Henry being a good dad to Elizabeth when he wants to be, the Boleyns falling out over Cromwell, and Anne telling Henry that she's pregnant with a son. So everything's all right then...

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