Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Tudors: Season Three, Episode 3

"For some very good reasons, I am determined to save you."

1537 begins, and it promises to be a bloody year. Programmes like The Tudors, of necessity, tack to a "Great Man" philosophy of history; we see little of ordinary people beyond the world of the court. Here, with the rebellion in Yorkshire, we get a rare glimpse of life for ordinary people, and it's not nice at all. People have their welfare safety net ripped away, and all the old familiar things, and when they protest they are tortuously executed by the hordes. This reminds us that, fun though psychopathic tyrants may be, there is a human cost to them.

We begin with Henry's more amusing little quirks; he forgives Hans Holbein his trespasses as he is a genius, much as Pope Clement VII did with Michelangelo last season. The rebels do not receive such leniency, being less exalted. And even Mary's old governess, the Countess of Salisbury, faces an uncertain future as the mother of the traitor Reginald Pole.

Sir Francis Bryan, interestingly, is sleeping with Edward Seymour's wife, cowgirl style ("That was entertaining!"). Seymour deserves his cuckoldry, not bothering to inform his royal sister of their father's death for a whole week. More innocently, Mary is beloved of the people and especially of Robert Aske and the rebels. She, for the moment, is in favour and cannot be accused of treason. Few others can claim this luxury.

Henry, with Jane`s full knowledge, is having an affair with Ursula Missenden that woud be treason if it were she doing it and not he. This has the side-effect of the priapic Bryan not being able to have his wicked way with her. Henry is less stable than he was, dismising Cromwell because of his "low birth". This won`t last.

Another rising takes plac in the north, and it is obvious from the start that the only possible end to it is bloodshed and heads on pikes. It is the Duke of Suffolk who is made to dip his hands into the blood, as the underlings of tyrants must, ordering death and torture, breaking earlier promises to the rebels and deeply traumatising himself by doing so. A red hot poker is shoved up an arse. 74 summary hangings are judged "too lenient". Cromwell clashes with his prisoner Lord Darcy, who predicts the former`s imminent beheading. Oddly, though, Cromwell wants to save Aske, for reasons of his own.

Ashe may be spared, but otherwise there is nothing but death and suffering. And yet Henry sees only what he wants to see, as only a tyrant can.

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