Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Wolf Hall: Episode 3- Anna Regina

"This is Master Cromwell. He used to be a moneylender. Now he writes all the laws."

It's 1531. The Pope still says no. The King has therefore made himself the head of the Church of England, and Cromwell is front and centre. He's a powerful man, but his religious policies and, especially, his humble origins, have made him enemies. His response is to stick close to Anne, but will she stick close to him?

It's interesting to see Cromwell rejecting superstition; to show this makes him seem modern to the contemporary viewer and reveals how sympathetic we're intended to find the character. And we largely do, mainly because of Mark Rylance's extraordinary acting. We really feel for him when he gets dumped by his lover, especially as said lover is his late wife's sister, and thus a heavy hint that he's still haunted and defined by that awful tragedy.

Less sympathetic is More, happy to torture people in order to "save their souls". I'm happy to see this historically accurate portrayal of him as a dangerous fanatic, sadist and murderer, but I'm still unconvinced by the way Anton Lesser has chosen to play him, as something close to a thug. This sits wrongly, especially in the episode where Anne and Cromwell look down as he resigns as Lord Chancellor. Still, this scene is a nice depiction of how More is moving away from the centres of power as Cromwell moves ever closer, now being a confidant of the King's lover and future Queen. Even a drunken King now seems fond of Cromwell, a man who does his bidding, who came from nothing, who owes all to Henry.

We have a bit of comic relief with Mary Boleyn, whose attraction turns out not to be for Cromwell alone, but the episode ends on an ominous note as Cromwell sees a friend burned at the stake. He is living very, very dangerously.

Once again an excellent piece of telly, and I'm halfway through already.

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