The Tudors: Season Two
Audiences have always had a certain fascination with historical dramas. They frequent required the use of lavish costume and elaborate sets that pull you into a world long gone by. Add to this the infatuation many people have with the British royalty and you have the basis for one of the best shows to hit the premium cable network; ‘The Tudors’. The focus of the show is the infamous King Henry VIII. Most of the times you have see a picture of him he usually is depicted wearing fur lined robes, extremely rotund and shoving down copious quantities of food. While that was a fairly accurate representation of his later years his more youthful persona was very different. He was an athletic man full of vigor and more than a causal eye for the young ladies. The later would ultimately present a road to his downfall and much of the problems that plagued his reign. He is also known for having had six wives; several of which were executed. This series was an instant hit for Showtime and the second season is now available on DVD. Many may think that history is a dry and dead subject. You put up with it in school but after that give little if any thought to what was taught. This series brings history alive. To be fair you should stick to the History Channel if you want the actual facts of the characters depicted here. There is more than a little dramatic license taken in the stories. With that said many of the plots and characters are fairly accurately presented. Since this is a well known and detailed time some of the facts could not be altered too much. In any case just take this show for what it is; a historically based drama. It is taut, well crafted production that will pull you in and hold your attention. There is a level of detail to this series that would be incredible on a big budget film. While not intended for younger viewers this is a series that the adults will fall for.
The series was the brain child of Michael Hirst. He was the absolutely perfect choice for this type of project. Hirst wrote the award winning films ‘Elizabeth’ and its sequel ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ both staring Cate Blanchett. You couldn’t ask for a better track record for a show like this and Hirst delivers. As mentioned there are some liberties taken in the facts. The amazing talent of Hirst is able to start with the facts and weave just enough around them to fit well into the constraints of episodic television. Considering the libido of Henry this is not something that could be presented on regular television. This is the sexy side of history. In many ways the show has a feel similar to the ‘Sopranos’. Instead of putting out hits on rival mobs Henry would go to war. The only difference between Henry VII and Tony Soprano is the scope of their power. In the first season Henry, impeccably played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, had tired of his first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy). She was an arranged marriage made more for a treaty than any semblance of love. She has given Henry a daughter but what he needed most was a soon and heir. His eye set upon a young lady in waiting, Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer). He wanted to marry her but has Catholics divorce is forbidden. Henry was the type to change the rules as it suited him and managed to find a way to marry Anne. At the start of this season the annulment of his marriage to Catherine is moving along after Henry broke away from the Catholic See and made himself the head of the Church of England. This move resulted in a lot of concern among the members of court and the population. Henry has elevated himself to religious and secular leader. Pope Paul III (Peter O' Toole) is not pleased and moves to excommunicate Henry and pushes for the assignation of Anne. Henry’s break with the church puts a strain on his relationship with Sir Thomas Moore (Jeremy Northam). Moore has been a long time friend, mentor and confidant of the King but he is also a devote Roman Catholic. He was on a mission to eradicate the growing trend of Lutheranism and other protestant denominations. His opposition to the King’s religious decrees would ultimately make a martyr of Moore.
Power and those who wield it are constantly changing in this season. Growing in his influence with the King was Sir Thomas Cromwell. He rises to power as the King’s secretary and major domo. He is secretly in league with the Boleyn family and helped to introduce Anne to Protestantism. He was almost cruel and brutal with his administration of the King’s edicts and served as the propaganda minister for the throne. Anne is tying her best to keep in the favor of the King. She may have been the love of his life at one point a short time ago but keeping his affections proves to be much more difficult a task than getting them. Adding to her problems is Anne’s inability to provide a son to the king. The King is not one to wait and when he meets Lady Jane Seymour (Anita Briem), Queen Anne begins to see the seeds to her own fall. Just Anne was once the Lady in Waiting to her predecessor Catherine, Anne discovers that Henry has installed Jane has one of her ladies in waiting. History is about to repeat itself only as we all know Anne is not going to be as fortunate as Catherine with the ultimate outcome. She finally does give birth but alas the child is a girl and Henry becomes even more distant from Anne.
This is fundamentally a crime family played out on the world stage. Henry maneuvers in global politics making and breaking treaties to increase his influence and consolidate his power. He is a brash and impulsive man who believes his throne is directly from God and it is his right to rule. Those around Henry are among the most ambitious and power hungry people of the time. They each have their own plots and self serving schemes constantly afoot. Much of the story lines here are concerned with the battle between Henry and the Pope. This series depicts the Pope more as a political leader than the head of a religion. There are no apologies offered or expected when the Pope gently suggests that the Queen should meet with an untimely end.
The series is one of the best around and for good reason. There is a commitment to quality found on every level of the production. The cast look as if they were born to play these roles. Each one of these brilliant actors embodies their characters completely. The writing is taut and full of plot twists that keep things moving along. If you want to watch something that will intrigue and captivate you then you can’t do much better than this.