Tudors: Season 3
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The Tudors: Season 3

Historical dramas have traditionally been extremely popular with film and television audiences. There is something intriguing about the world of the past that is able to transport people out of the mundane life we live back to one of different, more refined customs and beautifully elaborate dress. Of course hardly any such production is truly historically accurate; it’s nice to think of these times in a romantic light ignoring little details like plague and pestilence which may be a prime reason why such works typically concentrate on the upper class and nobility. One of the more interesting series of this type has been a flagship of original programming on Showtime network; ‘The Tudors’. Although it was HBO that established the original programming paradigm for premium cable networks it didn’t take long for Showtime to challenge their supremacy rivaling and occasionally surpassing HBO’s offerings. ‘The Tudors’ is based on the infamous life of King Henry VIII of England. Most times he is depicted as a huge, gluttonous figure but in fact as a young man he was considered dashingly handsome and quite athletic. He is also known for going through wives at an alarming rate and the habit of employing an executioner in lieu of a divorce attorney. I just wonder how he managed eight wives. Sure there were a lot of perks to being queen but the position wasn’t know for an easy retirement and severance typically referred to head from body. HBO had ‘The Sopranos’ but a war there affected a few crime families. When Henry set his sights on some objective he could readily deploy flotillas and infantry to exert his position. The saying ‘It’s good to be king’ certainly applied to Henry. Many a quick to point out the many places where this series departs from the well documented historical record but please remember the objective of this series is to entertain. If you want the facts try the ‘History’ or ‘Biography’ channels’ or better yet get up from in front of the television and go visit the library.

The third season picks up shortly after the events of the second. Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) has just been beheaded and with her head barely removed King Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is moving on to wife number three, Lady Jane Seymour (Anita Briem). The first episode of the season depicts the joyous nuptials on the happy royal couple but there is a lot on the King’s mind to distract him from the event. The King had rebelled from the authority of the Pope over the refusal of a Papal decree of divorce to end Henry’s marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy). This resulted in the highly controversial act of Henry starting his own religion, the Church of England. Not only would Henry be the secular monarch of the land this made him their religious leader as well. This resulted in many executions including some staunch Catholics close to the King. At the beginning of this season the Catholic population has begun to revolt in protest, called the Pilgrimage of Grace takes hold as a response to Henry’s orders to close their monasteries. This conflict is echoed in the constant political maneuvering inherent in court. The King has been estranged from Lady Mary (Sarah Bolger) his daughter by the late Catholic Queen Catherine. He had removed her from line of succession but soon reconciles with the King subsequently allying with Queen Jane to obtain the King’s acceptance of Princess Elizabeth (Claire MacCauley), daughter of the late Anne Boleyn. After her mother’s execution she was declared illegitimate and also temporarily removed from succession. This would eventually continue the religious battle with Catholic Mary and Protestant Elizabeth playing central roles. For royal families daughters were useful to broaden a family’s power base or cement a treaty but what the King was constantly denied was the all important male heir. Jane provided her husband a son, Edward VI at the cost of Jane’s life; dying shortly after giving birth. Henry was not the type to be without a queen an soon takes on his fourth wife Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone) who never got to be crowned queen and quickly found her marriage annulled. Considering the track record of the King she was rather fortunate this season concludes with the beginning of Henry’s relationship with the woman who would become wife number five, Catherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant), a girl not yet out of her teens.

On the public front the king’s vicegerent for spiritual matters. Sir Thomas Cromwell (James Frain) who was feared and hated for his draconian, frequently brutally support of the anti-catholic reformation. His actions in support of the king’s policies serve to mobilize the rebellion moving throughout the Northern provinces. On a more global front the Papacy stirs up long standing animosities to support Spain and France in a war against England. This season show Henry as a more mature man beset by physical problems and old injuries. In putting down the
Pilgrimage a terrible level of deceit and violence was employed causing fear and hatred to spread like wildfire throughout England. Jonathan Rhys Meyers still is commanding in his portrayal of the King. There are some signs of him slowing down in the role which is consistent with the historical king growing older, weary of the subterfuge constantly impinging on him. Showtime has announced that the forth season will conclude this saga so there is little chance of driving it into the ground; only natural since they are running out of wives. There is everything that people looked to soap operas for only ramped up to incredible heights. This series still has it all; great acting, fantastic sets and costumes, battles, intrigue and sex. It may have started to diverge from its peak but it still holds on very well.

Posted 05/25/2010

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