As in "Message to the Emperor", "Truth and Justice" centers around one big event and everyone’s reactions to/participation in that event: the trial to determine the legality of Catherine and Henry’s marriage. This episode really focuses on the actions of Catherine and Wolsey. As both their fortunes fall, one reacts with grace and dignity, while the other rapidly dissolves into a nervous wreck. Both are equally enjoyable to watch.
Queen of Hearts
Catherine has decided to take the high road. And, in this episode at least, totally rules that road, if you’ll allow me to mix my metaphors. She ‘confesses’ to Campeggio that she was a virgin when she married Henry, and loudly proclaims that he should tell everyone that she said so. She dresses down her so-called lawyers when they prove to be Wolsey’s puppets. She corners Henry in court with an emotional plea and then does a stunning mic drop-esque exit.
All this is made the more impressive by the fact that she alone is making her decisions. While Anne frequently displays agency in her own life, she ultimately has people telling her what to do. Her uncle and father might not be micromanaging her, but she is still on an assignment from them and their interests still perfectly align with hers. As I’ve said before, Catherine is all alone. The only people who would benefit from Catherine’s marriage remaining intact are Catherine, Mary, and possibly Charles V. Everyone else only suffers as divorce proceedings drag on and on.
King of Clubs
Henry is one scary guy. He is (as I’ve mentioned before) spoiled, stubborn, fickle, and petulant. Couple those singularly unattractive traits with absolute power and you have a recipe for disaster. In addition, the way Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Henry adds something to this to the mix: you can never tell when he’s lying.
From a story perspective, it makes perfect sense for other characters not to know when Henry is lying, but Rhys-Meyers keeps the audience in the dark too. When he comforts Wolsey and tells him that he trusts him, you really think for a second that Henry’s changed his mind or that he’s been playing those so intent on Wolsey’s downfall. Nope. He’s lying. Crafty king, isn’t he?
Ace of Spades
In one of the show’s most interesting extended breakdowns (for the most interesting, check in with Anne next season), Wolsey is coming undone. He’s scared and he has a right to be. He knows full well that unless he can give the king what he wants (in this case, a divorce), he will be useless to Henry. If he becomes useless to Henry, the best case scenario results in him losing his power and prestige. The worst case involves him losing his head.
Unlike Catherine, Wolsey is under no delusions of the seriousness of the predicament. In many ways, he knows Henry better than Catherine does. He knows how unforgiving he can be, having seen it relatively recently in the Buckingham incident. You’ll remember that Wolsey brought Henry a plan that would have spared Buckingham’s life, but Henry disregarded it.
Wolsey is absolutely desperate to achieve his goal. He physically threatens Campeggio and falls on his knees not once but twice in this episode alone. Sam Neill’s acting, particularly in the last few minutes of the court scene, are almost beyond comparison. He is a brilliant actor in general, but in this episode I’m thinking he nears genius level.
Random Historical Fact:
To finish my characters as playing cards metaphor, Anne is the Queen of Diamonds and Cromwell is the Jack of Spades. I just didn’t have enough to say about either of them to merit giving them their own subtitles.
I’m not sure, but I think the ‘Play a volta’ scene is a reference to Elizabeth, where Elizabeth dances the volta with her lover Robert Dudley. Like mother, like daughter. Although it should be noted that neither Anne and Henry nor Elizabeth and Dudley are dancing the volta correctly.
Most Illustrious Quotes:
Henry: “What do you think is going to happen?”
Anne: “What usually happens.”
Margaret: “You can love, perhaps for a year, a month, a day, even for an hour, and in that hour I do believe you love as well and deeply as any man. But after that hour, you love not. You love another and then another. Your love is most generous where it is most hurtful.”
Anne: “That’s how it’s going to be. Let them grumble.”
I love this.
Henry: “I know it’s not you. I trust you. I’ve known you a long time.”
In my review for "Simply Henry", I mentioned Henry’s ability to lie to people’s faces. Here, it’s seen again. Henry reassures Wolsey as to his devotion to him, then has Charles check him out in France.
More: “The anger of the prince means death.”
Damn straight it does. This could be the tagline for the entire series.
Henry: “I want you to go to Rome, Mr. Cromwell. I want you to force His fucking Holiness into submission, if necessary by telling him that if he does not grant me my fucking annulment, then England with withdraw its submission to Rome and I will withdraw my allegiance to him. And make sure he knows this is no idle threat. I mean it and I will do it if he does not satisfy me.”
I don’t think you’re allowed to talk that way to a pope.
Charles: “Where is he going?”
Queen Claude: “I’m sure to service his latest mistress.”
Charles: “Now why would he have to do that when he has such a beautiful wife?[...]Go to bed with me.”
Queen Claude: “If you like. But tell me first, how is your beautiful wife?”
Wolsey: “You still don’t seem to understand, so let me spell it out for you. If you fail to find in favor for the king, you will lose the king and the devotion of his realm to Rome and you will also utterly destroy me, and that, I cannot allow.”
Mess with Catholicism, fine. Mess with the king, okay. Mess with me? Not today, pal.
slow in some places, but excellent in others
three and a half out of four mottos embroidered on ribbons and hid in naughty places