The Tudors: Everything is Beautiful

“Welcome back to court.”

Season two picks up more or less where season one left off. Wolsey is gone as is the Duke of Norfolk (as I recall, no explanation for this is given). Jamie Thomas King (Thomas Wyatt) and Hans Matheson (Bishop Cranmer) have joined the main cast.

Speaking of cast additions, the venerable Peter O’Toole appears as the new pope. I didn’t want to attempt to integrate Tudors popes with real popes, because it’s confusing and boring, but I got this far: Clement VII (presumably the “Clement” mentioned by Pope O’Toole) was the pope to refuse Henry a divorce. However, my half-hearted internet search found no evidence that his body was desecrated as described. Peter O’Toole portrays Pope Paul III, Clement VII’s successor. His role in the series isn’t exactly inconsistent with the facts of history, but there is absolutely no evidence that he tried to have Anne Boleyn assassinated.

Chapuys is back. He is one of my favorite characters and I can’t really explain why. I’m firmly on Team Anne in the “Great Matter,” so my affection for the Spanish ambassador really doesn’t make much sense. I suppose it might be his loyalty; it’s such a rare virtue in Henry’s court. Here, Chapuys gets shouted at by Henry (gasp) and hires an assassin to take out Anne. The whole assassin plot was devised to demonstrate how unpopular Anne was, but it feels a bit intrusive. We all know Anne’s eventual fate and as such the threat of assassination comes across as phony and manipulative.

I adore the scene between Henry and Anne over his shirts. It feels real and completely relatable, even modern. Why do you still have gifts your ex-girlfriend gave you? Why do you and your ex-wife still share a cellphone plan? From a political standpoint, it would have been about a thousand times smarter to say nothing about the shirts and not annoy Henry over something so petty. But Anne is more than just a political animal. She is a woman who has completely unintentionally fallen in love with the man she was sent to seduce. It’s not the first time Anne has put her feelings and her relationship before her duty and it won’t be the last.

Things continue in the same pattern with Henry and Catherine. He wants her gone and she refuses to leave. He tries asking “nicely” (or his version of nicely) one more time via Charles, and then adopts a new strategy. It’s the medieval equivalent of the I’m-just-going-out-for-cigarettes-just-kidding-I’m-leaving-you-forever-and-ever thing. It’s not the last time Henry will use this tactic to rid himself of one of his wives. What is unique in Catherine’s case is how much support she has. The people love her. Even Charles, Henry’s closest friend, is on her side (not that he’d ever tell Henry that).

I feel like this episode focuses more than usual on the “little people.” From Mr. Roose, the cook, to the poor servant who delivers Catherine’s message to Henry and is beaten for his efforts, the nobility leave a trail of destruction in the quake of their intrigues. This doesn’t even take into account the very real lives that were lost in the English Reformation which was instigated by Henry mostly in order to get a divorce from his wife. The whole thing reminds me of this quote from The Great Gatsby: “They were careless people [...] they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

I find it a somewhat uncomfortable reminder of the real costs of palace intrigue. That isn’t what this show is about. It’s usually about the soaptastic exploits of beautiful people in period clothing. It’s like being at the zoo and enjoying the flamingos and the zebras and then coming across the big cats pacing and glaring through fences and being so unhappy and realizing where you are and what you’re doing and how depressing it all is. Or is this just me?

Random Historical Fact:

Bishop Fisher was really the victim of an attempted poisoning. It was never determined who was actually behind it, although the show’s guess of the Boleyns probably isn’t far off.

Costumes of the Episode:




The saga sell is gone.

I love the opening scenes. The contrast between Henry and Anne’s perfunctorily taking communion and Catherine and More’s fervent prayers was very well done.

In this season’s hair report, we discover The Tudors’ brilliant strategy to age its actors: hair growth. No, it doesn’t totally work, but what else could they have done to show the progression of time while keeping their leading men studly? Both JRM and Henry Cavill sport longer hair and Rhys Meyers has what I’m pretty sure Ron Weasley would classify as a “stupid little beard” (see: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

Anne knows Bishop Fisher is the problem without being told. Whatever you can say against the woman, she was not stupid.

Boiled alive. Oh, medieval justice system, how truly disgusting and terrible you were.

Most Illustrious Quotes:

Chapuys: “In all conscience, I could never abandon her majesty. She’s the most gracious and wonderful woman in the world. And the saddest.”

More: “My loyalty and love for your majesty is so great that I will never say a word against you in public.”

Pope: “Clement was a terrible procrastinator. Although it was very wrong of some people to dig up his dead body and stab it in the street, I can well understand their feelings. He was never popular.”

Charles: “I love and admire Miss Brooke. And my young son needs a mother.”
Henry: “How old is she?”
Charles: “17.”
Henry: (laughs) “Some mother.”

Anne: “I shall never forget that we were once true friends.”
Wyatt: “I wish I could forget.”

Anne: “Mr. Smeaton.”
Wyatt: “He likes to be called just plain Mark.”
Anne: “How could he possibly be called plain?”

More: “Well, some people even blame the Lady Anne.”
Henry: “Oh, some people would blame her for everything! They’ll blame her if it rains or if the rains fail. They’ll blame her for the barrenness of the queen and for the fact that I love her. They’ll blame her for the wind that destroys our crops and the storms that sink our ships. It’s all the fault of the Lady Anne!”
I generally don’t say this, but Henry has a point.

More: “Harry...”
Henry: “Oh, the time for Harry is over!”

Catherine Brooke: “How was the queen?”
Charles: “She was beautiful. It’s like a thing of the other world to watch her courage.”

Henry: “Are you the most happy?”
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but “The Most Happy” was Anne Boleyn’s motto for a time.

Anne: “And yet everything is beautiful. Don’t you think? Everything is beautiful.”

lots of set up, a few great scenes, but altogether less than perfect
two and a half out of four boiled poisoners


ChrisB said...

How lovely to come back into this world. Watching this drama unfold, with the benefit of our view of history, is always interesting.

I thought this episode rather drove home the point that Henry was quite the brute. Boiling alive is a bit much as is "killing the messenger." Watching Anne's face as Henry nearly kills that poor soul is fascinating; she is becoming more aware of exactly what she has gotten herself into.

Great review, as always, sunbunny!

Kate Fielding said...

There is music that plays in this episode in the scene between Anna and Thomas Wyatt when they are in bed. If someone could let me know what it is I would be so grateful! It isn't on the official soundtrack and it set the scene so beautifully.