The Tudors – Season Two

9 March 2011

 

Yes, I know that I am somewhat late with this review but several of you expressed a wish to hear my thoughts about season two of The Tudors once I had finished watching it. This blog isn’t just all me, me, me you know! No. I write it for all of you as well as myself so if you want me to write about something…

Oh, let’s just get on with the review shall we? Before I agree to God only knows what folly.

First of all, I would like to say that season two of The Tudors was even better than the first and confirmed me in my opinion that I really lost out when I abandoned it after the first episode all those years ago. Well, NO MORE.

When it comes to authenticity, well, it was still surprisingly accurate in places and rather less so in others. That’s just any historical drama for you though. I still feel a bit mortified when I say that it isn’t a hotbed of way out inaccuracy though as I’m sure you’re all sitting there thinking ‘Did she even go to school?’ Well, yes, I did. Sort of.

I wish I could approach The Tudors in the same way as my husband though, who was watching it with me and is still giving the appearance of someone who is enjoying it excessively. He went to an academically selective public school (that’s a posh private school that only lets in clever sorts, American readers) but doesn’t seem to have studied any history prior to the second world war, which is, interestingly enough, the opposite of me. Anyway, it’s a minefield watching The Tudors with him as he doesn’t have any knowledge about the period at all so EVERYTHING is a spoiler. I’ve stopped saying things like ‘I’ll miss Thomas More when he isn’t in it any more’ but I don’t think telling him that the series ultimately ends with Henry’s death was too much of a give away? Was it?

Anyway, back to season two. It started off at quite a cracking pace – Anne was holding him off, then not holding him off, then knocked up, then married and then queen in the blinking of an eye. It was quite astounding. I loved Anne in this season actually – even when she went a bit loopy in the later episodes and started going out with a folded napkin on her head and shrieking with laughter at inappropriate moments and threatening people with having their heads chopped off in a Red Queen like manner. Poor Anne. I was really sad when she was executed – it was almost unbearably tragic to be honest: the final untouched meal, the prayers, the delays, the joking, everyone wanting to touch her as she went to the scaffold, poor Thomas Wyatt weeping all over the place and even Suffolk sinking to his knees.

Next season will be RUBBISH without her. RUBBISH. I mean, let’s be honest here, Natalie Dormer acted pretty much everyone else off the screen.

Much has been made of Henry VIII’s relative attractiveness in this series and to be honest, I don’t agree as I think he does actually become progressively less attractive as it goes on. Not just in personality, as he becomes more horrible, petulant and ruthless but also in looks. No? He still makes me laugh though with his toddler rages, his rather innocent belief that everyone must always be thrilled to see him when he walks into a room and the fact that he still hasn’t wised up to the possibility that he might actually be a bit crap at jousting.

To be honest, I found myself wondering what Anne saw in him. Granted, Jonathan Rhys Meyers has a certain android eyed charm, but even so. The man can’t even eat swan pie without getting gravy all over his face. At least, I THINK that was gravy…

The seismic shift in his feelings for Anne, which was the crux of this season, was rather lost on me though as both actors had such great chemistry that I just didn’t get why they had drifted apart. I mean, we were battered around the head with the reasoning behind it all but I just um didn’t get it. It’s startling though isn’t it – how someone can go from rending their world apart for the love of someone and then end up, a mere few years later cheerfully sending them to their death before feasting on some poor, unfortunate swan.

HENRY, YOU BASTARD, LEAVE THE SWANS ALONE.

It’s not all bad though – the scenes of Henry with his children were a joy as dynastic ambitions apart, it’s made clear that he adores them. I’ve heard toddlers likened to that friend we all had at university who was sunny, charming, adorable and eager to please one minute and furious, infuriating, destructive and grim as hell the next. That’s Henry VIII in a nutshell.

Okay, I am going to say something that may be relatively controversial now. I don’t generally court controversy so please forgive me for what I am about to say. Okay, here goes. I don’t like Jane Seymour. No, not the 80s actress with lustrous hair and a book about how to live romantically. Not that one. The other one.

I’ve always disliked Jane Seymour to be honest – ever since I was a very little girl and read my Pitkin Guide about Henry VIII’s six wives until it fell apart. First of all, I was an Anne Boleyn fan from my cradle (my grandfather was in the Scots Guards and he and my grandmother were history nuts so instead of normal bedtime stories I used to get tales about the Tudor court, particularly the ones who ended up in the Tower of London, about which my grandfather who did guard duty there and even frequently handed over the keys, was something of an authority) and considered Jane to be the pasty faced usurper. Secondly though there is that portrait by Holbein, which is technically brilliant but dear me, her FACE. I mean, God’s sake, it’s not a PHOTOGRAPH, she had weeks to compose her features into an attractive expression.

Okay, they aren’t good reasons but I really dislike the idea of her anyway. She’s often portrayed as all blonde and fragile and sweet natured on the premise that after he’d had enough of Anne, Henry was desperate to marry someone who was her total opposite. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. In my mind, Jane was just as much an arch schemer as Anne Boleyn and a cold blooded one at that, who cheerfully colluded with the judicial murder of her predecessor.

It probably comes as no surprise then that I hated her in The Tudors too. I think they wanted to make her seem all ethereal and angelic and well behaved but ugh, no. Just no. To me she came across as smug, sly and, frankly, a bit of a bitch. Either that or she was a total simpleton. The bit where clips of her getting all dressed up for her new station as Soon To Be Queen were interwoven with Anne Boleyn getting ready for execution was really infuriating and also a bit perplexing as, hang on, aren’t we supposed to LIKE Jane? Cold hearted, I tell you. COLD.

I’m starting to rant so I’d better move on. I didn’t say anything about Henry Cavill last time, which annoyed quite a few of you so I’d better say something now, hadn’t I? I didn’t like him at all in the first season but I’ve started to warm to him now – mainly because of his last scene with the oily, loathsome Thomas Boleyn when he got him by the throat, which is something that I would rather like to do myself. In the first season he was a philandering toad but he now seems to have mellowed into a nice family man who juggles his role as King’s Best Friend with the uncomfortable fact that he actually thinks that Henry is a bit of a bastard.

He observes but says nothing – until he gets his hands on Thomas Boleyn, that is. Suffolk was instrumental in the fall of Anne but his furious outburst at her uncaring father spoke volumes about his true feelings, don’t you think?

What a horrible, unctuous, vile, slimy little man, Thomas Boleyn is in this though. It’s a blessing that we won’t have to see him again. Ugh. I wasn’t sad to see the back of George Boleyn either to be honest. Other departures were much more sad though – most notably that of Thomas More, who I rather loved by the end, although Dave claimed to find him perplexing, self involved and a bit of a whinger. I was also sad that Catherine of Aragon died, but I’ll be frank, I found her character a bit annoying in this. There’s a weird line when dignity crosses over into indignity and I think, sorry to say, that she stumbled over it a few times.

I think that’s it really. I hope that next season has more Thomas Wyatt and a continued absence of Thomas Tallis. I’ll be honest, I was starting to wonder if they were going to ditch Mark Smeaton and try and execute Thomas Tallis instead but it all worked out okay in the end. Except for the poor swans, Anne, Thomas More, Catherine, those other people and that person over there.

Until next time! I think I might get Dave to review season three for me. What do you think? You’ll enjoy his views on Thomas Cromwell looking like Mr Bean and how Cranmer is too much of an emo kid to be a convincing Archbishop…

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