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Requiem for a Queen

Caught the fifth episode of the new season of THE TUDORS this evening.

Given my fascination with history and my love of historical fiction, it's probably no surprise to most of the regulars here to know that I've watched this Showtime series from the beginning, albeit with decidedly mixed feelings.

The show has great costumes, great sets, great visuals overall. The storytelling has been rather uneven, though... the first season in particular was weak, I thought... and they do fudge about with history some... though I give them props for presenting the period in considerably more detail than any previous dramatization has done, with a lot of complexity and a rich cast of secondary players. You know how I love that stuff.

The thing I mostly DON'T like is the lead. Henry VIII is the heart of the series, of course, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has played him start to finish as the Shouting Studmuffin, with nary an inch of depth or understanding. Worst Henry ever. (See Keith Michell's portrayal in the classic BBC miniseries if you'd like a look at how it should be done).

If you can manage to ignore Rhys-Meyers, however, there has been some wonderful acting in the series, especially by the actresses playing Henry's wives. Natalie Dormer was especially outstanding in her portrayal of Anne Boleyn, perhaps my favorite Anne of all the actresses who have played the part over the years. The actresses who played Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, and Anne of Cleves were also very good.

And in this evening's epiosde, the beautiful and talented Tamzin Merchant's wonderful portrayal as the doomed teenage queen Katheryn Howard came to its bloody conclusion on the headsman's block, in a scene as gut-wrenching and heart-breaking as Anne Boleyn's execution a couple of seasons back. Tamzin took on a daunting task with this role. Katheryn was the youngest of Henry's queens, only fifteen by some accounts (others say slightly older), and while far from innocent, she was naive, unsophisticated, frivilous, giggly.. a kitten frolicking in a tiger cage, oblivious to the claws around her. Tamzin caught all that wonderfully, I thought... both in the character's introduction last season, and in the first few episodes of this seasons... sexy as hell in the bedroom scenes, a playful child with her friends and ladies, awkward and ill at ease at court.

This week, however, the mood changed abruptly, when all the sunlight went away, and Katheryn and her lovers and friends were swallowed by darkness. Tamzin did all that beautifully as well, showing us Kathryn's fear and desperation, and, finally, her courage as she faced the axe. My favorite scene, though, was a completely silent one, where Tamzin dances alone in a darkened abbey while her friends and lovers are being tortured and beheaded elsewhere, and we intercut between the two. Exquisite.

Next week THE TUDORS continues as they bring in Henry's sixth and final queen, Catherine Parr. Unfortunately, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers will still be on hand, but I expect I will watch anyway, to see how the show comes out (I do wish the show was going to continue and gives us the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth. Why call it THE TUDORS if the only Tudor we get is Henry, badly portrayed?) But no matter how good the actress portraying Catherine Parr turns out to be, I know that Tamzin's beauty, grace, and talent will be missed.



( 113 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 12th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
I wanted to like Henry - jonathon R-M being an Irish boy and all - but to be honest the way the entire series messed about with the historical facts really annoyed the pedant in me. It also ruined it for everyone else, as it's no fun to watch a series in the same room as someone screaming "that never happened" at the screen :)

Gorgeous sumptious sets/clothes etc though. But BBC Kenneth Branagh Miniseries is still the best I reckon.
May. 13th, 2010 02:02 am (UTC)
Truthfully, I'm bored beyond tears with the assumption that the only kingdoms worth writing about were England and the only dynasty the Tudors.

I haven't bothered to watch it and rarely bother with reading the fiction because they've been done to death.

May. 13th, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
I really enjoy this show and I have to disagree about JRM being the worst Henry. I really think that Eric Bana in 'The Other Boleyn Girl' was much, much worse. To me, he didn't fit the character at all and it was almost as if the whole story between Mary, Anne, and Henry was just transposed onto a completely different monarch.
May. 13th, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC)
BBC's Henry VIII
I have to agree with GRRM's comment on Keith Mitchell's portrayal of Henry VIII. He seems to have come off that picture where he's striding the world like the Collosus of Rhodes.

He is the best Henry I've seen portrayed. Yes, he's better than even Richard Burton. The Henrys of the past few years couldn't even fetch Mr. Mitchell's coffee.
May. 14th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
Wathcing him start the Church of England will doubtless add even more spice to the show.
May. 14th, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
requiem for a queen, with a sad mood? talking about tudors? well i suppose i'll have to assume wiki was right about tamzin. which is sad.

ROME. u mentioned how they played with history in ROME, but not as much as TUDORS...

i'm pretty sure i heard/read about Czr being epileptic... that whole thing about it being a secret cuz rulers arent suppose to have anything physically wrong with them...

or am i imagining it? that episode was called something "... of August"... lil augustus finds out, keeps Czr's secret... there obviously is no account of anything like that happened right?
May. 14th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
woops. found out all about tazmin. promise to actually look for an answer next time i ask a question, first, that is.
May. 15th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
Wow, that final scene was amazing. I was never very sympathetic to her character and I knew it was coming so I did not expect the scene to be nearly as moving as it was. Her final words completely and utterly changed my opinion about her and well—I actually think I had something in my eye when those credits rolled. And even that poor sap, that Derham or whatever his name was, he was a weasel whose demise I was rooting for from the moment he showed his smarmy face, but when they did what they did—Holy S**T—I felt bad for rooting for his downfall, I liken it to the crowning of Viserys, I hated that guy and knew the arrogant punk had it coming but after it happened I felt sympathy for that horses ass, that’s all around great writing—yes indeed!
May. 15th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
JRM, Tamzin, The Tudors...etc
I didn't mind JRM for the first couple of seasons, but I can see now how he has been pretty one dimensional. This fourth season hasn't been as good as the others. I really liked the first and second seasons, the third was ok, but the first few episodes of this years I thought were downright boring. With that said though, this past Sunday's episode (which we're discussing here) really picked it up a few notches and by the end I was saying to myself "this was a pretty good episode." Then I thought there was something wrong with me that it took all that violence and people losing their heads for me to finally like it! haha

I have to agree with you George about the scene when Katherine is dancing interspersed with the others being tortured and executed was brilliant. But what I am going to say now some people aren't going to like but it's just my opinion...When Katherine lost her head and the episode ended I felt some relief... I said to myself "Good, now I don't have to look at Tamzin Merchant ever again, and thank god she is out of AGOT!" I really couldn't stand her, she rubbed me the wrong way in the third season, I didn't like her acting, and I didn't like her looks at all. I was extremely disappointed when I heard she was cast as Dany, didn't like it at all. When I heard she was out and the part of Dany was being recast, I just about threw a party. at this point I think ANYBODY would please me more than her. I for one, think the recast is a good thing.

Rome was excellent, I could have watched a few more seasons of that. I liked the Tudors, but it was no Rome. I think the Tudors is ending though because the following stories (mostly, Elizabeth's) has been told a million times. Could they break new ground in that storyline? I doubt it. Better to end it now.

A lot of people are saying that Spartacus series "got better." Those first two episodes were excruciatingly bad. I'm not going to wait 5 or 6 episodes for something to "get good." I just don't have the time.

I'm looking forward to Pillars of the Earth also, but the trailers aren't doing anything for me as of yet. Ian McShane is a clincher for me though.

But what I'm really looking forward to is your series, George. How much do you want to bet that Showtime will put their new period piece (The Borgias) up against AGOT? I hope that doesn't happen. Of course I (and everybody here) will choose AGOT. I'm just worried a bit of potential audience who aren't familiar with your work, and what choice they would make. Jeremy Irons vs Sean Bean... Hmmm

Well, no use worrying about all that now, but Television is so fickle...great shows get canceled, and lousy ones stay. But I did say to myself recently, I will NEVER watch another Law, Cop or Hospital drama ever again, and that is all the networks can ever come up with...so it's a breath of fresh air that the cable stations are not following those trends. A toast to HBO and long live A Game of Thrones!
May. 15th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC)
seems a little unfair that the country it's filmed in is still only on the first episode of the new series
May. 22nd, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers totally ruined that show for me. I stopped watching it after the first season simply because I couldn't stomach his portrayal of Henry.
Lisa Lisa
Aug. 7th, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC)
Totally agree on Anne Bolyn and Natalie. She really got me into the person of Anne and I obsessed quiet some time over her...Henry though...well let's just say JRM is really an attractive man so that did it for me for like two seasons but then yes I also got annoyed and I couldn't even watch it until the end.
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( 113 comments — Leave a comment )


George R.R. Martin
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