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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.



May. 10th, 2010 08:14 am (UTC)
I have not seen this current episode, but have been looking forward to it. I've found the role of Katheryne has not been one that best shows Ms. Merchant's talents, especially as it would have applied to Game of Thrones -- she lacked the _fear_ that Dany has at the start of the novel, and growing maturity. But this was because of how her role was written, and I'm sure she acted the part to the fullest of the production's hopes.

This episode sounds like it will show something that's akin to Dany. Yes, I'm looking forward to it. A shame that Ms. Merchant's not in the role any longer, but I can only hope that whichever young actress gets the part will be at least as good.

One last remark on The Tudors: One of the best things about the show has been the costuming. It's stunning, and I see others agree: many award nominations, and an Emmy win a couple of years ago. I'm unsure what direction costuming is going on Game of Thrones, if they're going to give it all a bit of a more subdued, grimy kind of look ("How do you know he's the king?" "He's the one not covered in shit."), or if they're going to highlight the luxury in which the nobility can live. But if the garments of the nobles are as rich as those in The Tudors, I for one will not complain.

(That said, I hope Game of Thrones handles the armor rather (a lot) better, budget allowing. The jousting armor in previous seasons of The Tudors was laughably bad. My ideal is that we see as many people in full plate and mail, or full plate for the great and the powerful, as one saw in Excalibur 30 years ago. That's unlikely to happen on a TV budget -- even an HBO TV budget, I expect -- but that's my hope.)

And now, for something completely different, I know mod4finil was joking, but I bet you will get someone complaining about spoilers in all seriousness, much as people have complained re: "spoilers" for The Pacific (have you been watching it? what do you think? I find it better than Band of Brothers in a few ways, but the nature of the war in the Pacific and their choice of how to depict it has made the narrative very loose).

You really ought to master lj cuts, just to save gripes about long posts or what have you in the future, as some have done (and rightfully, because the LJ Friends page is not very useful as far as navigating -- no way to hit a button to just skip to the next item).

If you use the Rich Text Editor, all it takes is clicking that squiggly button at the head of spoilery/lengthy matter, or simply manually placing <lj-cut text="Whatever I want to say about the cut"> there. The FAQ explains it very concisely.
May. 10th, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
The costuming ... As a seamstress of middling talent and a history geek I have been so pleased with the clothing.
May. 10th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
I casually know one of the costumers from the first season,, and she lamented the short deadlines and the mis-match of details ... but they're mismatches mostly only people seriously into historical garments would really notice. I certainly would not!

One thing I've liked, too, is that there seems to be a progression in the fashion depicted between the first season and this last. There's a lot of these big, bulky robes with massive, sleeves this season that I haven't seen before. It may not be a historically accurate progression, but it's nice to see a suggestion of fashion changing over a couple of decades.
May. 12th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
It's actually kind of the opposite of the proper progression. :D (I still love it.)
May. 10th, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
"(That said, I hope Game of Thrones handles the armor rather (a lot) better, budget allowing. The jousting armor in previous seasons of The Tudors was laughably bad. My ideal is that we see as many people in full plate and mail, or full plate for the great and the powerful, as one saw in Excalibur 30 years ago. That's unlikely to happen on a TV budget -- even an HBO TV budget, I expect -- but that's my hope.)"

Well, HBO did do the insanely expensive "Rome." I'm not sure we want to wish the same for "A Game of Thrones," however, since "Rome" was cancelled early. It apparently was too expensive to justify considering limited viewership. Of course, "Rome" didn't have all of the book fans who will find someone with HBO just to watch "A Game of Thrones."
May. 10th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
The budget for Rome is a bit over double what HBO had, but I think a lot of it was used on the massive set and the fact that filming on location in Italy is very, very expensive compared to many other places. Also, the producers didn't much care for CGI and did not use it very much at all that first season.

That said, HBO later said that it was a mistake to end the show at two seasons. The DVD sales apparently were very, very good.
(Deleted comment)
May. 10th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
Entirely agreed with you. It's a shame, but I suppose it's what they could manage within their budget.
May. 10th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC)
The Pacific
I'm answering to the part about "The Pacific" and "Band of Brothers" only because I'm fresh of the first two episodes of "The Pacific". They arrived in Italy for the first time only yesterday evening. So, I know I should wait for the serie to be completed before speaking :) but for what I've seen 'til now, I prefer "Band Of Brothers" a lot. I think the production increased the quality of the part regarding battles and history (though admittedly I understood a lot of citations only because I'm already a huge WWII reader), but the character deepness and personal histories and dramas in BoB are by far better carried out. I'm waiting for the other episodes, hoping to be denied.
May. 10th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
Re: The Pacific
The first three episodes of The Pacific are on the mediocre side. It picks up steam like a freight train as it goes along after that, however.
May. 11th, 2010 08:52 am (UTC)
Re: The Pacific
Good! This is what I was hoping to hear :)


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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