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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 06:04 pm (UTC)
I've always wanted to hear your opinion about this show! Glad you were able (among all this big debate regarding fanfiction) to give us your view on it! :)

Well, I've watched it since the beginning as well, as I am fascinated by this period in the history of England, and by the great figures that lived there.

Shouting Studmuffin really defines Henry VIII in The Tudors xDD It's perfect!! Tough I admit I like his childish tantrums. I believe Michael Hirst declared to defend his representation of Studmuffin!Henry is that he was very fit before he had that jousting accident that left him lame. He said that him being fit can be found on some physician's notes or something like that.

I too loved Natalie Dormer's portrayal of Anne Boleyn. Henry's ill-fated wife has always been controversial. Writers like Phillipa Gregory, with her book "The Other Boleyn Girl" and Eustace Chapuys back in Anne's days really were a blemish in Anne's reputation. I think this show made her justice. It can be really appreciated how everything regarding Anne's matter was a foregone conclusion, and that she didn't have any chance even before she was taken to court.

Henry's behaviour in the matter as well (very symbolic when he eats the swan), his coldness towards a woman he became really obsessed with, and the merrymaking he did with Jane Seymour (which I found really tasteless, but hey, that's how Henry Tudor rolled XD). Natalie definitely did an excellent job portraying her. I know of a lot of fans who stopped watching the show after season 2 because Anne would never be in it again xD

This show really has epic scenes (and an exquisite soundtrack in my opinion) which hold a lot of symbolism, and can make you love and hate the characters at the same time (happened to me with Cromwell as well as the Duke of Suffolk). Overall I enjoy watching it, despite the Historybending they do xD (it's what I have to endure, having studied a history major xDD)

And one of the things that I also enjoyed is that this show is not as anglophile as the great majority of Tudor inspired movies/shows. I am saying this from my point of view as a spanish person xD Too often the spanish figures in that time are portrayed in an inappropiate way (ugly, bad, ridiculous etc...) The portrayal of Catherine of Aragon was impressive, as well as what Sarah Bolger is doing with Mary I.

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?

I wish that too! :( It's a pity. Elizabeth's life would make for another great show. From what I've heard, it seems that Hirst's new show would be about the Borgia family, and it will have Jeremy Irons in it.


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

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