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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 09:27 am (UTC)
I've never been a fan of "heartthrob" representation of historical characters myself. It's like seeing Tom Cruise play the part of any of the apostles during the Last Supper or something similarly silly.

It breaks away any sense of belonging and when I find myself hating or disliking a character because I really can't find any merit in the way an actor is portraying the character, I tend to shy away from TV-shows or movies.

I guess that is why I love most of the BBC shows when it comes to murder mysteries or shows that revolve around typical characters. They seem to know what casting a character for a role is really about. They hit the nail on the head with farmers, creepy people, sneaky people and yes... even ugly people. For all that its worth, they seem to be able to cast people for roles and not actors... if that makes any sense.

On the topic of the Tudors, I'm afraid I haven't watched any of it... simply because the Henry character gave me the exact same feeling I described above somewhere. I saw an actor, looking like he was born in this age and the way he came across pushed me away from watching the show. That and the obnoxious commercial breaks they tend to throw around here in the Netherlands. For a country that is named like a fantasy realm... they certainly know how to bash the head of fantasy in with their commercial crap.

I hope the next actress to step into the fray to portray the role of Queen will spark that feeling of respect and well acted character likeness that you found in the Tamzin actress. Perhaps when I get around to obtaining the DVD set sometime in the future, I'll give it a go... if only to remember what you said about the acting and see if I too get that feeling.


May. 13th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Tom Cruise as Aragorn
I remember those heady days when casting for Lord of the Rings was going on. Several excited fans(?) were pushing Tom Cruise for Aragorn! Oh how I wish there was a "throw something at their head" option for the internet!


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

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