Showtime's splendid first season of The Tudors concluded last night on Showtime's On Demand. It was a fine unsettling ending to the beginning of what I expect will be a glorious, long-running series.
My three favorite scenes -
1. Wolsey takes his own life. What a performance, once again, by Sam Neill. Shakespeare would have been proud of it. A fitting rival for an Emmy with James Purefoy's Marc Antony in Rome.
Like a few crucial junctures in this series, the history may not be completely accurate - ours tells us that Wolsey died on the way to his trial and prison, nothing about committing suicide while waiting for trial. But I don't mind it. The suicide is completely true to Wolsey's character. The history that counts is that this once nearly all-powerful prelate fell so far from royal grace.
2. And what a performance by Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More, the humanist and champion of free speech turned executioner of the heretic - driven to this by the implacable dictates of his deep faith. The lesson here is that faith which can nurture and strenghten as it did with More and his family in the epidemic can quickly embolden some of the worst instincts of humanity - like burning a Lutheran at the stake. Northam provided a quietly scalding performance of this sobering lesson. (And cheers for James Frain and his Thomas Cromwell here, too - a powerful rendition of another man caught up in coaxing the religious upheavals of his time.)
3. And that last scene in the forest with Henry and Anne - who never looked better, partially unclothed, passionate for Henry, but saying no to him at the penultimate minute. The last thing she wants now, having waited so long, is the King's child out of wedlock. Excellent performances by Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dormier - as they both have been delivering all season.
And so this entry into the Tudors ends. I enjoyed every frolicking, intellectually uproarious moment of it.
And I'll be back here with my weekly reviews, a day or so after each On-Demand presentation concludes on Showtime, when the story resumes next year...
Derriere and Bosom on The Tudors: More of What the FCC Would Deprive Us Of
The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church G. W. Bernard's 2005 book
The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution my 1998 book
The Tudors Michael Hirst's brand new book!
my latest novel: The Plot to Save Socrates
my reviews of other episodes of The Tudors: Episodes 1 and 2: History So Colorful You Can Taste It, Episode 3: History So Real You Can Feel It, Episode 4: The Penalty of Royalty, Episode 5: Madrigal, Musical Chairs, Episode 6: Tectonic Chess, Episode 7: Henry's Imperfect Apothecary, Episode 8: The Limits of Power, Episode 9: And Wolsey Falls in a Soaring Performance
The Plot to Save Socrates
"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News
"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book