Monday, May 26, 2008

The Tudors Concludes and America Begins

America began in response to what we see in the final two episodes of The Tudors' second - and thank goodness, not final - season.

Torture to get confessions, executions for no good reason other than the whim of the government - in this case, a psychotic King Henry VIII - these are the things that Thomas Jefferson and our Founding Fathers tried to make sure would never happen in America, by insisting on a Bill of Rights for our Constitution.

And the torture and the beheadings were searingly portrayed on The Tudors. The execution of Anne was more harrowing and indelible than any I've seen in any movie.

How could reasonable people allow this to happen? The answer, clearly, was that in the 1500s we were less removed from sheer barbarism that we might assume or suppose.

George Boleyn beheaded on the strength of a hug or two he gave his sister Anne. Henry Norris executed on no evidence at all. A Jesuit assassin lies to bring Anne down - he says he slept with Anne - and he's beheaded. Mark Smeaton the musician denies any carnal knowledge of Anne - because he had none - until torture makes him falsely confess it. He's beheaded, too.

But nothing compares in sheer power - in acting and rendering for the screen - of the beheading of Anne. Natalie Dormier's performance was as memorable as it gets. I'll certainly never forget it.

And Nick Dunning as Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father, was extraordinary, as well. He's thrilled not go to the grim reaper, even as his son has just gone there, and his daughter soon will. Charles Brandon expresses our outrage at Thomas, who soon proceeds to leave the tower, freed. He looks back up an Anne's window. She smiles at him, still loving her father, happy to see that he, at least, will live. He turns his back on her, and just walks on. He set much of this game in motion, and he walks away when the stakes turn deadly. (I wonder how much of this Thomas Boleyn of The Tudors really lived in the real Thomas Boleyn of history.)

Yes, this is the depravity that America was born as an action against, less than two centuries later. We have done a fair job of keeping to the better road - though torture apparently has not been beyond the tools of the current administration.

But that's a story for another blog post, when I review Recount, on HBO. For now, I'll just say the juxtaposition of The Tudors and our election in American is no coincidence in this cosmos.

Bravo to a great cast and a great second season. My only regret was not seeing more of Peter O'Toole as Pope in the last few episodes - but I hope to see that corrected next season.

See also ...

Tooling Up for The Tudors and The Tudors: Transformations and Assassins ... John Adams Concludes, The Tudors Continues, The First Amendment Abides ... The Tudors and the Printing Press ...

and my reviews of all of last season's episodes, beginning here ...

and more on the printing press and the Protestant Reformation in my book, The Soft Edge ...

and ...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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