By Kristin Battestella
Sure The Tudors sold its first season on the sexy actors, sexy costumes, and sex of the times. Season two of the Showtime series still has naughty goodness, but writer Michael Hirst allows historical drama and religious conflict during the reign of Henry VIII to take the forefront.
Still fighting with the Catholic church over his divorce from Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy), King Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) secretly marries Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) and breaks
away from Pope Paul III (Peter O’Toole). Henry’s friend Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk (Henry Cavill) has mellowed his philandering ways and sympathizes with Katherine, unlike Anne’s father Thomas (Nick Dunning), who’s hell bent on royal position. New Secretary Thomas Cromwell (James Frain) also moves up the courtly ladder at the expense of Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam). England
As on form as Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Elvis) was playing the pretty boy King, his turn for darkness and conflict do well here, as does the slow turn around of now Queen Anne. We receive no explanation for the off screen exits of several made to be important folks from season one, but the departing cast this season sets off The Tudors. Maria Doyle Kennedy’s bittersweet Queen Katherine is so sad to watch and yet it gives the downfall of Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn an extra delight. The burnings and persecutions of protestants made me grimace last season, but this time around, Thomas More’s humble devotion to his conscience brought tears to my eyes. As robbed as Sam Neil was of hardware in Season 1, I’m shocked Jeremy Northam is not racking up awards.
The supporting and recurring roles add to this rift, with mistresses and bishops caught on both sides of the divide. Some new characters this season are useless, like musician Mark Smeaton (David Alpay) and poet Thomas Wyatt (Jamie Thomas King), but the brief appearances of Bishop Fisher (Bosco Hogan) and The More Family lend a humility to the highly styled court of King Henry. I would have liked more to the quick development of Jane Seymour (Anita Briem, Journey to the Center of The Earth), but the stylized executions that end the series (not a spoiler if you know anything about history) top off the weaker characters.
And of course, we’ve plenty of adultery and mistresses despite the seemingly tamed Henry and Charles. There’s still sex in The Tudors, but now its down to maybe a quick scene an episode, as opposed to the slow full frontals that grabbed audiences initially. Some fans purely watching for the kink may tune out, but serious viewers who were turned off by the soap opera sex should give The Tudors another chance. Sure the show still isn’t playing like a history text book, but Peter O’Toole’s guest appearances from
add a new historical authenticity to the series. Yes Wolsey was corrupt, a lot of leaders in the Catholic church were at the time, but most folks caught in the struggle between Henry and the Pope were just good, poor, God fearing people. Strange how I can say a show has a healthy amount of sex whilst discussing social and religious ramifications. The Tudors achieves this rare balance. The lusty are getting their due and Rome will be forever changed by it. I only hope The Tudors can kept up such charm for Season Three. Look for The Tudors Season 2 on DVD this Christmas. England