Good News—Season Two of The Tudors, the engrossing and lavish series about King Henry VIII, begins on Showtime on April 6, 2008 and is preceded by the last episode of Season One on March 30, 2008.
I was captivated by the first season (here’s the link to my review of it: The Tudors. Season One and the new season doesn’t disappoint, although it is concentrates more on the dark changes in Henry’s character than the first season’s action and lighthearted exuberance.
The beautiful and elaborate period costumes, the gorgeous sets and locations, the production values, and the fine acting, all combine to make the fascinating history come alive.
Season Two has uniformly excellent cast. Sexy bad-boy Jonathan Rys-Meyers (August Rush, Mission Impossible III, Match Point) stars as a maturing King Henry VIII, whose youthful impetuousness has given way to a menacing megalomania. New to the cast is the eight time Academy Award®-nominee Peter O’Toole, who is deliciously cynical as Pope Paul III.
Jeremy Notham shines as the earnest, but out of favor, Sir Thomas More. Natalie Dormer is fetching and scheming as Anne Boleyn; Maria Doyle Kennedy is believably tearful and prayer-ful as Katherine; and James Frain is convincing as Sir Thomas Cromwell, a zealously loyal advisor to Henry and a powerful Reformation court figure.
King Henry VIII’s father, Henry VII, took the throne following the War of the Roses. Henry VIII was the second son of Henry VII and ascended to power upon the death of his older brother, Prince Arthur. To keep relations with Spain on an even keel, Henry VIII married Arthur’s widow, Katherine of Aragon (daughter of Ferdinand II and Isabella).
In the first season, the question of the validity of Henry and Katherine’s marriage and the efficacy of the Pope’s dispensation to allow the marriage haunt Henry. More disturbing to Henry is his lack of a male heir. And thus enters Anne Boleyn, that vixen, who, at her father’s bidding, schemes to marry King Henry. But first Katherine and Henry need an annulment. Cardinal Woolsey, Henry’s father figure and close advisor, fails to procure an annulment from the Church and is “eliminated.”
The ten new episodes of The Tudors focus on Henry VIII’s reign from the death in 1530 of Cardinal Woolsey, to the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536. Katherine’s unyielding personality and staunch Catholic faith prevent her from acceding to the King’s demand of an annulment, and that the new roguish Pope Paul III, will move to thwart it in any event.
Henry severs ties with the Catholic Church, appoints himself head of the Church of England, banishes Katherine, and weds Anne Boleyn. Henry imposes a law that requires every British subject to take an oath, on penalty of death, to recognize Henry’s supremacy and his marriage to Anne.
Henry’s once close counselor and friend, Sir Thomas More, refuses to take the oath, and he pays dearly for it. The ruthless Sir Thomas Cromwell is second only to Henry in affecting the “reforms” of the Church. The Humanism movement of individual worth and dignity is dead, as Henry refuses to brook any opposition.
Season Two closes with Henry continuing in his never-ending quest for a male heir as Jane Seymour takes Anne Boleyn’s place.
The Tudors is gorgeously filmed. The cinematography is even better than in Series One, although Ousama Rawi was Director of Photography in both seasons. Each episode contains multiple scenes of Henry’s life in his castles and his court, with all the details of furniture, costumes, tableware and music carefully recreated to the period. Tons of money has been spent and it shows.
The Tudors is Showtime’s 16th century response to HBO’s The Sopranos. Both sagas revolve around a powerful autocrat, his family and underlings, and involve loyalty, treachery, religion, warring forces, illicit sexual liaisons and ultra-competitive men. But unlike The Sopranos, The Tudors, is largely based on the actual events. Michael Hirst, the talented creator, writer and executive producer of The Tudors, has achieved the perfect balance between entertaining his audience and staying true to history.