After watching hours and hours of royal corruption in the form of King Henry the VIII (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) remolding his kingdom and court to his own devices, I finally have to admit that I admire the Showtime series The Tudors more than, well, really enjoy it. Sure, the costumes are totally hot (I can’t get enough of Rhys-Meyers’ sleeveless jackets that show off his pecs, or all of the male lords’ tight pants that look like they were made from the fabric of the nearest gorgeous antique couch). And I also learned this season that the tight bodice of a lady can be expertly removed by her suitor with just a few loosening of laces, and a quick tug (is it true? it looks so hard to put on!).
But everyone on this show is so… mean. It really should come as no surprise, as at the beginning of Season Two, Henry, throwing fit after fit, is challenging the court and the religious order of England to grant him permission to get rid of the long-suffering Queen Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) so that he can marry his “whore” (as many people call her) Anne Boleyn (slinky Natalie Dormer). “It’s God, or the King!” is his argument. Reject his demands and one is basically a traitor—basically making near impossible for the flock of clergy to turn against him. He gets his way—kind of, as his actions are condemned by the Pope (the delightfully jaded Peter O’Toole)—and sneakily marries Anne in secret, before throwing a huge coronation party where no one comes. Welcome to the Church of England!
All is well in the head of Henry until the pregnant Anne, or Queen Anne to him, finally births… a girl! Dammit! Henry throws a fit, sleeps with more women, and basically has everyone running in fear for their heads. Let’s just say, many major characters will not survive to see Season Three… Season Two is truly a bloodbath, so be forewarned.
Like I said, The Tudors is a great-looking show, but the focus of the show is a complete and total power-hungry pompous ass (yes, King Henry VIII). He is indeed a villain, and a brilliant schemer, so the political and religious aspect of the show are indeed fascinating. But, for me, there are only so many sex scenes between various mean, wicked people that I can stand. Just when you grow to like someone, they get shunned or beheaded, to be replaced by another evil schemer that Henry will hold close until they cross him. If the stories weren’t based on history, it would be hard to believe that so much upheaval could be caused by one man.
The acting in The Tudors is top-notch, with particular props in Season Two going to Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, who goes from a scheming wench to a surprisingly sympathetic character as her fate looms, and the excellent Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More. More was one of the few truly likeable (and moral) characters in the show, but as history shows, the good did not last long in Henry’s court.
The Tudors-related extras on the Second Season set are pretty sparse, limited to actors’ bios, and a couple short featurettes, “The Tower of London,” with actress Natalie Dormer and a historian checking out the Tower of London and its Anne sites, and the rather silly “Descendants of Henry,” which mirthfully introduces us to a handful of modern Brits that just so happened to be descended way down the bloodline from Henry and his women. Instead, extra space on this set is filled with premiere episodes of other Showtime series like This American Life (Season Two) and Californication (Season Two). For fun, you can also check out http://www.whothetudorareyou.com/, which tells you who you would be in Henry VIII’s times. Apparently I’d be a nun! Well, thanks, I guess…