And so, the end is near, and Henry must face the final curtain. We know it’s going to be one of those episodes when a few of his dead ex-wives pop up in the opening credits. Always nice to see Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, mind you.
Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the Duke of Suffolk (Henry Cavill) look, if possible, even rougher than they did last week, and still seem to be existing in a different time continuum to the rest of the cast. Little Edward has grown a bit, and, thankfully, given up on the leprechaun act, though Henry’s accent is as Oirish as ever, if now delivered mainly in staccato grunts and groans.
Bishop Gardiner, played by a reptilian looking Simon Ward, is plotting and scheming, as ever, and is targeting the Queen with his anti-heretical attentions , drawing up warrants for her arrest. Henry feigns ignorance of this, but seems unsure, really, whether to have her arrested or not. Ultimately, despite Catherine telling him that, basically, she’ll go along with whatever he tells her to believe and say no more about it, he lets the plan to arrest her go ahead, it seems, merely so he can leap to her defence and give the Lord Chancellor an ear bashing. “Get out, and take your bastards with you”, is a line I will try and use myself, at the earliest opportunity.
Lord Hertfod, little Edward’s Uncle is gearing up to look after the shop once Henry pops his clogs, making him and his protestant wife a major source of irritation to those who want Mary on the throne. Gardiner’s plans to arrest Lady Hertford, are however, foiled by the fact that she has some dirt on him. Apparently the proceeds of those monasteries that he was supposed to dissolve in Cornwall didn’t all make it in to the King’s coffers. Gardiner has an account in the Cayman Islands, it seems, or the 16th Century equivalent. Nice to see Lord Hertford, give Gardiner a bop on the nose in a particularly volatile council meeting. When Gardiner tries to take his protest to the King, Henry says “Refused. His grace has a troublesome nature, and I don’t want to see him here ever again.” About time. Gardiner stood crestfallen outside his majesty’s chambers having been told to sling his hook, looking like one of those X factor hopefuls who don’t make it through to the second round.
Poor old Suffolk, who by now should be about 60, but is played by a 28 year old, is ailing fast, though well looked after by his lovely French mistress (who, like all the women, hasn’t aged a bit – just what is their secret?). Henry drags him from his sick bed one last time. “I have a slight fever,” says the Duke, looking like he’d died three weeks ago. Henry claims he has the power to make his old friend well again. He forbids him to die, and places his hand on the Duke’s head, “By the grace of God, and the powers vested in me etc, I command thee to be healed.” Cut to an image of a charging white horse, and the Duke in his bed having just slipped away. Word of advice Henry – be careful what health benefits you claim for your so called ‘treatments’. The sceptics will be on to your website in a flash these days.
Henry is clearing the decks, and knows that he’s not long for this world. He sends the wife and kids off to Greenwich for Christmas – Catherine and Mary, sobbing, Elizabeth practically whistling a merry tune. He starts seeing visions of his dead wives, and decides to get Holbein to paint a portrait of him for posterity. “You painted a portrait of my father” he says to Holbein. Not sure how, mind you, as Henry VII died in 1509, when this particular Holbein was about 10. I think he meant Holbein’s Dad, but no one was going to put him straight. In any event, he didn’t like the first effort, and ordered another one that didn’t make him look so old and feeble. The ultimate result was the iconic image of Henry that we all know, which is how the series ends, with Henry standing staring at the portrait, dwelling, no doubt on his faded glory. To be honest, the picture looked a bit rubbish to me, not looking much like Henry or Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
The historical spoilers presented at the end as to the reigns of Edward (meh), Mary (boo, hiss) and Elizabeth (Hurrah!) probably mean that this is the final series of The Tudors, despite the Tudors going on for a few decades more, as we all know.
This particular episode should, by the way, if there’s any justice, win an award for the most heaving bosoms featured in a single TV drama. If such a category doesn’t exist, then I shall sponsor one myself. I might even present the prize.
So, ultimately, was it any good? To get the word on the street, I checked out Twitter. The general gist of comments was that it will be missed. There was much to irritate and annoy – the historical inaccuracies, the compressing of time, the condensing of characters, the increasing and bizarre Irishness of Henry’s court, but much to enjoy as well. I think the biggest problem may have been Jonathan Rhys Meyers himself. Easy on the eye, no doubt, and as a young Henry, perhaps he cut the mustard, but he seemed to struggle to convey an ageing Henry, and there was a danger that his depiction dragged the finale into a bit of a pantomime. Having said that, I’ve just looked Rhys Meyers up on Wikipedia. He seems to be a somewhat troubled soul, and a couple of years ago was arrested at an airport in Paris on charges of “wilful violence, outrage, hitting and threatening death”. Sounds not unlike Henry himself. Perhaps he wasn’t so wrong for the part after all.
Other posts on The Tudors here
Posted by Our Man in the South