How I’m Spending My Summer TV Vacation: The Tudors Final Season

-by Amy Yen

Yes, Lost is gone for good, finale season is over & the TV landscape, with few exceptions, is looking bleak. I thought I’d take a closer look at a couple of the shows I’m filling my time with.

The Tudors

Season 4 (final season) – Showtime, Sundays at 9pm ET

The Tudors has been losing more & more of its buzz, ever since Anne Boleyn, wife #2, lost her  head. But I’ve always still found it to be a great guilty pleasure to watch Henry VIII throw temper tantrums & run through two wives a season. Here, toward the end of its final year, he’s already beheaded wife #5, the criminally stupid Katherine Howard, who not only allowed herself to be blackmailed into hiring people into her household in order to keep her less-than-squeaky-clean past a secret, but also proceeded to cheat on Henry with his personal groom! Scandalous! It’s as if she didn’t know what happened to wives 1 through 4 (in case you need a refresher: Catherine of Aragon was stripped of her totally legit title & dismissed to go die alone & away from her daughter because of her failure to produce a son, Anne Boleyn was beheaded on bogus charges of adultery because of her failure to produce a son, Jane Seymour did manage to be produce a son & then promptly died & poor Anne of Cleves was called a horse & was basically paid the 1500s version of a big ol’ divorce settlement to go away & pretend like the marriage never happened even though later on Henry realized he had actually been married to totally hot international pop star Joss Stone…whoops).

Killing poor, stupid Catherine Howard (who, with her head on the chopping block, was still all “I die a queen but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper”…I mean, seriously? That chick was queen?) did seem to snap Henry out of his mid-life crisis a little, so he’s moved on to his last wife, Catherine Parr, who makes up for what she lacks in personality with unrelenting agreeableness. There’s still a lingering “She’s a Heretic!” storyline floating around, but it’s really the least interesting wife-related storyline The Tudors has ever managed, so much so that it’s remarkable that I, as the viewer, still like Catherine & am interested in her at all. I think it says something about the way Jonathan Rhys Meyers & Joely Richardson play them that I find Catherine & Henry’s relationship, which is more polite than passionate, still kind of sweet.

In the last few episodes though, it’s really Henry’s final try at a war with France that’s been the dominant storyline. I’ve never found The Tudors’ attempts at war plots in the past to be that interesting, but the siege at Boulogne was great drama & I was actually glad Henry got his big victory, even though it only really lasted a moment. Henry is always the guy who tries too hard & has not been a very sympathetic character as a result, but I was kind of impressed that he chose to walk away from sacrificing even more men to go march on Paris.

I also greatly enjoyed two other subplots in this latest episode. Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, has always been my favorite character (& the only one beside Henry that has been a mainstay in the cast since the beginning of the series), but his storyline last season, which involved being forced into killing a whole lot of English countrymen, including kids, in order to stay on Henry’s good side, has left him depressed &, let’s face it, kind of boring this year. The subplot with Brandon’s affair with the French prisoner of war was actually rather lovely & Henry Cavill has really sold it. “I was dead but now I am alive again,” he says this week & smiles that familiar smile from season 1, back when he & Henry were just boys.

Finally, Lady Mary’s speech this week to Chapuys (who makes presumably his final appearance as the familiar Imperial ambassador) was fascinating. She declares how, if she ever becomes queen, she will make England faithful, Catholic, again, by any means necessary, shedding as much blood as she needs to. And thus, Bloody Mary is born. But if there’s one thing The Tudors as a show has done for the perception of its characters in history, it’s that it has made Mary an immensely sympathetic character. In watching her maintain almost unnatural grace & dignity while her father basically takes away every chance at real happiness she has in her life, it makes you understand why she had to cling to her faith the way she did in order to survive. (There’s a scene in season 3 where she eavesdrops on a potential suitor talking to Then-Queen Anne of Cleves & she’s so hopeful & smitten that it’s crushing when Henry sends the man away…Mary is, in the end, just a girl who wanted a boy to like her.)

I am definitely looking forward to the return of all of Henry’s wives past in the final two episodes of the series & to see how they close out Henry’s famous era of history. Check back to see my reviews of other summer shows, including Burn Notice & Leverage.


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