More comes into play on 'The Tudors'

Ellen Gray
Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)


9 p.m. EDT Sunday


In its first season, Showtime's "The Tudors" so often strayed into romantic fantasy that I developed one of my own.

In my version of the oft-told tale of the king who took six wives, Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) comes to his senses and finds his way back into the arms of Wife No. 1, Katharine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy).

Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) never becomes queen and so gets to keep her head.

Not that Anne's head should much concern anyone who met her in "The Tudors," which last season mostly painted her as a pouty social climber with a nasty streak.

Kennedy, though, endowed Katherine with so much more than history generally has: mature sexiness, undeniable magnificence. The man who once loved her might have been a king worth knowing, though Meyers' Henry still seems too petulant and too pretty for the job.

But then as Season 2 opens Sunday, the romance of "The Tudors" is pretty much over.

This is a season of politics and principles, of might and martyrdom. If you're here just for the sex, you're likely to be disappointed, unless the trysts of relatively minor characters interest you as much as Henry's.

The king, more eager than ever to marry the woman he's sure can produce a son, is pushing hard for the recognition of his supremacy over the church in England, setting in motion a train of events that can't help but overshadow everything, including Henry's prodigious sex life.

Katherine is rapidly running out of cards - though Kennedy still has a few scenes left to play - so it looks as if this season, the king's most intriguing opponent may be one with whom he never comes face to face: Pope Paul III.

In bringing Peter O'Toole aboard to play the pontiff, "Tudors" creator Michael Hirst fudged history just a little: Though Paul did do many of the things attributed to him in the five episodes from Season 2 I've seen, it was his predecessor, Clement VII, who was pope at the time England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and Henry and Anne married.

Looking into O'Toole's steely blues, you're probably not going to care.

"What of this girl, this putane, the king's whore?" he demands at one point, irritated that the English king's libido is proving such a headache to his church. "Why doesn't someone just get rid of her?"

Let's just say that, like Henry, he's used to being listened to.

And he's not the only one who thinks poison's as good a method as any for the removal of political obstacles. So keep an eye on the soup.

Henry's obsession has also put him on a collision course with his old friend and mentor, Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam), whose attempts to avoid offending either the king or his own conscience can only become more futile as the king's new friends do whatever it takes to root out the old ones.

Meyers, still too chiseled for a role that seems to cry out for heft, continues to play the king as a monster in the making - Tony Soprano-light, if you will.

And Dormer, while never very compelling as a spider, is more than up to the lesser demands of playing the fly caught in a web not of her design.

The arc of this season is no doubt shaped like the sweep of the sword that sooner or later is going to sever Anne's head from her shoulders, but it's More, whose faith ultimately outweighs his pragmatism, who's the real figure of romance.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.