Season Two of The Tudors Exceeds Season One

tudors-season-2Season Two of Showtime’s runaway hit The Tudors is defined by the unraveling of the Catholic Church and rise of Thomas Cromwell’s (James Frain) power and influence; it was Cromwell, a cunning self-educated man, who was an architect of the Reformation movement in England with the introduction of religious leader Thomas Cranmer to King Henry VIII’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) court. These actions are the frame for Henry’s court side politics and affairs of love in season two, and like season one, are a clever blend of actual history and creative commissioned entertainment at the hand of show creator and writer, Michael Hirst. This season is filled with more compelling storylines and building court drama.   The cast and crew worked their magic at Ardmore Studios, near Dublin. The crew remains the same– and this season you will again truly appreciate the outstanding achievements of Emmy award winning costume designer Joan Bergin, who took the honor in 2007 for her exemplary work on The Tudors. Her craftsmanship abounds in the gowns and adornments for Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) which are breathtaking.

Boleyn had 17 major costumes along with jewels, shoes and headpieces and all these were handmade from scratch. Bergin’s eye captured the smallest details of the commoners and various court denizens.  “I did a lot of research into Spanish and Italian fashion from the period. I’ve amalgamated Tudor style with more European influences, so overall the look is softer… this season we’ve created in the region of 1500 costume pieces,” revealed Bergin. This season we note the absence of Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill) and the waning of Sir Thomas More’s (Jeremy Northam) favor by his once dutiful friend, Henry. More steels himself the first four episodes for his inevitable fate of martyrdom; he does not waver in his allegiance to Rome.  Henry’s childhood friend and now brother-in-law Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill) walks a fine line with his open hatred for the Boleyns, his empathy for Katherine and maintaining his court standing with Henry.

Thomas Boleyn (Nick Dunning) is also given a great deal of rope to possibly hang himself with; he is the Olympic champion of Machiavellian court maneuverings.

Cromwell’s construction of a new religious order with Henry as ordained King and leader of the Church has drained all the once powerful Bishops and Cardinals dry, even the Pope’s (Peter O’Toole) terse edicts of excommunication are to no avail. O’Toole’s callous and smug portrayal of Pope Paul III, a historically noted morally challenged leader, gives insight to the brewing resentments over the Catholic Church’s critical mass of corruption thus bearing the rise of Protestant leaders and the Reformation itself. Also missing this season is Henry’s sister Margaret (Gabrielle Anwar), who in season one was married off to the decrepit King of Portugal against her will.

In reality, Henry’s sister Margaret was married off to the King of Scotland. This season is too busy with the rise and fall of the Catholic Church and the conniving Boleyn clan to be distracted by any of Henry’s siblings. Maria Doyle Kennedy plays the part of Katherine of Aragon with the perfect amount of regalness and humility. The people love her, yet the indignities of being cast aside by the King are worn on her face; Hirst makes us feel for her. Their daughter Mary also feels the sting of her Father’s indifference and is essentially abandoned by the Monarch as Anne Boleyn’s baby, Elizabeth I, takes center stage for the moment.

It is the polarizing character of Anne Boleyn that unites the sub-plots and overall driving action of season two. Henry’s lust gives way to his will, the Church is exceedingly broken. Boleyn is now the wife and the scorn of the people who still regard Katherine as the rightful Queen. 

Boleyn’s seductress charms are crushed by the Karma wheel that sees the married siren become victim to her own well-played arsenal of feminine wiles; the court beauties still seduce her willing King of enormous appetites. Anne has come full circle, bears the scars and pays an ultimate price. “She’s on the knife’s edge through the season,” explains Natalie Dormer. “The stakes just get higher and higher, there is no Plan B for Anne… it’s like ‘be careful what you wish for.” There is much to savor for season two of The Tudors; the performances are all keenly delivered and nearly upstage the immensely talented Irish star of the series, Rhys Meyers, with their well-written and enacted ensemble work. Notable moments are made by Natalie Dormer, Nick Dunning, Jeremy Northam, James Frain and Peter O’Toole in pivotal scenes.

The series also features stunning camera work by cinematographer Ousama Rawi and production design by Tom Conroy, who opened up the sets in this season and updated the interiors to reflect the ten years that supposedly passes between the seasons. “There is more of a Renaissance feel to the decor and, of course, more shields and war mementos on the wall,” shared Conroy. “I’ve also been over to England looking at the details of various National Trust Houses. For instance, I saw a basement window in Devon which I used as a tower dungeon window.”

In one of the more visually arresting scenes, Conroy had to recreate a giant copper boiling pot where one unlucky cast member meets his fate. “We were looking for a large pot, but there wasn’t any of a sufficient size around so we had to commission it,” revealed Conroy. “It’s copper, but cleverly done to reduce the weight. We lit a fire under it and set up an elaborate pulley system for the actor to be lowered into the boiling oil, which of course was water with starch in it to create air bubbles. It was very effective.”  Showtime has presented the finest period epic series since the short-lived, “Rome,” but unlike that abbreviated effort, The Tudors will live on for seasons to come. For more info go to: www.whothetudorareyou.com. UB

Cast:
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Henry Cavill
Natalie Dormer
Maria Doyle Kennedy
Nick Dunning

Directors: Ciaran Donnelly, Colm McCarthy, Dearbhla Walsh, Jeremy Podeswa, Jon Amiel
Writers: Michael Hirst
Producers: Sheila Hockin

Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC, Language: English Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Number of discs: 4
Run Time: 542 minutes

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~ by upbeatmag on January 2, 2009.

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