Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: The Tudors "Bottom of the Pot"

Non Spoiler Review:
The court goes crazy as Queen Catherine's indiscretions are brought to light via the mystery letter from last episode. We see a retread of Anne Boleyn's fall from grace as the episode moves through the accusations, trials and interrogations at breakneck speed.

Catherine's fate was a foregone conclusion, but with the slow build up over the last few episodes, this hour seemed to be extremely rushed, as if the writers realized they had multiple plot points to wrap up in order to move on to the next developments. It was still an exciting episode, but Catherine's accelerated fall was paled somewhat in the shadow of the long, sad decline we saw with Anne Boleyn.

Spoilers Now!
We jump into the storm right away as Henry grills Edward Seymour about that mysterious letter that reveals Catherine's checkered past. Edward conducts the necessary investigations. Catherine is confined to quarters without much explanation as interviews with a man from her time with the dowager duchess lead right to Francis. He doesn't last long before confessing to having carnal knowledge of Catherine, but assures them he's been a good boy since he became her usher. That doesn't look well no matter how it's spun, so Francis is tortured. Joan is also interviewed, which leads to Lady Rockford, which ultimately leads to Thomas Culpepper, and soon everyone has been implicated in the scandal.

Henry seems to take this all in stride for awhile, but court is in an uproar at the rumours. Mary is delighted when she hears the news from Chapuys.

Once everything is out in the open, Francis has been thoroughly tortured and condemned to death. Culpepper is also condemned to death but is characteristically unrepentant. For her role in the affair, Lady Rockford is thrown in the tower and goes mad seemingly overnight. For a moment, that's a good thing, as it's illegal to condemn to death a mad person. Except Henry, in his out of the box thinking, orders parliament to pass a new law making it legal to condemn a mad person. Poor Lady Rockford.

Catherine is taken to the tower, and we see Culpepper and Francis' heads on a pike. Catherine is distraught but the bishop offers a letter of forgiveness from Henry if she confesses to all her crimes, which she does. But she is very much in love with Culpepper, and she is ultimately doomed to die. After a few crying fits, a calm finally comes over her, and as a final request she asks for the axe block the night before her death, in order to properly, and with dignity, position herself on it.

Henry is none to happy with his councillors, particularly Seymour and Charles Brandon, who had urged him to marry Catherine. But old friendships take precedence, and he is more forgiving of Charles.

Come the execution day, Lady Rockford and Catherine are led to the gallows. Rockford offers up some last words of craziness, and goes under the axe. The ladies in waiting, including Joan, who has managed to survive the whole spectacle, tearfully gather up her head.

Catherine innocently announces she dies a queen but would rather have lived as Culpepper's wife, and does her best to imitate Anne Boleyn. Meanwhile, Henry parties it up with many, many lovely women of court as he is wont to do when one of his wives is being executed.

So we have this storyline wrapped up and it unfolded just as expected. We don't have any real answers as to Culpepper and Rockford's motivations, aside from a feeling of invincibility or complete stupidity in their actions.

Catherine's fall lacked a lot of the emotional gravitas of Anne Boleyn's. Anne was allowed to develop over two seasons, while Catherine got a handful of episodes. Anne's morally ambiguous character provided both sources of anger and sympathy for the audience, so her death was quite poignant. Catherine's lack of intelligence and innocence grew tiresome pretty quickly and I found little empathy for her at the end. But perhaps that was the point.

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