Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: The Tudors "You Have My Permission"

Non Spoiler Review:
Following Queen Catherine's execution, events begin to move at quite the pace. Chapuys offers Henry a new alliance, prompting the king to realign England's loyalty with other European powers. The Scottish problem gets some attention, as well as some fresh protestant persecutions, the succession, and (gasp!), a new Catherine arrives at court.

With the melodrama of the last marriage out of the way, it's clear sailing into the political intrigue of the latter years of Henry's reign. This episode was packed with those developments, in addition to the introduction of Catherine Parr, which was a bit unexpected so soon after Catherine Howard exited the stage. We get lots of scenes of discussions and meetings to further all these plot developments, but everything was very, very rushed.

The whole Catherine Parr plot line made for an extremely dense hour—In one scene Surrey is sent to Scotland. In the next, it is post battle and he's returning to England. It's unclear if the writers were attempting to play catch up with historical events, but stretching some of these plots over a couple of episodes may have been helpful, if just to fill in some of the blanks.

Like many instances over past seasons, background characters suddenly appear in the forefront to fulfil some historical significance, and given the multitude of shared names, can be quite confusing. This time around, Thomas Seymour suddenly gets some scenes, having been in the shadow of his brother Edward since last season. Slow it down, please!

Spoilers Now!
It's 1542. Mary is elated to announce to Elizabeth that both girls have been placed back into the royal succession by act of parliament, but Elizabeth vows never to marry after seeing what happened to Queen Catherine.

Chapuys announces to Henry that the Emperor, Charles V, wants another alliance against the French, in exchange for England regaining it's French lands. Henry calls in the French ambassador and accuses the French of reneging on payment of past debts, which provides a way for Henry to exit his alliance with King Francis. Henry sends the ambassador away, and wants a letter sent to the Scots demanding they cease their alliance with the French and the Pope. He sends Thomas Seymour and Surrey to deliver it.

Meanwhile, Surrey beats up a man who shared blood with Queen Catherine and who accused the Howards of abandoning her, showing again that he has quite a temper when he's drinking. This surely must be leading somewhere.

Seymour visits Lord Latimer, an ailing man married to Catherine Parr. The Latimers were involved in the rebellion—though he renounced Robert Aske, he feels the king still regards him as treasonous. He begs Seymour to take his case to the king to forgive him before he dies. We find out Thomas is in love with Catherine, and the two of them appear to be waiting for the old man to die.

Henry is advised of Surrey's arrest but wants him in Scotland. We quickly jump to a Scottish battlefield where Surrey takes several leaders prisoner, and King James soon dies, with only his new daughter Mary as heir (this would be the infamous Mary, Queen of Scots). Henry is quite pleased with this as Christmas celebrations begin. He's less pleased with Thomas Seymour who is petitioning on behalf of Latimer and being generally bothersome. But Catherine attends court with him and catches the king's eye.

Prince Edward is presented to court via his uncle, Edward Seymour, who also acts on behalf of the king to the Scottish prisoners in court, proposing a treaty and a marriage between Edward and the young Mary. He sweetens the deal with a pension and their release to return to Scotland.

We find out Charles and his wife have been leading mostly separate lives, which explains his general morose tone all season. He confides in Mary about the king's well being, as he can see the erratic behaviour and effects of Henry's jousting wound worsen over the years. But all this talk of war seems to be energizing the king.

Thomas Seymour introduces Catherine to Henry and continues to ask for the king's forgiveness of Latimer. But Henry sees through Thomas' true desires for Catherine. Henry meets Catherine privately and assures her there is no suspicion of treason against them. They have a very nice intimate conversion about marriage. He later sends Catherine gifts, which makes Latimer a bit curious and feeling as though he is dead already. Thomas is perhaps more jealous of these gifts, but Catherine doesn't welcome the king's advances at all given the fate of his past affections, and is in fact quite afraid.

The regent queen of Scotland grants permission to negotiate marriage between Mary and Edward. This brings a unity with the Scots that Henry strived for. At a formal ceremony Henry pledges to honour the treaty to wage war with France. Charles Brandon then presents the French ambassador with a formal intention of war against France.

Bishop Gardiner, upon being advised of the forthcoming catholic alliance, wants to purge the kingdom of Lutherans. He appears to be suspicious of Edward Seymour in particular. The bishop brings to light a nest of heretics among Henry's household, and Henry gives license to him to begin arrests as he sees fit. One of the accused seeks refuge with Edward Seymour and his wife, but he sends him away. The bishop wants him to give up Thomas' name under torture.

At a party that includes Catherine and his council, Henry dotes presents and attention on Catherine, much to Thomas' dismay. Henry then announces he's sending Thomas to Brussels on permanent assignment to the embassy. Later, Charles shares a drink with Henry, and asks if he's considering another marriage. Perhaps. Charles asks if he really wants another war. Henry is offended at any question of his manhood, whether it be marriage or battle.

Latimer dies, but despite the loving care of his wife, tells Catherine to go to hell on his deathbed. Edward Seymour is sent to Catherine to offer his majesty's hand in marriage after she has a suitable period of mourning.

We've got a clear set of camps now, with the reformist Seymours against Bishop Gardiner and his Catholic sympathizers. We get the persecution of the court musicians which seem to come out of left field given they weren't introduced before. That's the problem with the historical aspect of the series, in which actual events have to be dealt with, but new characters sometimes spring up without any warning or previous introduction simply to play against the main characters.

And that leads into the final marriage, which, from a dramatic standpoint, came perhaps a bit too quickly after last episode's execution.

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