Cadfael: The Sanctuary Sparrow

Those of you who read the Pillars of the Earth recaps may recall me mentioning Cadfael at some point. If you were confused by that, this should help clear it up. The Brother Cadfael Mysteries were written by Ellis Peters and brought to life by the great Derek Jacobi, who played the 12th century monk/ex-crusader/herbalist to perfection. Judging from PBS’s 2011 lineup, I’ll be delving pretty deeply into the Edwardian and interwar periods for a while, so I thought I’d give myself a break and dip into the war-and-wimple period instead, at least until Netflix sends me the first disk of The Duchess of Duke Street. So, on with the recap!

Party time! A wedding, to be exact. A young man who looks like he’s only got about sixpence to the shilling, if you know what I mean, peeks in on the festivities from another room. He’s played by Toby Jones, who’s a platinum diamond member of the British “Hey! It’s that guy!” club. He just shows up everywhere, in a baffling range of roles that runs the gamut from lead actor to featured to glorified scenery. It’s too bad his Truman Capote movie came out right at the same time as Capote (and therefore got much less attention), because he was actually really good in it and that probably would have gotten him more recognizable roles, if Philip Seymour Hoffman hadn’t come along and kicked ass. Oh well, c’est la vie. Anyway, he’s joined by a bearded man who looks at him silently for a moment, then peeks into the wedding himself.

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A Very Harry Christmas

Trees, turkey, wrapped presents, and crackers—most of today’s holiday traditions actually stem from the Victorian period (Prince Albert brought the tradition of a decorated Christmas tree over from Germany when he married Victoria, and together they made it popular). Curious about how Christmas was celebrated at the court of Henry VIII? There’s some great info to be found here and here. Amongst the tidbits:

Those lucky Tudors got to party for 12 days (hence the 12 Days of Christmas). Their celebrations went on straight through to January 5, the day before the Feast of the Epiphany. During those 12 days, commoners and nobles alike would take some time off, visit friends, and share minced pies, which typically included 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his apostles. A little chopped mutton would be thrown in to remember the shepherds.

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The Tudors: Northern Exposure

Previously on The Tudors: Henry married Jane Seymour, who persuaded him to forgive Mary. He did so, but only after she signed a document acknowledging her mother’s marriage to Henry as unlawful. Meanwhile, up north, Robert Aske and a few other Catholics got the common people whipped into a frenzy over the dissolution of the monastaries and started their very own rebellion pilgrimage.

At Whitehall, Rich catches up with Cromwell and asks what the latest news is. Both good and bad. The rebels in Linconlnshire dispersed after being promised a royal pardon (and a royal ass-kicking at the hands of the king’s army if they stuck around), but in Yorkshire it’s a different matter. The rebels have taken the city of York and there’re rumors they plan to march south.

We hurry north ourselves to see what’s up. The rebels are indeed on the move, and they’re now followed by a large gang of women—wives and hangers-on—just like a real army. Meanwhile, Lord Darcy, the Warden of the East Marches, who’s in charge of Pontefract Castle, is writing to the king, begging for more soldiers and arms, as he’s certain he won’t be able to hold the castle against the approaching rebel force, even though he’s got his own garrison there, prepping for battle. He urges Henry to negotiate with the rebels. Yeah, I’m sure that suggestion will go over well.

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The Terrible 14th

At least, it was if you were a member of Queen Victoria’s family. On this day in 1861, Prince Albert succumbed to typhoid fever in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle. His wife, Victoria, retreated immediately into a disturbing, almost psychotic 40-year mourning period during which she only wore black and insisted on having hot water, razors, and clothes set out for her dead husband … Continue reading The Terrible 14th

Fun Fact!

Henry VIII was the first English monarch to dig into a turkey (turkeys were reportedly first brought to England in 1526). However, it wasn’t until almost 400 years later that roast turkey became a traditional Christmas Day meal. We owe that to another king, Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria and noted trendsetter. He made the turkey the thing to eat at Christmas, and … Continue reading Fun Fact!

The Tudors: Peace and War

And we’re back with season 3 of The Tudors. As you’ll no doubt recall, season 2 ended with Anne Boleyn and most of her family and friends either beheaded or banished. Also gone from the show is the original Jane—for some reason, Anita Briem was replaced by Annabelle Wallis for this season. I hope you weren’t too attached to her. Since they’re both sort of blandly pretty blondes, I didn’t really notice the difference, to be honest. Briem must have been pissed to be let go right before the season that features her character so prominently, though.

Not much change to the credits, other than the banishment of all characters Boleyn (except for one quick glance of Anne at the very end). There are a few shots of body-strewn battlefields, so it looks like we’ll be seeing the Pilgrimage of Grace. Goody!

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BE Post Mortem

For those with some lingering questions after Sunday’s finale, there’s a great post-mortem of Boardwalk Empire’s first season with creator Terence Winter here. Don’t expect any startling revelations about what’s to come, but Winter does delve into Nucky’s and Jimmy’s evolutions, the insanity of Sebso’s drowning (and the subsequent lack of consequences), and what the deal was with that final scene of Meyer Lansky and … Continue reading BE Post Mortem

Boardwalk Empire: Truth and Consequences

Photo: Abbot Genser/HBO

Well, we’ve come down to it—the final episode of season one of Boardwalk Empire, and I have to say, I was quite pleased with it. I think it set up the start of season two quite nicely, and it wasn’t too maddening with the cliffhangers. Plus, I think just about every character who’s showed up over the course of the season was onscreen at some point (well, except Sebso, poor man), so it was like a charming reunion. With shotguns and corruption. But enough of this, on with the recap!

Van Alden kicks things off this week by–what else?—preaching. He’s reciting the words of St. Augustine to a bunch of agents gathered at the Post/Fed Field office. What he’s saying basically boils down to this—cities like AC (and Carthage in Augustine’s case) are modern-day Sodoms and Gomorrahs full of temptation that they must all resist. It seems these men are there to apply for Van Alden’s job. He warns them they’ll be bribed, coerced, and tempted every day. This prompts one guy to crack: “bring on the dancing girls,” which earns him a vicious slap across the face from Van Alden. It’s so brutal all the other guys recoil in shock. Supervisor Elliott, who’s sitting right there, does jack all, of course. Van Alden’s got the blazing crazy eyes on today, and tells the jokey recruit that his partner, Sebso, died in the line of duty of a heart attack (!!) and he won’t have his name sullied by infantile humor. He died of a heart attack in the middle of a lake? Did they not do autopsies on fairly young people who just dropped dead back then? Because if they had, I’m pretty sure those lungs would’ve been full of water, which would have put paid that heart attack excuse. Whatever, I guess we’re supposed to just accept this. But I really expect better than that from an HBO show.

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The Tudors: Off With Her Head!

Previously on The Tudors: Henry fell for Jane Seymour and decided to jettison Anne. Anne, her brother, and several other men were arrested and charged with treason. All but Wyatt were sentenced to death, and the men all lost their heads.

Someone is polishing a very impressive sword by candlelight. Once the job is done, he blows out the candle, and we learn it’s May 15, 1536.

In England, we get a montage set to some lovely churchy choir music. A rider gallops through a misty field. In the fog-shrouded Tower, Anne prays. Henry lies awake in bed in the palace. At the Brandon house, Charles and Duchess Kate are fast asleep as a little boy squirms up between them. Charles wakes up for a moment, then rolls over and throws his arm over his wife and son. Aww. Back at the palace, Henry stands at the window, looking out at two swans on the lake. Then, he’s in the chapel, kneeling, as a women’s choir carrying candles stands behind him, singing the music we’ve been listening to this whole time. Leave it to Henry to have a women’s choir. And to be an asshole for no reason at all. He suddenly turns, looks at the choir for a moment, turns back to the alter, and then screams for them to be quiet before turning around and hurrying out of the chapel.

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Boardwalk Empire: Fight Night

We open with a strangely red-lit shot of a man who’s clearly hanging upside-down and struggling against some sort of restraints. Why, are we seeing the great Hardeen at last? Yes we (or, rather, Margaret, Nucky, Annabelle, and her idiot) are, during a semi-private show at Babette’s. Seems Hardeen’s not as good as his brother—it’s taking him quite a while to get out of those restraints, and the crowd’s getting restless. When he does finally manage to free himself, the applause is pretty weak. During the show, Annabelle notes that her idiot’s looking a bit nervous. He says it’s the show that’s making him tense, but we’ll soon learn it’s a bit more than that.

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