The Tudors: All or Nothing

Previously on The Tudors: Anne found herself pregnant again and offered Henry her own cousin as a girlfriend. More was thrown in jail for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the church.

Henry’s reading and wearing what appears to be pirate fashion by Errol Flynn when Cromwell enters and announces Cranmer. Cranmer comes in and informs Henry that they’ve had a lot of success in convincing people to accept Anne as queen and Henry as head of the church, probably because they were threatened with death and dismemberment if they didn’t agree. He doesn’t say that last part, but you know it’s true. Fisher and More are still holdouts, but Cranmer and Cromwell think they can get them to at least agree to some of it. Henry won’t hear it—the guys need to accept all or nothing. Cranmer bows and withdraws, and Cromwell takes the opportunity to try to hand over a letter from Dame Alice, More’s wife, who begs for leniency in view of her husband’s many years of service. Henry doesn’t care, of course, and rants that More, after promising to live a quiet life, continued to write about the king’s divorce and even visited Katherine. The horror!

More is cozied up in his jail cell, welcoming his wife and eldest daughter for a visit. He greets them happily and rather touchingly, and then his wife starts in on the nagging. More tries to make light of the situation, but the two women remain serious. Alice begs her husband to take the oath for the sake of himself and his family, whose members have all taken the oath without being smited by God or anything, but of course More isn’t game. Alice calls him selfish, which isn’t too unreasonable, and More says he’s still trying to get out, with his conscience intact. The women calm down, and More, voice shaking, asked for his wife’s reassurance that she isn’t angry with him. She tells him she isn’t and throws herself into his arms, telling him she’s frightened.

Anne parades through the palace, hugging her pregnant belly and smiling and nodding at courtiers who bow to her, including Wyatt. Hope you enjoyed that one shot of him, because that’s all he gets to do this whole episode. As soon as she reaches her rooms, though, she doubles in pain, and when she sticks her hand under her skirt it comes out covered in blood. Madge sends a lady-in-waiting to fetch a physician.

Later, Henry comes into Anne’s room to see his wife (passing by Lady Eleanor, I believe, which I think is some continuity gaffe, because wasn’t she sent away from court quite a while ago?). Anyway, Anne, not even able too look at Henry, hollowly tells her she lost the baby. He already knows, and he’s not exactly sympathetic. He tells her they’ll make no public announcement of the fact before his face twitches sadly and he turns to leave. He gets about two steps before she weakly calls out the most pathetic “thank you, your majesty.” Even Henry looks a little crushed by that.

Fisher is in his cell, trying to catch some drips of water from the ceiling so he can drink it. What, they didn’t give prisoners water in the Tower? He turns when the door is unlocked and in strides Cromwell with two pieces of news: Fisher’s been named a Cardinal and parliament has decreed that denying the king’s supremacy in all things is now treason, punishable by death. Cromwell asks once again if Fisher will take the Oath of Supremacy, and Fisher replies no, as expected. Cromwell pulls out a letter his spies intercepted, in which Fisher begs the emperor to invade England and restore the rightful queen and Catholicism. Damn, even without the new parliamentary act, Fisher would have been screwed. Cromwell informs him that he’ll be tried for treason soon. As Cromwell goes to leave, Fisher thanks him for bringing news of his elevation to cardinal. “At least it wasn’t all bad news,” he says. Heh.

At The More, Katherine receives Chapuys and tells him she’s received visits from Boleyn and others, who tried to convince and threaten her to take the oath. She asks after Fisher and is filled in on the new act. She mourns the fact that he’ll die alone and ashamed in a prison cell, completely missing the fact that he’ll do no such thing—he’ll die surrounded by a crowd on a scaffold, because that’s what happened to people convicted of treason back then. By the way—Katherine looks like hell, and she can’t even get up to greet Chapuys.

Anne’s looking a little better, though, and is sitting up in bed when her father comes in. He immediately asks her what caused “it” like she would have a clue. My guess would be primitive obstetrical and gynecological knowledge, poor health in general, and the vast quantities of alcohol consumed on a daily basis by people at this time all had a hand in the miscarriage, but Anne would have no way of knowing any of that. She tells her father there was nothing, and her asshole father demands to know what she did to kill the baby. The hell? Why would she do such a thing? Her future was all wrapped up in that kid, Boleyn, you know that. She’s in a far more dangerous position than you are. Back off! Anne sadly says she was very careful and he snaps that she wasn’t careful enough. He eases up a little bit and says that she needs to be really careful not to lose Henry’s love now, as if she didn’t already know that. As he leaves, Anne looks terrified.

Henry’s dealing with his disappointment by hunting with Brandon. As they walk their horses through the woods, Henry asks Charles if any of the women he’d ever been with lied about their virginity. Are we supposed to forget that Henry’s own sister was one of those people? I guess so, because Charles laughs and responds that they all lied about that. Even the child bride? Ew. Charles asks why Henry wants to know and Henry goes silent. Charles apologizes for prying and Henry dismisses it. Further discussion is put on hold when they meet a man and a woman riding tandem on a horse, heading their way. The guards order the pair to dismount, and they do, Henry getting off his horse as well, perhaps because he noticed that the woman is rather pretty.

 

"Wait 'till you see the size of my castle, baby."

 

The couple bows deeply to Henry, who asks what the woman’s name is. The man responds that it’s Bess (just like Henry’s daughter!) and Henry raises her to her feet as her companion babbles about how he has permission to ride through the forest. Henry leans forward and kisses the woman as her boyfriend looks devastated. Henry leads her back to his horse and takes her off somewhere to have sex. In a really bizarre moment that makes me think something either got deleted or a joke just didn’t translate, as they’re in mid-coitus, Bess asks Henry if he was really thinking of England, and he responds that he was only pulling her leg. Huh? I mean, I’ve heard that “lie back and think of England” line, but that originated a few hundred years after this, and it totally doesn’t apply here. I’m completely baffled as we head to…

Rome! The pope’s reading a letter from Brereton, informing his holiness of Anne’s miscarriage and Henry’s unfaithfulness. Brereton also worries about Katherine and Mary’s safety, as long as Anne’s in power, and the pope offers up prayers for their safety and for Fisher’s, although he then goes on to say that it might actually be a useful PR tool for Fisher to be martyred. God, this pope’s creepy. Even Campeggio seems a bit put off by that.

In his cell, More’s writing by candlelight when he hears someone call to him from the other side of the door. The speaker is a servant of Fisher’s, and More learns that Fisher’s not doing so well in prison—the food’s no good, for one thing, so either Cromwell never made that request for better food or it went unheeded. Fisher’s spirit remains unbroken, though. More’s happy to hear that, and not surprised. The servant asks, on Fisher’s behalf, if More would ever consider taking the oath, and More says he absolutely won’t. The servant thanks him and leaves.

At Whitehall, Henry asks Cromwell if More continues to be stubborn about taking the oath. After getting a definite affirmative on that, he demands that More share his reasons for not taking the oath. I thought he’d already given them? Several times. He’s a strict Catholic who can’t, in good conscience, accept Henry as head of the church, over the pope. What’s confusing about that? Henry also appoints Cromwell vice-regent in charge of spiritual matters, whatever the hell that is. Cromwell has more jobs than you can shake a stick at, doesn’t he? As Cromwell leaves, Henry pulls out a locket with Anne’s picture in it, looks at the picture for a moment, and then snaps it shut irritably.

Anne’s in her rooms, working with her father on something when Madge announces Mary Boleyn’s come for a visit. Mary comes sweeping in, preceded by a big pregnant belly. Anne’s shocked, since as far as she knew, Mary was unmarried and un-pregnant. Their father, looking horrified, gets to his feet. Mary cluelessly pats her belly and merrily informs her family that she’s married. I have to take a minute here to say that, in light of Anne’s recent tragedy, this is pretty horribly insensitive of Mary. I mean, she’s never been portrayed as being that bright, but come on.

Anne asks who Mary’s gone and gotten herself hitched to and her sister informs her that her husband, William Stafford, is actually a poor guy with no social standing at all. Boleyn’s face throughout this is kind of a tour-de-force. It goes from shocked to horrified to fairly murderous rather quickly. Anne is so shocked to hear about this lowly marriage that she turns away from her sister and sinks into a chair. Dad takes over, asking Mary if she really thinks this guy is worthy of being the husband of the queen’s sister. Mary idiotically says yes, since she loves him and all. Is she a child or what? Mary, you’ve lived in this world all your life, you know the deal. High doesn’t mix with low. Fairy tales? Not real. To illustrate the point, Boleyn cuts off Mary’s allowance and tells her she and her husband can rot in hell. Mary turns to Anne to support, saying it wasn’t easy finding a husband, when she was called the Great Prostitute. And whose fault was that, Mary? You were the one searching for French tail when your first husband was barely cold in his grave. You reap what you sow, sweetie. Anne snaps that Mary didn’t ask her permission, and Mary bleats that she shouldn’t have to ask Anne’s permission to fall in love. Boleyn tells her that actually she does, since they’re royalty now and everything is different. Anne looks like she feels bad, but that doesn’t stop her from sending Mary away without so much as a hug.

Cromwell is once again visiting More’s prison cell, and you can tell he’s sick of this now. Cromwell asks More for his reasons for refusing to take the oath, and More says he’s done arguing that particular matter. Doesn’t matter—Cromwell’s been ordered by Henry to make More’s imprisonment permanent. Cromwell begs More to take the oath, as so many others have. More thinks they’ve only done so out of fear, or out of a belief that they can later repent and be shriven, but he will do no such thing. Cromwell warns him that he’s likely to be executed, but More’s not all that concerned about death anymore.

Party! That’s just under 27 minutes on the Start-to-Party Meter. Not good, show. I expect better. Anyway, as Henry and Anne and Madge dance and a servant boy the camera lingers on strangely looks hilariously zoned out, Margaret More comes in and is almost immediately met by Chapuys, who introduces himself and compliments her father. He asks what she’s doing at court and learns that the More family’s in a bad way, since a lot of their lands have been sold off. Chapuys says he’s very sorry to hear that.

Out on the dance floor, Anne’s giggling as she dances with Mark Smeaton, and she calls him a “free spirit”. Uh huh. I’m just not even gonna touch that. Anne, swaying a little drunkenly for a moment, watches Henry dancing nearby and says that everyone else constrains her and nobody understands. Off to the side, Boleyn watches her closely.

In her rooms later, Anne sits in front of a mirror with a glass of wine, tracing it over her lips in a creepily compulsive way. A lady-in-waiting ushers her brother George in, and he looks concerned. Anne tells him she couldn’t sleep, because she was thinking of Katherine and Mary. She’s now clearly drunk and George is a bit confused as she starts to rant about how Mary could be queen someday, because Henry could just change the Act of Succession whenever he wants and set Mary above Elizabeth. She starts to freak out about Henry having absolute power now, which means he can give and take at will. She ends by holding up her hand in a sort of vow configuration and saying that she knows Mary will be her death, and Anne Mary’s.

More is praying in his cell, before a cross they were nice enough to let him have. Just as he’s getting really passionate about it, Fisher’s servant, John, calls to him through the door. John informs More that Fisher’s been found guilty and will almost certainly be put to death soon. More sends along his best wishes for a speedy entry through heaven’s pearly gates.

On Tower Hill, Fisher is led to the scaffold as a quiet crowd watches. Fisher wishes Henry well, although he thinks he’s fairly wrongheaded in his religious convictions. Fisher admits that he’s frightened, and the crowd begins to call out blessings. This is actually a rather touching scene. I teared up a tiny bit and everything. Fisher kneels at the block, spreads his arms wide, and prays as his head’s struck off. We get a nice shot of copious amounts of blood dripping through the slats of the scaffold as the crowd, as one, drops its head and mourns.

In Rome, the pope wanders in the direction of the Sistine Chapel, where we can hear Michelangelo bellowing to someone that Moses looks like a pile of crap. Strangely, Michelangelo’s speaking Italian, although nobody else in the Vatican seems to. The artist emerges from the chapel, throws up his hands when he sees the pope, and stalks away. Artistic temperaments—what are you going to do? The pope is soon joined by Campeggio, who shares the news of Fisher’s execution. The pope already knows, and he’s outraged. He pokes his head into the chapel to check out the work, and there the scene ends. Clearly they’re just trying to get their money’s worth out of Peter O’Toole, because that was a pointless scene even by this show’s standards, made even more pointless and stupid by the fact that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512, and this episode can’t be taking place any earlier than 1534. Writers, either give this guy something meaningful to do, or stop wasting our time with him!

In England, Cromwell gently asks Henry what they should do about More. Henry, looking a bit conflicted, tells him to press on.

More’s cell has been made even more uncomfortable than before—he tells his daughter, who’s visiting, that they took away his heat and some of his food, but she mustn’t worry about him, because what doesn’t kill him will make him holier. She tries to convince him to take the oath, to save his body, but he won’t do it at the expense of his soul. Margaret says that none of them believe they’ll be damned for taking it, and he looks at her almost as if he’s seeing her for the first time. Looks like daddy’s favorite just dropped a few notches in his esteem.

While working late at night, Cromwell receives a visit from one Sir Richard Rich. Heh, this guy’s named Richie Rich. And he actually existed too. Cromwell tells Richie that he’s got a job for him.

In another part of the castle, Henry paces moodily in a darkened room, glaring at a cross. He starts shouting at it, wondering aloud why More has to be so stubborn. Henry confesses to the cross that he loves More, and hates him, and finishes up by telling God that it’s up to him whether More will be on Henry’s conscience. Ok, then.

More receives a visitor that’s actually not Cromwell or his womenfolk—it’s Richie, whom he apparently knows. More jokes that his cell is fast becoming the place for lawyers to meet. Apparently the only humor More is capable of is the gallows type—I don’t remember him being quite so funny earlier in the series.

Richie has been sent, regretfully, to take away all of More’s books and papers. More accepts this with fairly good grace, not like he has much of a choice, and some flunkies get to work taking everything away. While they do so, Richie poses a hypothetical question: if Parliament declared him, Richie Rich, king, would More accept it? More says he would, but counters with another hypothetical: if Parliament declared that God was not God and that saying otherwise was treason, would Richie say that God was not God? Richie says no, since no Parliament has no competence to decide on the existence of God. More says that Parliament can no more declare the king head of the church. Richie nods solemnly, seeming to agree, and then leaves.

I have to take a moment to say that the music that keeps playing during the More scenes is really familiar. I think they got it from a movie, to be honest. Either American Beauty or Road to Perdition. Definitely something Thomas Newman did the soundtrack for. Can anyone ID it? It’s driving me nuts.

Anne lies in bed, crying, and she doesn’t bother to sit up or clean herself up when a lady in waiting tells her Henry’s come for a visit. Henry sits on the edge of the bed and she asks if he still has any feelings for her. He tells her he loves her, seeming sincere, and reassures her that everything is going to be all right. He cuddles up next to her, kissing her face sweetly, but he has a rather creepy look on his face that makes me feel like he’s about to smother her or something. Strange.

More’s finally being brought to trial before the Parliament. He’s asked to answer to the charge of high treason. More begins by saying he never opposed Henry and Anne’s marriage, he only followed his conscience and remained silent on the matter of the Act of Supremacy, which means no lawyer can really charge him with anything. He continues to defend himself competently, clearly throwing the three men sitting in judgment on him off balance. It’s easy to see that More was a pretty kickass lawyer before he became a courtier. One of the men running the show accuses More of conspiring in prison with Fisher and More just says he and Fisher just chatted through a servant. They go back to the Act of Supremacy and claim that More did, in fact, speak about it to a witness. Who would that be? Richie Rich.

Rich steps into the courtroom and More raises his eyes to the sky with a total “You’ve got to be kidding me” look. Rich recounts his discussion with More to the court, and everyone takes More’s claim that Parliament can’t make the king head of the church as treasonous. More’s found guilty immediately. More asks to speak for himself and, once given permission, he says that the act of Parliament by which he’s being found guilty is in direct violation of God’s laws, which no temporal ruler can overrule. More calls for Henry to be preserved in good health, and to be sent good council. At this last statement, he looks pointedly at Cromwell. The judges don’t care about what he has to say—they tell More that he’s to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Yikes.

As he’s led out of the courtroom into the street by guards, More is met by Margaret and one of his sons, as well as a large crowd that doesn’t seem all that happy at this verdict. More calls out blessings to both children and hopes they’ll be together again in heaven. Margaret fights her way through the guards to embrace her father.

Henry’s in a darkened emo lair, asking Cromwell when More’s execution is to be. Tomorrow, the 6th of July, at 10 a.m. is the very precise answer we get. Henry gets up and walks over to a window as a bell starts tolling mournfully somewhere. He looks out and sees Anne walking back towards the castle, giggling and being playful with her father and brother. Henry tells Cromwell he’s decided to commute the sentence to beheading. Because he’s such a nice guy and all.

 

"Why, God, why? Oh, yeah, because I wanted to get laid."

 

More prays before the barred window in his cell, preparing himself for death. Now ready to meet it, he’s led to the scaffold. He stumbles at the first step and is helped up by a nearby gentleman. More thanks him, but says that on his way down, to let More “shift for himself.” We see that Charles Brandon is in the crowd.

More takes the scaffold and tells the crowd that he happily gives his life for the church. He asks them all to pray for the king, and to know that he died Henry’s good servant, but God’s first. Boleyn, who’s also one of the observers, twitches a little. The executioner asks for forgiveness, which More readily gives before kneeling at the block and praying for a moment. He lays his head down, and the executioner strikes.

In the palace, as though he heard the strike, Henry screams in anguish, as well he should.

The last shot is of a small cross More was holding hitting the slats of the scaffold and being engulfed in More’s blood.

 

Heavy symbolism or just a cool shot? Discuss.

 

Previous Episode: Mr. Softie

Next Episode: Reap What You Sow



3 thoughts on “The Tudors: All or Nothing

  1. I’m re-watching “The Tudors” again and enjoying your recaps very much. I think I can help with the total WTF moment of Bess and Henry doing it in some cottage somewhere and the whole “thinking of England” bit – Bess actually asks him if he’s really “the King of England” which makes more sense. Not any more sense than that whole random scene made, but whatever.

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