The Tudors: Fool

Previously on The Tudors: Brandon was sent north to needlessly slaughter a bunch of people, and started losing his mind a bit as a result. Henry’s joy at finally having a son was cut short when Jane died a few days after the birth.

In the chapel, Henry approaches Jane’s tomb, kneels beside it, and tells her he’ll be with her someday. And he was—they’re both buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, though I think they’re under the floor of the altar, not in tombs, but it’s been a few years since I visited, so I may be misremembering.

Meat market! Butchers hack apart dead animals and hang the carcasses up for buyers to peruse. For no reason at all (seriously, someone of this guy’s stature would have had no reason to be wandering around this part of town), an expensively dressed gentleman comes through and makes his way down a narrow side street, where he finds his way blocked by a peasant with a laden cart. He gets snippy with the peasant, who suddenly gets a bit scary and identifies the gentleman as Robert Packington, Member of Parliament and friend of Cromwell’s. Packington, a little nervously, asks the guy to step aside, because he’s in a hurry, so the peasant grabs a pistol out of his cart, shoots Packington right in the head (and leaves a wound that’s way too neat for a point-blank shot with a weapon from that time), and takes off through the market, still waving the gun. Uh, ok, so people are just killing people for being friends with Cromwell now? Come on, the guy wasn’t that hated. Maybe the peasant was just pissed about Packington’s expense reports or something.

Cromwell strides into his office, having evidently heard about what happened, and is told by a secretary that the perpetrator hasn’t been caught. Presumably because he did such an awesome job of blending back into the crowd, what with the pistol waving and all. Cromwell’s a little pissed to hear that, and also a little paranoid, because he’s sure Packington was killed to send a message to Cromwell. God, Cromwell, not everything’s about you, you know. And if they wanted to get to you, why not go after someone closer, like a family member? Not that I advocate that sort of thing, I’m just saying, it makes more sense. The secretary wonders if Brandon or Bishop Gardiner might be behind the attack. Cromwell won’t speculate, but he’s certainly got his eye out, both for himself and for a new bride for Henry. The secretary gently asks after the king and Cromwell tells him that Henry’s shut himself away and will only have one attendant with him.

That attendant is Henry’s hitherto unseen fool, an elderly fellow who comes upon the king sketching away on a design for a new palace. The fool picks up a sketch and Henry asks him what he thinks. “I don’t think. Are you mad? Thinking is dangerous,” the fool rather wisely says. Henry fondly calls him an idiot and the fool throws it right back at him, telling Henry he’s the idiot for finding the perfect wife and then letting her die. Now, this is the point where I started to wonder if the fool was some kind of hallucination, and I became even more convinced of it when he goes on to bring up Katherine and Anne. Fools could get away with a lot in the name of comedy in those days, but this seems a touch too far, and a little too much like Henry’s conscience speaking out.

Henry sobs for the fool to go to hell and the fool looks around the gloomy room and says he thought he was already there.

In Edward’s nursery, Mary and Lady Bryan look down at the sleeping baby and Lady Bryan expresses sympathy for the child, who will never know his own mother. Mary firmly says that he will know her, because she’ll be sure to keep Jane’s memory alive, for him at least.

The two ladies step away and Lady Bryan says that she’s going to take command of Edward’s new household at Hampton Court, on orders of the king. Mary approves the appointment. Lady Bryan says she hopes Mary will have her own child soon, as she heard rumors of a match for Mary. Mary demurs, saying there’s nothing definite yet, so she’s heading back to the countryside with Elizabeth, to live quietly. Awww. As Lady Bryan goes to leave, Mary calls her back and asks after Sir Francis Bryan, whom she refers to as Lady Bryan’s son. Huh. That’s the first we’ve heard of that relationship, strangely. I had thought they weren’t related at all. My bad. Sorry! Lady Bryan says she has no news of him since he went away to hunt down Reginald Pole.

Apparently, he’s in Caserta, Italy, where we now join him and Thomas, playing cards in a brothel with some ladies of the night. Geez, does this guy not take his job seriously at all? Come on—this was where I was really hoping we’d see another, cooler side of him. He’s supposed to be back in his element, and he’s just partying? Sigh. Like I said in the last recap, wasted character.

Anyway, someone pompous comes in to formally welcome Bryan to town, and to promptly send the girls away. They take their time, but once they’re gone, Pompous Guy demands to see Bryan’s and Tom’s letters of passage. Tom hands them over, and Bryan also produces letters of introduction to the Prince of Naples. Pompous Guy takes it, and I’m starting to actually like him a bit, because Bryan’s needlessly acting like a childish dick, holding back the letter like a schoolyard bully, and PG is just not taking any of his shit at all. Good for him, I say. Bryan demands to see Cardinal Pole but PG is not cowed. So Tom slams the door and takes on PG’s guard while Bryan takes down PG himself, getting him in a hold with a knife to his throat and once again demanding to see Pole. Wow, subtle. And this guy was a spy? As in, someone skilled at flying under the radar and collecting information? PG gets scared but doesn’t give up any information as Bryan screams us into the next scene.

Henry’s decorated his whole dark room with sketches of his new palace. I’m just noticing now that the fool is played by David Bradley, who is excellent in everything I’ve seen him in, from Harry Potter (where he plays Argus Filch) to Vanity Fair (where he was a spectacularly gross and creepy Sir Pitt Crawley). Nice. Henry tells him the palace is called Nonesuch, and the fool (his name’s apparently Will, so we’ll go with that, shall we?) wonders if that’s the name because it doesn’t exist. Henry says it’s called Nonesuch because there’s nowhere on earth like it, and he plans to build it. There’s some back and forth over whether this is a dream, and Henry crumbles and says this is all he has. Will’s face softens in pity, and he urges Henry to dream on.

Late at night, Pole’s getting ready for bed, and he’s clearly jumpy, keeping his servant around for a little longer and asking him to sleep outside the door. I’m sure the guy is only too glad to sleep on the cold stone floor outside your room, Pole. Once again, a Tudor-era job that sucks.

The servant takes his place, but before long Bryan arrives, tells the guy to be quiet, and bursts into Pole’s room. Some security system that guy turned out to be. Bryan throws himself on Pole’s bed, stabbing away like a madman, and then realizes that Pole’s not there. Heh. I know I’m not supposed to be on Pole’s side, but Bryan’s so useless and strange I feel no desire to be on his, so I’m fine with seeing him fail. Tom goes to the nearby open window and states the obvious: Pole got away. Gee, thanks, Tom, so glad you came along on this trip. You’ve been so helpful.

Back in England, Brandon’s still kicking around his country house. He wanders into a room where his pregnant wife sits by a window, looking out. He sweetly puts a hand on her belly, calls her sweetheart, and asks her how she’s doing. She first says she’s fine, but then says she’s not ok, that sometimes she sometimes wishes she wasn’t pregnant at all, because the baby’s stained with the blood of the children her husband was forced to murder up north. This was such a strange addition to the story—as far as I know, Brandon never went north and started hanging women and children. There were plenty of executions after the northern uprising, that’s true, but they were all men (although there were quite a few churchmen involved, which would have upset a lot of people). Why, exactly, did the writers find it necessary to jam this weird and horrible subplot in? Did they think Charles and his wife were too happy or something? Do they have an issue with functional relationships on this show? Because I can’t really figure out why else they’d do it.

Anyway, she essentially wishes for a miscarriage, and Charles’s face is absolutely heartbreaking at that. At least this plot gave Henry Cavill a chance to act for a while. Duchess Kate gets up and leaves, and Charles slowly sits down in the chair she’s just vacated.

Henry’s playing cards with Will and sharing more ideas about the palace. Will says he likes it all—except for, well, all of it. Henry tells Will that this palace is essentially a pissing contest with King Francis, who has a new palace that Henry wants to exceed. Will says that someday both palaces will be nothing but dust (and in Nonesuch’s case, it’ll be because of Barbara Palmer, who pulled it down to sell the materials to pay gambling debts, like we needed another reason to dislike her). Henry says it doesn’t matter, because people will still say that there once stood a great palace, and King Henry built it. Not really, but go ahead and have your dream, Henry.

A young man wanders innocently through the great hall, going about his business, but he’s soon confronted and chased down by two other guys in a nearby corridor. One of them stabs him, then drops the body and takes off. The hell?

Cromwell’s viewing the body, and asking who the kid even is. One of Seymour’s retainers, he learns from the Sergeant at Arms who’s with him. He asks why the kid was killed, and the sergeant tells him it may have been for a gambling debt. What? How much of a debt could this kid have run up? And what’s the use of killing someone who owes you money? This is just stupid. Cromwell learns that the guards haven’t found the killer, because they’re as useless as the guards out in London, and the sergeant tells him they think it might have been one of Lord Sussex’s retainers. We have no idea why they suspect Sussex, and strangely, Cromwell doesn’t ask. He does mention that it’s illegal to carry arms at court while the king’s in residence. He warns the sergeant that, as the man in charge of keeping order, he’s kind of sucking at his job, and if he doesn’t get some answers and suspects soon, he’ll pay the price for it. I’m on Cromwell’s side on this one—come on, man, there are hundreds of people milling around court all the time, you can’t find one person who saw those two guys chase that kid out of the great hall? You’re not trying hard enough.

At Hampton Court, Sir Francis is paying a visit to his mother, Lady Bryan. They pass by some servants scrubbing down the walls and floors, which they must do every single day on the king’s orders, to limit the risk of infection to the prince. Lady Bryan leads Sir Francis into the nursery, and he checks out the kid, who’s asleep in his cradle, as usual. As he does so, Edward Seymour comes in and asks Bryan what he’s doing there. Bryan tells him Henry wants to be sure his son’s well protected. Seymour spits that the protection of the prince is also his first priority, being the kid’s uncle and all. Seymour tells him to piss off and to leave his nephew and his wife alone. Bryan sneers but ultimately leaves.

Rich arrives at Cromwell’s office for a meeting, and Cromwell hands over Henry’s crazy drawings for Nonesuch, which he does intend to build. Rich thinks it’ll be impossible, and indeed, the pictures look a little bizarre. He knows that the place will cost a fortune to build. Cromwell points out that Henry has one, now he’s dissolved so many monasteries. Rich asks him if he really thinks it’s a good idea to squander that on fantasies. Cromwell clearly doesn’t, but Henry’s king and there’s only so much you can do. He tells Rich that what the king wants, he’ll have, and Henry’s such a mess these days he kind of needs to be appeased at all turns. At the moment, he’ll only speak to Will, so I guess the guy’s not some crazy fantasy of Henry’s. I think it would have been cooler and more surreal if the writers had kept that ambiguous, but what do I know?

Henry’s getting drunk with Will and tells him that they have to decide which articles of faith and commandments are best and should be used to run their new Church of England. Yes, I’m sure Will and drunken Henry are the best people to decide that. They start with “thou shalt not covet” and get silly, then move on to declaring feast days for Henry and not venerating the pope, which I think is kind of a given at this point. Then, of course, Henry gets sad again and says how much he misses Jane. Will says he knows, but it’ll pass, and Henry should really consider getting back to being king.

One of the palace guards hurries into…the guardroom, I guess, and tells the sergeant that there’s a fight going on and he’d better come. There is indeed a fight—more of an all out brawl, really, with guys launching themselves on each other and clashing swords in one of the courtyards. So, what was that about not being able to carry weapons at court? I notice that half the brawlers are wearing the same uniforms as the guys who stabbed that kid a few scenes back. The sergeant calls for everyone to put their swords down, on pain of death, and the guard goes down to collect the two swords held by the de-facto leader. The leader looks like he’s going to give up, for a second, then idiotically attacks the guard. What the hell is going on here? This is the palace, with the king in residence, there would be, like, ten guards in shouting distance who would run you through in an instant! Does this guy have a death wish?

Fighting recommences and the guard escapes down a passageway as the sergeant joins the fray and tries to restore order. The guard, evidently, goes right to Cromwell, who dispatches a group of soldiers to restore peace. The brawlers, of course, attack them, and it’s an all-out battle now, which ends with one of the guys stabbing the sergeant right in the chest.

The council is in an uproar, wondering who’s in charge, exactly, while Henry’s indisposed. Seymour tries to take command, using the “prince is my nephew” excuse, but Brandon says the kid’s the king’s son, which makes him the property of the state, not Seymour’s property. Cromwell comes in and calls the meeting to order. One of the lords demands to know what gives Cromwell the right to call a council meeting. Cromwell says that, as Lord Privy Seal, he has to act in the king’s stead while Henry’s acting all crazy. The councilors quiet down, but then Brandon starts to rile them up by saying that Cromwell’s servants have been much involved in all the recent violence at court. Come again? Cromwell says that’s not true, and that others should look to their own households. Brandon takes that as the slap in the face it is and angrily tells Cromwell he’s getting above himself. He storms out, followed by the rest of the council. Rich rubs his temples and looks defeated and exhausted. Good lord, council, can you think about something other than your pride for five minutes and help run the damn country? It’s your job! But oh, no, because Cromwell wants it, it’s no good. Are all these people four years old? Who’s really the idiot here? I don’t think it’s Will.

Cromwell goes to leave and Rich catches up to him, asking if there’s any news of the king. There is: he’s presently busy rewriting the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Uh, ok. Rich is as incredulous as I am.

Somewhere in the palace, Seymour’s having a nice quiet dinner with the wife. After asking her how she likes the prawns (is that code?) he bluntly tells her he warned Bryan to stay away from her. Well done, Seymour, now you’ve made him forbidden fruit, which’ll make her want him all the more, and vice-versa. She asks why and he tells her Bryan is dangerous, because Henry listens to him. He says he’ll have to destroy him. His wife takes that pretty calmly and merely says that’s too bad, since Bryan makes her laugh, something Seymour isn’t so concerned with. She says that, if he’s going to take that attitude, he shouldn’t expect her to be faithful. Then she asks for more prawns. Has to be a code.

Cromwell’s peacefully sleeping when he’s woken by a not altogether welcome sight—Will the fool. The look on James Frain’s face here is priceless. Right up there with the face Henry made when the French emissary insulted English wine last season. I may need to start a top ten list of favorite faces from this show. Anyhow, Will tells Cromwell Henry wants to see him.

Once he’s up and dressed, Cromwell heads to Henry’s study, and the king comes wandering in, dressed in black, pale as a candlestick, and asks after the state of the world. He tells Cromwell to fetch Bishop Gardiner, then asks how little Prince Edward’s doing. Cromwell reassures him that everything’s just fine and being done according to Henry’s instructions. Cromwell grows bold and approaches Henry to suggest he consider remarrying, just in case something should happen to the prince. Henry takes a moment, then hollowly says it might be possible, so who’s on the list? Cromwell says he’s had his ambassadors in France and the Netherlands start making inquiries. The French have proposed two possibilities: Princess Margaret, daughter of the king (wait, the current king? Wouldn’t she be, like, twelve?) and Marie, daughter of the Duke of Guise. Yeah, that one didn’t work out for Henry, since she married the King of Scotland. Henry smiles faintly and stares blankly at the tabletop, lost in thought.

Chapuys is paying a visit to Mary and telling her that the king has recently emerged from seclusion and that he’s being urged to remarry. Mary asks after her own possible marriage, but negotiations have stalled. Voice shaking slightly, Mary wonders if maybe it’s her fate never to marry. Chapuys reassures her that will not be the case, and the king will certainly arrange a grand match for her with somebody.

Henry, Bryan, and Lady Ursula are having a walk in the gardens, and Henry asks her, now that Jane’s household has been broken up, what Ursula plans to do. She says she hopes to go stay with her mother, now her engagement’s off. Bryan says that the man’s a fool, and she thanks him for being kind. Why, exactly, is her ex-fiancé a fool? Ursula was cheating on him right and left, and on top of that, he got humiliated by both Holbein and the king because of her. Who would want to marry someone who does that? I’m on his side—wise choice.

I will say, though, that in this scene, these three actually have a nice, easy camaraderie. It makes me wish she’d stuck around so we could see that possibly develop. Alas, it’s not to be. Henry dangles a peerage and the gift of one of the recently dissolved abbeys as a prize if Ursula’s ex-fiancé agrees to go through with the marriage. Ursula thanks him for his generosity but says that she’s settled on her plan to go home. Henry sends her off with his love and blessing, but then asks her for one more night before she goes. She hesitates, but then nods ever so slightly.

He leaves her and catches up with Bryan, who’s a few paces ahead to give Henry and Ursula a little privacy. Henry remarks on how Pole escaped from Bryan’s clutches and Bryan admits it was a bit of a screw up and now Pole’s probably safely tucked up at the Vatican. Henry’s pissed at Pole’s betrayal of him and swears he’ll make Pole sorry.

Pole is, indeed, at the Vatican, playing chess with his fellow cardinal contact. He tells the other cardinal that he’s received a letter from his brother, which essentially cuts Pole off from the family, if he persists in remaining friends with the Pope. The other cardinal burns the letter and tells Pole that the letter couldn’t have been written by his brother, but was more likely dictated to him by Cromwell. He urges Pole never to let his guard down, lest the devil take command of him.

Henry’s meeting with a bishop and scolding him for failing to come up with a coherent doctrine for the Church of England to follow. The bishop starts to make excuses—there are some fundamental differences between members of the committee who have been tasked with doing this. Henry knows, but he’s tired of all the holdups. He’s written up six fundamental questions, the answers of which will form the basis of their faith. The bishop goes to take them to Canterbury to consult with the Archbishop, but Henry stops him and says there’s no need to bother the Archbishop over a matter as small as the basic fundamentals of their new faith, now, is there?

Emo enough for ya?

I guess not, because we next join Henry with the bishop and the faith committee to have the six articles of faith read aloud. They don’t seem to differ from Catholic doctrine very much: they hold up transubstantiation and celibacy for the clergy, etc. As they’re read out, we see Pole hearing mass, and then Henry ripping Ursula’s nightgown off and throwing her on the bed. He hesitates for a moment before getting started, as if unsure whether he really wants to continue, but then he does. As the bishop finishes reading, he declares that anyone who doesn’t accept the articles will be considered a heretic and will be executed, as will those who try to flee the country to avoid them. Cromwell, who’s been listening to this, looks absolutely horrified and more than a little sick, hearing all his dreams for a reformed church get smashed into dust. Brandon notices his reaction and smugly thanks the bishops for coming up with articles they can all agree to. His attitude doesn’t really jive with actual history, but since the writers don’t seem to care about how things really were in real life, I guess I should stop caring too. Henry signs the articles, adding one final amendment: the Lord’s Prayer will have “for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory” added to it. He also calls for the council to prosecute all those who stand against him, as is his way.

Later, Cromwell and Rich are commiserating over the articles. Rich reports that Cranmer had to send his secret wife and kid back go Germany or risk being burned. Cromwell’s thinking bigger: he recognizes that Henry’s a Catholic at heart, all he really wanted was to be the biggest man on campus, with nobody, not even the pope, ranking above him. He didn’t really want a Reformation, he wanted more power.

Fairly surreally, the last shot is of Will sitting on Henry’s throne, wearing a crown, and laughing creepily.



3 thoughts on “The Tudors: Fool

  1. Great synopsis! I admit to being a wee bit weary of King Henry’s towering rages, sullen silences, vicious vindictiveness – not to mention the habit he has of spitting in the faces of his hapless victims when he’s yelling at them. What a childish pain in the ass.

    And what’s the deal with not gaining an ounce or a wrinkle in years?

    I agree that Henry Cavill, in addition to the many gifts of his enchanted life, shows signs of decent acting ability. He certainly appears to be a better actor than he is, largely, allowed to be on The Tudors. I haven’t seen him in anything else: I guess time will tell.

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