The Tudors: Headdesk

Previously on The Tudors: Henry got his son and then lost his third wife in quick succession. He then married and quickly got rid of Anne of Cleves, and then got rid of Cromwell in the most horrific botched beheading imaginable. While Cromwell was being tried on bogus charges and hacked to death, Henry was taking up with 17-year-old bimbo Katherine Howard.

New season, new characters in the credits: Tamzin Merchant as Katherine, Lothaire Bluteau as…some French guy I guess. Sarah Bolger! Regular cast member—yay! Torrance Coombs as, I think, Culpeper, and David O’Hara, who looks really, really different from how I remember him from Braveheart. I never would have connected him with Stephen the fun, crazy Irishman.

Whitehall, August 1540. In voiceover, Chapuys tells us that it hasn’t rained in two months. Man, that sucks. We also learn that Henry’s gone a bit overboard when it comes to jailing people accused of heresy and executing people left and right, and it’s apparently the hottest summer in living memory. Even the dignified Chapuys is sitting around in just a shirt that’s untied at the neck, dabbing his dripping forehead with a handkerchief. He goes on to say (he’s writing a letter to the emperor) that it’s rumored Henry’s already married to Katherine Howard and intends to present her to the world shortly. Great.

We now join Henry, moving through some dark corridors with the aid of torches held by his grooms, one of whom he identifies as Master Culpeper. He enters a set of rooms, where he greets Lady Rochford, then moves into a bedroom, where he finds Katherine reclining artistically on a bed of rose petals. I know it seems romantic, but those petals will stain the hell out of your sheets. Just saying.

The following day, an immense crowd has gathered in the great hall, and I can’t even begin to imagine how bad that would smell during a heat wave. Henry is announced with the usual fanfare, and he enters with Katherine, smooching her like a teenager. She giggles, delighted by all the attention.

In the crowd, Thomas Seymour asks his brother (who is now sporting the Facial Hair of Instant Aging that’s so popular on this show but has only been successfully sported thus far by Henry Cavill) who the man talking to Chapuys is. Seymour informs him that it’s Norfolk’s eldest son, the Earl of Surrey, who’s been in France for the past few years. That’s not really true—he was in France for about a year with his cousin, Anne Boleyn, but that would have been almost a decade before 1540. He was definitely back in England in time to fight against the rebels during the Pilgrimage of Grace. He was also a poet and a friend of Thomas Wyatt. I wish the show would use that as an excuse to bring Wyatt back as an occasional guest star, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be disappointed there.

Brandon’s in the crowd as well, staring distractedly at nothing. He’s shaken out of his reverie by Chapuys, who asks him what’s up. Brandon says he was just being nostalgic, thinking of those who were no longer with them. He mentions Thomas Boleyn’s recent death, and Chapuys rather acidly remarks that the only mourners at his funeral were the ghosts of his children. Considering Boleyn’s behavior, that sounds fairly well deserved.

Henry calls everyone to attention, welcomes the new French ambassador, and introduces his new wife, Katherine, who giggles again, as she does. Henry claims to have been attracted to her by her appearances of honor, cleanness, and maidenly behavior. The fact that Brandon and Seymour manage not to just bust out laughing right then and there is a testament to their self-control. And on a side note, it looks like Bryan’s gone. I can’t say I’ll miss him, he was pretty useless and disappointing.

Henry calls everyone to dinner, but makes out with his wife for a while first, as the courtiers get back to chatting. Brandon, seated at Henry’s right, introduces Surrey, and Henry introduces Katherine, whom Surrey incorrectly identifies as his niece. Wrong. She’s your cousin, Surrey. History fail, writers.

Chapuys is seated next to the new French ambassador, Marillac, which seems like a strange arrangement, considering how paranoid Henry is about the French and the Empire working against him all the time. Chapuys asks how King Francis reacted when he heard Henry had shed yet another wife, and Marillac replies that he didn’t say much, just sighed. Even other monarchs are getting tired of Henry’s antics.

After dinner, the dancing commences, and when he sees Katherine swaying to the music, Henry urges her to take to the floor with Charles. By this time, in real life, Henry weighed about 300 pounds and had that awful leg wound, which prevented him from taking part in such pastimes.

As Kate dances, Henry calls over Marillac and sends his condolences to Francis over the death of the dauphin. Marillac takes the opportunity to propose a marriage between Francis’s second son and Mary. Henry’s too busy eyeing his wife to care about his eldest daughter, and instead just asks Marillac if he knows how old Katherine is? She’s 17, and that info actually makes Bishop Gardiner, seated nearby, blanch. Heh. Henry asks Marillac what Francis thinks of this and guesses that he’s jealous. Out on the floor, Katherine takes over, dancing around like a little kid and making a spectacle. The courtiers clap dutifully.

At some later date, Kate’s in her apartments, hanging out with her empty-headed ladies-in-waiting whom I’m just going to go ahead and start calling the Tri Delts. She calls for them to admire a giant brooch the king sent her, and then urges them all to dress in the French fashion. She goofs off with them for a while as Lady Rochford comes in, the only one displaying a little dignity here, and hands over a letter for Kate. Kate reads out that it’s from an old friend, Joan Bulmer, who wants a job in Kate’s household. Kate doesn’t seem all that excited by the prospect, but she gets her good humor back when she grabs her ladies and drags them off to try on some new dresses. The invention of the mall would have blown this girl’s mind.

At his house in the country, Surrey’s entertaining Brandon and telling a story about how the French celebrate the winter solstice, by burning some animals alive. Charming. Strangely, Surrey then judges the English court to be full of mean creatures, which makes more sense when we find out he doesn’t mean ‘mean’ as in cruel, but ‘mean’ as in ‘low-born.’ Lawyers and university men and the like. Man, imagine how pissed he would have been if he’d been around in Cromwell’s time. He thinks these men want to destroy the aristocracy, but doesn’t give any reason for that rather paranoid belief. Brandon guesses he includes the Seymours in that crew, even though they’re members of the landed gentry, at least, and have been ennobled since Jane married the king. Brandon asks flat out what Surrey hopes to achieve now that he’s back in England, and Surrey tells him he hopes to surpass the achievements of his father and grandfather. Brandon comments that’s a tall order, but Surrey swears he won’t fail.

Henry’s out hunting with Brandon, and very happy, despite not having had a very successful day. Henry says it’s because he’s so very delighted with his awesome new wife, and Brandon really, really boredly says that’s great. It’s so clear he’s not into this marriage at all, and really, why should he be? She was just supposed to be a distraction, not someone with actual power. But, they’re all stuck with her now, and so are we. Henry fails to notice Charles’s lack of enthusiasm and asks how Brandon’s wife is. Brandon sadly informs him that things have deteriorated between him and Duchess Kate, and now they live mostly apart. Aww, that’s sad, I liked her! Henry, being Henry, tells him to just take a mistress, but Brandon’s not interested. Henry brings the conversation back around to Katherine, talking about plans to take her on a trip around the country and to make her cousin/uncle Surrey a cupbearer.

Back at the palace, Kate’s nervously getting ready for an audience with Mary. She asks the Tri Delts if she looks ok, and then Mary sweeps in and curtseys deeply. Oh, this should be good. Kate has no idea what to do and fidgets a little before going and sitting down on a nearby chair, telling Mary she’s so happy to meet her. Mary gives her an awesome look, like, ‘you have got to be kidding me, you child.” At this point, historically, Mary was about 24 years old, seven years older than her own stepmother.

Kate babbles about how much Henry talks about Mary and gets no response at all, beyond frosty silence. Kate continues to fidget and talk about how much she hopes they’ll have a loving relationship, since now Mary’s her stepdaughter. Mary responds with yet another wonderful, freezing look. I love Sarah Bolger. She’s great in this role, she really is. Mary gives the most frigidly polite response possible, and Kate idiotically fails to realize she’s being burned here. She starts to get the notion when Mary refuses to stay and have a tea party, though. As soon as Mary leaves, Kate rolls her eyes childishly, clearly unable to understand why someone wouldn’t want to worship and love her. After all, she’s pretty!

Mary leaves, and Lady Rochford immediately announces that Joan Bulmer’s there for a visit. Kate hustles the woman into her bedroom so they can talk alone, and Joan immediately starts poking around and telling Kate how lucky she is and what great friends they were. Joan asks for a job with Kate’s household, and when Kate doesn’t give her an immediate “yes” Joan tries appealing to her heart and sense of sisterhood, and then moves on to blackmail, reminding Kate that she knows a lot about Kate’s salacious past. Kate hushes her and gives in, accepting her as a lady-in-waiting.

Henry sits down with what appears to be a much-depleted council and tells them there are rumors of new disturbances in France. Henry unrolls a map and shows the councilors some area where the French have been building castles, precariously close to the English-held areas of France. It sounds like Henry’s starting to agitate for a war with the French again (déjà vu!). He’s sending Tom Seymour and Surrey over to France to round up some troops and try to scare the French. Or provoke them to fight, whatever works.

In Kate’s rooms, she and the Tri Delts are throwing rose petals in the air. Seriously—these women are total infants. Lady Rochford comes in and announces Culpeper, who enters, bows, and says he’s been sent by Henry. Kate draws him aside and they sit down together and have an awkward moment of silence. She prompts him to speak and he tells her that she and Henry will shortly be going on a little vacation to Berkshire. Fun! Henry’s also giving her Baynard’s Castle in London. She only gets excited when she learns that Baynard’s castle is really, really big. And finally, Henry’s sent her a giant, gaudy necklace. Culpeper stares at her as she admires it. Kate finally looks up, lowers her voice, and admits she’s not used to all the attention she’s been getting and sometimes wishes it were less, like she wasn’t reveling in it just a couple of scenes ago. Culpeper tells her she’ll have to get used to it, because people are going to stare, men especially. She smiles, looking pleased.

Later, Kate’s putting on a dirty puppet show for Henry. Complete with blowjobs, which Henry thinks is hilarious, of course. Kate puts down the puppets and starts putting on a dance show for Henry, in a pretty see-through nightgown.

Henry’s in his study with a secretary and Seymour, telling him he’s going away for a while, but he intends to hold a council meeting during his vacation, and all the councilors have to attend or give a really good excuse. While he’s gone, he plans to make some improvements to the palace, including a new front, new lodgings for Mary, and a banqueting house (and no, that’s not the Banqueting House at Whitehall we can still see now. That wasn’t built until the 17th century). He tosses Seymour some blueprints and then groans about the heat. Henry asks for a rundown of high-born prisoners in the Tower. The only one who gets his attention is one of Kate’s cousins, Lord Dacre, who got drunk and beat an old man to death. He sounds like a charmer. Henry orders everyone to be executed, including Dacre, who’ll be dragged through the streets and hanged at Tyburn, for acting common while breaking the law. Let that be a lesson to you, folks—if you must kill someone in Tudor times, make sure you do it nobly.

Anne Seymour is looking through some fabric when Surrey is announced. She asks him what he needs, and he tells her he wanted some advice from her husband prior to departing for France. She tells him Seymour’s with the king, so Surrey approaches her and tells her he’s heard some pretty wild rumors about her, so he wanted to introduce himself, presumably in the hope of nailing her. She smiles and tells him they’ve now been introduced and she’ll tell her husband he stopped by.

In Kate’s rooms, servants scurry about with trunks of dresses and such, and Kate puts some shoes in the care of someone named Sir Edward. One of the Tri Delts announces the king and Katherine hurries out to meet her husband, who introduces Lady Bryan and little Edward, who’s now a cute little moppet who greets her with a grin and a bow. Kate kneels in front of him and starts playing peek-a-boo with him. This intro goes much better than her audience with Mary, presumably because, emotionally, Kate’s much closer in age to Edward than Mary.

Edward is sent on his way, and Elizabeth is led forward. She’s played by a girl who does not in the slightest resemble either JRM or Natalie Dormer. Not even a little bit. It’s a terrible casting choice, and she doesn’t even make up for it by being that good of an actress, if we’re being honest. Kate wins her over by giving her the necklace from around her neck. Jewel-loving Elizabeth thanks her and withdraws. Henry watches her go for a while, then turns to his wife, kisses her hand, and tells her to finish packing.

The secretary from earlier, who is apparently Mr. Risley, heads into Seymour’s office with the death warrants that need to be signed. Seymour signs them all, even Dacre’s, whom Risley feels bad for, because he’s young and this is harsh. Risley, let’s not forget that Dacre beat a man to death. I wouldn’t feel bad he’s going to be permanently off the streets.

As Risley leaves, Anne Seymour comes in and asks her husband if Surrey ever spoke to him. Seymour says he didn’t, because Surrey hates him for being one of the ‘new men’ at court. He asks his wife if Surrey might be willing to deal with her instead? She asks why it’s so important and Seymour tells her that Surrey is heir to a great title and fortune and has royal blood, so having him on their side would be a good thing.

The Court is on the road, heading to Old Castle House in Berkshire. Once there, a feast commences, with animals on spits and dancing. While Kate kicks up her heels, Henry thanks their host, Sir William, for having them. Culpeper lurks off to the side, staring at Kate in a rather creepy way. Sir Richard Rich comes in and is called over by Henry—he has news from France. Seymour and Surrey got their troops together in France, but also entertained the French king so effectively that he doesn’t want to go to war anymore. Henry’s disappointed he won’t have an excuse to go forth and slaughter. Oh, poor Henry, having to live with all this peace. Henry goes back to watching his wife dance, laughing at her antics. Culpeper continues to lurk, still creepily.

“Hey, from this angle she almost looks mature!”

Later, Henry and Kate are in bed. He asks if she’s happy and has everything she wants. She reassures him she does, although there is one thing she wouldn’t mind having: respect from Mary. Henry tells her Mary will come around, in time, and will grow to love her stepmommy. Kate pouts for a minute, but then starts making out with Henry. He puts her off, telling her he’s tired and has a long day ahead of him. He bids her goodnight and leaves to go to bed.  Kate flops back, frustrated.

In the dead of night, Kate’s door creaks open and Joan comes floating in. She throws herself into Kate’s bed, startling Kate, who asks her what she’s doing. Joan merrily says she won’t stay, she just wanted a chat. She reminisces about their time together at the Dowager Duchess’s and Kate tells her to mind what she says. Joan has no concept of self-preservation, though, and continues, remembering how two young men would come into the bedroom, and one of these men would go have sex with Kate. Kate giggles and says there was no harm in it, because she and he had planned to be married someday. Joan asks her if that’s what she told the king, neatly pressing Kate’s Berserk Button. Kate immediately panics and asks her to swear never to breathe a word of any of this to anyone. Joan swears and, I swear to God, Kate holds up both her pinkies. Yes, that’s right–she’s making this woman pinky swear. I haven’t done that since I was about five. Kate tells Joan to go back to bed, but instead Joan starts stroking her arm in a rather suggestive manner and asks Kate if she remembers that as well. Kate gets smiley again, and tells Joan that she’s queen now, and has to be obeyed. Both girls giggle us into the next scene.

Elsewhere, Rich and some of the boys are partying. Culpeper’s kind of ruining the mood by being a little broody, and then he foolishly comments that Kate’s a little fireball. Rich tells him she’s too hot for Culpeper, and Culpeper gets really stupid and seems to take that as a challenge. He dares Rich to think of her naked. He’s really asking to get into trouble, isn’t he? Why is he saying this to Rich, whom he knows has Henry’s ear? Why doesn’t he think Rich will repeat any of this? Rich warningly tells Culpeper that the queen and all her hotness belongs to Henry. He bids them all good night and leaves. Once he’s gone, Culpeper tells the others that he can’t drink enough to get Kate out of his mind. He suggests they all go out the following day and “find something to quench that thirst.” Oh, God. I’m cringing already.

The next morning, Kate wanders over to the window in her bedroom, which overlooks the courtyard, where Culpeper and his cronies are mounting their horses and getting ready to go out. She stares at him for a little while, and he looks up and spots her.

Culpeper and the boys ride up to a small farm, where they find a pretty young woman feeding some livestock. She greets them politely and cheerily, telling them she’s the wife of the park keeper. Culpeper asks her where her husband is and she tells him he’s away. Oh, good God, woman, tell him the guy’s due back any second! Or run or hide or do something! Nobody starts asking questions like: ‘are you completely alone and isolated here?’ for any innocent reason. The woman doesn’t twig to this, though, just tells the boys that there’s no one else there (and, in a bizarre moment, she cheerfully tells them she had a daughter who died. Who says that with a smile on their face?).

Culpeper and the boys dismount, and now she starts to look a little nervous. Culpeper tells her she can do him a favor, and he grabs the back of her head. She starts to panic, and he growls menacingly that he’s a gentleman of the privy chamber, which I guess means she’s supposed to just throw up her skirts and submit? This is so completely and utterly disgusting. His buddies chuckle, which makes it even grosser. The woman tries to talk sense to him, saying that if he’s a gentleman, as he says, he won’t try to force her, he’ll just leave. Culpeper responds with one of the fakest backhands in cinematic history that nonetheless sends her to the ground. She gets up and tries to run, but the others chase her, laughing. What the hell? Did Henry only employ sociopaths? How did Culpeper round up three other guys who would think chasing a woman down and raping her was funny?

The men get her surrounded, like this is a game, as the woman freaks out further, and Culpeper urges them to hold her still. This guy is so creepy and horrible already, I’m not even sorry he got his ass tortured and executed (spoiler!). The rack’s too good for him, actually.

Later (shudder) the boys are taking a dip in a nearby river, laughing it up and partying like they just successfully managed a frat stunt. God. Their fun is interrupted by the arrival of one Mr. Roper, the park keeper. Oh, this is gonna be good. Culpeper grabs his sword and asks what Roper wants with him. Roper tells him he wants justice (and why he didn’t go right to the king or someone else in charge, I have no idea). Roper plans to take Culpeper to the sheriff and goes to grab his arm but Culpeper shakes him off and the other boys come over, grabbing their swords, ready to protect their evil friend. Roper, stupidly, tells them he’ll go and fetch the sheriff himself, which he should have done to begin with, so Culpeper tries to buy the guy off. Roper’s actually a man of honor and refuses to take Culpeper’s single gold crown for his trouble, so Culpeper stabs him to death. Oh, come on! Not even a gentleman of the royal household could just go around raping and stabbing random people whenever he felt like it! This, apparently, is what it takes to wipe the smiles off his buddies’ faces. Culpeper sneers that Roper was a fool, hands his bloodied sword off to one of his friends, and goes back to the river for more swim time. Shudder.

Back with the court, Anne Seymour’s taken her husband’s suggestion and is entertaining Surrey. She tells him she wants to be friends, and he asks her to clarify. She whispers that she wants to be good friends, so he goes right ahead and sticks his hand up her skirt. This show sucks at subtlety. Or sexiness.

Henry’s out for a ride with some of his friends, and he comes upon Kate running around in a mud pit in her underwear with the Tri Delts. This is about the twentieth headdesk moment I’ve had this episode, and I’m starting to worry about causing actual damage to my brain. You have got to be kidding me, show. There is no way in hell the Queen of freaking England would be rolling around half-dressed in a mud pit with a bunch of squealing ninnies. It just wouldn’t happen. And if it did, Henry would be pissed. The job called for a bit of decorum, you know. There was more to being queen than getting castles and dressing up. We get it, writers, she’s very young and childish, but this is the sort of thing a four-year-old boy would find amusing, not a girl in her late teens. I don’t know a single 17-year-old who would jump into a bunch of mud for fun. It’s gross. This scene was so clearly put in to service the male members of the audience. I’m amazed they didn’t pretend Jell-O was a 16th century invention so they could have a wrestling contest.

Brandon and Seymour, bless them, take in the scene in obvious disgust, but Henry chuckles, and then pretends to be mad as he calls Kate over. She picks her way over to him, and he tells her some dignitary is coming, sticks an apple that’s magically appeared in her mouth, and walks off, laughing. Whatever.

Henry arrives back at the castle for his council meeting, where he learns that everything he’s asked for has been taken care of. Delegating is awesome! Henry brings up the 500 guys currently being kept in the Tower for heresy. He plans to pardon them all, which surprises the council (which has a lot more people in it than earlier in the episode). Henry moves on to the proposed marriage between Mary and Francis’s son. Henry doesn’t trust France and thinks Francis still plans to invade England. So, maybe you should push for the marriage so you’ll have an alliance? Just a thought—it was the whole point of such marriages, after all. Henry prefers to favor the Emperor this week.

Next order of business is to settle all the lands and manors that formerly belonged to Jane Seymour on Kate. Seymour is not happy to hear that. Henry’s going to give her some of Cromwell’s former properties as well.

Later, Henry and Kate are getting hot and heavy in bed together. She calls a halt to the proceedings when she realizes that it’s finally raining. She runs outside to the courtyard in her bare feet and thin nightdress to put on quite a show for anyone who happens to be looking out their window at that moment. Henry’s charmed, and Culpeper once again stares creepily at her from another window. Egh, this guy makes my skin crawl.

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