The Tudors: Ick Factor

Previously on The Tudors: Henry dragged court and family north, where he magnanimously forgave the northerners for rebelling against him. Kate foolishly hired her ex-boyfriend, Francis Dereham, who turned out to be kind of an asshole. Someone took it upon themselves to write a letter to the king, presumably informing him of Kate’s extracurricular activities.

Henry shows the letter to Seymour, who reads it and reveals it is, in fact, about Kate and her “dissolute living” before she married Henry. And right off the bat we have a bit of a story problem. See, the writers decided to show us Henry and Kate clearly sleeping together before they were married, so he would already know about her past. Surely Henry could tell when a girl was a virgin and when she wasn’t, and yet he seems surprised by this letter, which is unsigned, in case you were wondering. Henry says the letter’s a total lie, but nonetheless he has Seymour investigate and confines Kate to her room, with only Lady Rochford in attendance, until the matter is cleared up.

This can't be good

Kate and the Tri Delts are dancing (callback to the beginning of Anne’s downfall?) when guards burst in, brandishing axes. Never a good sign. The Sergeant tells her she’s to stay in her apartments with Lady R. Joan and Kate exchange alarmed looks before Joan and the other Tri Delts are dragged away a little roughly by the guards. Kate begs to know what she’s done wrong, but the Sergeant isn’t talking.

This is the last dignified moment this character will get

Dereham, meanwhile, is placed under arrest. “Arrest? For what?” he demands, struggling against the guards. For being a dumbass douchebag, now get off my screen, you suicidal moron. I’m not at all sorry he only lasted an episode and a half.

Joan’s up for questioning first, and she looks scared to death as Rich comes in and asks what went on between Kate, Mannox, and Dereham. He reassures her no harm will come to her as long as she tells the truth, and she sings like a bird. I can’t blame her—there’s no way I’d risk beheading or perpetual imprisonment for Kate.

Seymour’s got Dereham in his office for questions. He asks Dereham point-blank if he slept with Kate, and Dereham dances around the question. Seymour tells him they’ve already spoken to some of the other girls, who have said Dereham was Kate’s lover. Dereham’s definitely not drunk or cracking jokes now.

I guess he failed to answer satisfactorily, because next he’s dragged into a very well equipped torture chamber. There’s an impressive array of scary looking tools laid out in their custom-made case for him to admire, along with a rack and some random chains and cuffs. Maybe Dereham’s heard about what happened to the last guy who was in here with Seymour, because he starts talking.

Henry’s playing cards with Charles and admits there have been accusations made against Kate. Charles doesn’t look at all surprised, but he asks what sort of accusations they were. Henry explains and warns Charles to be careful whom he speaks to while the investigation’s being carried out.

Oopsie. Did I just get caught?

Kate weepily asks Lady R what they could possibly know, and Lady R, who’s looking a bit hysterical herself, says they couldn’t possibly know about the Culpeper affair. Kate wonders who could have spilled the beans, and then gets mad at Lady R for crying. She sits herself down at a dressing table, gets some control over herself, and quietly says she has to speak to Henry, because if she does, she’ll be spared.

Seymour’s interrogating Dereham about some gifts Kate gave the man. Dereham says she gave him the gifts because she loved him, and that she claimed she would take no other husband but him. He admits to sleeping with her, and having a sort of marital precontract. Seymour asks why they didn’t marry, and Dereham explains he left Lambeth for a bit, and when he got back she was already at court. Seymour asks if he continued his affair with Kate after she was married, and Dereham very firmly tells him no.

At her place in the country, Mary greets Chapuys, now calling him “Eustace,” and he wastes no time telling her what’s going on at court. Nobody knows exactly what’s happening, but there are all sorts of rumors swirling around. Mary’s eyes practically gleam as she snorts that she knew there was something wrong with Kate. Chapuys reminds her that the Howards are a great Catholic family, but Mary counters that Kate was never a good Catholic herself, nor a good wife or queen.

The Seymour boys and Anne Seymour, who’s hugely pregnant, gather to discuss the case. Seymour tells Tom he’s only learned that Kate was a “loose young woman.” Anne, like me, reminds him that he already knew that, but Seymour says he knew Kate’s upbringing had been “unconventional,” but he didn’t realize that, at 14, she was already sleeping with two older men. Seymour, you found this girl in an aristocratic whorehouse. That’s why you picked her up for Henry. Don’t try to pretend you didn’t know she had a past. See what I mean about story problems?

Tom asks about Dereham’s confession and Seymour says he confessed to sleeping with Kate before she was married, but nothing more. He adds that he may “speak to him again.” I have a feeling that’s going to be a lot more painful for Dereham than the last time you two spoke. Anne warns her husband to be careful, because he was, after all, one of the guys who pushed Kate towards Henry in the first place. He snippily tells her he knows, but then calms down, bids everyone good night, and leaves. Once alone with Tom, Anne asks him what they should call his baby.

A servant enters Kate’s room with breakfast and tries to beat a hasty retreat, but she catches him and begs to know what’s going on. Lady R comes stumbling out of the bedroom, looking like a mess. Is she not allowed to have a change of clothes? Or a hairbrush? The servant tells Kate he can’t tell her anything, but she pleads desperately, so he whispers that they’ve taken Dereham to the tower, along with some of her friends from her Lambeth days. Kate pales and stands frozen as he leaves.

Hey, looks like the full council’s in attendance! I guess nobody wanted to miss this show, and I can’t blame them. They rise as Henry enters the room, accompanied by Culpeper, who gets a brief look from Charles. There’s a seriously awkward silence, and then Gardiner brings up the investigation. Seymour chimes in and says it looks like the accusations were true. Henry looks…actually, I can’t say how he looks. Sort of like he’s not listening, I guess, because his face isn’t registering anything at all. He looks a bit vacant. Note to JRM: just because you’re not screaming doesn’t mean you should stop acting altogether. Meanwhile, Charles is looking slightly disapproving, Rich is looking like he’d rather be anywhere else on earth right now, and Tom Seymour is squirming and looking uncomfortable. Henry finally registers emotion when Seymour tells him Kate hired Dereham during their recent progress. Now he looks a bit surprised and pissed. Seymour concludes that Kate’s certainly betrayed Henry in thought, and given the opportunity, probably would have betrayed him in deed as well.

Kate sits in her room, looking bored. Tom Seymour enters and informs her that, for her offenses against Henry, her household has been discharged, and her jewels are all to be taken away. Kate begs to see Henry and next learns that she’s been stripped of the title of queen and will be taken to Syon Abbey to await the king’s pleasure. Surprisingly, she doesn’t care about any of that, but begs once again to see Henry. Tom tells her Henry’s at chapel and can’t be disturbed. Then, he foolishly turns his back on her. Kate seizes her chance and dashes out past him, racing through the palace. The guards chase her and finally manage to get their hands on her, but not before she reaches Henry in the Great Hall. She rather hysterically tells him “It’s Katherine” over and over again, but Henry’s face is totally impassive. He turns and leaves, followed by an equally indifferent Culpeper. What a cold bastard. Both of them. Kate is dragged off, screaming (allegedly, her screaming ghost can still be seen running down a corridor at Hampton Court). Henry goes into his study and sends for Gardiner.

The Torture Master looks over his creepy toolkit as Dereham is dragged in, screaming that he’s already told them everything. I guess they don’t believe him, because the Torture Master takes a small pair of pliers and rips out one of Dereham’s fingernails. Ick.

Gardiner arrives at Syon, where Kate’s keeper, Sir Edward, quietly tells him that Kate’s in a bad way, mentally. Gardiner goes into the room where she’s staying and she comes out to see Gardiner. As soon as she spots him, she bursts into tears. Gardiner quickly hands over a letter from Henry that offers her mercy. It takes a little while for that to sink in, but when it does, she stops crying and asks what Henry says. Henry wants her to openly confess her sins, and also to answer some questions Gardiner has for her. She begins to hyperventilate, and he tries to talk her down and helps her to a chair.

Kate calms down a little and praises Henry for being such a good guy, and says his mercy at this moment make her feel so much worse about what she did.

Dereham and his icky, bloody fingers are tossed back into his cell.

At Syon, Kate confesses readily to sleeping with Dereham but doesn’t lay claim to any official precontract with him. Gardiner tries to help her out by pointing out that, if there was a precontract, her marriage to Henry would have been invalid, so she’d be shamed but not executed. For some reason, she still won’t say there was a contract. Gardiner asks if she slept with Dereham after her marriage and she firmly tells him she did not. Gardiner rises and says he’ll go home and draft a letter to the king for her to sign.

Before he goes, she calls him back and, now fully in control of herself, she tells him Dereham actually raped her. Woah, hey there! The hell, Kate? There goes all the sympathy for you I  was actually starting to feel.

Gardiner joins Charles and the Seymour boys and tells them about the rape claim, which he figures is a total lie. He does, however, believe there was some kind of precontract. Thank God this man has a working brain. Not that it worked out for Dereham, in the end. Seymour still believes there was an affair after the marriage, but Charles steps in and says there may well have been, but maybe not with Dereham. Before they can explore that further, Henry enters and asks for Kate’s confession, which Gardiner hands over. Henry tells him to proceed with the annulment of the marriage.

Poor Dereham is back with the Torture Master, who’s got some pincers dangerously near his teeth. Seymour’s back in interrogator mode, but this time Dereham spits out that Kate had replaced him with someone else by the time he joined her household. Seymour asks him who it was and Dereham sobs it was Culpeper. How did he know that? Eh, whatever. Seymour’s face clouds up.

Rich goes to see Kate and asks her how well she knew Culpeper. She confesses to flirting with him and giving him gifts. She gigglingly tells Rich she didn’t sleep with Culpeper, although Lady R encouraged her to. I think she’s starting to go a little crazy, to be honest. She’s getting a slightly crazy look to her, and the giggling definitely makes her seem a bit off. Rich repeats the part about Lady R encouraging an affair, and Kate sulkily says Lady R spread a vile rumor that Kate and Culpeper were lovers. If she’s not going insane, she’s just a heartless, selfish little bitch. Which she sort of has been up until now, so it’s tough to call.

Culpeper’s in prison now, being questioned by Seymour. Culpeper, who’s creepily calm, claims his relationship with Kate never went beyond words. He admits he wanted to do more, though, which constitutes treason. Culpeper suddenly starts to talk, claiming it was Kate who led him on and wanted the affair (do these two deserve each other or what?) and that Lady R facilitated things by acting like some kind of procuress.

Lady R is brought before Tom Seymour, and she asks why she’s being blamed, when all she did was stand guard when Kate and Culpeper met. She didn’t even want to. Tom asks if Kate and Culpeper slept together during those times and she says she’s pretty sure they did. She asks him if she’ll be put to death, dissolving into tears. He leaves without answering.

The council is meeting again, and everyone looks solemn as Seymour tells Henry everything: Kate and Culpeper were involved in an adulterous affair. Henry can hardly seem to believe it when he hears Culpeper was the man, which makes me wonder, didn’t he notice that Culpeper suddenly wasn’t around anymore? The guy’s been shadowing his every move for a while now, and Henry doesn’t realize he’s disappeared? The nail in Culpeper’s coffin, it seems, is a letter Kate wrote him, which was found in his room. Wow. Talk about too stupid to live. You burn those types of letters, Culpeper!

Henry, naturally, throws blame at Charles and Seymour and starts screaming about torturing Kate in revenge for what she’s done.

Anne Seymour’s given birth to a son. Seymour congratulates her and asks what they should call him. She offers the name “Thomas” and he agrees readily. Ok, then. And the point of that scene was…?

Tom Seymour returns to the Tower to question Lady R again and learns she’s gone insane. She is, in fact, playing with her own feces at the moment. This whole episode is full of ick, isn’t it?

Nonesuch Palace. Charles goes in to see Henry, who’s reading the Bible—specifically, the book of Solomon. He reads a passage (Google tells me it’s Proverbs 5:3) about the lips of a harlot being a dropping honeycomb, but in the end she’s as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Charles gets to the point of his visit—King Francis has sent Henry a letter. Henry invites him to read it. It’s an “I’m sorry your wife’s such a slut” letter. I’m pretty sure Hallmark doesn’t make that card, but maybe they should, for both sexes. Henry asks about Culpeper and Dereham’s recent trials and learns they were both found guilty. Culpeper changed his plea to guilty at the last minute, too. They’ll be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Henry commutes Culpeper’s sentence to beheading, which is bizarre. He says he hates Dereham more, “since he spoiled the queen.” Ew. Also: beheading’s too good for Culpeper, considering all he’s done. Lady R’s been found guilty as well, but since she’s nuts, she can’t be executed. Henry orders Charles to tell Rich to pass a bill in Parliament making it legal to execute an insane person. Charles looks a little sad and regretful but agrees, because he has no choice.

If only Mrs. Roper could see this

At Syon, Kate’s in her corset and petticoat, for some reason, dancing around the main room in slow motion, no doubt remembering happier, more carefree days. Dereham and Culpeper, meanwhile, are led to their executions as the crowd pelts them with vegetables. In voiceover, Kate reads a love letter to Culpeper, as his head is lobbed off. Poor Dereham loses his lunch at the sight. Soon he’s strung up a few times, to the delight of the crowd, then removed and tied to a table for the full Braveheart treatment. I don’t think we need to go into detail here, but it’s interesting how the horrible scenes of his torture and execution are intercut with the delicate scenes of Kate dancing in her floaty petticoat, in the light that filters through the stained glass windows. It’s actually rather beautifully done.

Now fully dressed, Kate stands and cries while Charles reads aloud her guilty verdict and informs her he’ll be escorting her to the Tower. She briefly faints and is caught by Sir Edward, who sets her back on her feet. Charles calls forth two guards who take Kate away.

Kate arrives at the Tower and passes by the piked heads of Culpeper and Dereham. The sight of Culpeper sets her off and she starts crying again as she’s led away.

Henry’s secretary reports that the executions have been carried out, and the bill making it legal to execute an insane person has been passed by Parliament. Henry tells the secretary he wants a party and hands over a list of guests. Once the secretary goes, Henry pulls off a large ruby ring (I guess it’s his wedding ring), looks at It for a second, then puts it aside.

Kate sits in her cell, and surprisingly calmly hears the news that she’s been condemned to death by beheading the following day. She asks one favor: that the block be brought to her room so she can practice putting her head on it. The jailor asks if she wants a confessor brought, and she piteously says she’s spoken to God so rarely, she’s pretty sure he wouldn’t know who she was. Oh, show, see how much better and more interesting she is when she’s not a cartoon?

Henry’s party is entirely made up of pretty women, disgustingly enough. It’s worth noting that there’s a huge stuffed swan over the table, harking back to Anne Boleyn’s execution episode (swans are a bit of a motif in this show, and probably an ironic one, since they mate for life). While he parties, Kate looks down at the block sitting before her. Henry is fed strawberries and scoops up handfuls of pearls, as the girls at the party take turns sitting on the throne. We see Kate’s hands gently caress the block, and then the camera pulls back to reveal she’s kneeling before it, completely naked.

Allow me a moment for a Nostalgia Critic style rant.

WHAT???????????!!!!!!!!! What in holy hell is this? God! This show! It makes me so mad! And this was one of the better episodes! Why is she naked, show? Why? What purpose does that serve? You don’t need a naked chick in EVERY EPISODE. It’s not some kind of obligation. This especially pisses me off because, in real life, the dignity Katherine Howard showed in the days leading up to the execution (and yes, she did actually have the block brought to her room) made this one of her finest moments, and here they’ve gone and cheapened it and made it smutty, just because the people in charge of this show are all, apparently, ten-year-old boys who want to see naked butt. How utterly insulting this is. God. DAMMIT!

Sigh, All right. Kate summons up her courage, brushes her hair aside so we can see her boobs, and practices laying down on the block.

The next day, people flock to the execution. The Seymours, Gardiner, and Rich are all on the scaffold as Lady R and Kate are brought forward. Lady R clearly has no idea what’s going on. In a pretty good moment, acting-wise, Surrey climbs the scaffold and pauses to look down at Kate, who just looks back proudly and defiantly. I have to give her some credit for her balls there.

In a history inversion, Lady R’s going to be the first executed. Someone asks if she wants to say a few words. She manages to pull together a coherent request for forgiveness from Henry, God, and the crowd. Joan and the other Tri Delts, all dressed in black, watch tearfully from below. Pathetically, Lady R turns to the jailer and asks if she has to say anything else. He reassures her she’s done just fine. Wow. I didn’t expect to end up feeling bad for a woman who lied about her husband sleeping with her sister out of spite, but that moment right there pretty much did it. Lady R lays her head on the block, sobbing, and it gets lopped off as Kate watches. She jumps a little but manages not to flinch. The Tri Delts remove the head, and Joan catches Kate’s eye and flashes her a very brief, sympathetic smile. Kate zeroes in on the block, which is dripping blood, and promptly pees herself.

The jailer tells her it’s time, and she addresses the crowd in a clear voice, shockingly telling them she dies a queen but would have rather been the wife of Thomas Culpeper. And once again, I admire her nerve. And yes, that’s pretty much what she said in real life. She kneels at the block, looks up, observes that life is very beautiful, and lays her head down on the block. The executioner raises the still-dripping axe, and we cut immediately to black. Well done, show. Much better handled than the end of the Anne Boleyn execution episode.

I don’t usually go into a post-mortem of this show, but I will this time, just because I think this is one of the best episodes, despite its many issues and the one glaring black spot that we won’t speak of again. It was a little rushed, yes, but then, so were the episodes about Anne’s downfall. I appreciated the subtle acting from Henry Cavill, and the dialed down, more humanized Kate. If we’d gotten to see more of that version, I might have actually had a chance at liking or caring at all about the character. They did a nice job of keeping the tension high during the interrogation scenes, and like I said, that ending was good. Plus, Culpeper got his horrible, rapey, unfeeling, creepy head lopped off, and that right there is a total win, in my book.

 



2 thoughts on “The Tudors: Ick Factor

  1. Just to add, that is folklore. Katherine did not actually say she would rather die the wife of a culpepper. That is proven to be false.

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