The Tudors: Boiling Point

As season 2 kicks off, things are reaching their boiling points–in one case, literally. Henry keeps trying to bully the bishops to get his divorce and kicks Katherine out of the palace because Anne’s tired of having her around. Boleyn tries to poison More and Bishop Fisher, to get rid of opposition to the divorce, and the pope orders a hit on Anne.

Previously on The Tudors: All of season one. Henry partied, made and broke treaties all over Europe, and freaked out about not having a son to succeed him. So, he told his right-hand man Wolsey to magically bring about a divorce between Henry and his wife Katherine, so Henry could marry Anne Boleyn. Wolsey failed, was arrested, and committed suicide in one of the most affecting scenes of the entire season. Henry took the news hard, but nonetheless pushed forward with his plan to make himself pope in England, essentially, by forcing through some major religious reforms. This is not going to sit well at all with his heretic-burning chancellor and mentor, Thomas More.

Looks like we’ve got some new shots in the credits (mostly of Anne Boleyn being crowned) and a couple of new cast members, including Peter O’Toole and the rather unpleasant Hans Matheson. This should be fun.

Season two starts in 1532, in the cavernous royal chapel, which is dark, despite the many candles lit. Henry and Anne are kneeling at the altar, receiving communion. Alone in their private chapels, Katherine and More pray.

Prayers over, More heads to court, where everyone bows as he sweeps through the corridors, finally reaching a larger chamber where the courtiers are cooling their heels. Chapuys is there (yay!) and More greets him warmly, saying he was under the impression Chapuys had turned his back on England. Chapuys admits he tried to, but couldn’t abandon Katherine. He confides to More that the emperor feels bad for his aunt and has written More a letter of support for More’s efforts on her behalf. More grabs Chapuys by the arm and steers him away from the crowd, asking him not to deliver the letter to him, since it’d pretty much put More right in Henry’s very own Doomsday Book if he ever found out about it. More’s worried about putting his job at risk, since it allows him to continue to advocate on behalf of Katherine and the emperor. Chapuys says he understands and stashes the letter.

Henry’s in his study with Cromwell when More comes in, just as Cromwell’s leaving. Look’s like Henry’s trying out facial hair this season. He’s now sporting a slight moustache and, well, I’m not sure what that bit at the very bottom of his chin is called. Definitely not a beard. It’s just a bit of fuzz at the base of his chin. Odd. Anyway, he tells More he’s received a petition from the House of Commons, complaining of the cruel behavior of the prelates and the abuses of the clergy. I notice More’s much more richly dressed than he was last season—his cloak is edged in fur, and the jacket he’s wearing under it has scarlet velvet sleeves. He’s definitely starting to get comfortable in his more powerful, and presumably more lucrative, role at court.

Henry says that the people are asking for freedom from the church’s abuses. More answers carefully that he agrees that abuses must be stopped, but he’ll always stand against major religious reform along the Protestant lines. He gets pretty heated about it, but when Henry asks if this means he’ll be speaking against him, More answers that he loves the king so much that he’ll never say a word against him in public (in private, however…). More leaves Henry with his thoughts.

Parliament, which seems to be comprised of quite a lot of bishops and cardinals, so maybe this is the House of Lords, is being addressed by Henry, who takes his seat on a throne at the head of the room. Once he sits, everyone else follows suit, and Henry asks a group of bishops seated nearby to answer to some charges against them; to whit: they showed more loyalty to Wolsey and the pope than to Henry. Henry acknowledges that some of those present probably think he’s seeking some personal advantage, but he says that’s not true. He just wants to make sure the country remains free and sovereign, and that the king is overruled by nobody in his own country.

Henry calls for Archbishop Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to answer the charge, and Warham rises and cedes the floor to Bishop Fisher. Oh, this should be good. Fisher takes center stage and says there’s just no way for the churchmen of England to acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the church without abandoning their loyalty to the pope. And if they do that, they’ll be plunged right into heresy, schisms, and divisions.  Not schisms! Henry glances meaningfully at More as Fisher speaks, but it looks like More’s gone to his happy place and isn’t really taking anything in.

Warham is once again asked to answer the charge, as Fisher retakes his seat, and Warham suggests the following: Henry takes the title of Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England, but with the caveat that the title only extends “as far as the law of Christ allows.” Whatever that means. Seems like a clever enough lawyer could get that to stretch any way you want it to. Cromwell’s probably salivating right now, imagining the possibilities. Henry doesn’t look too pleased, though.

Warham calls for a vote, and nobody makes a sound in favor. Bizarrely, according to some strange rule he invokes, this means that they can assume everyone agrees. What? What a totally bizarre parliamentary rule. Did everything just get passed back then? Because unless 51% of the room rose to its feet shouting against the measure when votes in favor were called, I don’t see how it could have gone any other way.

Henry coldly thanks Warham and strides out of the room.

Down in Rome, Peter O’Toole’s playing Pope, and arriving home at the Vatican. He greets our old friend Campeggio and takes a seat at a desk. Campeggio tells him they’ve received two letters relating to Henry’s divorce. Pope O’Toole practically rolls his eyes and asks what they say. The first is from Henry himself, begging for a quick resolution to the matter, for the sake of peace in England. O’Toole craps on his predecessor, calling him a terrible procrastinator who caused this whole issue in the first place by refusing to just deal with it. I guess this means that Pope O’Toole is Paul III, although that messes around with the timeline quite a bit. He didn’t become pope until late 1534, a good two years after the date stated at the head of the episode. But, then again, this show’s never been that attached to actual chronology, so we’ll move on.

The second letter is from the emperor, urging the pope to prevent the annulment and excommunicate Henry. Pope Paul sighs that he’ll need to come to a judgment, but it’ll be tricky, since he can’t go favoring one major European power over another. Paul asks after “the king’s whore,” wondering why someone doesn’t just get rid of her. They handled things a bit differently in Italy in those days. As I’m sure we’ll see, whenever the Borgias actually starts to air.

The lady in question’s tucked up in her room, reading a book on a windowseat, where Henry finds her. He smiles fondly at the pretty picture, and when she notices him there, he tells her not to move, since she looks lovely. He wanders over to her, says he has to possess her, and kisses her passionately. She tells him it’ll just be a little longer. Henry tells her he’s been made head of the Church of England, which makes her happy. She says he finally has his rights and can do whatever he wants. Henry says he’s going to have Cromwell refurbish some of the rooms in the Tower of London (and I have to admit, I had a really entertaining image in my mind of James Frain as interior decorator, picking out fabric swatches and the like), because that’s where all the Queens of England stayed the night before their coronation. Presumably far from the torture chambers.

Anne smiles happily and Henry kisses her hand before leaving. Boleyn comes in another door, just as Henry goes, and immediately rains on Anne’s parade by telling her the bishops weren’t really defeated. He fills her in on the whole “law of Christ” angle, which apparently can be used to invalidate the vote itself. What, the vote that nobody actually voted for?  All is not lost, however. The bishops conceded the point and did name Henry Head of the Church. And it seems that most of the resistance is coming from one man: Fisher. Looks like Anne will now have another target for all the ire she can no longer direct towards Wolsey.

Cromwell’s enjoying dinner with a few friends when a guest is shown in. It’s Cranmer, who’ll become quite an important figure in the reformation and the Church of England. He’s played by Hans Matheson, whom I most recently saw as the unfortunately named Lord Coward in Sherlock Holmes. He’s a resident member of my League of British Actors I Can’t Stand for No Reason Whatsoever. There’s something about this guy that I find deeply unpleasant in every single role I see him in. He kind of makes my skin crawl.

Anyway, Cromwell invites him to take a seat at the table and introduces his dining companions: Wyatt, and George Boleyn. Cromwell informs Cranmer that George has been asked by Henry to negotiate with the convocation of bishops. George says he’s found most of the bishops accommodating, although there are a couple of holdouts. Cranmer, rubbing his hands and twitching in a manner that indicates he’s either nervous or tweaking, immediately guesses that Fisher’s the problem. The others acknowledge that he’s right, and Warham is another problem.

A servant in livery leads a nervous and plainly dressed man down a leaf-strewn corridor, opens a door, ushers him in, and leaves. The poor guy is gripping his hat like a life preserver, clearly scared out of his mind. An unseen man (the voice is recognizable as Boleyn’s) identifies the man as a Mr. Roose, a cook by trade. Boleyn asks the man if he understands what’s expected of him, and the man acknowledges that he does. Boleyn lays out some money for the man’s trouble, but before Roose can take it, Boleyn threatens that if he betrays them, he’ll destroy Roose’s entire family. George Boleyn steps forward and places a small vial on a table, which Roose, after a moment’s hesitation, takes.

Cromwell leads Cranmer into Henry’s small throne room, where he introduces Cranmer to the king. Cromwell informs Henry (and us) that Cranmer was the man who first suggested that Henry’s case was a theological issue that could be solved by canvassing European universities rather than a legal one that would benefit from being tried in a courtroom. Henry comes down off his dais to greet Cranmer. He welcomes him enthusiastically to court and remarks that the greatest minds in his kingdom couldn’t seem to come up with Cranmer’s rather simple solution. Cranmer stammers nervously, and Henry kind of saves him by nodding to Cromwell, who turns to Cranmer and informs him that Henry’s decided to appoint him his personal chaplain. Damn. That was a pretty big deal for a clergyman in those days. Cranmer stammers a bit more, and Cromwell prompts him to thank Henry. Henry smiles a little, not unkindly, at Cranmer’s awkwardness and bids everyone a good afternoon before leaving. Cromwell sweetly lies to his friend that he did well.

Henry heads out to the gardens for a walk with Charles, whom, we learn, has married his child bride, Katherine. Yes, another Katherine. Because we didn’t have nearly enough already. I have to wonder, if the writers were so worried we’d be stupid enough to mix up Henry’s sister Mary and his daughter Mary, and they already changed Katherine the child-bride’s last name from Willoughby to Brooke, why not go ahead and change her first name too, to avoid any Katherine the duchess/Katherine the queen mix-ups? I guess they’ll address that problem by just calling Katherine the duchess the Duchess. Still…

Henry asks Brandon why he married Katherine, and Brandon says his young son needs a mother. Wait a second, what son? Where’d this son come from? How long was Brandon married to Margaret, in the timeline of the show (in real life, they were married for almost 20 years)? Seems odd this kid was never once mentioned before. Henry asks how old the girl is and Brandon, smiling a little because he obviously knows the ribbing he’s about to get, admits she’s 17 (she was actually 14 when she married Brandon, and I’ll totally forgive the show for changing that very squicky detail). Henry laughs and then expresses pity for the girl, since Brandon screws anything that moves. Charles says this time is different, he seems to actually be in love with this one. Henry smiles in understanding.

Early in the morning, Anne is in bed, apparently naked, with some unknown man who has his back to us. She cracks an eye and moans for the sun to go away, and the man turns over to reveal he’s—Wyatt? Woah, I’m guessing this is a flashback, unless these two are completely suicidal. He gets all poetic with her, and they start to make love again…

And then Wyatt wakes up. Ahh, I knew it.

She’s not wearing purple, but Anne’s clearly moved into the queenly role. She’s now sitting on a little throne of her own, with two ladies in waiting stationed behind her, receiving obeisance from courtiers, including Wyatt, who kisses her hand and congratulates her on reaching so high. She thanks him and tells him she will never forget that they were once “true friends.” Is that what the kids are calling it now? They also helpfully exposit for us that he’s been promoted, and is now a sometime diplomat, thanks to Cromwell. He then introduces her to Mark Smeaton, a musician and dancer, whom she greets with a smile. Smeaton, by the way, is HOT and helpfully banishes the awful memories of Bird’s Nest Tallis from last season.

She asks if he plays the violin, indicating the instrument he’s holding, and he says he does, which is kind of amazing, since the type of violin he’s holding (the modern four-string version) won’t be around for another twenty or so years. She urges him to play her something, and he lifts the instrument and plays a pretty, merry little tune. Between the music and the smoldering looks he’s giving her, I can see why Anne chose to keep this guy around. Poor him, as we’ll see.

She asks him to show her how to play it, and Wyatt gets a look on his face like he realizes he’s just been replaced. Smeaton puts his arms around Anne and shows her how to hold and play the instrument, to the amusement of everyone else in the room.

In a large, busy kitchen, Roose is working on a pot of stew or something, as other servants scurry around, getting ready for a feast. Once they leave, he pulls out the vial George gave him, uncorks it, and pours the powdery contents into the bubbling stew, looking terrified the whole time.

A servant boy carries the bowl of stew into a paneled dining room, where More’s meeting with Fisher and other clergymen who aren’t too keen on Henry being named head of the church. Fisher pauses in his anti-reformation tirade just long enough to ask for just “a little” of the stew. Bowls of the stew are set in front of the guests, and Fisher leads everyone in a prayer. A nameless extra takes a bite as Fisher asks More if he still plans to resign as chancellor. More says that after the vote he was tempted to resign, but now he’s decided to stay on and fight for Christendom. Fisher’s glad to hear it, and he’s also glad that Warham has come over to their side. As he speaks, the other clergymen at the table, who have been enthusiastically tucking into their dinners, begin to choke and gag. Finally, Fisher himself, who only took one bite of stew, begins to succumb as well. The first nameless extra falls, dead, and More tells a servant to send for a doctor.

More gives Henry a damage report, saying that four men died, but Fisher made it only because he had so little of the soup (More himself had none of it). Henry allows that it was very unfortunate. More says it’s a bit more than unfortunate. Fisher’s cook has been arrested, and there are rumors swirling about who was behind the failed hit. Henry asks who’s been named, and More admits that Boleyn’s been put high on the list, and also Anne. Henry flies off the handle at the mention of her name and says that people will blame Anne for everything—rain, no rain, bad winds, Katherine’s barrenness, you name it, it’s Anne’s fault. Henry calms down a little and asks More if he thinks Anne tried to poison Fisher. More doesn’t, but he tells Henry that someone tried to assassinate a bishop and the king’s Chancellor, and if Henry turns a blind eye to this, people will think it was done with his blessing. Henry seethes but knows it’s true.

Roose has been sent to the Tower, where Boleyn visits him while he’s being questioned by Cromwell. Cromwell asks Roose who gave him the poison, but Roose isn’t talking. All he says is that he has three daughters, and he wants them to find good husbands, but that takes money. Cromwell offers to pay Roose for his information, but Roose says that payment’s already been made. Cromwell seems puzzled by this, and calls Roose a fool.

Anne, dressed in peacock blue, is moving through the corridors at court when she comes across a servant carrying some fabric. She tells him to stop and examines it, then asks where he’s taking the linen. The servant replies that he’s going to the queen, so she can make shirts for Henry. Anne can’t believe Katherine still makes Henry’s shirts, but she sends the man on his way.

Henry’s sitting by the fire, contemplatively fingering a jeweled cross and looking tired and conflicted when Anne bursts in. She asks what the deal is with the shirts, and he says he hadn’t actually thought about it. She says he told her there was nothing intimate between him and Katherine these days, and honestly, sending a shirt via messenger doesn’t seem all that intimate to me, but I guess I can kind of see her point. Her timing’s lousy, though, and I’m surprised she can’t sense that.

Anne finally gets to the crux of what’s bothering her—the fact that Katherine’s still living at the palace. Henry’s starting to reach the end of his patience and snaps that he has more important things to think about than his shirts.

Fisher’s in bed, recovering at his palace and learning from More that the king’s agreed to a new and harsher treatment of poisoners—boiling alive. Lovely! Suspicion still persists against Anne and Boleyn. Fisher frets that Henry will proceed with his divorce while the bishop is recovering and useless. More reassures him by sharing a story about how, in the most recent council meeting, Henry got annoyed and asked everyone what would happen if he just went ahead and married Anne. Not even Brandon supported that idea, and you know when even Charles thinks you’re crazy, you’ve gone way around the bend.

Henry bursts into Katherine’s apartments, and she immediately asks him how he’s feeling—she heard he had a toothache, and gout. He snaps that of course he doesn’t have gout, she should stop listening to such stupid rumors. She tells him she only asks because she cares, and he lets that go and simply tells her she has to stop making his shirts. She tries to be all lighthearted, reminding him that he’s always liked her shirts, and he’s even wearing one. This is met by stony silence. Katherine switches tactics and tells him that their daughter’s been sick, and maybe they should go visit her. Henry coolly says that she can go visit Mary if she wants to, and she can stay there. Katherine hardens and says that, not for Mary or anyone else will she leave Henry’s side. Henry spins on his heel and leaves.

Poor Roose is getting ready to be boiled in a giant cauldron in front of Cromwell and Boleyn. The man’s raised up over the cauldron and slowly lowered in. God, how horrible. He screams as his feet hit the water, and then he’s finally submerged and his cries are drowned out. Literally.

The executioner never was able to escape the nickname, "The Big Dipper"

As seems to be the habit with this show lately, the execution scene is immediately followed with a court party. Red and green seems to be the theme, so maybe it’s Christmastime. Brandon’s smiling happily and dancing with his bride and Anne’s partnered with Smeaton while Henry watches moodily. Brandon and his wife leave the dance floor, and Brandon joins Henry at the head table. Henry observes that Brandon’s wife is lovely, and the two of them seem happy together. Brandon acknowledges that they are. Talk of happy marriage gives Henry an opening to request something of Charles. We don’t get to hear what it is, but Charles immediately goes to Katherine’s rooms and asks to speak with her alone. Her ladies immediately make themselves scarce.

Brandon asks her, on behalf of the king, to withdraw her appeal to Rome and give up fighting the divorce. In return, Henry promises to be very generous with her. She’s definitely not going to do that, though, and tells him to get his ass to Rome and argue the case with lots of important men instead of with just one poor, defenseless woman. Brandon gives up, bows, and leaves. Why do all these people try doing this with her? Isn’t this, like, the 100th time Henry or one of his minions has asked her to give up and go away, only to have her say no? Do they think eventually she’ll declare it opposite day or something?

Back at the party, Brandon has to tell Henry that the whole thing didn’t fly. Henry predictably gets pissed and stalks into an adjoining chamber, where he finds Chapuys washing his hands. He tells Chapuys to tell the emperor that Henry doesn’t give a crap about the excommunication threats, he’ll do what he wants, thank you very much. Chapuys is like, um, ok then.

Later, Brandon’s in bed, appreciatively watching his wife get undressed and put on a nightgown, She joins him and asks how Katherine is. Brandon clearly admires Katherine, and says she was beautiful before tenderly kissing his wife for a while. She pauses the foreplay to remind him that he once said he might accidentally make her sad, which seems like an odd thing to say to someone you’re trying to woo. He promises not to cheat on her and upset her, which is nice of him.

Alone, Henry paces in his study for a while, until he’s joined by Anne. He asks how she feels about going hunting tomorrow. She’s a little confused but says she’ll go, if that’s what Henry wants. He says they’ll visit some people, have a good old time, and when they return, they’ll be alone. He’s kicking Katherine out, officially this time. Anne’s delighted and kisses him.

At Maison More, a storm’s battering the windows, and More’s waking himself from a nightmare with a shout. He dreamt of the Antichrist, and he babbles that it’s near at hand.

Henry and Anne mount up with a few guards and a couple of carts of luggage for their hunting party. They leave the palace as Katherine watches sadly from a window.

"Where'd I put my keys?"

Apparently the whole court’s moving out—Cromwell wanders through the room where last night’s party was being held, and we see that servants are taking down the chandeliers and covering furniture with cloths.

Cromwell arrives at Katherine’s rooms, where he finds her saying a rosary by the fire. He informs her that Henry’s sending her to one of his other homes. Katherine mourns that Henry didn’t even say goodbye. Cromwell continues that she can take her attendants and servants along, and Katherine nods, adding that wherever she goes, she’ll always be Henry’s wife.

Cromwell steps closer and lowers his voice before asking her to also hand over the official jewels of the Queens of England. She looks like she’s about to tear up, but then she forcefully tells him no, she won’t be handing over what’s rightfully hers, just to see them on a woman who’s the scandal of Christendom. Cromwell nods sadly, as if he knew this is what she’d say. He pretty clearly hates that he has to do this.

As angry as she is, Katherine’s also obedient, and she eventually emerges from the palace to hit the road. She’s met by a large group of people (courtiers, it seems) as well as Brandon and More, all of whom bow and call out blessings to her. More takes her hands and kisses them, and expresses his hope that there’ll be larger crowds to welcome her when she returns. Katherine nods, and manages to smile a little as she climbs into her carriage and moves off.

We cut immediately to Anne giggling as she dines with Henry. A servant knocks on the door and Henry calls him in. The servant has been sent to pass along a farewell message from Katherine. Henry looks annoyed, for a moment, but then smiles as he wanders over to the messenger. Suddenly, he brutally throws the man to the floor and punches him in the face. Even Anne turns away in horror, as Henry bellows that he doesn’t want any of Katherine’s goodbyes. He continues to beat the poor man to a pulp and tells him to mind his own business. Geez, Henry, the guy was only doing his job.

Henry sends the man out and returns to the table, where Anne can barely bring herself to look at him. He apologizes, and she finally looks up at him, telling him it’s fine. She tries to calm him down, but there’s a look in her eyes that suggests she’s starting to realize just what a psycho she’s gone and hitched herself to.

Deep in a torchlit underground lair that looks like a crypt, two men are meeting. One of them says that “she” is a witch, and his companion asks if he’ll assassinate Anne. We come in closer and see that one of the men (the one who asked if the other one is an assassin) is Chapuys. His unseen companion continues that Anne’s seduced Henry from his lawful wife and the church and she must be stopped. Chapuys hears a noise somewhere in the crypt and sends his companion off with his prayers and hopes (and presumably those of the emperor as well. )

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