I’m going to be totally honest here: I went into this show expecting it to suck. So, I guess I can’t say I was disappointed.

Now, I’ve been a fan of Tudor history—and particularly the history of Henry’s wives—for quite a number of years. I inhaled Alison Weir’s book the Six Wives of Henry VIII, and I’ve watched every other Henry VIII movie I could get my hands on, from Anne of the Thousand Days to Ray Winstone’s Henry VIII to the incredibly awful Private Lives of Henry VIII. I’ve seen lots of Henrys and I definitely have my favorites, as well as my not-so-favorites. So, when I heard that Showtime was going to do a series on the famed dynasty, I was cautiously optimistic. I was spoiled, then, after watching Rome and Deadwood and seeing that it was, in fact, possible to do a really good historical drama. Sure, facts get bent, but the story and acting are so good you really don’t care. I was prepared to make some of the same concessions here. I was not prepared to accept Jonathan Rhys Myers as Henry VIII.

Seriously? The guy from Velvet Goldmine and Bend it Like Beckham? I liked those movies, but come on! Picture pretty much the total opposite of what Henry VIII actually was, and you have this guy—dark, scrawny, and lacking presence. Who the hell looked at this guy:

And thought “yeah, he can play this guy, no problem”?

Henry was a giant of a man (well over 6 feet tall at a time when that was HUGE), a gifted athlete, a humanist, scholar, artist, and soldier. He could write a poem just as easily as scare you shitless, because he could (and did) take your head off if he wanted to. He had a temper (which his daughter, Elizabeth, definitely inherited), and he was ruthless, ambitious, and psychologically complex. He was the one male link in a brand-new dynasty, and he wanted—needed—to continue that and provide an heir if he was going to avoid a repeat of the Wars of the Roses chaos. The marital merry-go-round wasn’t just about sex, machismo, and megalomania (although they all factored in too), it was about leaving a stable kingdom after he was gone. Don’t forget, England had never had a queen regnant (unless you count Empress Maude, and her attempts to rule caused a big old mess), and this was a time when women were, at best, considered second-class citizens who could accomplish little except improve their fortunes by marrying well. To Henry, leaving a kingdom to a woman was just begging for trouble.

Yeah, so I wasn’t expecting much out of the central character, and like I said, I wasn’t totally disappointed there. I did find other things to like about this show, though. It features James Frain, for one, and Jeremy Northam, and I like them in almost everything. Sam Neill was a good Wolsey, and then, of course, there was Henry Cavill, who quickly became my only reason for watching, once the others were killed or died off.

But enough of my opinions—let’s just get to the show, shall we?

The ducal palace at Urbino, Italy is quite lovely—gray stone, arches, giant windows I’m pretty sure they didn’t really have back then, and a nice courtyard into which rolls a carriage that won’t be invented for another 50-100 years. Way to be ahead of the times. A man with a bald spot and swirling cloak gets out of the carriage and slams the door rather pissily. He’s greeted by two men as Signor Ambassador and bitches at them for getting him out of bed so early. One of his escorts informs him that the duke is calling an early meeting, and as they pedeconference, the ambassador eyes a few soldiers and asks what the French are doing there. That’s the subject of their breakfast meeting, apparently. They stride through the palace’s corridors, and the French begin to not-so-subtly pursue. Ambassador’s starting to sweat, but before he can escape, the French soldiers descend and brutally stab him to death. He manages to cinematically stagger into a decorative circle on the marble floor, where he collapses and expires.

Presumably soon after, a messenger gallops up to Whitehall Palace, near London, where Thomas More is having a pedeconference of his own, being told by some courtier to keep the council meeting quick. More asks how the king’s doing and is told he’s in seclusion and can’t be disturbed. I think we all know what “in seclusion” is code for. Unless Seclusion was a popular name for ladies-in-waiting back then, in which case it’s not a good code at all.

More asks how the king’s doing with this whole Italy situation and is told that the king’s been told to be patient, despite the fact that the French are doing something nefarious down there, as is evidenced by the dead English ambassador. That ambassador, apparently, was the king’s uncle (??), and the courtier (the king’s private secretary, More helpfully informs us), says the king’s mad with grief over the loss.

Henry strides in, blinged out with a crown and everything, and takes a seat on the throne at the head of the room. He addresses the assembled courtiers and tells them that, obviously, the French king has shown he’s not to be messed with and has already overrun several Italian city-states. Didn’t the Italians have any issue with that? Oh, wait, no, they were all riding Vespas and saying: “Ciao!”

Henry brings up the assassination too, and concludes that all these offenses add up to a good reason to go to war. More and Cardinal Wolsey are the only two in the room who don’t seem so gung-ho on this idea. A youngish courtier with red hair brown noses that war seems like an excellent idea under the circumstances, and then he pushes it a little too far by reminding Henry that he (the courtier) warned him about the French a year ago. Henry’s eyes flash just enough to telegraph “dude, not smart” but the courtier seems not to notice. This guy is soon introduced as Buckingham by another, older courtier, Norfolk, who agrees with what Buckingham has to say and reminds Henry that English kings have an ancient right to the French throne, which the Valois family has usurped. Kinda ballsy to say that to the son of the guy who usurped the English throne, but nobody comments on that, so I guess Henry’s going to let it slide.

Wolsey takes the opportunity to break in and say he, too, agrees. Looks like we’re gonna have a war! Now that’s settled, Henry goes off to play. That’s exactly how he words it too. Because he’s eight years old, apparently.

As the council room empties, Wolsey and Moore put their heads together and discuss the wisdom of this plan. Wolsey tells More to just go with it and do what the king wants, but More’s actually got the kingdom’s best interests in mind and wonders what they should do if what the king wants is a totally crappy idea. Well, then they should help him decide. Um, thanks?

Playtime apparently involves underwear that looks suspiciously like a diaper and a giggling blonde being chased around a bedroom and then enthusiastically ravished. Outside the king’s room, stoic servants stand guard and listen to the moaning and groaning inside. If only they had Twitter back then.

Afterwards, Henry asks his blonde how her husband is. Way to kill the mood. Husband’s jealous, apparently (can’t think why!) and is threatening to make a scandal and put his wife in a nunnery. I doubt they’d have her, dude.

Over at Hampton Court, Wolsey’s grand palace, the French ambassador and a bishop are being ushered into the cardinal’s presence. And now we get Wolsey’s angle…maybe. He tells the ambassador he’s a big fan of France and has long labored to forward the French interests. So this killing in Urbino is pretty awkward. The ambassador tells Wolsey that the assassination was done without the French king’s permission, and that the perpetrators have been punished. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be enough to put all this behind them, as Wolsey tells him. Henry, he says, is young and bloodthirsty and wants him a nice war to go off to. The ambassador is totally cool with that, blasé in a very French way, and practically dares England to attack them. Wolsey’s taken aback. The bishop busts in to try and fix this and says that they should at least try to avoid going to war, since it wouldn’t help England to get mixed up in mainland squabbles. Perhaps the pope could find a way to pacify the young English king…

Back at Whitehall, Henry’s engaging in an enthusiastic game of tennis, observed by his court (including the blonde). He’s partnered with a handsome, strapping young man—Charles Brandon—who’s played by Henry Cavill. I only remember seeing Cavill in The Count of Monte Cristo a while back and, let me just say, he’s filled out nicely since then. He and Henry talk some smack to their opponents, one of whom talks smack back, and they start playing again. As they swat the ball back and forth, Brandon somehow manages to check out the female offerings, and picks one out in particular—blue dress, dark hair, pretty face. Buckingham’s daughter, apparently. Buckingham did not look old enough to have a daughter that age. Either he had the kid young (which is possible, considering the era), or he’s had some work done. Henry, being the gentleman he is, bets his buddy 100 crowns he doesn’t succeed in banging her. Brandon happily accepts.

We cut to dinner with Henry and his wife, Katherine, a former Spanish princess. He asks her about their daughter, Mary, and Katherine happily fills him in on how awesome everyone says Mary is. So charming! So intelligent! While she’s raving about their kid, the blonde bends down to serve them something, and Henry checks her out super obviously. Katherine, luckily, fails to notice. Instead, she steers the conversation towards politics—her nephew, the king of Spain, wants her to join up with him and sign a treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor (also Catherine’s nephew). She also warns Henry not to trust everything Wolsey says, since he’s such a fan of the French and all. The conversation’s pissing off Henry, who likes his wives to be seen and not heard, and he puts her in her place by reminding her she’s his wife, not a minister. Katherine takes the chance to hint to Henry that she’d like to be his wife “in every way” and invites him to sleep with her that night.

Bedtime. Henry undresses, kisses a cross, and selects a pomegranate from a plate of fruit. Interesting. The pomegranate—a symbol of fertility, was Queen Katherine’s personal badge. I wonder if the show did that on purpose. Judging from the fact that most of this series seems to have been written by people who couldn’t even bother to look Henry VIII up on Wikipedia, I’m going to go with no. Henry munches the fruit contemplatively for a moment, then heads to Catherine’s room with an entourage of servants. There, a few ladies in waiting (including the still unnamed blonde) are turning the bed down and tell Henry Katherine’s off praying. He tells blondie to tell Kate that he was there and bolts. Once he’s gone, one of his servants approaches the blonde and whispers something in her ear.

In a nearby private chapel, Katherine is hard at work saying her rosary to a statue of the virgin and child.

While she prays, Henry lays. The blonde arrives in his room and curtsies as he feels her up. And now things get a little weird, because she seems tense and nervous and not all that into what’s going on here, which makes me wonder if she’s not the blonde from earlier in the show. What’s the deal here? She’s practically shaking as Henry asks if she consents, and what the hell does he think she’s going to say? Of course she says yes, because she likes her head right where it is, and then they both start getting really into it.

Ahh, a jousting tournament, one of Henry’s favorite pastimes. Charles Brandon trots onto the field in black and gold armor, greets Henry and Catherine, and asks Buckingham’s daughter for her favor (heh) to wear. She hands over a ribbon with a saucy look and Henry chuckles. Buckingham looks on, displeased. As he should be.

Brandon and his opponent take their positions, lower their lances, and charge. Brandon shatters his lance on his opponent’s shield, unseating the opponent and winning the match. Buckingham’s up next, against Newcastle, and makes short work of his opponent.

Wolsey’s having dinner with the bishop he met with earlier and the French ambassador. The bishop asks if Wolsey has some kind of plan, and Wolsey produces a draft of a peace treaty between France and England. It seems like a really, really bad idea to have something like that just sitting around. I mean, anyone could see it and report back to Henry about it, and how would you explain something like this? You’re supposed to be prepping the country for war and you’re drafting secret peace treaties. Wolsey pats himself on the back, calling this a whole new way of doing diplomacy—everyone can walk away looking good. The ambassador’s no fool and asks what Wolsey wants in return for the French king’s acceptance of this. Nothing, says Wolsey. Yeah, right. Nothing from the ambassador, that is. What Wolsey wants, only the bishop can give him.

Back at the tournament, Buckingham’s riding again, having kicked the asses of all ten of his opponents. Brandon gets ready to go up against him, but Henry’s decided to stop being a spectator and enters instead. And here’s where the physical differences between JRM and Henry VIII become painfully clear. Henry, as I’ve said, was a huge, strapping fellow. You had to be to heft those lances and ride in all that armor. JRM looks absurd and uncomfortable, like a skinny kid on a pony ride.  Charles and one of his cronies worry a bit about how this is going to go, but Henry seems unconcerned as he canters up to Katherine for her favor. With some difficulty, he hefts the lance and Katherine ties a hankie or something to it.

Henry takes his position, and there are a bunch of ominous shots of prancing, rearing horses and the like before he and Buckingham charge. Their lances make contact, and Buckingham goes flying dramatically. Henry wins! What a surprise!

Tournament over, Henry’s on the royal barge, being rowed towards the More family, which waits for him on their dock. He greets Thomas warmly first, and is then introduced to the wife and kids. Henry seems pleased, and invites Thomas to walk with him by the river.

As they stroll, Henry asks More why he doesn’t come to court more often. More responds that he just doesn’t really like it, and who can blame him? Those castles were filthy, and filled with backstabbing people desperately clawing their way to the top. If you were lucky, you got titles. If you weren’t, you got yourself stabbed in the gut, thrown in the Tower, poisoned, plagued, or beheaded. The odds just weren’t that good.

Anyway, More prefers to attend to his legal practice and have an actual life with his family. Henry then asks why he didn’t have much to say at the last council meeting. More explains that his humanist leanings give him a pretty strong dislike of war. Henry shares his opinion as a humanist, but as a king has to take a different point of view. He seems pretty congenial about More not backing him 100%, so More decides to push his luck and asks Henry to take the enormous sums of money he’d spend on a war and spend it on his own people instead. Not a bad plan, that. What the hell would they care if you’re king of France? The average person wants food and employment and a roof over his head. Henry argues that he intends to be a just ruler, but that the kings who do nice things like establish universities and build almshouses just aren’t remembered as well as the warrior kings like Henry V, who was able to put “killed almost every major noble in France at Agincourt” on his resume. Henry wants his Agincourt. More looks a little freaked out.

Back at court, Buckingham bitches to Norfolk that, really, he’s got a much better claim to the throne than Henry does. Maybe this is something better discussed far from the crowded dining room? Just a thought. Norfolk pretty mildly agrees, but starts to look nervous about all the treason talk going on here. Buckingham doesn’t seem to care. He heads through the room, accepting the obeisance of lower courtiers, then heads for his suite, where he finds Brandon, um, ‘entering the lists’ with Buckingham’s daughter. Buckingham’s pretty pissed, especially when Brandon essentially calls the guy’s daughter a whore. For some bizarre reason, she seems to be amused by that. Because women loved to be called sluts in Tudor England!

Buckingham pulls a knife, but Brandon stays cool, nodding pleasantly as he’s kicked out and gives us a wonderful ass shot. Thanks, show!

As soon as he leaves, Buckingham approaches his daughter—who’s now looking appropriately wary—contemplates her for a moment or two, and then brutally punches her in the face. Ok, then.

Wolsey’s hard at work when a servant enters and announces that Lady Blount is here. The blonde is ushered in—a name at last! I figured this was Bessie Blount, short-term mistress of Henry. Wolsey impatiently asks what’s up and Bessie tells him she’s knocked up. He doesn’t care, so she pulls her ace out—the kid’s the king’s. That gets Wolsey’s attention. Has she told anyone? No. Good. He’ll tell Henry when the time is right, but she’s to keep her trap shut or risk being put to death. Once she starts to show, she’ll be carted off to the country to be hidden until she gives birth to her “bastard”. He’s a cold fish, this one. Amazingly, she curtsies and thanks him for this. Why didn’t she just tell Henry? He’d have been over the moon. Did she think he’d be pissed?

Wolsey rides through the Whitehall gates on a donkey, the humbleness of the mount in strong contrast to his richly embroidered brocade robes and the enthusiasm with which he receives the crowd’s accolades. He wanders through a crowd of people begging for attention and favors, completely missing a dirty looking young man with lank brown hair who’s sitting off to one side. He chats with the king’s private secretary while waving a handkerchief and pomander under his nose to block out the stench of the great unwashed. When he arrives at the throne room, Henry’s not there. Out hunting, apparently. Good, says Wolsey, that keeps him in a good mood. He asks to be informed when Henry returns and clears off. The secretary just now notices the dirty young man and demands to know what he wants. The young man hands over some letters of introduction from the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, which gets the secretary’s attention.

Henry’s galloping enthusiastically across the field, hunting something or other. Meanwhile, a boy’s choir is practicing in a large chapel or church. The dirty young man is shown in and the letters are handed over to the choir conductor. We get a name for the young man—Thomas Tallis, who can play the organ and the flute and can even sing a little. Oh, and he composes too. The choir director seems to approve, so Tallis is in.

Back from hunting, Henry meets with Wolsey and asks how the preparations for war are going. Well enough to head out in a few weeks, it seems. Odd that a churchman should be in charge of making preparations for war (thou shalt not kill?), but Wolsey was the king’s Lord Chancellor. It almost seems like it should be a rule that clergy can’t take positions like that, but I guess that’s how the church stayed on top all those centuries.

Wolsey hesitates and exchanges a look with Thomas More, whom I just now notice is in the room. Henry rolls his eyes and asks them what their deal is, so Wolsey delicately begins with the “wars are expensive” bit, which’ll mean raising taxes, never a popular move. But, if Henry was willing, he might be able to gain prestige by other, more peaceful, means. What, no battles and glory? Henry pouts. Wolsey tells him about the exhaustive rounds of diplomatic meetings he’s had over the past few weeks, not just with the French, but with pretty much every known country in Europe at that time, to make a treaty of perpetual and universal peace. Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts. Henry laughs less than I would have thought but laughs nonetheless at the idea and asks how this is ever going to be affected. Wolsey proposes a summit between England and France, during which Henry’s daughter will be betrothed to the French king’s son.

More breaks in to point out that this treaty is entirely new in the history of Europe. What, a treaty that ends hostilities by betrothing two kids? Not new—that had been going on for centuries by then. How do you think Henry and Catherine ended up together? I’m guessing there was more to this, but it’s being presented rather poorly. Somehow, this alliance between France and England is going to be extended throughout Europe, with all the signatories of the treaty promising not to go killing each other. What reason would they have to sign that?

Also, as Henry asks, how would it be enforced? Wolsey has an answer for that—if one country breaks the treaty, the others gang up against it. It’s a new era of pan-European politics—essentially, they’re trying to create the EU. In the 1520’s. Ok.

Henry considers this, and decides that, in some ways, he likes it. Humanist principles applied to international affairs. Nice. He compliments Wolsey on his work and bids both men goodnight. As they head for the door, a servant announces the Duke of Buckingham.

Buckingham wastes no time in announcing that he’s found Brandon ‘in flagrante dilicto’ with his daughter. He goes on to say that Brandon has brought shame to his family and should be banished from court. Henry’s not about to send his BFF away, unless the daughter claims Brandon raped her, which she’s not doing. Buckingham tries to claim she doesn’t need to, since the offense is against him and his family, but Henry’s done. Wolsey and More, by the way, have remained in the room to watch the fireworks. Buckingham storms out. More reminds Henry that Buckingham’s got plenty of money and a private army he can call up. He would have to be beyond stupid to attack the king with a private army, but from what we’ve seen of this guy, I wouldn’t put it past him.

Wolsey meets with the bishop from earlier and tells him Henry’s agreed to sign the treaty. The bishop says the French king is also happy there will be no war. So, then, says Wolsey, about that other matter we discussed? The bishop tries to play dumb. Bad move. Wolsey grabs him by the lapels and throws him against a wall. He’s going to get what he wants one way or another. Frenchie owes him.

In the flickering candlelight, Brandon fondles Buckingham’s daughter’s face, purring “poor you” as he takes in her wounds. She doesn’t seem to upset (or too black and blue, considering), so Brandon just picks up where they left off. He’s got some serious balls, this one. She tries to protest (weakly) and then just gives in after about two seconds.

At the More homestead, Thomas asks the kids if they’ve finished their reading. Once they all answer in the affirmative, he says a prayer before kissing his wife tenderly and heading off to self-flagellate before going to bed. In his chapel, he removes his fine linen shirt to reveal a hair shirt underneath and the scars of someone who has some serious self-abuse issues. He starts to pray in Latin.

To the soothing sound of happy flute and lute music, Henry’s getting a shave and dictating a letter to the French king. After expressing his love to an almost embarrassing and definitely a HoYay point, he offers to stop shaving until the treaty is signed, as a token of goodwill and as a sign of his love for the French king. Um, thanks? I love you so much, I’ll stop grooming!

Wolsey meets with the bishop, who has news for him. The pope is very ill and will soon die. Once he does, the bishop assures Wolsey, the French cardinals will support Wolsey’s bid for the papacy. With their votes and the votes of the English cardinals, he’s a shoo-in. Wolsey thanks him and pretends to be humbled. The man gets what he wants.

In Katherine’s bedchamber, the ladies are helping the queen undress for bed. Lady Blount dramatically doubles in pain, which makes absolutely no sense at all, and the queen asks if she’s ill. Bessie says no, and the queen invites her to sit. For some reason, Katherine decides to confide in Bessie, possibly because she has no one else. Her Spanish household was disbanded not long after she arrived in England, according to her. Not, strictly speaking, true. Actually, many of her ladies married in to the English nobility and remained close to her for the rest of her life, but whatever, show, I’ll go with it. Anyway, Katherine says she senses she can trust Lady Blount. Bessie rather nervously says she can, obviously feeling bad. Katherine begins spilling about how she can’t seem to give the king a living son, that she knows Henry blames her, not knowing how much she prays and suffers. This is so incredibly bizarre. Why would she be saying this to some random lady-in-waiting who she doesn’t appear to have any established relationship with? First off, Bessie would know all this already, it’s not as if it wasn’t common knowledge. Second, what does Katherine hope to accomplish here? Are they supposed to be good friends, these two? Because the writers have been super lazy if that’s the case—it definitely hasn’t been shown to us over the course of the episode. This is a really sloppy way of shoehorning in some exposition that could just as easily have been added in elsewhere, less awkwardly.

Speaking of sloppy exposition, Henry is confessing and providing uninitiated audience members with some backstory—Katherine was originally married to Henry’s older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, who was sickly and died shortly after the marriage. Unwilling to relinquish Katherine’s rich dowry, Henry’s father kept her around, promising her to Henry, who was only a kid at the time. Henry VII was kind of a bastard and jerked Katherine and everyone else around for years. When he finally died, one of the first things Henry VIII did was marry Katherine, partly because he felt it was the right thing to do.

One technicality that would come back to haunt everyone later—it was biblically forbidden to marry one’s brother’s wife, but everything was kosher as long as the marriage wasn’t consummated. Katherine swore Arthur never had sex with her, so the pope at the time issued a dispensation allowing Henry to marry his brother’s widow. Henry unnecessarily explains all this to his priest (once again—this character would have known all this already. And why would Henry be bringing this up now anyway?) At any rate, five stillborn children, one boy who lived a month, and a living daughter were the result of the marriage. Henry quotes Leviticus—if a man marries his brother’s wife, he shall die childless.

Buckingham’s daughter is reading a book and looking much the worse for wear, bruise-wise, as Thomas Boleyn is ushered into her father’s presence. Thomas is just back from France and his reputation as an ambassador precedes him. Buckingham hands him a glass of wine and muses that Boleyn is from an old family. Not as old or as distinguished as Buckingham’s, Boleyn smarms. Buckingham starts in on how the king surrounds himself with people—like Brandon—who have no pedigree to their names and are sullying the court. Boleyn’s not an idiot and starts to hightail it for the door and tells Buckingham to just let this go already. Thank you, Thomas! As he turns to go, Buckingham blurts out that Wolsey has a mistress and two children, and what does Thomas think of him? Not a fan, says Thomas. Buckingham shows him out and says they should talk soon.

Boleyn is being quizzed by Henry about King Francis over a friendly game of chess. Is Francis tall? Handsome? Are his calves strong? Oh, no, sir, no one has calves like yours! Seriously, that’s what he says. Henry asks about the French court, which apparently has quite the reputation for loose morals. This is an excellent segue into the news that Boleyn has two daughters at the court, and how does he protect them from all this? He doesn’t. Mary Boleyn had a hell of a reputation at the French court. Henry decides to send him to Paris in a diplomatic capacity and checkmates him.

While strolling down a corridor, Henry comes across his cute little daughter, Mary, whom he sweeps up in his arms and cuddles affectionately. Aww. And also, good casting on the young and older Marys, this kid really looks like she could grow up to be Sarah Bolger. Lucky her. Henry hands Mary off to a nurse and starts to move away, but Catherine catches him and asks to speak with him. She ushers him into her rooms and starts in on how she hates his beard and what it represents. Her real issue is that Henry’s handing Mary off to the dauphin and never even asked her. I can see why she’s upset, but surely she would know that that’s not really how things were done then? Dads made the matches that were most advantageous to their families, moms just prepped the daughters to be good wives. Sad, but that’s how it went.

Catherine chalks this up to Wolsey’s doing and tells Henry she just can’t play happy over this whole arrangement. Well, you’re going to have to, he tells her. Sorry, lady, but it’s your job.

Thomas Boleyn arrives at his home in Paris and happily greets his two daughters with the news that he’s going to be arranging Henry’s whole trip to Calais and the meeting between him and King Francis.  Which means they’ll both have a chance to meet the king of England. Mary, the older, giddier sister, giggles, while Anne just smiles knowingly.

Henry’s playing dress up back in England and asks Wolsey what he thinks of the cloth for the new doublet he’s being fitted for. He examines some of his jewels and asks Wolsey if he thinks King Francis will have anything so fine. Geez, Henry, why not just go ahead and order a gem-encrusted ruler so you two can just measure ‘em as soon as you arrive? Maybe that’ll help with your inferiority complex. Then again, maybe not.

Henry invites Wolsey to lunch, washing his hands in a bowl held by Buckingham. Buckingham goes to leave before Wolsey can wash and Wolsey tells him to wait. As he goes to dip his hands in the bowl, Buckingham purposely dumps the rose petals and water all over the floor and the cardinal’s robes. Stupid, dude. Really, really stupid. Henry tells him to apologize. Twice. Buckingham non-apologizes to Henry, who tells him to just go. Wolsey glares after him.

Buckingham leaves and storms down the corridors in a rage, yelling for Hopkins, I think, whoever that is. He bursts into Norfolk’s rooms, where Norfolk is, mysteriously, meeting with Boleyn (didn’t he go back to France? It’s not like you could just take the Chunnel between Paris and London back then).

“It’s time,” he tells the two men. You know, just once, I want someone to respond to that with:

“It’s time for what? What the hell are you talking about?” Sadly, that does not happen here.

Wolsey fills Henry in on the details of the meeting—it’s to take place on a piece of land called the Valley of Gold. Poetic. Workmen are already over there building a fake castle for Henry and his court to live in.

At Casa Conspiracy, Buckingham’s telling his servant to go buy as much cloth of gold and silver as he can find, for bribes, and then to head to the estates to raise the army under the excuse that they’re just getting men together to defend themselves. Right, like anyone’s going to believe that. Defend yourselves from what? The Viking invasion? The manservant seems all too eager to do as his master bids.

At lunch, Wolsey decides that now’s the time to tell Henry he’s going to be a dad again. Henry doesn’t seem all that thrilled, weirdly. But it’s ok, Wolsey’s got it all handled.

Back with Buckingham, he’s rather hysterically telling a story about how his father once planned to assassinate Richard III. Except Richard III kind of deserved to get assassinated. I mean, the guy was most likely complicit in infanticide and fratricide, amongst other things. Not a nice guy. At this point, Henry hasn’t gone off the rails yet, so I think this is going to be a much tougher sell. Buckingham’s big plan is to hide a knife up his sleeve, bow to the king, and then stab him in the gut. Wow, this is really well thought out.

Unaware of the conspiracy unfolding, Henry waxes rhapsodic about the upcoming summit, which will make him and Wolsey immortal. His eyes gleam creepily at the very thought.

Next Episode: The French Dis-Connection

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11 thoughts on “The Tudors Season 1 Episode 1 Recap: I Want My Agincort!

  1. Hi! I´m here to thank you for these wonderful recaps. I´m on social security since the start of the corona-thinguy and i started watching The Crown, switching from my usual genres (sci-fi, horror). Then I began with the Tudors which struck me as plainly ridiculous tu the point it makes Reign seem good in comparison. I m about to finish season 2 and I’ll keep on watching mainly to enjoy your recaps after. So thanks again for making me laugh so much in these dark times. Sorry for the mistakes (I´m an anglophile but clearly not a native english speaker). Greetings!

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