As The Tudors moves quickly through its final season, it does an excellent job of keeping up with the breakneck pace and convoluted politics associated with prior seasons. As always, the series takes a few liberties with history, mostly in terms of the relationships among the characters, but it does stay mostly true to the broader historical picture. Even more importantly, many of the actors deliver absolutely stunning performances, often seeming to become the characters they are portraying.
Of particular note is Sarah Bolger, who truly brings the character of Mary Tudor (more famously known as “Bloody Mary” due to her persecution of religious heretics,) to stunning life. One can positively feel the energy crackling from Bolger’s performance as she speaks with with Eustace Chapuys (the diplomat from the Holy Roman Empire,) regarding the possibility of gaining the throne upon the death of her father. Bolger’s eyes practically sparkle with ambition, an interesting twist considering that, from all that we know, Mary was actually supportive of her brother.
The character that really steals the stage, however, is Jane Boleyn, ably portrayed by Joanne King. Although not the most sympathetic of characters (she is, after all, manipulating Thomas Culpepper in order to satisfy her own desires,) she is nevertheless one of the most engaging. Of particular interest are the several scenes depicting her peering through the peep hole at Culpepper and Catherine making love to one another. While disturbing on many levels, it is also a splendid bit of cinematography and well worthy of praise.
Several other performances are worthy of appreciation, including that of David O’Hara as the unbearably arrogant Henry Howard, Duke of Surrey. He fairly reeks of pomposity and makes it clear at every moment that he detests his fellow nobles and, it can be inferred, the king. Finally, Joss Stone delivers a charming performance as Anne of Cleves who, even though she has accepted the annulment of her marriage to Henry, nevertheless submits to his advances.
This third episode of The Tudors also does an excellent job setting up suspense about what will happen as the series progresses. Most people know, of course, that Catherine was beheaded for treason, as were almost everyone else connected to the affair with Culpepper. That knowledge, however, does not diminish the powerful suspense that builds throughout the episode, as the audience is left wondering when, exactly, Henry will realize that his wife and his most trusted body servant are committing an affair behind his back.
If there are any complaints to be made about The Tudors, it is Henry himself. Although Meyers, as always, gives a rousing performance as the slowly aging monarch, he doe not, in fact, appear to be aging at all. By this time in his life Henry was not only getting on in years, he was also morbidly obese. Unfortunately, Meyers appears to be as fit as ever, although the producers of the series have made some attempt to make him look older. It remains to be seen what he will look like when he finally succumbs to ill health.