Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Tudors, Season 3 (2009)

Spoilers for six-hundred year old history below.

The first two seasons of The Tudors were focussed around a single narrative: the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn.  For some viewers, the end of that story could well be the right place to quit watching the show.  Certainly, if the presence of a strong female character at the centre of things was a selling point for you, you may find this season a much less engaging experience.  It also deprives the show of its most sympathetic character.

The writers appear to have tried to compensate by packing the show to the gills: the eight episodes here cover several significant events of Henry VIII's reign, not least of which are the king's third and fourth marriages.  There's also rebellion, betrayal, the long-awaited birth of a son, and further religious controversy as those who champion the reformation come into conflict with Henry's basic religious conservatism.

That's a lot of content for the shortest season of the show, and it definitely feels a bit cursory in its depiction of certain aspects.  The longer form story-telling of the first two seasons allowed for more richness of characters, whereas this season relies in large part on the fact that most of the cast are already established.  The few new faces are only fairly briefly defined: all we really know about Sir Francis Bryan, for instance, is that he wears an eyepatch and likes sleeping with other men's wives.  Though perhaps in this case, the lack of character definition is appropriate: Sir Francis was one of the few courtiers never to incur Henry's wrath, mainly because he was so proficient at altering his own opinions to match those of the king.

I don't think this series is as strong as the first two were, but if you enjoy opulent costume drama - and don't mind that The Tudors puts accuracy a very distant second to 'entertainment' - then there's still an engaging if rather grisly tale being told here.

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