The Tudors presents the rarely dramatized, tumultuous early years of King Henry VIII’s nearly 40 year, omnipotent reign (1509-1547). In addition to his famous female consorts and 20+ year marriage to Catherine of Aragon to the infamous dalliance with Anne Boleyn, the series delves in to Henry’s most notable political relationship and the deconstruction of the Roman Catholic Church in England.
Power, sex, delusion and tragedy were hallmarks of The Tudors: The Complete First Season, and they are all the more so in The Complete Second Season. The story of Britain's King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), The Tudors is a dynamic history of a kingdom whose role on the 16th century world stage seems largely defined by Henry's narcissistic whims. Season two is very much taken up with Henry's determination to break free of papal authority in Rome and establish himself as head of England's church--all because he seeks to divorce Queen Catherine (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and marry Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer). Meanwhile, poor Catherine is kept locked away from court, unable to see her daughter Mary (Sarah Bolger) but refusing to relinquish her throne despite such punishment. As for Anne, she enjoys Henry's passion and commitment, but only to a point. When Henry marries her (in a union not recognized by Rome nor many British subjects) and she does not produce a male heir, his fickle attentions begin to wander, and a grand power play by Anne's father, Thomas Boleyn (Nick Dunning) begins to unravel. In time, Henry's focus shifts to soon-to-be third wife Jane Seymour (Anita Briem), whom the king sees as a symbol of his own redemption after the complications of his love life to date. Toward the end of The Complete Second Season, all the hints that Henry's lack of scruples is leading to a full-scale psychological breakdown begin to show, manifest in his many cruelties and--at the last minute--a clear sign of his notorious gluttony to come. Other stories woven into the colorful, lustful, intrigue-driven season two concern the fate of Henry's one-time mentor Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam), who refuses to cooperate with Henry's attempted separation from the Catholic faith and pays dearly for it. The pope himself (Peter O'Toole) turns up in sometimes near-comical responses to the king's intransigence, and the untimely fate of many interesting characters during Henry's wrathful sweep of his court proves a shocking development mid-season. All the actors are first-rate, even down to the smallest roles, and the show's spare but compelling use of nudity and sex scenes makes The Tudors powerful adult entertainment. --Tom Keogh