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.
The Tudors: The Complete First Season
may cover the same subject matter as the 1970 BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII
, but in every other respect it is a different idea of historical drama. Sexy and violent, The Tudors
envisions Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) as a young man of both passion and ambition, driven by boundless sexual energy and the desire to establish a legacy early in his monarchy. When he isn't sleeping with any available beauty--heedless of whose daughter or wife a lover might be--he's getting fired up about going to war with France. He is amenable, however, to alternative ideas, including the counsel of his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill), who wants his king to sign a treaty of universal peace with all of Europe. Henry's fiery temperament endangers such a move, but Wolsey persists in hopes of gaining France's support for his own, possible ascendance to the papacy. His ambitions are not to be, however, and his fortunes go downhill as Henry's desire to wed Ann Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) puts Wolsey in the position of petitioning Rome for a hearing on the legitimacy of Henry's marriage to Queen Katherine.
Henry's shrewd alliance with the king of Spain is also testament to his desire to have more influence over European affairs. But his even greater desire for another woman proves an obstacle there, too. Over the course of the ten episodes on The Complete First Season, Henry's confidence grows as a monarch while his self-interest undercuts his better judgement about making a difference to Europe's progress. While the series makes the historical events rich and captivating, it also makes Henry's love life a voyeuristic delight, full of candlelit flesh and romps in the royal bed. Some of the most fascinating characters in the show are those who figure out the link between Henry's libido and his exercise of power--including Boleyn's own father (Nick Dunning), who encourages Ann to keep up the good work. Sheesh. --Tom Keogh