WOLF HALL on PBS: Episode 3 — “Anna Regina”

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Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company
Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

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Join Cyndi Williamson after each episode of Wolf Hall, for her thoughtful recap of the performances of Mark Rylance, Jonathan Pryce, Damien Lewis, Claire Foy and the rest of the magnificent cast!

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Episode three of Wolf Hall takes us deeper into the religious turmoil beginning to stir in earnest in the realm of King Henry VIII. As Anne Boleyn reaches her pinnacle, Thomas More starts his decline. There are just a few snags along the way.

We begin with Sir Thomas More speaking flawless Latin as a man is wracked. The imprisoned labeled a heretic, More is willing to break his body to save his soul. We are given to believe that More tortures heretics to save their soul. That the scene, while brilliantly played, is unnecessary and not founded in truth.

Joanna Whalley as a dignified Katherine of Aragon receives the news from Cromwell that she is to be parted from the king, and that she is no longer to consider herself his wife or queen. Strangely, she seems more offended that Cromwell is the messenger, but bears this insult as stolidly as she has done in the past. We meet the Princess Mary, a whimpering and uncharacteristically meek girl who manages to be both vapid and snarly at the same time.

With Katherine out of the way, another impediment presents itself in the person of Henry Percy, a rather weak man who claims he is legally pre-contracted to Anne. Cromwell is summoned to a Boleyn family meeting, and after some pointless sniping between family members, particularly George and Jane Boleyn, Norfolk takes the unraveling of his family fortunes in hand and dispatches Cromwell to “fix” the situation.

We can see the quiet menace in Cromwell as he finds the young man in a tavern. Rylance is outstanding as he explains the situation to Percy — and voila there was indeed no pre-contract. Anne is free to marry Henry.

We see more of Henry in this episode. Damian Lewis shows us a Henry who is easily led and manipulated by others. Almost innocent and childlike in demeanor, it is hard to grasp that this is the most powerful man in England.

A trip to Calais results in an impromptu marriage between the king and Anne and they are finally able to consummate their passion. Mary Boleyn makes another rather clumsy attempt to seduce Cromwell and we think he might succumb were it not for the interruption of William Stafford.

I have not cared much for the portrayal of Thomas More in the previous episodes. This episode shows us what the relationship between Cromwell and More may well have been like, when Cromwell visits More at home. They are pleasant to each other, teasing and laughing. I hope we see more of this, as it is far more interesting.

Cromwell wears a very black scarlet to Anne’s coronation. Thomas Cranmer, now Archbishop of Canterbury, places the crown on her head while Henry watches from behind a screen.

After being told that Anne is pregnant, Cromwell is more confident in his position at court. Anne has Henry appoint him Master of the Jewel House, and Henry makes him a gift of a tapestry that the Cardinal used to own.

We made some discoveries in this episode. Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent, made prophecies against Henry and Anne. Cromwell follows her after an altercation between the king and the maid. We can only wait to see what he does to fix this for the king.

Cromwell’s own interest seems to be leaning towards Jane Seymour, with him giving her a gift and advising her to serve the new Queen. Cromwell contemplates his new position as well as Anne’s happiness as he watches her sail the Thames in her barge. Young Mr Sadler reminds him that a pregnancy is no guarantee of a prince.

And so we wait, with Cromwell, to see what next unfolds.

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