WOLF HALL on PBS: Episode 4 “The Devil’s Spit”

by Cyndi Williamson

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Picture Credit: British Broadcasting Company
Picture 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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Video Credit: British Broadcasting Company

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Episode 4, The Devil’s Spit, built such tension that I am not sure I drew a breath for at least 30 minutes. Anne Boleyn, now queen and mother to a princess, miscarries her second pregnancy. She and Cromwell find themselves at odds over the case of Thomas More.

Anne falsely believes that More’s rebellion is directed at her, but Thomas Cromwell knows better. He and others beg on their knees for More to spare Henry the wrath of his wife. We can see Anne’s tension growing, building, as her need to deliver a prince becomes ever more important.

Anton Lesser did ┬ánot impress me as Thomas More — until tonight. His relationship with Cromwell becomes more plain, and they dance a slow waltz around the Oath of Supremacy. Soon enough, More is left standing before his jury. Then Anton Lesser becomes Saint Thomas More, his performance stellar.

If there was an unexpected standout performance in this episode, it was Monica Dolan as More’s beleaguered wife, Alice. She took a small role and made it enormous. Her interview with Cromwell was both poignant and riveting.

After More’s trial and extremely well done execution, in which we see a past history between More and Cromwell expanded on, Master Secretary receives More’s prayer book. As a chapter closes, a new one begins, and Cromwell makes plans for the king’s progress, including the Seymour manor Wulfhall.

All the Seymours seem in attendance as they rush out to greet the king. Amidst the family is their daughter Jane. We know where the history goes from here, but I am anxious to see where next week takes us and how Cromwell will tell us what we should see through his silences and glances.

If the next episode delivers the drama that this one did, Master Secretary Cromwell, and indeed all the characters, are well worth waiting for.

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