Aaaaand we're back! Season 3 of Showtime's The Tudors
started with more of a whimper than a bang, as the debatably most interesting period in Henry VII's rule (the Boleyn years) ended last season with poor, delicious Anne losing her head. Now we move into a decidedly slower, stodgier era, with the marriage of Henry to sweet, simple Jane Seymour, and the eventual birth of the King's long-awaited heir, Edward.
The season premiere confirmed the classier direction the show is taking; gone are the hallmark gratuitous sex and fluffy costume-porn filler scenes of the racy first season, and here to stay are more politically-oriented plotlines, front and center being the ongoing Reformation machine clashing with the stubbornly Catholic areas of Northern England.
These scenes didn't have quite the impact I was hoping for; last season, the Reformation dovetailed nicely with the palace intrigue of Anne Boleyn's story, but this season, there's nothing really that sexy going on at court to back up what's going on with the peasants out in the country. The one spark seen in this episode was Henry's scary ultimatum to Cromwell, and the latter's uncomfortable realization that things just got a little more serious than he would have liked. No running to Wikipedia to spoil what happens to Cromwell, because with this premiere episode, the writers sowed the seeds of what promises to be a pretty thrilling political story arc.
is now the crowned Queen/babymaker, and has quickly learned exactly what her role is meant to be--no meddling in affairs of state for her, after Henry's smackdown over dinner regarding his daughter, Mary. This season gives us a new actress, Annabelle Wallis
, playing Jane, which was a great choice, because the old Jane looked like Tudor Barbie, and the real-life Jane Seymour was decidedly less perky. Wallis, while still a little too pretty, is a much more believable Jane. She plays the role with an interesting element of caution, which works well for a character whose predecessor was murdered for the "crime" of failing to bear a son--anyone placed in the same situation would be afraid of even a minor misstep. Jane's efforts to reunite Henry with his illegitimized daughter Mary may have been misguided, but the scenes we did get with Mary--her life threatened, suddenly with no allies and no position, forced to betray her mother's memory--were almost good enough to make up for the loss of Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn. Dormer brought such fire to the screen that it's almost like watching a different show without her, but Sarah Bolger as Mary shows promise as the actress who will pick up the slack in the upcoming season.
And then there's Henry, already showing signs of becoming the utterly crazy megalomaniac history has come to know and love (if last season's freaky swan-chowdown didn't clue you in). Apparently, they've decided to omit the real Henry's girth, as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
was his usually svelte self, no hint of a fat suit; I reserve hope that they'll fatten him up by the end of the season, because it's a pretty important factor in what goes down in a few years with future wife Katherine Howard.
Overall, a promising start to what should be a very different and more mature season, minus the odd addition of a new character, Ursula Misseldon, as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Jane and random hookup of Scary Eyepatch Guy. Totally pointless. I get that the show needs to fulfill their nekkidness quota, but seriously, Henry Cavill is being criminally underused in that department already! Let's get more Charles Brandon scenes, eh, writers?
Story by Meghan McCracken
Starpulse contributing writer