Showtime’s lush historical drama “The Tudors” opens its fourth and final season with a new queen. With Henry VIII as the groom, you wait for the ax to fall.
A five-episode arc tracks Henry’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) disastrous fifth marriage to teenager Katherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant).
Though Katherine shares the same fate as Anne Boleyn, this story doesn’t feel like a replay. Anne was condemned on false charges. Katherine was guilty.
As played by Merchant, she’s a 16th century version of Paris Hilton, a twit who would rather dance the day away. Middle-aged Henry (though you would scarcely know it from the makeup on Rhys Meyers) is only too happy to indulge her and practically buries her in baubles.
Katherine is doomed as soon as she accepts her coronet. She is no match for the courtiers around her, especially the king’s lusty and lustful groom Culpepper (Torrance Coombs). Culpepper, as depicted here, is a sociopath, willing to kill to satisfy his desires.
Also in the mix, Katherine’s ruthless uncle, the Earl of Surrey (David O’Hara), who clashes immediately with the powerful Seymour family led by Edward (Max Brown).
Next week, singer Joss Stone makes a welcome return as Anne of Cleves – a wife who survived Henry – and Henry reacts to her graciousness with something akin to seller’s remorse.
Rhys Meyers has always been this series’ weak link (imagine what co-star Henry Cavill would have done in the part), yet this season, he’s not nearly as frustrating, perhaps because series creator and writer Michael Hirst obviously has a deeper agenda in mind.
In addition to exploring the Reformation’s impact on London, he spins the story in the direction of the next generation. Sarah Bolger as Princess Mary has finally been upgraded to series regular, and you can see the intractability of the woman who would become known as “Bloody Mary.”
Henry’s final conquest, Catherine Parr, is to be played by Joely Richardson (“Nip/Tuck”). It’s a shame “The Tudors” is coming to a close. As Hirst has noted, there are generations of stories yet to tell.
Count on this series to end on a royally good note.
Season premiere tonight at 9 on Showtime.
Source: Boston Herald