This season of The Tudors, my dear Catherine Howard was up at bat. I was really hesitant to watch it, due to my proprietary feelings about King Henry’s fifth queen. But curiosity got the better of me, and now I need to share my thoughts with you.
The first few episodes of this season struck the right chords: Henry’s infatuated with this pretty little thing (played by Tamzin Merchant) who revels in the luxury of being queen but has no freaking idea what she’s just got herself into. The costumes are divine, down to the jewelry on the new queen’s fingers. And I loved the great big unicorn statue standing in the middle of the hall when Catherine is first introduced. Henry knew how to throw a great banquet; apparently he even invited mythical creatures.
However, I thought some decisions ultimately robbed Catherine’s story of it’s dramatic power. When she was introduced at the end of the previous season she acted far too bold, too sexually brazen. When King Henry talks about the purity and virtue of his new wife, it’s in ironic terms. In my research, Henry was enticed by her innocence – hence his despair when he learns it was all a farce, and that she had played him for a fool before the entire court.
Also, with the slightly-aged but still trim and very good-looking Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing King Henry, we lose some of the embarassment (or amusement) the court may have felt watching their 50-year-old king dote on his new young bride. Meanwhile, Thomas Culpeper desires the queen, physically, but seems to hate her every time she speaks.
While I enjoy The Tudors, I was disappointed that Catherine’s story lacked tension. King Henry was already getting bored with her before he learned of her checkered past – the revelation of which shouldn’t have been so surprising. And I was getting bored with her, too. A Catherine who is unpolitical and unschooled in the ways of court is fine with me. A Catherine who is too busy giggling to experience substantial fear gets to be a bit of a bore. But I realize that I’m probably overly critical, for (I think) obvious reasons.