As the fourth season of The Tudors kicks off...
Everyone is mopping their sweaty brows but no one thinks to remove some of the many, many layers of clothing they each wear. Spanish Ambassador Chapuis writes to the Spanish Emperor about heartless King Henry and the some 500 men he has incarcerated as heretics, both Catholics and Protestants.
Chapuis also believes that the King is already secretly married to seventeen-year-old Catherine Howard.
At the palace, Henry comes to visit his nubile new bride. Catherine is laying on her bed behind a gauzy curtain and she is naked save for the thousands of rose petals scattered around her, American Beauty-style. The King gives her a yucky-old-man-looking-at-hot-teen-wife look. Catherine lures him into bed and…well, you know.
In a large room at the palace, sweaty aristocrats have gathered for a celebration. The royal trumpets blare and out comes King Henry kissing Catherine. Catherine giggles and looks around at the assembled courtiers with an expression somewhere between shyness and cluelessness. The people around them look mildly shocked and mostly exhausted, no doubt wise to Henry’s ways by now.
Thomas Seymour and the French Ambassador discuss the Earl of Surrey, who is newly arrived at Court. Evidently the Earl is a bit of a wild man who also likes to write poetry. Unusual combo. At the same time, a newly bearded Charles Brandon (please, nix the beard) and Ambassador Chapuis speak nostalgically about all of those who are now gone from Court, including Thomas Boleyn who recently died. One wonders, with Henry’s propensity to turn on the members of his inner circle, do these men consider themselves at risk?
Henry takes this opportunity to introduce a giggling Catherine to the court. He says he was attracted to her due to, “an appearance of honor, cleanness, and maidenly behavior.” Catherine continues her snickering. Henry goes on to proclaim Catherine, “a perfect jewel of a woman.” He also mentions that he wants tranquility and hopefully more children. He does not seem to realize he is the one standing in the way of the peace he so desires. After this speech, the aristocrats dig into the royal feast and Henry and Catherine proceed to make out. There are snarky whispers from the crowd and the royal fiddle plays. It is revealed that the Earl of Surrey is Catherine’s uncle.
The royal dancing begins with Catherine taking a lead role. While Catherine dances, the French Ambassador suggests that King Henry’s eldest daughter, the unfortunate Lady Mary, marry the French King’s second son, Henri. Henry has clearly heard this line from the French before and isn’t interested. Poor Mary, will she ever get a guy of her own and be able to enjoy herself a little bit? If the show stays true to history, probably not. By now Catherine’s dancing has become a solo interpretive dance of sorts and she is twirling and skipping around the room, arms akimbo, curly hair flying. Henry is smitten as is a royal underling, Culpepper. Culpepper watches Catherine with an intense and smoldering gaze.
Yikes, trouble is afoot!In Catherine’s room, she is living it up with her new gaggle of maids. She has a new jewel from Henry to show off and she explains to her maids that they will all dress in the French fashion. All the girls are pumped to find themselves in their current situation and scream and laugh. Poor Lady Rochford, an experienced lady in waiting and Thomas Boleyn’s widow who looks like she is so over it already, hands Catherine a letter from Catherine’s old buddy, Joan Bomer, from back when they both lived with the Dowager Duchess. Joan Bomer has written to Catherine asking that Catherine make Joan a part of the court because Joan’s current life sucks. Catherine is uncertain about this, eluding to the fact that she has a past she would prefer to keep hidden. With the way this girl has sex, it seems like it would be perfectly clear to Henry that she is no virgin.
At a manor home (is there any other kind of home in this show?) the Earl of Surrey is talking with Thomas Brandon. Surrey expresses to Brandon his feelings that the Court has gone to hell and a hand basket now—it’s full of mean people who want only to destroy the English nobility. Both Brandon and Surrey seem to think that the Seymours are prime examples of this new type of aristocrat. Surrey states his reason for coming back to Court: he wants to surpass the accomplishments of his father and his grandfather because he is a Howard and this is expected of him.
Out in the countryside, the King and his peons are on a royal hunt. Henry is in a jovial mood because he has great and regular sex back in his life and this is miraculously responsible for the healing of the nasty, reeking abscess on his leg. Brandon confides in Henry that his own marriage has soured but he would rather try to mend it than to take on a mistress. Quite the rare statement in this show! That Brandon is a real maverick. Henry lays out his plans to take a trip with Catherine and also to promote Lord Surrey. Thomas Seymour looks displeased when he hears this. Culpepper is sent ahead to flush out some game. The hunt goes on.
In Catherine’s chambers the grouchy Lady Mary has come to visit her father’s wife-of-the-moment. Catherine is clearly nervous and excited about this meeting but Mary is stone-faced and pissy. Who can blame her? She really liked Jane Seymour but poor Jane kicked the bucket after giving birth to Prince Edward. Catherine tries repeatedly to make conversation with Mary and makes it clear that she hopes the two of them can be friends. Mary is having none of it, stays no longer than necessary, and leaves, turning down Catherine’s invitation to stay for a snack. Joan Bomer, the friend who wrote the letter to Catherine, arrives uninvited. She wants to be made part of the court and Catherine is nervous.
Joan knows the dark secrets of Catherine’s past and when she alludes to this, Catherine hisses, “For God’s sake, be careful what you say!” It looks like Joan will become one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting even if Catherine doesn’t want her to be. Will Joan end up betraying Catherine’s secrets? This might be unavoidable. Poor doomed and ditzy Catherine.
In a royal meeting room, Henry reports about disturbances in France. Henry wants a fight and promises to battle with the French if he is provoked. He decides to send Seymour and Surrey to France to check out the situation.
Back in Catherine’s chambers, she and her ladies are throwing rose petals around the room and shrieking. It could not be made any clearer for the viewers that these girls are nitwits. Culpepper arrives on an errand for Henry. Culpepper informs Catherine that she will be accompanying Henry on a trip to an aristocrat’s country estate, that she is to receive a huge castle, and he also gives her a new necklace from Henry. Catherine confides in Culpepper that she is not used to having so many people stare at her and that it makes her a little uncomfortable. Their whole conversation has an air of flirtatiousness to it. These two will most definitely get it on at some point.
In Henry’s room that night Catherine is putting on an erotic shadow puppet show and Henry is thoroughly enjoying it. She also performs a sensual dance behind some gauzy curtains (why do they always show this woman behind gauze?). Catherine demonstrates her immense flexibility as she and Henry get it on. She’s like the Nadia of the Tudor era. This girl is always either giggling, dancing, or screwing.
The next day the King is planning his trip and explaining to Seymour what needs to be done while he is gone. There will be mandatory meetings and the palace is to be partially remodeled, with lodgings added for that poor wretch Lady Mary. It is still extremely hot and dry and the king sweats profusely as he orders people about. He proclaims that the current Tower of London residents are all to be executed. One of these criminals is a noble relative of Catherine and he is to be dragged through the streets and hanged in public due to conduct not befitting an aristocrat. Seymour will be responsible for signing the death warrants. Henry never shows any hint of worry or remorse when he doles out these sentences. Will Catherine have any sort of reaction to her relative’s death?
Thomas Seymour’s wife, Lady Hartford, visits with Surrey under the guise that Surrey is wanting to chat with her husband. They are clearly acting coy and flirtatious with each other and exchange many a smoldering look. Later on, after Hartford has a conversation with her husband about Surrey, Surrey visits Lady Hartford and, after they mutually decide they want to be “good friends”, Surrey tosses Lady Hartford’s skirts upwards and gropes her.
In preparation to leave on her trip with the King, Queen Catherine is busily fluttering about her room supervising the packing of her belongings. Henry pays a visit and introduces Catherine to both Prince Edward, his son by Jane Seymour, and Lady Elizabeth, his daughter by Anne Boleyn. Edward is precocious and adorable and Catherine immediately bonds with him. They seem to be on the same maturity level. Elizabeth has frizzy red hair and good manners; she is much more polite to Catherine than Mary had been.
The royal party travels via horseback to Old Castle House in Berkshire. They arrive to, what else, a banquet complete with a pig on a spit and cheerful lute music. Of course Catherine can’t resist the opportunity to frolic around the dance floor while Culpepper and other random male servants watch longingly from the shadows. Henry is grumpy because he is told that France wants peace and that a war is no longer inevitable. Despite his claims that he wants tranquility, he is really itching for a battle.
That night Henry and Catherine snuggle in bed, Catherine sweaty and topless. They chat and Catherine proclaims that she has everything she could ever hope for…except for one thing. She is annoyed that the Lady Mary doesn’t respect her as Catherine wishes she would. Henry is in no mood for a deep talk or, shockingly, crazy sex and he offers a few blandly reassuring words to Catherine before he heads off to his own room. No sooner has Henry departed than that sneaky Joan has tiptoed into Catherine’s room and climbed into bed with her. They talk about their past and Catherine mentions that her relationship with a man was appropriate because they were agreed to be married at the time. Whoopsies!
The King won’t like that! Catherine is steadfast in her opinion that none of these issues ever need be brought up to the King. For once, she is being smart. Joan then touches Catherine’s shoulder sensually and seems in the mood for something more than just girl talk. Catherine isn’t up for any girl-on-girl action on this particular evening and asks Joan to leave.
That same night the random palace underlings are drinking in the cellar of Old Castle House. Culpepper begins to flap his trap about how much he lusts after Queen Catherine and how he can’t stop picturing her naked. The other guys are mildly amused at first but quickly turn upset when they realize how intense Culpepper’s feelings for Catherine are. One man tells him to shut up, threatens him, and storms out of the cellar. Culpepper lets everyone know that he needs some action and that tomorrow they should find a girl to serve this purpose.
The next morning Culpepper and the other men mount horses in the courtyard to go off on their sex hunt. Catherine watches the scene from her window and she and Culpepper make brief eye contact. But today Culpepper is a man on a mission and he can’t tarry fantasizing about Catherine. He and his compatriots gallop up to a farmhouse with a lone redhead tending her garden. She is the wife of the local park keeper. The men ascertain that she is alone and then Culpepper says, “You can do me a great favor and it will please you too.” He dismounts and the redhead realizes what she has coming. She starts freaking out, screaming, crying, and running around the yard. That Culpepper is hot but this is sadistic. The men grab her and hold her still while Culpepper approaches her and unzips. Ugh.
Later, this group of men is shown laughing as they splash around at a creek. They are clearly proud of the day’s achievements. The redhead’s husband approaches the group, clearly unhappy. He knows what has happened and he wants justice. He doesn’t care who these men are. Rather than let the man notify the sheriff, Culpepper stabs him right through the stomach. So now Culpepper’s day has included both rape and murder. Delightful! What a guy!
In another location on the same day Henry and his men are out riding in the countryside. The come upon Catherine and her maids in a mud pit splashing each other. The girls are in their underwear (which looks like a cute dress to us) and having an awesome time flinging mud and screaming. It’s like a Tudor-era Girls Gone Wild video. Henry thinks this is positively charming but the other men roll their eyes. They, like us, have realized what a dumb-dumb Catherine is.
In the next scene Henry is meeting with a large group of important men in a barn. Seymour gives Henry a report that there was a small plague in London that has since been cleared up and that the executions he ordered have been carried out. Henry gets a bit bi-polar and announces that he is considering pardoning the 500 men who are in prison because of heresy. The men in the barn, including Thomas Brandon, are understandably confused but respectful. Henry explains that the Lord says it is good to be merciful. Is there anyone left who thinks Henry is sane? He clearly has so many screws loose. He repeats his feelings that the French may still invade England and that they can’t be trusted. He orders the group to treat Catherine like the queen she is and announces that she will be given the lands formerly possessed by Jane Seymour and Lord Cromwell. (Remember his heinous execution from the end of last season?)
The show ends with Catherine and Henry back in bed, getting it on. Catherine pauses mid-kiss because she hears rain, the first in months. She blows a gasket about this one and rushes outside, shrieking. She dances in barefoot in the mud, her nightgown becoming see-through as it is soaked by the rain. She spins, one of her signature moves, and holds her arms out. Both Henry and Culpepper watch from windows, loving what they are seeing.
And so the season begins!