The Tudors Review: A Royal Mess

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Break out the instruments of sadistic torture because the $hit has hit the fan! 

Catherine is a “perfect jewel of a woman” no more.  All of this whispering and plotting and meeting lovers in hallways and hiding old flings from her husband has caught up with our poor teenage Queen.  This week's episode showed her terrible and inevitable downfall in excruciating detail.

We were shown all sides of the story: Catherine’s, Joan Bolmer’s, Culpepper’s, Dereham’s, and Lady Rochford’s.  Everyone blamed everyone else and it turned into a total clusterfuck.  I found every moment riveting as it bounced between people trying to cover their own asses:

Catherine said Lady Rochford encouraged her to have an affair with Culpepper and then spread nasty rumors about it.  Joan Bolmer gave up the goat the first time she was asked - she didn’t even attempt to hide all the crap she knows about Catherine.  Culpepper blamed Catherine and Rochford for encouraging his bad behavior.  Dereham downplayed his own actions while making sure everyone knew that Culpepper had done the deed with the Queen while she was married to the King.  Lady Rochford acted as if she was forced to stand guard while Culpepper and Catherine banged. 

It was, pun intended, a royal mess. 

Scene from the Tudors

With all the crap that went down and all the lives that were ruined, I will forevermore think of this episode as “The Episode of the Varied and Intense Facial Expressions”.  How do these actors not burst out laughing as their characters get more and more hysterical? 

Here is just a sampling of what kind of expressions we saw from them this week:

  • Shocked/freaked out
  • Narrow-eyed smugness
  • Terrified
  • Pissed
  • Swooning just before fainting
  • Wild eyes while quickly inventing lies to cover one’s ass
  • Pleasure while seeing others suffer
  • Insane with confusion and fear
  • Cluelessness
  • Mouth gaping while hyperventilating
  • Moderately panicky, quickly morphing into severely panicky
  • Grimaces of pain while one is tortured
  • And, from the King, a bored look that seemed to say, “Ehh... whatever.  On to the next wife already.”

While watching the Queen dancing around with her ladies in her chamber before all the ugliness started going on, this thought occurred to me:  Live it up, ladies.  This is your last hurrah.  Part of me feels bad for Catherine, while another part of me feels like she got what she deserved.  The sentimental part of me remembers that Catherine is only a teenager and was raised in less than ideal circumstances.

How was she to know proper behavior when she was encouraged to have sex to improve her situation from the time she was 13?  Also, how come the King, married or not, gets to screw as many women as he likes while his wives have to die if they stray? 

Now, my harsh side thinks the Queen is a complete moron who should have known what she had coming.  How exactly did she think she was going to get away with cheating on the King?  She had so many balls to juggle at the end.

So many people knew about the bad things she had done and was continuing to do.  So many people were using her for their own gain or simply as an object to torture and watch squirm but Catherine was never smart enough to figure this out before it was too late.  Love her or hate her, it is sad to see Catherine go.  She has made this show so much fun.

Tamzin Merchant on the Tudors

The Lady Mary was certainly thrilled to see Catherine go down.  When Ambassador Chapuis told her the rumors swirling around the Queen, Mary’s face was positively gleeful.  She looked sort of like Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons, didn’t she?  I imagined her drumming her fingers diabolicially and cackling, “Yes... excellent, heh, heh, heh.”

Let me say that I was glad to see Lady Rochford get hers tonight.  Her expression was priceless when she was told she had to stay locked up with Catherine in the royal apartments.  Not that anyone could blame her.  Who would want to spend unlimited time stuffed in a room with that ninny?  Rochford is so ruthless when it comes to ruining the lives of other people but as soon as anything bad starts happening to her, she instantly crumbles.  She’s panicking and sobbing and stomping around, hair askew, dress soiled while shut up with Catherine and barely lasts a day inside the Tower of London before going totally bonkers. 

And, quick question, was that dirt she was rubbing on herself and the walls in her prison cell or was that poop?  I rewound it a couple of times to try and figure it out but I am still unsure.  Thoughts?

Let’s chat about this torture chamber for a second.  First of all, how sadistic were people of this era?  Could they have possibly invented more evil-looking instruments?  I have visited the Tower of London and the crap they have there is mind-boggling.  The Tower tour people were like, “Here’s the burning hot iron rod they used to jam up someone’s butt. 

Here’s the vise they used to squeeze people’s heads until their eyes popped out.”  What the hell?!  I almost felt bad for that asshole frat boy Dereham when he saw what awaited him within that Tower.  He was like, “Oh, Jeeeeeesus!”  It probably dawned on him at that moment that coming back into Catherine’s life was not the best idea he’d ever had.  I am not one for torture scenes and admit that I covered my eyes as they pried off his fingernails and I was about to vom when it looked like they were going to yank out his molars. 

Good thing he avoided that particular punishment by throwing Culpepper under the bus.  But then later he got the fiery poker thrust into his abdomen as about 10,000 gallons of fakey blood poured across his chest.  Ah, what a way to go.

Another interesting part of this episode was the jeering multigenerational crowds surrounding the execution platforms.  Is this what passed for family entertainment back then?  I can just imagine the advertising:  “Come one, come all!  Come see heads getting chopped off and entrails getting ripped out!  Fun for the whole family!  The little ones can catch the rolling heads in their baskets!  Make sure to bring your rotten vegetables to chuck in the faces of the condemned!   Get there early to get a spot in the front row splash zone!” 

No wonder they invented such insane torture devices: they were taught from earliest child to love seeing their fellow citizens die horrible deaths. 

I loved it when poor Culpepper was on the platform ready to get beheaded and he feebly says, “I beg you all to pray for me.”  I distinctly heard someone in the audience yell, “Fuck off!”  I fantasized that this yeller was the red-headed farm girl who Culpepper raped in an earlier episode and then killed her avenging husband.  I’m sure she would be glad to see his corpse tossed on the pile. 

Though Lady Rochford’s execution was poignant and Catherine’s a little eyebrow-raising (I was pleasantly surprised when she proclaimed “I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpepper”) , Dereham’s death was by far the worst.  I would much rather get a quick chop to the neck than have my midsection repeatedly jabbed with a burning blade.

Oh, and one last note on Culpepper:  We finally found out what his job is tonight!  He is “the King’s groom.”  Okay!  Yay!  Now we know!  Wait a minute... what the hell is a “groom” anyway?


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (8 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Catherine appears to be somewhat stupid (some historians would even say mildly retarded). She was taken advantage of from puberty onward. No one bothered trying to educate her well. Although she was barely literate (which many were not in her day), she had no proper training to be a noble's wife, much less a king's. She is portrayed with a certain childlike innocence which I find realistic: "If I can speak with the king, everything will be alright." There is a willingness to please, and to be liked/loved, in her character that bespeaks a childlike state of mind. This teenager evokes empathy 500 years after her death.


I thought this episode was extremely well crafted. There were many necessary points of view to present, and they were presented masterfully. I have watched it 3 times this week. What I did not like about it: Catherine practicing with block while naked (this is both speculative and creepy); Catherine peeing her pants on the scaffold (she is depicted historically as being quite dignifed and serene at her execution - more so than she had ever been during her brief reign); Catherine being barefoot at her execution (highly unlikely); Catherine being executed AFTER Lady Rochford (this is historically inaccurate - Lady Rochford was of lesser rand and was beheaded after Catherine).


To answer your question, it was most likely poop. There was a bucket beside her while she was smearing that stuff all over. Even if it WAS dirt, why else would it be there except to, you know...cover?


This review is hilarious. My thoughts exactly. You would think that at the first hint of trouble, Culpepper would have ran for the hills. Didn't these people remember what happened to Anne Boleyn? Thomas More? Thomas Cromwell? George Boleyn? Mark Smeaton? Robert Aske? I mean hello Henry is a raging lunatic and is advised by raging lunatics. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES. I felt the bile rising in my throat at more than one scene last night. How people could stand to live in such gruesome times is beyond me. I almost had to run to the bathroom to puke. Definitely not one of my favorite episodes. But the acting was good.


FYI, I specially created an account to say this. Bravo!


LMAO. This review is hysterical.