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Henry VIII And ‘The Tudors’ Bid Adieu

by Anne Jordanova on June 22, 2010

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Season 4

Yes, True Blood has resumed, and Futurama and Weeds wait in the wings. But let’s take a moment to hail Showtime’s The Tudors, which took its final bow last night, after four seasons on cable. This spectacular, historical potboiler-running on a relentless energy of sex, death, and Renaissance-era drama — has balanced trashy soap opera with sharp writing and acting, memorable characters,  literary sophistication, and enough T&A and bloody executions to keep any unreconstructed fan of The Sopranos on the edge of their seat.

The final season has not disappointed us fans — even after the first 3 seasons of sex and political intruige. What could exceed the dramatic potential of Henry’s shifting alliances with various courtiers including Cardinal Woolsey (Sam Neill) and Thomas More (Jeremy Northam), his battle with the pope, and the double foreplay that leads to the consummation of his relationship with and marriage to Wife No. 2, the famous Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer), and her execution?

And there were plenty of burnings, hangings, and torture of other traitors along the way — not to mention Henry’s huge sexual appetite even when he was “happily” married. It’s a tribute to series creator and writer Michael Hirst, that he’s been able to stir up anticipation and maintain suspense along the way, even as we realize at every turn what’s coming, ticking off the helpful mnemonic for those six wives (divorced/beheaded/died/divorced/beheaded/survived), and knowing full well that little Edward must survive that fever to rule one day, and that Mary and the one day “Golden Era” Elizabeth 1 too will ascend to the throne.

Last night’s finale featured an old, sickly King Henry (the ALWAYS wonderful Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) coming to terms with his mortality, losing his best friend, and questioning what he has DONE, so to speak. The wonderful sequences of the “hauntings” of 3 of his ex wives, including his “true love” Anne Boleyn are strikingly effective and chilling.  Henry must live, and die with his conscience. During the final closing moments, as he looks upon the famous painting that will forever immortalize him, his life is seen in flashbacks- of relationships, love, sex, fights, happiness, and what we have all been filled in on the last 4 seasons. It is incredibly hard not to feel sorry for this man, who at 55 died alone.

It was an awesome way to end this “era”, the saga of the story of Henry the VIIIth. I’ll miss this show, and will find it hard to replace in the coming television years of new, mindless shows on cable.  I bid adieu to ‘The Tudors’.

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