Wolf Hall – Episode 2 Review

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (book cover)

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (book cover)

Weeks pass so quickly, seems like we only just watched the first episode of Wolf Hall and then the second episode is out! I had enjoyed the first episode but found it just a little slow and it jumped back in time a lot, but this one fixed those problems.

The plot and characters have been set, Cromwell is trying to help Wolsey stay in favour but also get on the good side of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I liked the emotion between Cardinal Wolsey and Cromwell in the first scene. Now that the background and all has been told in the first episode, it seems like they have finally relaxed and like they actually care for each other. They mention that black cats were born under Wolsey’s bed (not sure if it is just made up or not, probably is) but did mention that, as they thought back then, it was a bad omen.

I also liked Mary and Cromwell’s talk about Anne Boleyn and Mary being abandoned after being Henry’s mistress. She even admits that Anne ‘learnt her lesson’ from her, a theory that many historians have put forward. Although there seems to be some sort of sexual tension and attraction between them, which is most likely made up by Mantel (we know that Mary later marries William Stafford for love and gets banished). However, do know that Cromwell helped and may have persuaded Henry and Anne to help Mary.

Mary Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell talking about Anne

Mary Boleyn (Charity Wakefield) and Thomas Cromwell talking about Anne

We also see Jane Seymour for the first time in this episode. They call her ‘the lady who cries a lot’. She is very plain, as she is described in different historical accounts. However, I do agree with Lucy Worsley when she says Jane is too pretty. She is portrayed as just a pawn of her family, spying on Anne etc, but also as very simple and not very knowledgable. She says she doesn’t speak French, like Anne does, so struggles to spy on her. There is not much to read about Jane before 1536, all we really know is that she served Katherine of Aragon and then Anne Boleyn.

Jane Seymour (Kate Phillips)

Jane Seymour (Kate Phillips)

The most memorable scene for me is when Henry has Cromwell sent over to see him because he had a bad dream about his brother. As most know, Henry’s brother was Arthur and was originally meant to be king instead of Henry, he also married Katherine of Aragon and is one of the reasons Henry is seeking an annulment. I’m glad they mentioned him as some people forget about him and also because I think Henry generally convinced himself that God was displeased with him. In his mind, this was proven by Bessie Blount being able to give him a son but not Katherine. Cromwell comforts Henry and, as we saw, is starting to put the idea of breaking from Rome in his head.

I liked this episode more than the last one because it was slightly faster and less confusing with time shifts. It also gave us more of an insight into Cromwell’s way of thinking, especially when we see him nearly in tears after finding out about Wolsey’s death and watching the play about him. I’m still not quite sure about Damien Lewis’s portrayal of Henry, he has the look but I think he lacks authority so far, but that may change with the break from Rome.

Rating: 4.5/5

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