Wolf Hall: Three Card Trick
April 13, 2015 7:21 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Having failed to secure the annulment of the King Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon, Cardinal Wolsey is stripped of his powers. His hopes of returning to the king’s favor lie with the ever-loyal Thomas Cromwell. Mark Rylance stars, broods, and, with Hilary Mantel's story, redefines the role we very differently saw in A Man for All Seasons.
posted by ocherdraco (29 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I haven't read the novels (though I've read other things Mantel has written, and have seen other appearances of Rylance), and so I find myself wondering how much of this absolutely riveting character is Rylance and how much Mantel.

I'm loving it so far. I wonder what other mefites' reactions are.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:23 PM on April 13, 2015


I thought it was very good, but very very dense. I read the novel not six months ago, and I still needed my sister to remind me who many of these people were.

The cutting back and forth in time did not help matters, I admit.

I suspect this isn't going to appeal very much to the Downton Abbey crowd, it's much more inside-baseball.
posted by suelac at 7:46 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Agreed. It might very well appeal to the subset of the Game of Thrones crowd who (like me) are into the politics as much or more than the magic and dragons.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:52 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a great little series. It's the same ground covered in The Tudors series and a few others, but this time the focus is on a very internally complex Cromwell. I really enjoyed it.
posted by Catblack at 8:33 PM on April 13, 2015


I've loved Mark Rylance since Angels and Insects.
posted by brujita at 10:25 PM on April 13, 2015


I love the attention to detail in this show, particularly the technology which allows candlelight to actually be candlelight! This is a slow burner of a show, but it's really good. I do think they could have given the audience a break and said people's names a bit more: often characters appear without being introduced, or only having said their names once.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:10 AM on April 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've got the opposite problem, in a sense. There have been so many dramas and documentaries about this particular little section of history (on UK telly at least) that it seems all too familiar. The tone and perspective of Wolf Hall seem novel, and I can't fault Rylance, but I do just wish we'd leave Henry VIII alone for a while - there are other interesting Kings!

And on the subject of His Maj, I did think Damian Lewis was a bit mis-cast here. He looks a bit small in Henry's clothing, and if there's one thing Henry was it was big.
posted by sobarel at 1:32 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wasn't blown over by this episode, but it was good enough to bring me back to watch the second episode (that aired Sunday). I think Rylance has a lot to do with it and his ability to convey a lot with his eyes and expressions, and those things are then magnified when he opens his mouth and says something unexpected and awesome.

I do agree that Henry VIII is getting a little tiresome, but this is much more a drama about Cromwell and that suits me just fine.

Also, always loving Pryce in almost any role.
posted by Atreides at 6:55 AM on April 14, 2015


(what channel is this on in the us help)
posted by poffin boffin at 8:38 AM on April 14, 2015


PBS
posted by brujita at 8:42 AM on April 14, 2015




One of the things that's most fascinating about this episode, to me, is the illness that took Cromwell's wife and daughters. While in reality their deaths came some time apart, they did all die of what was known as the "sweating sickness" which repeatedly plagued England throughout the 16th Century. Though the specific cause of the illness is not known, it really did strike seemingly healthy people down within a matter of hours or a day. Given that the disease eventually seems to have disappeared, despite there being no cure, I wonder if it was a virus that was too virulent for its own good. Successful viruses need to keep their hosts alive long enough to transmit the virus to multiple new hosts, and this disease may have killed its hosts so quickly that it was, itself, doomed.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are theories it was or was related to the hantavirus. The Sweating Sickness is pretty scary, though, for it's rapid lethality and then its abrupt disappearance from history.
posted by Atreides at 9:18 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


a drama about Cromwell

That just makes me think how interesting a costume drama like Wolf Hall set during the Commonwealth or Protectorate would be!
posted by sobarel at 9:56 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I found the book hard to get into, especially with the fact that everyone is named Thomas and Richard. That and all the action is going back and forth from Hampton Court to Cromwell's house.

I liked this one, yet I was actually kind of glad to see that it wasn't just me: the story really is a ton of going back and forth from Hampton Court to Cromwell's house.
posted by St. Hubbins at 6:47 PM on April 14, 2015


I could appreciate the idea behind showing us a world lit only by candlelight, but damn did it drive me crazy that too many scenes were just too dark for me to see properly.

Also, I like Mark Rylance as an actor, generally, but his stillness and weird makeup (trying to make him seem younger?) are creeping me out. Creepy doll stare.

I loved the novels, but the first one was a hard read--not enough names or pronouns for me to keep track of characters, often.
posted by TwoStride at 7:49 PM on April 14, 2015


I wish we could do a FanFare post on the book: I was just in love with it when I read it, even the draggy confusing long bits (which were numerous). (Oddly, I found Bringing up the Bodies boring and quit after 50 pages or so.)

For the show, I thought they impressively maintained the spirit of the book. I liked Mark Rylace a lot. The chemistry of the character is true to the book's intent. They captured the love within his family nicely - I was sad to lose so much of the detail and surprised to find his wife and daughters dead so fast, before we got much chance to enjoy their delightful family (though they did squeeze in the bits that created a proto-feminist, daughter-educating Cromwell). He comes off as the wise, driven man who has a bigger picture than everyone and knows which conversations to listen in to and which personalities to blow off, the traits that also made him so charismatic in the book.

I liked the first episode enough to watch another.
posted by latkes at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Alright, you guys have sold me. I loved the novel(s) but was meh about a clip of the show I saw online. I'll give it a shot.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:56 AM on April 15, 2015


So I watched the first episode. Very enjoyable. I love the lighting, as mentioned above. The darkness suits the character of Cromwell. I was worried the pacing would feel slow but actually I found it to be spot on. I admit the jumping around in time was disorienting - I've read the novel and still got disoriented a couple times by the time cuts - but I see why they did it from a pacing point of view.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:31 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was excited when I heard BBC was making a series around the life of Cromwell, and even more intrigued when I heard that it was a sympathetic portrayal.

I mean, Cromwell. The Puritan tyrant, fully guilty of his country's blood. It seemed awfully daring for BBC.

Imagine my disappointment. I had no idea that England had two Cromwells.

I could appreciate the idea behind showing us a world lit only by candlelight, but damn did it drive me crazy that too many scenes were just too dark for me to see properly.

I don't appreciate it at all. I hate the cinematography of all these recent dimly-lit dramas. It is not authentic. Our eyes can see perfectly fine by candlelight; it's the cameras that can't . A realistic candle-lit scene would be dim, but we would see more than darkness and shadows and the occasional cheekbone.
posted by kanewai at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2015


I don't appreciate it at all. I hate the cinematography of all these recent dimly-lit dramas. It is not authentic. Our eyes can see perfectly fine by candlelight; it's the cameras that can't . A realistic candle-lit scene would be dim, but we would see more than darkness and shadows and the occasional cheekbone.

Really? I actually thought it was a fairly accurate portrayal of how much light you get from candelight. You could make out people, but not that well.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2015


Also, Thomas Cromwell has historically been villified just as much as Oliver, thanks to Thomas More. Well. He is if you go the Thomas More primary school anyway...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:58 PM on April 16, 2015


While in reality their deaths came some time apart, they did all die of what was known as the "sweating sickness" which repeatedly plagued England throughout the 16th Century.

That was a heartbreaking scene. If I was alive during that time, I'm pretty sure I'd be worrying every time I felt a bit weak, lost my appetite, or broke out in a sweat. I wonder how often people wondered if they were dying just because they had a common cold.

I could appreciate the idea behind showing us a world lit only by candlelight. . .

I kept worrying that the kids carrying the candles were going to burn the house down. When he said, "Don't get too close to the fire with those wings on," and then the next scene is her walking to bed carrying a candle with the wings on, I found myself getting a bit panicky that they'd let their kids do that. Different times, different expectations. Or also known as: 101 ways to die in (post) medieval England.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:23 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a huge, huge, huge, huge fan of the books, even though stream-of-consciousness usually doesn't do it for me. But my God, Wolf Hall does, and I love how they were able to bring the flavor of that to the show. I'd been wondering, because the books are so deeply inside Cromwell's head.

(And put me down as a fan for the candlelight and how they've been handling it. They took a lot of pains in this to nail, at least to me, on-camera how things look in candle light in life.

Plus, the atmospheric lighting is lovely -- Mantel has mentioned how paintings from the time influenced her characterizations and books, and somewhere on the Internet, there's a thing about how she wrote this one particular scene in Wolf Hall to pick up lots of details from a certain painting. So I love that they're reproducing that with lighting effects.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:07 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, to an answer ocherdraco's question from the very start of the thread, I'd say that the character you see onscreen is 40% Rylance, 60% Mantel.

Also also, the first episode was enjoyable to me (and the scene with the deaths made me cry even though I 1000000% knew it was coming, and they compressed the timing of the deaths and excuse YOU how RUDE with the smart, sharp daughter who asks Cromwell if she may choose who to marry and he says within reason and she says, well, I choose Raife, and just ugh, ugh, fucking UGH WHAT IS MY CHEST WHAT IS MY FACE WHAT IS THIS MONSTER POURING FEELINGS OUT OF MY BODY-- but the second episode is, to me, where the show really opens up a distance between itself and the Downton Abbeys and Tudors and Borgias of recent years.

I'm guessing we'll have a second thread for that, but the closing scene of episode two is SHIT JUST GOT REAL.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:27 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


The long pauses where the story is taking place on Cromwell's face remind me of classic mafia movies.
posted by drezdn at 5:45 AM on April 25, 2015


And on the subject of His Maj, I did think Damian Lewis was a bit mis-cast here. He looks a bit small in Henry's clothing, and if there's one thing Henry was it was big.

Eh, he didn't get fat until later. Mr. Lewis is perhaps a bit slight of build, but I'll forgive his narrow shoulders in return for the spot-on quality of intensity.
posted by desuetude at 9:33 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Very late to the party. Wolf Hall was repeated on PBS. I skipped it the first time around as the Tudor period is not one of my favorites, just because it is so overdone (and besides Henry VII = usurper). But I was watching PBS, didn't change the channel when it started and, wow, got sucked in immediately. Phenomenal broadcast. Obv I haven't read the books and all the nameless characters are confusing but that's what Google is for. Sweating sickness, dear god. How did the Black Plague get all the attention when this is so much scarier. Mark Rylance deserves all the kudos he received for this role, he is mesmerizing.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:54 AM on May 22, 2017


I didn't think I was going to enjoy this very much -- I can't stand medieval violence -- but I totally did. The focus is on the political card game and especially on Thomas Cromwell, finesse card player, and I am here for that. His kindness and gentleness with his family is so lovely.
posted by orange swan at 7:36 PM on January 30, 2019


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