Published on January 29th, 2015 | by Bean


Wolf Hall – BBC Drama Review – Episode 2 “Entirely Beloved”

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Wolf Hall’s second episode may still seem stately, but the action drives on apace. With Wolsey ailing, and the King unable to bear discussing the old man, the Cardinal finds himself exiled north where he is received a trifle too enthusiastically by the locals. What should Cromwell do? Even his charge urges him to abandon his master in favour of greener political pastures. For the time being, however, Cromwell has enough on his plate, courting the King’s favour, dancing a dangerous two-step with Lady Anne and playing Mark Gattiss’ Steven Gardiner’s obvious rent-a-spy back off him. And then yet more distractions appear in the form of not particularly eligible ladies.


Now that a sufficiently tasteful period of time has passed since Cromwell’s widowing (a couple of months?!), his ripe bachelorhood and who his possible suitors might be becomes the subject of some debate. Thomas Moore’s red-nosed wife poses an unsavoury interrogation as to his functionality, at the dinner table no less, and while her remark is given little more than a perfunctory hiked eyebrow, the question of romance – or at least making a match – is raised.

First, Mary Boleyn makes bold her affection, or rather makes a hasty proposition by way of admiring Cromwell’s natty threads. He deals with the moment with what grace he can muster, though it drags out painfully, the camera holding on her tear-stained and terrorised face as he makes his excuses. The adaptation seems keen to re-iterate Cromwell’s chivalrous qualities, but I think it’s safe to say that his warning of “they’d kill you” implies that he’d fair no better than she from her rash suggestion.

However, the growing the tenderness between Thomas and his sister-in-law Joan Broughton cannot be denied, and they circle tentatively around one another in the candlelight; scant mention is made of her husband, except to say that he’s not cutting the mustard. We are spared the romp, but given the charm instead of a lighter-than-air Cromwell fairly skipping through the halls the next morning, singing a jaunty tune. What audiences will make of this classy offering, in these days of boring (and one-sided) full-frontal abandon (yes, HBO, it’s you again) – who knows? I found it quite refreshing.

The running theme of loving-kindness and affection continues to weave it’s way through proceedings. Lady Anne’s counsel Thomas Cranmer comments “your children love you”. His way with them – simultaneously paternal and fraternal – denies him no less a share of their respect. His ability to strike the balance is part of their admiration for him, a sentiment that perhaps only Thomas’ ungrateful son, Richard “My dogs are the wrong colour” Cromwell, does not share.


In “Entirely Beloved” we are granted more extensive audiences with King Henry. Damien Lewis and Mark Rylance prove a riveting combination, and any scene they share crackles with energy. Cromwell, able to impress Henry as a marksman, is complimented by his highness; “You have a good eye; a good arm”. These are surely exactly Cromwell’s strengths; his ability to read situations with great clarity and then subtly enforce his will, by hook or by crook. When the King comments that Cromwell sticks by his man, the tone of his voice suggests more that what truly impresses him is the man’s tenacity.


The guiding arm comes literally into play in the bedside scene where Cromwell, spying an advantageous opening, steers the King’s mood from dire shame to galvanised leadership and righteous uprising. It is interesting to see the ways in which Cromwell handles the scene differently from the opening scene with Wolsey; both men see ill omens all around. His Cardinal jokingly plays up his lawyerly talents, but Cromwell’s role has become nursemaid, and he knows it. Brandishing kittens and bracing smiles is beneath his talents, and though he clearly doesn’t begrudge the gesture and genuinely loves his master, it is apparent that Wolsey’s time has come to a close.


With the King, Cromwell plays the comfort card with a deftly stirring call to arms. His skill for wise counsel artfully conferred is never clearer than at the scene’s close, where the King claims the win for himself (if only to himself) – he knew who to call, like a grown-ass man praising himself for dialling 999. That Henry appears this pliable will perhaps be his only defence in light of how badly he has wronged Wolsey.

Injury is finally added to insult, as the weasel Harry Percy arrives to arrest the Cardinal and take him to the Tower. Harry Lloyd plays Percy with a sulky defiance; I sincerely hope Lloyd is doomed to play ineffectual and loathsome oiks forever more, he does it so well! Perhaps, though, the impression he made as Viserys Targaryen is such that he might play Romeo and I’d want to punch him. Quibbling aside, Wolsey’s heart broken and stopped, and with the King’s ear firmly in hand, Cromwell ends the episode with a new set of shinier cards to play his games with, and a vendetta burning a hole in his heart.


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