At First Glance: “Wolf Hall”

Historical dramas are hard to create. But when one trailer, which is really scant on the details, can intrigue, if not hook, you immediately, you know there’s promise for the program already.

The upcoming BBC Worldwide production “Wolf Hall”, looks incredibly fascinating, but can it live up to other shows and films that deal with these exact same subjects?

This drama stars Mark Rylance (“Days and Nights”, “Anonymous”), Damian Lewis (“Homeland”, “Romeo & Juliet (2013)”), Claire Foy (“Rosewater”, “Crossbones”), and Jonathan Pryce (“The Salvation”, “Listen Up Philip”).

The series is created by Peter Straughan (“Frank”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”). It is based on the books “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel.

The series is set to air on BBC Two on Jan. 21, 2015 and later in the U.S. on April 5 on PBS part of Masterpiece.

Okay, so after doing a bit more research, I’ve discovered that this will be so much more than Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and everyone else we’ve already learned about time and again. It’s a story told from the perspective of someone just as important, and in many ways, powerful and compelling as Henry VIII.

Just from the one minute trailer it does show that this doesn’t going to be exclusively about the events of this ruler in the Tudor dynasty. More all of this is a backdrop. A big backdrop, but an important one it seems. Judging from the trailer, Ryalance’s Thomas Cromwell, learns and grows through many of his experiences as an advisor to Henry. Yes, they also appear to take place only at the palace, but I feel like there’ll be plenty of his own family life and history explored, as he’s the main person in the novels. Definitely the right ingredients for a strong and compelling story.

For me, after learning this, I’m finding myself more excited than before. I think this actually has more to do with my fascination with any event surrounding the Tudors than anything. All it has to do now is keep me interested when the story begins unspooling several months from now.

While the trailer’s short, I actually think it works in the programs favor. Quick, dramatic, and juicy scenes and bits of dialogue are delivered, and all I want to do is see more. If the single line, “Those who’ve been made, can be unmade”, can suck me in that fast, then I think it should be enough for anyone. There’s already a feeling that there’ll be lots of manipulation, secrecy, and duplicity occurring which is always fun to see occur.

As there’s not much to judge the acting by, I’ll say one quick thing. There’s tons of promise. The actors I listed earlier already boast impressive work, so I’m confident that they’ll deliver very intriguing characters, whether you like them or not. It’s ultimately going to be what draws you back week after week, especially since you know how certain historical events, that will occur, turn out.

While I usually decry the need to constantly make things about historical figures and events, as they never truly add anything new, I can actually look past that here. Again, I’m so fascinated by these people, but also because the perspective has greatly changed. I read that the books were borne out of a want to provide a different argument for Thomas Cromwell, as opposed to the negative one usually associated with him. Here, he’s not a villain, but a man just doing his job. He’s doing his work, for his King, in any way he knows how, all while navigating the complex world that existed at that time.


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