“Off With Her Head!”
Episode 3 of Anne Boleyn picks up right where we left off, as Anne prepares for the fate lying before her. It’s two weeks before Anne’s beheading and she’s taken to the tower where she’ll spend her remaining days.
In her cell, Anne falls asleep and is haunted by nightmares again. Her own maids are gone, and worse, her daughter has been moved to Hatfield.
As she’s kept confined, Anne is given her food alongside the Constable of the Tower, William Kingston. He sits down opposite her, complete with…knives and forks? Just as a heads up, this is not historically accurate.
Anne refuses to eat and in fact, she’s watched constantly to make sure she stays out of trouble. Again, this isn’t accurate either given Anne was actually treated with respect while imprisoned.
Anyway, Cromwell arrives and updates her on the charges she’s confronted with. Some of those charges are leveled toward Mark Smeaton, the musician. Anne scoffs but when her brother is mentioned too, Anne’s world crumbles. With George arrested, it’s all too much for Anne to bear and she screams at Cromwell to leave.
After hysterically losing her composure, Madge shows to update Anne on what’s happening. Elizabeth is safe, which helps give her some comfort.
That’s just as well because Anne’s trial begins and she’s immediately questioned, with Cromwell leading the charge. Jane Boleyn and Lady Worcester both give their statements, with the former claiming that Anne’s bond with George is “unnatural.”
The trial ends and Anne’s fate is set. Will she be found guilty? Yes. Yes she will.
Anne receives more crushing news when Henry asks for an annulment of their marriage. If she agrees, then Elizabeth will be safe. Anne signs the documents and that evening, learns that George is to be executed in the morning.
Despite signing, Anne too is led to be executed. Unlike the real history which is well documented, Anne doesn’t actually address the people here. Instead, she looks out silently and is beheaded.
The Episode Review
Well that was… disappointing. Given the build-up from the second episode, this third chapter completely falls flat save for Jodie Turner-Smith’s performance. In a way, it feels quite reminiscent of that Handmaid’s Tale episode, with June spending the entire 45 minutes on her knees and confined to her thoughts.
Here though, instead of interesting cinematography and a tense atmosphere, this episode completely flatlines into mediocrity. The various political schemes, ideas and characters introduced over the past 2 episodes are completely abandoned, along with any semblance of motifs or themes that kept those first two chapters propped up.
The inevitable of course takes place, but without much aplomb. The beheading just sort of happens and then everything ends, like the show was in a hurry to finish after spending a good 50 minutes building up to that point.
The lack of music and some really wooden acting undermines the good work done to actually build up to this moment, going out like a lead balloon and failing to justify the bold casting and ideas with this production.
Anne Boleyn is not a show to remember and given Boleyn was well-documented for delivering a speech on the scaffolds, the fact Turner-Smith doesn’t even get a chance to do that here is more than a little disappointing.
And disappointing is ultimately the key word here. For what started on a bit of a bumpy ride and redeemed itself a bit in episode 2, the third chapter completely undoes any good work. There’s no tension, thrills or atmosphere, instead bowing out this average production on a disappointing whimper.