Wolf Hall: Season 1 (DVD) – Series Review
Follow Genre: History, Drama
Distributor: Just Entertainment
Episodes: 6
Duration: 60 min (per episode)

Wolf Hall: Season 1 (DVD) – Series Review

Site Score
Good: Marvellous acting performances
Bad: Not everything is explained clearly enough
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The sixteenth century was a turbulent time in English history. King Henry VIII was in charge, but his personal misfortunes would soon become the most memorable in the whole of English history. Wolf Hall tells his tale, seen through the eyes of his right hand Thomas Cromwell in an adaptation of Hillary Mantel’s novels ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’.


King Henry VIII (Damian Lewis) isn’t happy with his wife Catherine of Aragon (Joanne Whalley), as she isn’t able to provide him any male heir. He wants to be rid of her as soon as possible, something he plans to do by having their marriage nullified, claiming Catherine was not a virgin when they married. Catherine had been married to Henry’s brother Arthur, but at the time everyone believed that this marriage had never been consummated. Now it might just be Henry’s chance to get rid of her and marry his newest conquest Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy). He calls in the help of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (Jonathan Pryce), Archbishop of York, to plead for him to the pope in Rome, but that is easier said than done, and the king is not a very patient man. Wolsey’s right hand Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) helps him in any way he can, but he too sees that the cardinal will have to make haste. When the story picks up again two years later, the Cardinal is forced to move north, having to return to York. Cromwell stays loyal to him until the very end, even though he makes quite some enemies in doing so. He talks to the king about the Cardinal’s conditions, which leaves the king rather impressed with his cleverness.

Cromwell slowly starts to get into the king’s inner circle, although he still tries to convince both Henry and Anne Boleyn that the only way for them to be together is to let the cardinal do his job and try and convince the pope. Anne doesn’t buy it however, and in the end Henry proposes a bill to make him the head of the Church of England. Now that he can finally marry Anne, hopes are high up for her to bare him a son soon. Meanwhile the king starts to trust Cromwell more and more, even considering him his right hand, which makes Cromwell a very powerful man in England.


The story is told in six episodes, with the first two focusing on Cromwell as an advisor to Cardinal Wolsey, while he tries to please the king by asking the pope for an annulment of Henry’s marriage. After that, each episode addresses one year in king Henry’s story, seen through Thomas Cromwell’s eyes. Within each episode, the pace is quite steady, although there is not a lot of action going on. All the action just seems to be summed up at the beginning of each episode, when we skip one or two years again, which is a bit unfortunate. It would have been nice to see the marriage of king Henry to Anne Boleyn, or her first pregnancy. What we do see is how Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son, goes from being Cardinal Wolsey’s right hand to being king Henry’s. Occasionally some light is shed on his past using flashbacks. This helps to understand his character better, as he is quite a reserved man. Nonetheless, he knows how to handle the king and isn’t afraid to tell him what he thinks.

The main characters are well presented and get enough attention for you to form a proper image of them. Nonetheless, when it comes to the side characters, it would have been useful to pay more attention in history class back in the day, as you often have to guess who is who and what the mutual relations are. The names are hardly mentioned and truth be told, how are we supposed to know that, for example, Anne Boleyn’s uncle is the Duke of Norfolk?

Most of the series is set at the court of Henry VIII, thus the decors and costumes look very luxurious. Henry’s costumes look much like we would expect: very bulky with lots of fabric in beautiful colors. The ladies’ dresses, although probably not very practical, look very stunning as well. The decors suit the time well, yet are often quite dark, because of the candlelight that is used. This really helps to set the right mood.


Despite a few issues concerning the story, the acting is stunning and will make you forgive any flaw there may be. Mark Rylance does a marvelous job portraying Thomas Cromwell, being able to show a silent, reserved man, who nonetheless knows exactly the influence he has on the king, and at the same time holds true to his own values and beliefs. Claire Foy brings Anne Boleyn back to life as a pretty yet stubborn young woman, who is perfectly aware of Henry’s attention and what she could achieve because of it.

There are no extras on this DVD release, which doesn’t feel like an annoyance, since there is not that much to add to this story. Certainly a costume drama like this one doesn’t really need any extras.


Wolf Hall: season 1 tells the story of Henry VIII through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, who would soon become his right hand. Despite the fact that this has been the topic of multiple series and films already, this approach is quite different, making the story more interesting. While the story doesn’t move particularly fast, it is rather hard at times to follow, as after almost every episode there is a time gap, and not all side characters are introduced properly. Nonetheless, the costumes, decors and acting performances are all splendidly done.


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Wolf Hall: Season 1 (DVD) - Series Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.