Wolf Hall review: Damian Lewis is so good as the capricious king that you want to slap him

Episode five: As Anne fails in her marital duty to produce a male heir, the king is growing impatient and Thomas is feeling his wrath

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When it comes to pleasing a king, you just can’t win.

First Henry (Damian Lewis) wants to divorce Katharine of Aragon (Joanne Whalley) and marry Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy). Now he wants to get rid of Anne and move onto Jane Seymour (Kate Phillips).

When it comes to Henry VIII the drama never seems to end, which is why his colourful life continues to fascinate us. Not every English monarch can boast having six wives and enough illegitimate children on the side to fill an orphanage.

Despite all the conniving and careful planning, Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) is thrust into the political wilderness tonight as the fickle monarch grows impatient for a male heir and sets his sights on a new woman.

Damien Lewis as King Henry VIII in Wolf Hall


Henry suggests he was dishonestly led into the marriage and explodes at Cromwell for trying to rise above his station. Cromwell’s very public dressing down from Henry reveals how foolish the king really is. It’s not really that surprising that he is so easily manipulated.

Damian Lewis is so good as the capricious monarch that at times you want to slap some sense into him and remind him to stop being such a prima donna. But you’d probably get your head lopped off. It might be the penultimate episode of the series but, fear not, this is not the end for Cromwell just yet according to the history books. Scheming queen Anne should be worried, mind you.

Henry declares he was "seduced" into marrying Anne who is infuriatingly refusing to produce a male heir. "Women do such things," Henry huffs as he suggests that spells and witchcraft – rather than his libido – were at play. Of course they do Henry, of course.

Wolf Hall continues to hold viewers captive not only because of its gorgeous costumes and sumptuous period detailing, but the nuanced script that electrifies this era for a contemporary audience.