Friday, September 16, 2016

TV Review: The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part 2 (2012)

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part 2 (2012) co-written and directed by Richard Eyre based on Shakespeare's play

In 2012, England hosted the Summer Olympics. The BBC decided to have a "Cultural Olypiad" which included a series of William Shakespeare's historical play. In the first series, they presented Richard IIHenry IV Part IHenry IV Part II, and Henry V.

Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston) continues his turn away from his drunken party boy lifestyle. His tutor in debauchery, Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale), is being called to account for his lifestyle but strives through wit and trickery to avoid the consequences of his actions. He's being taken seriously as a knight and has been called to raise troops to oppose the Earl of Northumberland and the archbishop of York, who are allying against King Henry IV (Jeremy Irons). The king's health is deteriorating. He still wants to fight the uprising and has misgivings over his oldest son's friends and behavior (he says the famous quote, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown").

Loyalty, duty, and betrayal are the big themes here. Prince Hal shifts his loyalty away from Falstaff and to his father, especially when the kingship looms over him. Falstaff wants to live a life of merriment; he heeds the call of duty but does not embrace it and is not transformed by it. He wants to stay good buddies with Prince Hal. By the end, Hal has become King Henry V and sees the need to renounce his former way of life and his former friends. The moment is sad and hard for Falstaff, who for all his loutishness is still well-rounded enough to evoke sympathy from the audience.

The actors are uniformly great in this production. The overall production values are still fairly dark though they do lighten by the end. Prince Hal's coronation is a big turning point visually and for the characters, making me very excited for the next play, Henry V.

This play is much more interesting than Part 1. I can't recommend skipping over Part 1 since it does set up the characters and the situation so well. Part 1 really needs the second part to complete the story.

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