The Tudors is not a series given to bombastics. Why would it be? We tend to remember history as a series of dramatic events, forgetting what led to those events. In reality, history is comprised of little moments that culminate in something the participants could never have seen coming. That's how life works.
The second episode of The Tudors moves at a deceptively leisurely pace, drawing on the premises of the first episode. War with France still appears to be imminent, despite Henry's summit with the French king. Cardinal Wolsey is still trying to connive his way into the Papacy. The Duke of Buckingham is still insisting he's the rightful heir to the throne. And Queen Catherine's lady in waiting is pregnant with Henry's child.
It all rings of soap opera, I know, and even though it wasn't nearly as glamorous as portrayed here, the fact remains– it all happened.
What The Tudors does, so far, is examine the beginnings of Henry VIII's monarchy and we see him as reckless, unruly and ruthless when needs call for it. He's young, and plays the monarchy as a rock star, going for the groupies with elfin abandon. He goes mano y mano with the French monarch in a wrestling match (which he loses), he treats Cardinal Wolsey as a Colonel Parker mentor, he regards Buckingham as a trivial rival and he relishes in the birth of his son, illegitimate though he may be.
In episode 2, the show also begins to show how resolute King Harry 8 was in redefining England's role in European affairs. He's no longer just a mere playboy, as portrayed in episode one, but a man who's not to be trifled with. Buckingham's claims to the throne result in his beheading. Henry claims his son, Henry Fitzroy, much to Catherine's dismay. And war with France seems inevitable.
While it plods at times, The Tudors is a program that bears watching. Think of The Sopranos, set it in the 16th century, and go from there.