Shortly after the defeat of Harry Percy’s rebellion against King Henry IV (Jeremy Irons), Henry IV Part 2 finds Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston) has once again detached himself from court and re-estranged himself from his father. Henry IV grows sick and frail with worry about another uprising and about the future of England under his son’s eventual leadership. Unbeknownst to most, however, Prince Hal has finally grown un-enamoured of his long-time companion Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale), who is still morally corrupt and opportunistic, as the fat knight accidentally reveals his duplicity to the eavesdropping prince.
The story dwells long upon Falstaff’s repugnant lifestyle and his lazy, somewhat humourous attempts to find soldiers and make his way toward the battlefield. Very little time is spent on the front lines, where the king’s second son, John of Lancaster (Henry Faber), negotiates with the rebels and leads the king’s troops to victory. Upon receiving this good news, Henry IV rapidly approaches the hour of his death, but not before confronting Prince Hal at long last and reconciling with his matured and chastened son. To the relief of the court—especially the Chief Justice (Geoffery Palmer), who had long pursued Prince Hal and Falstaff for their petty crimes and misdemeanours and feared loss of favour with the new monarch—, the newly crowned Henry V vows to cast aside his old self and publicly ejects the presumptuous Falstaff from the castle.
This third chapter of the BBC’s The Hollow Crown proves to be less engaging than the ones before, weakened by Shakespeare’s less weighty source play. The once-comedic, now-irritating Falstaff takes up most of the screen time and although Beale is as excellent as ever, any moment spent away from Irons’ masterfully frail but still commanding Henry IV is a tedious one. Hiddleston fares poorly as the inactive young prince until his confrontation with his long-estranged father where his meekness helps to redeem him in the eyes of the king and court. The pace really only picks up after the uprising is quelled, about two-thirds of the way through the episode. The story pauses here on the question and expectation of the usurper Henry IV’s legacy (now three plays in the making), which is thrust, upon Henry V, both the character and the final instalment of the Henriad, to address.
Rating: 3 out of 5 musicians in the other room