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Another interesting intellectual battle is waged between Wolsey and Thomas More (Jeremy Northam, “Gosford Park”). The former — the putative man of God — chooses king over God, while the man of the world chooses God over king. Mr. Northam, one of the show’s standouts, imbues his principled character with humanity and a deep sense of unease.

Mr. Hirst is already at work writing season two of “The Tudors.” There’s plenty of material — Henry won’t even have married his second wife by the end of this series, of which critics were sent the first half.

In this sympathetic portrayal of Henry VIII, even the decision to consider annulling his first marriage seems almost defensible. His father, Henry VII, took the throne in battle. The Tudors are a new dynasty, and one that might not last if Henry doesn’t have a male heir. “All my father’s work, finished,” he despairs after a close call with death. “And it’s all my fault.”

Henry VIII, the man who beheaded two wives, a sympathetic figure? Forget about Tony Soprano, the lovable mobster. With “The Tudors,” Showtime has out-HBOed HBO.