Should You Try It: Shardlake on Hulu

The C.J. Sansom book series comes to life on Hulu
33rd Annual UK Critics' Circle Theatre Awards - Arrivals
33rd Annual UK Critics' Circle Theatre Awards - Arrivals / Gareth Cattermole/GettyImages

Welcome to May! As we turn the corner the summer blockbuster season is coming to the movies, the days are getting longer, and the weather is getting better. That makes your free time precious, so which shows are worth the investment? Let us help you decide! Today, we’re exploring a period piece on Hulu.

Series: Shardlake

Where to Find It: The four-episode season is now available to stream on Hulu.

What’s It About: This new series is based on the books from C.J. Sansom that are set during the Tudor reign. In this case, the focus is on Thomas Cromwell (Sean Bean), his work on behalf of King Henry VIII, and the battle between Catholics and Protestants.

We begin in 1536 as King Henry VIII has broken with the Catholic Church. Cromwell sees it as an opportunity and begins his plan to dissolve the monasteries that are loyal to the Catholic Church. When a murder occurs, Cromwell views it as an opportunity.

He summons Matthew Shardlake (Arthur Hughes) and sends him to investigate. He is compelled to bring Cromwell’s man, Jack Barak (Anthony Boyle), as he tries to determine what happened and find enough cause for Cromwell to press the king to disband the monasteries for good. What Shardlake discovers is a mystery that pulls him in deeper.

You Should Try It If: You’re a fan of the novels, like a good historical fiction story, or are a fan of Bean and Boyle.

One Man’s Opinion of Shardlake

We’ve seen plenty of period pieces of late, including as part of limited series. This explores an interesting part of history and draws off some established material. In particular, this first season seems to be pulling from the first of Sansom’s novels, Dissolution. That gives it something of a built-in audience.

The episodes are well-paced and well-crafted. The pilot is about 50 minutes, while others run closer to 45 minutes. It’s only a four-episode season, so it’s a relatively short binge. I enjoy the cast—though we only see a little of Bean in the pilot and none in the second episode. Boyle is a strong performer and Hughes is doing a nice job in the titular role.

The episodes I sampled were a little dry, which is to be expected based on the material and the story. Still, I like a good murder mystery and this one is building toward something. The first two episodes moved at a nice pace and since it’s a short commitment, I’m curious to see where this limited series is going.

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