Master Shardlake
Sean Bean as Lord Cromwell
Matthew Shardlake and Jack Barak
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Anne Boleyn has just been executed for adultery. Henry VIII appointed Cromwell to run the country. One of his main missions was to close down wealthy Catholic monasteries. For this, Cromwell needed legal grounds, so he began by sending a commissioneer to inspect a first abbey, on the Sussex Coast, facing France. However, the man he sent to Saint Donatus has just been found murdered. Of course, the monks claim they had nothing to do with it. Infuriated by both the affront and the delay in this crucial inspection, Cromwell sent two men : Matthew Shardlake, hunchbacked and handicapped, but observant and clever, and Jack Barak, a soldier charged with protecting Shardlake. The two men don’t know each other, but they know they can’t fail. The abbot reluctantly welcomes them, but insists he has nothing to hide. But in the space of a few days, several new tragedies occur. Shocked, Shardlake won’t let up until he discovers the truth.

Shardlake is based on a series of novels by C.J. Samson. For the oldest among us, another novel and another film immediately comes to mind : the tribute to the name of the rose seems obvious. Same dark, mysterious, depressing atmosphere. An abbey populated by men of God, some with magnificent souls, others with dark pasts. But the analogy ends there. Shardlake’s plot takes place two centuries later, and in Great Britain. The series makes its own mark. The hero is handicapped but autonomous, and his social status allows him to be respected, which must not have been common in the Middle Ages.

The images are very beautiful. The winter chill adds to the tense atmosphere. Like the hero, the viewer observes the protagonists and tries to guess their intentions in order to find the murderer. Although fairly predictable, the denouement remains original. If the mini-series is renewed, I’ll watch the sequel with great pleasure!

Mini-series, 4 episodes (50 mn), 2024, on Hulu and Disney+

With : Arthur Hughes as Matthew Shardlake, Anthony Boyle as Jack Barak, Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell, Ruby Ashbourne Serkis as Alice Fewterer, Joe Barber as Novice Simon Whelplay, Miles Barrow as Brother Gabriel, Babou Ceesay as Abbot Fabian, Peter Firth as Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Paul Kaye as Brother Jerome, Mike Noble as Master Bugge, David Pearse as Brother Edwig, Irfan Shamji as Brother Guy, Matthew Steer as Dr. Goodhap

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