Previously on The Crown: Elizabeth’s father, George VI, died quite a bit earlier than anyone was expecting, thrusting her onto the throne.
The shadows of the abdication and the patriarchy loom loooong over this episode, everyone.
We start off in December 1936. While Edward (with Wallis hanging over him) goes over his final speech, Elizabeth and Margaret play in their surprisingly leafy garden. Winter weather patterns don’t have any effect on royal gardens, people. Mary sweeps into her eldest son’s study to beg him, one last time, not to make this speech, to stop being such an attention whore and just go away, already. But Edward is determined, because he’s nothing if not a selfish douchebag with little concern for anyone’s feelings but his own. And he wants everyone to know all about his feelings.
Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The Bellamys hired a housemaid, Sarah, who turned out to be something of a sociopath and compulsive liar. She had a flirtation with James, and then decided she was too good for servant-ing.
It’s autumn 1908. The Bellamys and Hudson are off to Scotland, leaving the house in the hands of Elizabeth and James. I can’t see how that would be a bad plan at all!
Elizabeth’s doing some charity work in an East End soup kitchen, and James tags along because he’s bored. While there, they run into none other than Sarah, the most repulsive character in this show’s history. In fact, she might be the most repulsive non-villain character I’ve ever come across on a television show, ever. She faints dramatically as soon as she sees James, then spins one of her elaborate lies about looking for a friend and blah, blah, blah. Clearly the past four years have not treated her well, and Elizabeth–who has no experience with this little nutter and therefore doesn’t know what she’s in for–takes her back to Eton Place and basically tells the servants there to figure out what to do with her.
Previously on The Crown: Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip, who leans towards dickishness now and then, but his heart seems to be mostly in the right place. Unbeknownst to her, her father, King George VI, has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Ready for shit to get real, folks?
Elizabeth and Philip embark on their Commonwealth tour, landing in Nairobi first. At last, my complaint about the royals seeming altogether too nice and too adored gets answered, because the speech she gives is some jaw-droppingly condescending imperialist bullshit. It’s all about how, not so long ago, Nairobi was an undeveloped backwater with nothing but nomadic tribes roaming around on it. But thank God the white people showed up! Now there are cities and civilisation and those nomads know how real humans should live, right? Mind you, at least half of this crowd (and probably a great deal more) is made up of those very nomadic tribes she’s slagging off.
Netflix has really pushed the boat out with this one. Everyone buzzed about that massive budget, and I will say: it was well spent. This is beautiful to look at, and it boasts a really top-notch cast. Even the one-liners are people you recognise. And that top-notch cast gives some wonderful performances. I’m going to particularly call out Jared Harris as George VI. He may not have George’s handsomeness, but he does convey his quick temper, brought on by endless frustration and stress, his tender side, and the naked fear of a suffering man who clearly wants his misery to end, but knows that having it over with also means saddling his fairly young daughter with serious responsibilities she may not be ready for. And he’s trying to hide all that because he’s a king, and a father, and he doesn’t want to alarm anyone. Can’t alarm anyone. This is a country and a family still trying to dig its way out of a devastating war, after all.
Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The kitchen maid, Emily, made it very clear she had some serious problems when, after being dumped by her boyfriend, she hanged herself.
It’s October 1907, and apparently London is plagued by some serious fog. And Mrs Bridges is plagued by something as well. She’s acting very oddly, barricading herself in her room, locking the door after leaving, coming down ridiculously late in the morning looking like absolute hell, and throwing around quite a bit of attitude. Any one of those things would normally be enough to get a servant fired, but I guess the Bellamys are feeling generous. Also, Marjorie’s got a dinner party the following week. Even so, she has some strong words with her cook and demands to know why her door was locked.
Previously on Poldark: Ross screwed up big time, and the repercussions are likely to be far-reaching. Elizabeth married George, Caroline spurned Enys, and Demelza very nearly cheated.
Well, at least they ended strong.
George continues to prove that he’s not only an arrogant little idiot, but simply has no concept of when to stop already. It’s not enough that he’s married Elizabeth and now lives in the Poldark family’s ancestral home. Oh, no! Now he’s fencing in the land around Trenwith and setting those two thugs who almost killed Judd to policing the fenceline. They do, with quite a bit more force than is warranted. After some local faces are introduced to a pair of rifle butts, resentment in the neighbourhood begins to seriously seethe.
Previously on Poldark: Elizabeth realised she was looking down the barrel of many lonely years of widowhood and penury, so she accepted George Warleggan’s marriage proposal. An accident at Wheal Grace (plus, not having any more money) convinced Ross to close the mine down. After reaching that decision, and hearing of Elizabeth’s engagement, he went to Trenwith and raped her.
This show’s timeline issues really reached their apotheosis tonight, and it drove me nuts. I spent a good half of this episode thinking we were watching events unfolding the day after Ross’s night at Trenwith, when, in fact, they’re happening some days, even weeks, later. Which makes more than a few things not make sense.
Previously on Poldark: Ross nearly got caught running around with the smuggling ring and was only saved by Enys’s intervention, which cost Enys Caroline. Elizabeth realised life is pretty chilly without a man, and when Ross wasn’t available to be at her beck and call, she immediately turned to George.
It’s another week, which means it’s time for things to get infinitely worse for everyone, including the viewer. Actually, that’s not entirely true–things are great for Verity, who seems to exist solely to prove that getting the hell out of this town is the best damn thing anyone can do for themselves. She comes back for a visit, accompanied by her crazy adorable stepson, who charms the heck out of everyone and possibly recruits Enys into the armed forces as a battle surgeon. Enys, drooping enormously after having been thoroughly dumped by Caroline (who returned all his letters and told him not to contact her again) actually seems to be considering it. Also: Verity’s pregnant! Hooray!
Previously on Poldark: George started making moves on Elizabeth, Ross made extra money by helping out the local smugglers, and Enys fell for Caroline.
First things first: Enys is not dead. He is, however, single again, which is good news for those fans who lean more Dwight than Ross.
In one of the show’s more tightly plotted, tense episodes, we finally learned who our informant is (shockingly, they have no connection to George Warleggan). And Elizabeth pouts and acts like a bit of a brat, which makes me want to pull her aside and tell her, ‘Honey, you’re a strong, capable young woman, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Even though they’ve been telling you differently your whole life. You DO NOT need George or Ross to run your life. You can do this! Or, if you can’t, leave everything to Aunt Agatha. She seems to have it pretty well in hand.’
Previously on Victoria: Victoria found out she was pregnant, which did not delight her. But the railroad does, as she and Albert start checking out this whole ‘modern living’ thing.
Victoria’s reaching the end of her third trimester, and like many women at that time, she is OVER IT. Also, it’s getting a bit creepy, because the vultures are starting to circle already, the staff are tense, and everyone keeps bringing up Princess Charlotte again and again and again. We GET IT. She died young and tragically in childbirth. How come nobody’s countering that with the many, many women in Victoria’s family who came through it just fine? Like Charlotte’s grandmother, who produced fifteen children without a problem? Or Victoria’s own mother, who obviously survived?