Previously on Titanic: We were introduced to a whole slew of paper-thin characters and the ship hit the iceberg. Three times.
We back up yet again so we can visit the Wideners’ dinner party, where Georgiana is having a debate with Harry about how very stupid it is to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done. Yeah, she’s that character—rebellious rich girl. Not that we didn’t already know that, making this scene a bit pointless. Still, rules suck! Down with rules! She also mentions that Harry’s mom has invited them up to Newport while they’re in America. She suspects some matchmaking is at work and Harry acknowledges it, because he’s got a crush on Georgiana, for whatever reason. Probably because he likes ‘em feisty.
In the first class dining room, the Rushtons are eating at their giant table all alone, having not been invited to the dinner party because everyone hates them. I guess that’s because Mrs. R won’t shut up about her damn dog. It can’t be because she’s also an insufferable snob, because really she’s no worse than Louisa. Anyway, she’s in a lousy mood over the whole thing.
Later, Lightoller’s just strolling through first class when he runs into Dorothy and walks around flirting a bit, apparently because we’re to ignore the fact that Lightoller was, in real life, married with five kids and would most certainly have not been able to just wander about hitting on passengers. Dorothy spots Mrs. R and asks Lightoller if the woman’s been giving him a hard time. He admits the passenger list doesn’t meet her high expectations and Dorothy adds that Mrs. R’s background doesn’t meet her expectations either. Because her family apparently worked for their money at some point. Whatever. Lightoller’s surprised, because he didn’t think Americans thought about such things. She says they know about them, they just don’t care about them. Bullshit. High society in America was famously snobbish, particularly towards the newly rich.
Elsewhere in the smoking room, Mrs. Margaret (no, not Molly) Brown cheerfully introduces herself to Mr. and Mrs. R and observes that they seemed lonely in the dining room and should have joined her table. Mrs. R, of course, wouldn’t hear of joining a woman like Mrs. Brown, who’s not only newly rich but also separated from her husband. Mrs. B, a little rudely, if you ask me, asks why they didn’t go to the dinner party with the rest of their table. Mr. R, who’s much nicer than his wife, admits they weren’t invited. “Their loss,” Mrs. Brown says kindly before moving on. She’s barely out of earshot before Mrs. R starts calling her a streetwalker and yelling at her husband for saying they weren’t invited. Good grief. Are all the wives on this ship snobs, cheats, or shrews? Does Julian Fellowes really hate women or something?
Down in third class, Mrs. M’s putting the kids to bed while her husband sulks nearby, for good reason. She tells him to stop sulking and he tells her he’s mad, not sulky. You can be both, Mr. M. Mrs. M—shut the hell up. She ignores me and tells him to get over it. Stop kissing other men and maybe this won’t be a problem, Mary. He can’t believe he talked and got drunk with the guy who went and kissed his wife against her will, but Mary tells him nobody kissed her against her will. She was all over those lips, lemme tell ya. That does not please her husband, but he holds his temper and agrees to drop it. He even brightens up a bit and hopefully tells her that in a few days they’ll be in New York and will have an exciting, new life. She tells him she doesn’t want a new life, she just wants their life. They embrace; she looks conflicted.
On the bridge, Murdoch’s on watch and not looking happy. He’s joined by another officer—Wilde, I guess, the chief officer—who inquires as to their speed. Murdoch says it’s 21 knots and adds that they shouldn’t be racing, considering how risky it is. Wilde scoffs that there’s no danger, because the sea’s dead calm, but that’s precisely the problem: there’ll be no waves breaking at the base of a rock or iceberg (though I doubt they’re really that worried about running into a rock hundreds of miles out at sea). Get it, folks? The ship is IN DANGER!!!! In case it hasn’t been sufficiently drilled into your head yet. Just in case you’re not quite sure of the message, Murdoch mentions there are no binoculars in the crow’s nest, and he thinks the whole plan is just stupid. Which is not something anyone in their right mind would say to a senior officer, or any officer, or any other crew member on a ship because that kind of talk will get you into a LOT of trouble. Wilde warns him to keep his trap shut.
Paolo takes Annie down below to meet his brother, who must work the strangest shift schedule ever because he’s still just wandering around instead of in the boiler room, shoveling away like he should be if he’s supposed to be on duty when the ship hits the berg. Paolo introduces Annie to his brother (Mario), who tells her she’s made quite an impression on his impressionable little brother. In Italian, he asks Paolo if he’s asked her yet, and Annie chimes in that she speaks a bit of Italian, and yes, he’s asked her, but she hasn’t answered yet. Paolo, Mr. Glass-Half-Full, observes that she hasn’t said no. Annie says she’s happy to have met Mario, but she has to go before she gets into trouble.
In first class, Mrs. R’s lying awake in bed, and I guess she figures if she has to be up, so does her poor husband. She turns on the light, waking him, and says she can’t stop thinking about her dog. Jesus, this dog! Shut up already! Her whole character is basically this: “Dog, dog, dog, snob, dog, snob snob, dog.” It does not make her interesting, it makes her boring. No wonder nobody wanted her at the dinner party. She’s like those people who can only talk about their babies. Anyway, her husband tells her the dog’s fine but she’s all upset because poor Sukie’s trapped in a cage, and really, if she’s going to be this sensitive about it, she shouldn’t have brought the dog in the first place. Leave it at home if you don’t want it kenneled.
The bridge gets the iceberg call and Murdoch orders Hard to Starboard. The ship slowly starts to turn, but it’s not enough and as he dashes out of the bridge, Murdoch hears the awful sound of the berg scraping along the hull. He returns to the bridge and sends someone off to find the captain and tell him what’s happened. And then he comments on how stupid the captain was for getting them into this mess. True, but you’re the one who didn’t turn the ship in time, Murdoch. And there are some who think that his decision to reverse the engines slowed the turn down too, so there’s that.
Batley returns to his cabin, wakes his wife, and tells her they need to get up, because they’ve struck an iceberg. She whines and moans and insults his height and I can’t wait for her to die because she’s so deeply, deeply unpleasant.
Mme Aubart’s maid runs into Guggenheim’s cabin, whimpering and freaking out (you know how overly emotional those French people are) and squeaking that the ship “eez sinking”. She’s trailed by Guggenheim’s valet, the Asshole American who’s served no purpose other than being an ass that one time in episode one. Guggenheim asks the valet if what the maid is squealing about is true and valet (Guglio) says it is, sounding totally bored by the whole thing. Mme Aubart springs out of the bed and her maid helps her into a dressing gown. Aubart starts randomly praying, because you know how those Catholics are. Guggenheim says she should go back to her cabin, because it wouldn’t do for her to be found there, and he doesn’t want to be the subject of gossip. Oh, come on. If you didn’t want to be the subject of gossip, maybe you shouldn’t have been importing your mistress to New York, Guggenheim. And parading her around the ship in such an ostentatious way. After she leaves, Guggenheim dickishly says they mustn’t ever been in a disaster with foreigners again. Excuse me? Is that a choice you can ever realistically make? Guglio stiffly says that he’s a foreigner, even though he has a pretty thoroughly American accent.
On deck, Manton’s valet realizes that Watson’s not with them. Louisa says she went back to her cabin for that book of hers, but it does seem to be taking her a long time to get back. Barnes pales and goes running off. Paolo, meanwhile, says he should have made Annie get onto the recently lowered lifeboat and she sharpishly observes that he thinks he can make her do things now. “I wish I could,” he says, a little sadly.
On B deck, some officer tells a steward to start locking up cabins so the third-class people fleeing the onslaught of water belowdecks don’t start looting. The steward starts going down the corridor, knocking on doors and then locking them.
Watson’s tearing around her boss’s cabin, opening drawers and freaking out, so she doesn’t hear the knock and gets locked in. By the time she notices, the steward’s gone. She starts to panic and hammer on the door.
On deck, Georgiana runs into Harry so we can hear those awful, awful lines all over again. They do not improve on second hearing. Oh, he also offers to be her guardian angel if he dies, and she tells him she loves him. Hilariously, even Harry doesn’t know why she does. I think this show has given up a little. And Perdita Weeks shouldn’t use this portion of the show as an example of her acting skills, because she’s pretty terrible here.
Barnes runs below and finds Watson locked in the cabin. They can’t unlock it, so he starts trying to kick the door down. The steward hears that and comes running over, yelling at him for damaging White Star property, which is one of those lines that makes it into every single Titanic movie ever made. The steward opens the damn door and Watson comes bursting out, gasping for air like the cabin was already full of water and babbling about the book, which Barnes has. He’s even mended it, just like he said he would. Awww, what a sweetie! He’s such a goner. He hustles her up on deck.
There, Mrs. R is refusing to get on a boat because she simply can’t leave her precious dog. Please, just let her drown. Seriously, she’s such a useless idiot I think it’ll be doing the world a favor. As her husband tries to reason with her, a bunch of dogs come running out on deck, trailed by Astor, who went below and let them out. He’s carrying Mrs. R’s dog Sukie and hands it over to her. And now she can leave. Before she boards the boat, however, she turns back around and takes Astor’s Airedale too, to save her.
Ok, I try to avoid really, really strong language on this site as a rule, but I can’t help it this time. SERIOUSLY, LADY? THE FUCKING DOG? Actual people died in this disaster. There are REAL PEOPLE standing around who can’t get on the boat, including your HUSBAND and your only thought is to take up space with two dogs? Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my dogs like crazy, but if it’s a choice between saving them and saving a couple of children or other human beings, well, I’m going to have to go with the people. And yes, I know at least two real-life Upper Class Twits brought their dogs into lifeboats. And we hate them for it because it’s utterly disgusting. I hate this woman so, so, so much. And I hate that the show makes it seem like she’s doing a great thing by taking Astor’s dog too, like that makes up for her selfish assholery.
An officer attempts to do his job for all of ten seconds and tells her she can’t bring the dogs into the boat. She just brushes past him and does what she wants. He doesn’t lift a finger to stop her. I hate him too. And Astor’s dog, sadly, did not survive the tragedy, so that’s yet another history fail for this program. If I’d turned that into a drinking game we’d all be dead by now.
One deck down, Manton helps Mrs. M into the lifeboat with her 800 kids, and then one of the officers, like a total moron, gets nervous that the boat will split, and that one Maloney child overhears him (see? This is why they didn’t talk about their impending doom in front of the passengers!), panics, and jumps out. Mr. M goes to find her, and Mrs. M asks Peter to help him. He totally wastes time running to the side of the boat and urging her to remember him. Runway child, people! Focus!
Maloney gets back to his cabin in record time, but his daughter’s not there. Peter shows, and the pair stare at each other for a minute, then Peter suggests they split up and Maloney take the dining room. Off he goes.
The lifeboat carrying Mrs. M and the rest of the Maloney spawn paddles away from Titanic, and we get a nice, lingering shot of S.S. Titanic painted on the bow of it.
My brain seriously just exploded. ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHH! NO! RMS Titanic, people. Royal Mail Steamer. It was never SS, not ever. That’s so basic—what the hell is wrong with the people who made this? I’m sorry, I know I’ve been dwelling on all the factual inaccuracies, but they’re so, so basic and so grating I can’t help it, because I think it’s just insulting to the actual victims and the people who experienced this. It’s lazy as hell to get basic facts wrong and just transmits an “oh, we don’t really care at all, we’re just pumping this piece of crap out to make money” mentality. This whole program has been so lazy on every single level and that pisses me off. This was an actual disaster. It was a horrible, horrible event and more than 1500 people really died in a terrible manner. It is not just a backdrop for lousy dialogue and endless schlocky romances. Can you imagine if someone treated 9/11 or the 7/7 bombings like this? We’d be outraged! And on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of innocent people who died back in 1912, I’m outraged. Just do the damn work! Do your research! Don’t just read the opening paragraph to the Wikipedia article! It’s not at all hard to find information on the Titanic nowadays, they just clearly couldn’t be bothered, and that’s disgusting. They’re just cashing in.
All right, I’ve drunk some tea, taken some blood pressure medication, and calmed down a bit now.
On the ship, chaos ensues, not at all helped by Murdoch bellowing that all the boats are gone, followed by him firing a pistol out of the side of the ship. I believe it was Lightoller who really did that, to keep people from rushing a late boat, but whatever. Then he says something completely incomprehensible, followed by some useless advice that everyone just sit tight and wait to be rescued. Uh, yeah. Batley’s not prepared to throw in the towel and drags his wife up to the boat deck, even as she moans that it’s no good. Fine, lady, just sit on your ass and drown, then. If you don’t even care about you being alive, why should I?
OK, I guess not all the boats are gone, because Georgiana and her family are still wandering around. This gives me pause: Manton made sure to bundle a family of complete strangers onto a lifeboat but not his own? Ok. Georgiana finds Harry and he goes on about how he hoped she’d be gone by now. She tells him they’ve been unlucky. Unlucky? You’ve had, what, three, four chances to get into a lifeboat now? You haven’t been unlucky, sweetheart, you’ve all been stupid. Harry tells them all about the collapsible loading forward. They head up to the boat deck, but before they follow, Barnes pulls Watson aside and gives her a letter, asking her not to read it until later. He clearly wants to say more, but can’t, so she says they’ll meet again. No, I don’t really think you will. You’re the Tragic Valet, dude. He asks her to think of him sometimes and she nods.
Jack Thayer runs into a friend of his (in real life the guy’s name was Milton, I think. Maybe Milton Long?) They discuss their lack of luck in finding a place on the lifeboats. Jack figures they’ll have to swim for it.
At the collapsible, Manton’s trying to get Louisa into the damn lifeboat already. She promises to take care of his “other daughter” as well as Georgiana. He tells her he loves her, which is apparently something he didn’t consider when he was cheating on her. Officer Lowe takes command of the boat and they start to lower. Ismay watches it start to go, and then jumps in as it descends. The slow turn and death stare Louisa gives him are awesome.
Belowdecks, Peter comes across Paolo trying to let his brother and the other Italians out of their prison. Peter manages to pick the lock with that piece of Chekov’s wire that Watson gave him earlier and the Italians are freed. Paolo thanks Peter and heads up top.
Murdoch reports to Smith that the boats are all gone and tells the captain that he doesn’t actually have to go down with the ship. Yes, but it looks pretty awful when the captain survives and passengers don’t, doesn’t it? Murdoch adds that Ismay got away and the Captain’s happy to hear it, because that means they’ll have a scapegoat. Wow, that’s kind of shitty. He does, at least, take the blame for getting them into this mess but Murdoch tells him he’s being hard on himself. After all, Murdoch was the one in the driver’s seat. Smith urges him to get going and asks him not to think too harshly of Smith, if he manages to survive.
Far below decks, Maloney finally finds his idiot kid, who’s holed up in a stairwell next to one of the locked gates. He has to wade through waist-deep water to get to her, and it’s building fast. He reassures her, even as he realizes there’s no way to open the gate. He still tries to wrench it apart, but because he’s not a superhero, it doesn’t work. So, he just sits down with his daughter and waits to die there. Instead of, perhaps, grabbing her and at least trying to go back the way he came. This family’s not exactly a brain trust, is it? Now Mrs. M’s going to be in a strange country, down one kid and one breadwinner. And she can’t even rely on Peter as her fallback.
OK, I’m being kind of a jerk here. This scene was actually kind of sweet and sad. Up until the water literally closed the door on the two of them.
Up top, Paolo and his brother jump overboard. Batley and Mrs. B try to help the crew and other passengers right the overturned lifeboat, but then the water comes surging up onto the boat deck. Batley tells his wife he loves her, and then they’re all caught in the wave, Batleys, Manton, Astor, and the Allisons. Poor little Lorraine squeals as the water hits her. Bess tries to keep the child’s head above water, but this is a losing battle. Even if you don’t drown, a healthy, fully grown person can only survive in water that cold for a little while. Unless they’re the Titanic’s chief baker, who somehow managed to survive in it for two hours. Even weirder: he was seriously drunk, which should have sped up the effects of hyperthermia, not slowed it down.
Astor struggles in the water and finds Mr. Widener, who’s not looking so great. He tries to help him, but then the first funnel collapses and falls into the water, crushing them both. Which is how they think the real Astor died, because when they found his body it was really crushed and could only be identified by the gold pencil and large amounts of cash in his pockets. Only the rich. Nowadays he’d probably have one of those solid-gold iPads on him or something.
Mario Sandrini finds his way onto the overturned lifeboat and calls for his brother. He pulls a couple of people out of the water, but none of them are Paolo. He stops searching long enough to watch in horror as the ship splits in half, then finally founders.
People in the lifeboats watch the ship’s final moments, weep, and embrace. People in the water scream and wail. As the ship disappears, Lady Duff Gordon, safe in her hideously underfilled lifeboat, mildly observes that there goes the lovely nightgown her secretary loved so much. Truth in Television: she actually said that in real life. Curiously, nobody punched her in the face. Probably because it was a little hard to hear her over the awful sound of 1500 people dying. Batley paddles through some bodies until he finds his wife, floating, face up, dead. I am so not sorry to see her dead, I’m really not. She was so terribly unpleasant. Still, he’s curiously devoted to her and reassures her corpse that rescue is on its way.
So, Perdita Weeks’s acting skill is deteriorating at a startling rate. In her lifeboat, she bizarrely hyperventilates that they have to go back. Her mother, in a more human voice, agrees, even though some hysterical woman in the back screams that they’ll be swamped. Louisa shuts her up and orders Lowe to take them back so they can pick people up, thus completely taking the idea for this out of Lowe’s hands, where it rightfully belongs. He was the one who took the initiative to join a bunch of boats together, transfer his passengers onto others, and go back to look for survivors. He didn’t do it because some rich lady ordered him to. Lowe was awesome. Let him be awesome, show.
Lowe gets to work getting his flotilla together so he can shift passengers.
The overturned lifeboat’s getting crowded. Lightoller swims over and someone tells him to get lost, but Mario helps him on.
In another boat, the Countess of Rothes is taking the role of Benevolent Rich Person Who Orders Crew Members to Row Back for Survivors. Except the guy in charge of her boat tells her to pipe down and stay out of it.
Batley is still trying to revive his hellish wife.
In the Duff Gordon boat, one of the sailors says they should at least try to go back. Lady Duff Gordon doesn’t think they should, and then Sir Cosmo offers all the crew members £5 each to not row back. Sigh. Ok, this is one of those “villainous moments” that came out of the disaster that wasn’t actually as bad as people make it out to be. Sir Cosmo did not bribe the crew to stay put and not go back for survivors. After his wife’s stupid nightgown comment, one of the crewmen observed that she lost a nightgown, whereas the rest of them lost their pay (in one of the ultimate historical F-you’s, White Star stopped paying all the crew members—survivors and victims both—the moment Titanic went down. How’s that for a crappy company to work for? Private charities had to step in to help these people and the widows and orphans left behind.) Sir Cosmo felt bad when he heard that, so he paid the men the wages they would have made for the rest of the trip out of his own pocket, which is actually fairly decent of him (and can you believe that a further three days of work was only worth a fiver?) Still, somewhere along the line, some asshole got the idea in their head that Sir Cosmo was paying these guys off to let people die, and I guess that’s the story Fellowes decided to go with, presumably to balance out all the fake Benevolent Aristocrat action in the other boats. Sigh.
Lightoller’s trying to keep everyone on the overturned boat balanced. Jack Thayer paddles over and is told there’s no room. He treads water, looking terrified.
Lowe’s still transferring passengers, and it’s slow going partially because of one jerk of a woman who won’t move. Georgiana shouts at her to get her ass in gear already and the woman sniffs that she’s not used to being spoken to in that manner. God, lady, shut up. Lowe goes to one last woman, who turns out to be no woman at all but a man with a shawl over his head. Wow, they totally ripped that off from A Night to Remember.
Jack’s still treading water by the lifeboat. Mario realizes that one of the men on top is dead, so he places him in the water and helps Jack up. Mario suggests they pray, so Lightoller leads them in the Lord’s Prayer.
Mrs. Brown tells the sailor at the tiller that they’re going back, and the ladies will row. He tries to stop them, but the force of Woman is too powerful for him to overcome.
Lowe finally makes it back, so we can now rip off Cameron’s Titanic, practically verbatim.
Mrs. Brown’s boat—which never actually made it back to the wreck site in real life—finds Batley, who’s somehow still alive, and pretty lucid, all things considered. He doesn’t want to leave his wife, but one of the ladies tells him she’s pretty sure Mrs. B would understand. They pull him in.
Lowe finds Manton and pulls him into the boat, even though one of the sailors thinks he’s already dead.
They row back to the rest of the flotilla and tell them they only found three people; one’s already dead and the other might not make it. Dead man? Paolo. Annie rushes over to him as the Manton women hurry over to Lord Manton. Lowe asks Annie if she knew him well and she sadly says she was going to marry him. Oh, please. You were not, because that’s just stupid. You barely knew him.
Georgiana, of course, is uselessly blubbering while Louisa flat-out refuses to see her husband die and asks if there’s any way they can warm him up. Dorothy suddenly pops up, brandishing her brandy, and they pour some down Lord M’s throat. Apparently that’s the elixir of life, because he comes to right away. Louisa apologizes for being a jerk to Dorothy and Dorothy accepts the apology. For those interested, Dorothy Gibson would go on to make a movie about her rescue from Titanic (wearing the very dress she was in the night of the disaster), which would turn out to be hugely successful. So, she was basically the first person to pimp out this disaster for her own gain.
On the overturned lifeboat, someone spots another boat nearby and calls it over.
In the flotilla, Mrs. R hands Kitty over to Mrs. Astor, and I still want nothing more than to punch this woman in the face repeatedly for being a selfish, stupid creature. While that’s going on in the background, Watson reads Barnes’s letter, which basically leaves everything he has to her, including a rental property, so everything should be just fine for her dad now and she doesn’t need to go stealing anymore. Someone spots a light on the horizon, and while everyone turns to look, Jack sees his mom in a nearby boat and reassures her he’s fine (except for that lingering PTSD…) The survivors sit there as Carpathia sets off a rocket and steams to their rescue.
The postscript remembers that 1500-some people died, and that the disaster changed maritime history forever.
My god. I know that I probably seemed sulky and bitchy during this whole recap, and that it might seem like I set out to hate it, but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t. I was looking forward to this (though warily). When I heard about the cast, I was excited. I thought for sure this would be good, and it wasn’t. Dear god, it wasn’t. It was clearly done on the cheap (hence the missing interior sets and limited costumes) and was so poorly written I’m starting to wonder if Maggie Smith ad libs most of her best lines in Downton Abbey. Did the man who authored those really write this high-handed, sanctimonious, poorly researched dreck? This was overstuffed with characters and events, too focused on minor details (like the fact that Harry Widener was a book collector) to get big things right, and added absolutely nothing new to the Titanic story. Let’s let this ship and the people who died in it rest in peace. If you’re just going to give us more paper-thin people with no personalities falling in love at the drop of a hat or getting involved in ludicrous plotlines, then save it. We’ve been there, in a much more impressively done way. I’m no fan of the Cameron film, but at least I cared a tiny bit about the characters (some of them, annoying as they were) and they put some effort into research. And the ship’s sets and costumes were bang on, so there was something pretty to look at. I’ll still go back to A Night to Remember if I want my Titanic fix. This, I hope, will swiftly fade in my own—and doubtless many others’—memories.