Where were we?

Becky had flown higher than even she could have imagined, only to tumble, Icarus-like, back to earth. Amelia finally succumbed to maternal pressure and relinquished her son to his grandfather to raise, and Dobbin was the subject of Mrs O’Dowd’s matchmaking.

Let’s wrap this thing up!

It’s the morning after the night before. Rawdon makes his way to his brother’s house to tell him everything and to ask him to take on both little Rawdon and Briggs. It’s really sweet of him to include Briggs here, ensuring she has a job that’ll keep her close to the little boy she loves. He also has Bute accompany him to Steyne’s house, where he intends to challenge his lordship to a duel. But Steyne has no time for that nonsense.

Steyne instead has Rawdon appointed governor of a particularly godforsaken island off the coast of Africa. After hearing that the place is a deathtrap, Bute begs Rawdon not to go. But go he does, because what else is there for him, in England?

Becky, meanwhile, is facing all those pipers who need to be paid. Some literally. Her landlord and his wife are facing actual bankruptcy, thanks to Becky’s and Rawdon’s refusal to pay their rent ever, it seems. The two of them show up to basically tell Becky to get the hell out.

Becky takes up her battered carpetbag (I find it hard to believe that, with all the travel she’s done over the years, she hasn’t upgraded her luggage) and goes to Bute’s house. There, she turns on the tears and begs him to believe that she’s innocent. She asks him to help her reconcile with her husband, and it looks like Bute might be melting a little…

…when in comes his bitch wife, who throws Becky right out onto the street. I’m actually on her side with this one. Becky drops the fragile little woman act and shrugs before turning her back on the Crawley family.

Fast forward four years. Down in India, Mrs O’Dowd’s sister is still trying to ensnare Dobbin. I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t have given up this particular chase by now. It’s not like they’re lacking in men, after all–they’re living with an entire regiment. Also, Dobbin, you of all people should know it’s rather cruel to string someone along like this.

Jos swings by to inform Dobbin and the O’Dowds that his sister is getting married to the local curate. Dobbin blanches and Mrs O’Dowd sighs and tells him he should go home and interfere in the engagement. So, off Dobbin goes.

In England, Mrs Sedley has breathed her last, bitter to the end, apparently. Dobbin and Jos arrive, after a five-month journey, which makes me wonder how Dobbin thought he’d get home in time to stop Amelia from getting married. It’s really unlikely she’d have a long engagement, since it’s not as if she’d have a big fancy wedding that would need planning. He had to know that five months (plus however long it took for that letter to reach Jos, so we’re looking at close to a year, at least) would be too late, right?

Well, at any rate, Amelia’s not engaged. Which makes me wonder: who sent that letter? The curate is, instead, dating the local schoolteacher. Amelia is pleased. Dobbin is pleased. Amelia asks after his wife, because wasn’t he supposed to marry Miss O’Dowd? (No, Amelia, he was supposed to be marrying Mrs O’Dowd’s sister, who almost certainly would have had a different last name. Unless O’Dowd is a far more common last name in Ireland than I thought.) Dobbin tells her that was never really a thing.

They head inside, where Dobbin notes that Amelia still has the piano he secretly bought her. He also lets slip that he bought it. She completely flips out, because she’s spent all these years thinking George sent it to her, and now she’s having to reassess all that. Even moreso when Dobbin, realising his blunder, just takes the ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ route and makes an anguished declaration of love to her outside in the rain, because where else do you have those sorts of scenes? Amelia yells at him for not magically intuiting that she needed him when she was giving up her son, and coming home to make it all better. She tells him this whole thing is hopeless.

Dobbin, never one to stop interfering even when it seems like it’ll only cause him more pain, goes to Mr Osbourne and asks him to consider taking Amelia under his wing, so she can be more of a part of her son’s life. Osbourne then goes ahead and dies of a heart attack.

Little George is now a little heir. Amelia is summoned to the Osbourne house, which is now his and where she will now live (presumably with her father as well). Miss Osbourne is taking her impressive inheritance and moving in with a friend in Bath. She kindly advises Amelia to repaint, get rid of the old curtains, and go on holiday. Georgie asks if ‘Uncle Dob’ can come too.

Of course he can! Apparently he and Amelia quietly agree to just forget about that whole unpleasant scene. They, along with Jos, Mr Sedley, and Georgie head off to Pumpernickel, Germany (no, it’s not a real place, I checked). One afternoon, Georgie wanders off and finds himself in a really sleezy gambling den. And whom should he see there, but Becky! He doesn’t know her, of course, but she knows him. When Dobbin and Jos arrive to collect the boy, she hides from Dobbin but reveals herself to Jos.

The two take a walk, reminiscing about old times and that night at Vauxhall, which Becky swears was one of the greatest nights of her life. Jos then escorts her home, which is a room in a pretty lousy building. You can tell it’s a shithole because you can hear a baby crying, and that’s basically the Wilhelm Scream of crappy housing.

Jos returns the following morning and notices that Becky has a painting of him on an elephant in her room. She tearfully tells him it’s one of her most prized possessions and starts playing him like a fiddle.

Jos falls for it, of course, because he’s Jos. He goes back to the hotel where he’s staying with his family and tells them that Becky’s in town.

Amelia wants nothing to do with her, and Dobbin 100% supports that, because he hates Becky and knows all about her reputation. But then Jos starts to tell them how Becky’s son was torn screaming from her arms and Amelia completely melts. When Dobbin remains unmoved, she yells at him for being a jerk.

So, she and Becky become best friends again. Dobbin keeps digging into Becky’s life, but Amelia refuses to hear an unkind word spoken against her friend, and finally Dobbin has had it. He actually gets a bit mean as he tells her he’s through with this hopeless friendzone life and departs for England.

Becky, meanwhile, gets some news: Rawdon has died, and so has Bute, leaving little Rawdon the sole heir to the title, Queen’s Crawley, and the entire Crawley fortune. He sends her a downright chilly letter, informing her that she will have an allowance, but she is not to contact or attempt to see him. That’s fair. And I think she’s fine with that.

And finally, Becky decides to do one decent thing and tell Amelia that George was an asshole who wasn’t worth her devotion. Amelia knows it, even without having to see the note from George that Becky has, for whatever reason, kept all these years. And it turns out she doesn’t have to be persuaded to make things up with Dobbin: she’s already summoned him from England, and he’s coming running, of course.

So, Amelia and Dobbin marry, and have a daughter. Amelia finds herself permanently displaced as the love of Dobbin’s life.

And Becky? Well, she ends up with Jos, on that merry-go-round from the opening credits. Jos worries about what’ll happen if he falls and Becky shrugs and reminds him that they have life insurance.

Yeah, in the book the end was much grimmer. Jos and Becky did get together, but the relationship was clearly very emotionally abusive (she was the abuser, of course), and when Dobbin tried to pull Jos out of it Jos couldn’t bring himself to leave. He then dies, suspiciously, and it’s strongly implied that Becky killed him to get the insurance money.

And thus ends the latest iteration of Vanity Fair. Not a bad adaptation, overall. Certainly better than the film, but I still found it lacking. I think there’s some sort of fear around adapting Vanity Fair: everyone worries about making a film or a series in which no one is really all that sympathetic. Even Dobbin and Amelia get tiresome and ridiculous after a while.

Vanity Fair is, after all, subtitled ‘A Novel Without a Hero’ and yet they’re always trying to find a hero. But Becky Sharp is not a hero! She’s not some poor, misunderstood protofeminist or a tragic heroine. She’s a selfish, scheming, possibly murderous, conniving social climber who makes the lives of everyone around her utterly miserable. We’re really not supposed to like her.

You’d think that people doing these adaptations would notice how long the book’s been popular and figure it’ll be ok, the audience can handle an antiheroine, but it seems not. And so they soften things up. They make Bute much nicer (but his wife a shrew, for some reason). They soften up Becky, or make her seem like she’s just a woman out of her time. Some adaptations are worse for this than others. Like I said, this one was all right. But there was still something not quite right about it.

From a technical standpoint, I found the modern-day music that was just tacked on to every episode strange and jarring, and the pacing needed work. This didn’t need to be seven episodes long. Yeah, it’s a long book, but there’s a lot of stuff that can be trimmed.

But that’s not to say there aren’t things to praise. The cast was excellent (though the actor who played Dobbin was too conventionally attractive for the role, IMHO). Olivia Cooke gets extra applause for her charismatic portrayal of Becky. And the costumes were beautiful, of course. The portrayal of the period–the evening at Vauxhall, especially, was lots of fun (though, that terrible backdrop in Brussels…)

Would I recommend it? Yeah, sure. I wouldn’t rave about it, but I’d tell people it’s worth a watch, if they’re period flick fans. There are certainly worse ways to spend a Sunday evening.

Olivia Cooke as Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair Episode 6 Previous post Vanity Fair Episode 6 Recap: What Goes Up Must Come Down
The cover of Eleanor Herman's book, The Royal Art of Poison Next post Review: The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman

One thought on “Vanity Fair Episode 7 Recap: Endings and Beginnings

  1. Thanks for your commentary. I have just watched the last episode in NZ. I enjoyed it very much but agree with your misgivings. Look forward to your commentary on Call the Midwife episodes next year. They are always to the point and humourous.

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