We’ve been remiss in keeping you all up to date on the goings-on in the latest simmering episodes of Belgravia and for that we both apologize and offer a bit of an excuse. As entertaining as this show can be – and it is, in a teacups-and-gossip kind of way – it’s very hard to shake the idea that we’re just watching everyone go through the narrative motions before we get to the inevitable and clearly forecasted ending.
This is, when taken a certain way, part of the appeal of a story like this. It’s all manners and social expectations coming up against true emotions and obvious villainy. Julian Fellowes, the show creator, author of the novel it’s based on, and also the man who gave us Downton Abbey, is simply not the kind of person who sets up these very clear tropes only to violently upend them. He’s not even the type to question them.
He just wants to give you the best, glossiest, most delicious version of this story he possibly can. The gowns are beautiful, the waistcoats spectacular, the estates and parks and sitting rooms are all exquisite. Even the downstairs scenes crackle with life and energy when they’re not lit like a Dutch Master’s painting.
The point of a book like Belgravia is to stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain with descriptions of pretty things and archaic manners while checking off a bunch of narrative tropes along the way to an inevitable and satisfying ending. The point to the series Belgravia is largely the same, except it has the benefit of being televisual, which means the look of the thing is more fun than the thing itself, if that makes any sense. Put it this way: there’s a reason this review has almost as many pictures as words.
As for those narrative tropes, the ones Fellowes loves so much? The story can be summed up as follows: Mr. Pope. Charles Pope. Mr. Charles Pope. That’s the recap. Everyone in the cast says some variation of his name at least two dozen times an episode. We’re starting to agree with that sour-faced man-baby Oliver Trenchard. People need to shut up about this guy for five minutes. Meanwhile, Susan Trenchard is pregnant with John Bellasis’s baby, although her duplicitous maid Speer is the only one who knows this. Her mother-in-law Anne might have some suspicions, but because she’s got SO much on her plate at the moment, she only manages to smile serenely and look off into the distance after reading something upsetting.
Lady Brockenhurst is happily and gleefully fucking over the stern Lady Templemore’s plans for her daughter, the free-spirited Lady Maria, who speaks like someone born a century later than her – although anachronistic attitudes are often Fellowes’ stock-in-trade when he feels the story is better served. We don’t mind the Lady Maria’s sass. This whole story hinges on some fairly modern attitudes about children born out of wedlock and how their families of origin dealt with them in English Victorian society, after all. You just have to go with this sort of thing and look at the gowns if it starts bothering you.
Here, have another one:
Anyway, after the Reverend Bellasis tried to blackmail Lady Brockenhurst about her relationship with the fascinating Mr. Pope (unsuccessfully, like everything the bad Reverend attempts), she’s clearly decided she’s had enough of her husband’s vulgar and ungrateful family members, which makes her adoption of Mr. Charles Pope make at least a little more sense. Think about that while you look at another gown:
While it’s true that society of the time would politely agree to accept certain undiscussed things, her confidence that this will all happen rather smoothly for her grandson is more than a bit questionable – especially since she’s all but begged Lady Maria to go all-in on her plans with her, potentially ruining her relationship with her mother and her standing in society.
But oh, we all know that’s not going to happen, don’t we? Even before the totally un-shocking reveal that Sophia Trenchard’s marriage was legitimate, we all knew Charles Pope was not going to end this story a disgraced bastard and a shunned outcast, nor is Lady Maria likely to wind up married to the sneering and unworthy John Bellasis. No, it’s clear where things will wind up. We’re just sitting here waiting for the roadblocks and complications to be knocked down one by one. And to look at the gowns, of course.
Here, have another before you go:
[Photo Credit: EPIX]
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