As Belgravia continues, everyone's secrets boil ever closer to the surface in an hour that serves largely as a holding pattern for the revelations to come. The two steps forward five steps back nature of this story is extremely frustrating this week, as at least three different sets of characters inch ever closer to discovering the series' primary secret: That Charles Pope is Lady Brockenhurt's grandson.
Of course, Charles himself is not in any of those sets of characters, but there's so much soapy goodness to enjoy otherwise that it's hard to stay but so angry at the fact that the preservation of this secret requires everyone to just suddenly be real dumb. Personally, I'm vastly entertained by watching nearly everyone on this show behave badly, though I completely understand why some viewers aren't necessarily feeling Belgravia. Why? Almost no one is likeable. Nearly every major character is terrible - selfish, manipulative, out to ruin one another simply because they can. There are, at the moment, precisely two characters worth rooting for and while they're both incredibly adorable they're also dumb as rocks. Any one of at least a half dozen characters could drop dead immediately and most of us wouldn't mourn.
At the moment, the only character I'm actively here for is Lady Maria Grey, who is smart, charming, bold and certainly knows her own mind. Do I think the idea that she'd be able to break an engagement with a future Earl simply because she met a merchant in the square that she liked better is in any way realistic? Of course not. But I love the idea of Maria realizing she simply can't waste her life on a man like John, who will spend the rest of their days making her miserable, because he is a miserable person already. Also she and Charles are too cute, even if by this point anyone with more than three functional brain cells might at least be the slightest bit curious about why all these rich people are constantly showing up at his office to stare at him as though he were a zoo animal.
To put it simply: These people are not subtle.
On the plus side, Charles is kind and nice, and his eventual elevation to his proper station will ruin John Ballasis and that's honestly enough for me.
John, for what it's worth, is rapidly working to bring about his own ruin - bribing servants for more intel about the Trenchard family's connection to one Mr. Pope; encouraging his new sidepiece Susan Trenchard to pump her mother-in-law for information and report back; and selling stolen family silver to pay for all these things. John sucks!
By all rights Susan should be a fairly sympathetic figure, despite her many flaws. She's married into a family that clearly doesn't like her very much, her own husband barely tolerates her, and she has no friends, children or society position to occupy her time. Her life is the kind of poor tragedy that only affects people of means - it's not like she's starving or being physically abused, but her life is largely meaningless and she has little to look forward to. Of course she's having an affair.
Of course, her unhappiness has also turned her shallow and mean, so naturally she ends up having that affair with a man like John, who is openly using her for both his physical pleasure and personal gain. Perhaps if Susan were a more interesting character, we might get to witness her realization that John is terrible and never going to give her anything she wants. Instead, we get a shock pregnancy reveal this weak, which might be more interesting if it were likely to be anything but played off as Oliver's miracle offspring. That said, I'm actually looking forward to her inevitable confession to John, simply because we all know he's going to be a complete dirtbag about it, and hopefully this moment will serve as a sort of turning point for her character. (For some reason, I desperately want to like her. She's intelligent and ambitious and that's far too often lacking in shows like this - give me a reason to root for her, show!)
Much of this episode is centered around John's efforts to blackmail various Trenchard family servants, which is intriging for several reasons. One, this is very deeply not Downton Abbey, in which every member of the Crawley staff was not just happy to be a member of the working class, but proud to do good for such an important family.
Speer, Turton and Ellis all openly hate the Trenchards and revel in snagging as much additional cash and opportunity as they can get their grubby paws on. This is probably a more realistic view of life for these sorts of people than the happy downstairs families espoused by Carson and Mrs. Hughes, but it does mean that we absolutely do not care about any of these people.
Second, it actually pushes the narrative forward (finally), cluing various people in to the fact that something shady's been going on under all their noses. Ellis' tremendously bad attempt to pump the servants at the Brockenhurst house for information means that Anne Trenchard is now aware that her maid has been somewhere she shouldn't, and lying about her reasons for it. (But not before Ellis spots a conveniently placed photo of Caroline's son Edmund - a man that, quite frankly, she really should remember, given that she was Sophia's maid all those years ago.) Susan's constant questioning of her mother in law prompted Ann to admit that Charles is, in fact, not a stranger to her family. (How did this woman keep a secret for 25 years?) And even Lady Maria Grey is getting pretty curious about why Lady Brockenhurst is so willing to visit a cotton merchant in Bishopsgate so often. There are only two episodes left, so surely the moment of truth must be nigh?
What did you think of this episode of Belgravia? Let's discuss.