Oh, Belgravia. At times, this series was exactly what period drams ought to aspire to be - entertaining, with plenty of fancy dresses, soapy gossip and entertaining upper class problems. At other times it was...really not. Unfortunately, the show's final hour falls much more firmly in the latter category than the former. It veers far too frequently into essentially pointless melodrama, complete with continually scheming servants, actual murder attempts, blackmail and more. The show witholds the one thing we've all been waiting for - for literally anyone to tell poor dumb Charles Pope who he really is - until there are exactly 7 minutes remaining in the episode, and then throws a two-minute wedding scene at the end as though that makes up for everything this hour does wrong. It really didn't have to be like this.
In a different world, we could have not had this whole stupid subplot about the lies a handful of random men in Manchester told to try and make Charles look bad, which was pointless and obviously never going anywhere. We could have skipped the bit where John Bellasis tries to kill multiple people, because while he is obviously a terrible person and it's understandable that the thought of losing an earldom might very well make a man despair, it's never been even remotely hinted at that he would just casually embrace murder in this way.
Much as it pains me to try and defend John on any point, this episode really does just completely give up when it comes to his character. Prior to this moment, John was skeevy and gross, but not openly-kill-a-man-evil, and most of his other non-murder related behavior here also makes absolutely zero sense. Why would he tell his sidepiece Susan this damaging information that could ruin his life? Why would he show her proof of it? And then leave her alone with those documents? Why wouldn't he try to promise her marriage or money or literally anything in exchange for her fetching the real copies from her mother-in-law's house? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!
I can 100% believe he'd laugh in her face about the prospect of marrying her and tell her to get an abortion. The rest of it? Not so much.
Elsewhere, I learned Oliver's name this week! Belgravia finally allows the loser Trenchard son to become a real character, giving us a real look at his internal struggle between the kind of man he wanted to be (landed gentry squire) and the one his father wanted him to become instead (smart and avid businessman). The scene in which Oliver and his father confront the fact that James is pretty terrible at hiding his disappointment with us, is honestly great. (That line about wishing he was Sophia? Whew.) It also shows us - for what I think is the first time - the complex nature of the junior Trenchard marriage, by actually allowing Oliver and Susan to talk to one another instead of just leaving a room whenever the either one enters.
Granted, that all came about because Susan had an affair and got pregnant, but one does have to wonder if this child won't be the unexpected gift that allows them to find something like happiness with one another. Susan, I think we all know, will definitely take to snooty rich lady county life with gusto, and Oliver apparently doesn't have any legitimate skills, so I guess he'll just point vaguely at various farm implements and go riding. Everyone wins!
The only part of this episode that does anything interesting is in fact the storyline involving Susan, who finally becomes a fascinating character in her own right this week. She brings down John as punishment for rejecting her offer of divorce and remarriage (we'll just...ignore the fact that it would have never been that easy, but ok!). She tells her mother-in-law the truth about her pregnancy, and where she got the documents that validate Sophia's marriage. And she forges an new understanding with the husband who barely talked to her prior to this moment, making them partners in a way it appears that they've never been. I'm so here for it, and I'm only sad it didn't happen sooner.
Sadly, both Anne and Lady Carolyn have relatively small roles to play in Belgravia's final installment. Both appear, and both are pleased about the fact that they can acknowledge and claim their grandson at last. (The Trenchards are also relieved that Edmund apparently wasn't the dirtbag they'd believed him to be all these years, even if that fact appears to have come about almost entirely by accident.) And, to be fair, there are a handful of moments that highlight how the prickly relationship between Mrs. Trenchard and Lady Brockenhurst has evolved into a real and genuine friendship. But they have so little to do that it's laughable. The same can largely also be said of Maria, whose job appears to look plucky and determined as she ignores the fact that marrying Charles Pope before he was heir to an earldom really would have likely ruined her life to a massive degree. But, whatever. At least the wedding looked pretty.
In the end, Belgravia really didn't live up to the expectations I had for it, or ultimately become the show I thought it could be. It's not clear whether the show is intended to have a second season, althought the vaguely ominous shot of John menacingly stalking around an alley in Paris post-attempted murder time indicates that it's possible. But since the only character whose story I'm interested to see more of is Susan it...feels like a bad idea.
What do you think? Did you enjoy Belgravia? Did the ending work for you? Let's discuss in the comments.