Period drama Beecham House ends much the way it lived – as a ridiculous, nonsensical mess that should have been much better than it turned out to be. The finale has a little bit of everything: John triumphing repeatedly despite having no reason to do so, Margaret being awesome, Chanchal getting treated like an object by almost everyone around her, Samuel staying both shady and dumb, and Henrietta finally realizing that the people of India are human beings - but only because someone helps her through withdrawal. (Did I call that or what?)
Yet, despite the fact that no one really deserves it, almost everyone seems to end up with something like a happy ending. At least for a few minutes. John gets out of jail after Chandrika drags her dad the Maharaja back to Dehli to speak to the Emperor on his behalf, but not before he figures out that his former BFF Samuel betrayed him. Dirtbag Samuel escapes, though not before stabbing Hot Soldier Played by Gregory Fitoussi (but don’t worry, he’s fine) for outing his plot. Daniel decides to stay in Dehli, implying that he’s going to try and make things work with Chanchal. John’s trading licensed is returned and he proposes to Margaret, who says yes. Everything seems pretty hunky-dory – at least until Beecham House is attacked in the episode’s final moments – leaving Ram Lal bleeding to death and baby August missing. Whew.
Unfortunately, since this series won’t be returning for a second season, we’re unlikely to find out what happened to little August, learn who took him, or discover whether or not Samuel was somehow involved. (He was lurking in a deeply shady fashion in the episode’s final frames.) The story felt like it was leading to a natural – if generally unearned – endpoint, with Margaret and John’s engagement, Daniel’s decision to join the new Beecham family business, and the Maharaja’s naming and blessing of the new house. The cliffhanger kidnapping thing feels unnecessarily tacked on, almost as though it were daring the network to prevent the series from returning to answer the question of what happened to baby Beecham. Well, unfortunately, ITV called the show’s bluff and now we’ll never know.
The thing is, this show really wasn’t my cup of tea – the story was plodding, the dialogue was horrendous, the characters flat and largely uninteresting. But it would have been a perfectly serviceable one-and-done limited series, that could have told a contained story. It didn’t, however, and now fans have to live with another show whose true ending they’ll never know.
In all honestly, Beecham House would also likely have been a better series had it focused on Miss Osbourne, a smart, scrappy woman out here doing the most to rescue the man she loves. Between putting herself in the path of the Empress to plead John’s case, finding the evidence that implicates Samuel Parker, and making sure that Chandrika and her father know about John’s diamond deal with the crown prince, Margaret is out here constantly putting in work. John doesn’t deserve her, but at this point, I just want her to be happy.
Beecham House didn’t really give her character the story she deserved – showing us little of her life outside of the way it connected to John's, despite the fact that she herself had plenty of history worth mining. (What happened to her brother? How exactly was she making her way in India as a woman alone, when that would have been something frowned upon by almost everyone in Delhi?) I mourn what might have been, if only because we already have so many stories about characters like John Beecham – stoic, noble heroes brooding relentlessly and pretending it’s the same thing as an actual personality. I wish this show had taken the opportunity to show us something different – whether that’s the story of Margaret or Chanchal or Chandrika or even Baadal or Violet. On paper, so much of this show is about locations and perspectives and history we haven’t seen before. But in actuality, it’s all just spun through the narrative of a man whose story we can already guess.
At least John and Margaret’s reunion is surprisingly sweet, as his impromptu decision to take her on a trip to the Taj Mahal so he could propose. Despite throwing a half dozen different women in John’s path over the course of the series (why??), Beecham House has surprisingly stuck to the Margaret/John is our one true pairing romantic arc, a twist which I am endlessly grateful for, if only because I’m still deeply unclear on why all these women wanted John in the first place, other than the fact that Tom Bateman really is a looker and wears that entirely too warm for the climate coat really well.
I wish we’d had a bit more closure on the Daniel/Chanchal front – the finale implies that Daniel’s staying to man up, do the right thing and be a father to the child he’s fathered. The show seems to say that is also what Chanchal wants, even as it keeps shoving Baadal and his inability to take no for an answer at her at the same time. If this is supposed to be a love triangle, the show is doing it very wrong, because it seems to me that Chanchal’s choice is clear and that the “other man” is more of a creeper than the show wants (or wants us) to believe.
So It is with mixed emotions that I bid farewell to Beecham House, a show that let me down in so many ways, even as it proves there’s a place for more diverse stories in the period drama genre. Just…better stories than this one turned out to be.
What did you think of the Beecham House finale? Let’s discuss in the comments.