'Beecham House': Episode 3 Recap

(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)

MASTERPIECE “Beecham House" Sunday, March 1 on PBS Passport Episode Three A murder throws John’s plans of staying in Delhi into jeopardy. A person close within the household reveals his true colours with dangerous consequences. Margaret, a potential love interest, proves she is trustworthy when at great personal risk she helps John, demonstrating her love for him. Shown from left to right: Tom Bateman as John Beecham and Dakota Blue Richards as Margaret Osborne For editorial use only. Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

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Here’s a fact that may surprise you: With this episode, we’re now officially halfway through Beecham House Doesn’t it...feel like we should be further along in this story? Or, at least, really even know what the story the show’s trying to tell is?

Sigh.  Look, I know I’m being hard on this series. But it should be so much better than this, and I’m so very annoyed that it isn’t. And all the things that are wrong with it are such eminently fixable problems. Let us get to know these characters in a real way. Give them three-dimensional personalities and show us the reasons why they behave the way they do. Stop making every other person into a caricature – the conniving Frenchman, the broody hero, the racist white lady, the mysterious and beautiful foreigner – and thinking that’s the same thing as giving them an actual story.

Anyway, despite the fact that we’ve all collectively sat through three entire episodes, I can’t tell you much of anything at all about these people or what they want or why they want it. A dude gets murdered this week and I had to Google who the character even was. (Did you know his name was Gopal? Surprise!) At least I got to see Gregory Fitoussi shirtless, even if I think his character is now probably a murderer? I mean, I guess we take our joy where we can find it in these trying times.

John’s dedication to keeping the secret of his son’s parentage and his own past would be irritating even if it were remotely interesting, which it is not. Margaret manages to randomly become a tutor to an Indian prince because the show has to make up a reason for her to stay in India somehow. And though forbidden love rears its head this week between Daniel Beecham and Chanchal, the show doesn’t bother to tell us why these two like each other at all besides the fact that they’re both attractive. (Chanchal gets several clunky lines about not wanting to live a life of regrets, but how that translates into banging Daniel is anyone’s guess.)

(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)
(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)

Instead of doing anything that might explore who any of these people are, we spend most of the episode watching John attempt to find a gift for the Empress, so she’ll approve the trading agreement he needs to stay in India. This involves an elaborate golden automated bird statue, betrayal at the hands of John’s clearly shady BFF and a truly ridiculous heist engineered by Margaret Osborne. Sure, okay!

Why does John’s supposed friend try to ruin his dream? Who can say! We know from the series’ premiere that Samuel Parker has some repressed rage where John’s concerned, and it has something to do with why they both left the evil East India Trading Company. But, the show seems to feel like it doesn’t need to tell us a lot more than that, so it doesn’t bother to do so. Thankfully, Margaret’s there to save the day and keep her maybe-boyfriend in the country with her.

To be fair, the only time I’m even remotely interested in John is when he’s with Margaret. Sure, Beecham House seems deeply uninterested in telling me anything about her past, but I love that she’s allowed to be demonstrably smart and capable, and get recognized for it, particularly when everyone around her seems to think she’s this retiring, shy English flower. As a character, she deserves so much more than this show, but as she’s the only character who pushes back against John’s whole broody mysterious thing that he thinks passes for a personality, I’m grateful for her presence.

Elsewhere, Henrietta’s wild racism continues apace. She’s affronted by the supposedly barbaric state of the kitchens at Beecham House, refers to Indian ingredients as primitive, openly disparages the chef’s attempts to make British stew, and has a minor meltdown when she learns she’s been drinking buffalo milk since her arrival. (And that the animal in question apparently lives right off the kitchen area.) Later on, John’s mother schemes about how she can make her grandson look less “native” and sneers at Chandrika’s religious traditions.

(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)
(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)

Alright, folks, I have to know – are there people out there who think this is entertaining? Funny? Fun to watch? And if so, why? Because, as we noted earlier, we are three episodes into this show, and Henrietta has made no effort to be kinder or less obnoxiously racist in any way. She has no arc to speak of and the most interesting aspect of her character is that she’s a drug addict. The show’s done such a great job of painting her as a monster, that whenever it’s revealed that she’s suffering from cancer or early-onset dementia or whatever ailment that her wandering around moaning in the middle of the night is mean to hint at, will anyone care? Why should we?

But it’s Violet who takes the prize for the most unintentionally hilarious moment this week. After insisting that she’ll only help Henrietta get more opium if the older woman pushes John to become romantically interested in her, she heads off to the local market. And it’s really a toss-up as to what’s the most offensive and terrible. Is it the fact that Violet somehow manages to acquire and put on a traditional Indian outfit in the world’s most awkward attempt to “blend in”? Maybe the part where when she arrives at the “apothecary” it’s flanked on all sides by half a dozen men who are clearly high, super dirty, and possibly homeless? Oh, no, it’s got to be the bit where she’s trailed by a scraggly addict into a random…warehouse?...and immediately attacked for her illicit drugs.

Is this show secretly a production of the D.A.R.E. program?

Despite the fact that we’ve never seen Violet so much as lift a glass on her own, she’s suddenly a scrappy street fighter, taking down her assailant on her own and escaping with her bottle of Henrietta’s helper. But when she returns to Beecham House she plays up her attack for all its worth, swooning and clutching at John until he sweeps her up into his arms to carry her inside. This guy is the dumbest man alive, is perhaps the true lesson of this show. But, sorry, Violet, it’s Chandrika who’s sneaking into his bedroom at night….

Thoughts on this episode of Beecham House? What is this show doing? Please talk it out with me in the comments.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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