Uncomfortable Truths Come to Light as 'Belgravia: The Next Chapter' Sets Up Its Endgame

Hannah Onslow in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

Hannah Onslow in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

(Photo: Rob Baker Ashton/Carnival Film & Television Limited/MGM+)

Secrets abound as Belgravia: The Next Chapter continues, most of which seem as though they're inevitably on a collision course with one another. A briskly paced hour that feels much more propulsive than last week's meandering installment, we're treated to everything from forbidden love confessions to life-threatening violence, with a dash of multiple social scandals on top for good measure. (And plenty of hints that several more big reveals are waiting in the wings.)

Look, I was at least halfway kidding about the idea that the Marquise D'Étagnac had to be some Victorian-era Joanne the Scammer, but it looks like I was right, as this episode finally sees someone catch on to the fact that her story doesn't exactly hold together if you look at it for longer than five minutes. Congrats to Frederick's mean (and potentially adulterous?) assistant, whose name I have yet to bother to learn, for realizing that the marquise's stubborn insistence on getting nothing but cash to fund her investment in a dubious mine on the literal other side of the world is extremely suspicious and weird. Frederick, being Frederick, is more interested in not looking poor and/or cheap than he is in potentially getting swindled, so this is undoubtedly going to work out great for everyone.

The show could not be telegraphing any harder, and he should not be investing in this shady emerald mine scheme. Still, Frederick seems determined to plow ahead no matter how many red flags appear. It's not like he needs the money, either he's just afraid of looking like he's somehow less than men like the Duke of Rochester, who's happily investing in this deal like he's throwing down the big blind in a meaningless game of poker. It's hard not to feel like he deserves whatever hard lesson he's clearly about to learn if only Clara's life wouldn't get wrecked in the process.

Harriet Slater and Hannah Onslow in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

Harriet Slater and Hannah Onslow in "Belgravia: The Next Chaper"

(Photo: Rory Mulvey/Carnival Film & Television Limited/MGM+)

As for Clara, she's got plenty of her own problems at the moment. Emily, naturally, immediately ran to tell her about seeing the portrait of Aphrodite with Clara's face as soon as possible. She's upset and furious about her sister's behavior. Not, of course, because Clara might be publicly shamed or ] her marriage might be irreparably damaged should Frederick find out, though. No, Emily's worried that Clara's scandalous secret and/or imminent shame might reflect poorly on her, somehow damaging her chances at...whatever shot she thinks she still has with the good reverend, I guess. Keep dreaming, Em. 

In an attempt to track down the painting, which somehow sold in the time it took Emily to tell her sister about its existence, Clara turns to the Marquise in the hopes that she'll be able to help her figure out who bought it and how likely it is that anyone they know might have seen it. In the name of "helping," D'Étagnac buys the painting herself, insisting that she'd do anything for "beautiful Clara" because she's an obsessive weirdo. Much like it's clear that Frederick is about to get swindled out of a large chunk of money by this woman, it seems equally predictable that the Marquise is going to have that painting displayed somewhere prominently the next time he stops by to whine at her about business opportunities. Why she seems so determined to ruin the Trechards' marriage and bankrupt them is unclear, but as the character's main personality traits are basically being bitchy and French, anything could happen.

The painting is far from the only Clara-related scandal the Marquise has wind of, or that could cause serious marital discord in the Trenchard house. Still angry about Frederick treated her after the Marquise's ball, when she dared to enjoy getting attention for being pretty and dancing with someone else, Clara determinedly spends most of the hour avoiding her husband. She refuses to go along with him to a make-up lunch at the Rochesters or pretend things are fine between them when they aren't. It's honestly refreshing to see her so fully own her anger. Still, in her determination to prove that she's an independent woman with a life outside her husband, she's just spending more and more time with the rip-off Moulin Rogue clique, which should be much more fun to watch than they are. How are people constantly going on about the power of art and freedom and beauty this dull?

Harriet Slater in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

Harriet Slater in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

(Photo: Robert Viglasky/Carnival Film & Television Limited/MGM+)

The only surprising thing about the fact that Doctor Ellerby finally confesses his romantic interest in Clara is that it has taken six episodes for this moment to come about. (The show hasn't been subtle about the crush he's been nursing since the end of the first episode.) It's charming in a bad romance novel way, as Ellerby insists he must speak from the heart and let her know that he's falling in love with her. From his behavior and earlier conversation with Annie, it's clear that he has no real idea what acting on or acknowledging these feelings would mean for Clara or how damaging even a hint of this could be for her reputation and standing in society. (Because, let's face it, approximately zero people care what a man like Ellerby does.)

It is Clara who would be taking all the risk between them, and what is genuinely unspoken is the fact that, unless she suddenly left her (rich, titled) husband to live in genteelly artistic poverty in a flat that seems to house a half dozen random people at any given moment (translation: unlikely), there's no way that any relationship between them wouldn't come with an expiration date. And what is she supposed to do after that, when she's publicly labeled damaged goods while Ellerby can carry right on?

Clara is saved from having to react to Stephen's declaration by the Rochesters' epileptic son Peter having a very public seizure. This event is so barbarous that strangers must come and yell at the child and his entourage for having the audacity to be ill and exist in public. Unfortunately for Clara and Ellerby's clandestine flirtation, people (namely, the Duchess) are starting to notice how much time they're spending together, a fact to which I feel confident Frederick will react in a completely normal and even-handed manner. 

Benjamin Wainwright in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

Benjamin Wainwright in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter"

(Photo: Rob Baker Ashton/Carnival Film & Television Limited/MGM+)

Speaking of Frederick having a normal one, it turns out that what it takes to get the elder Trenchard son to visit his estranged younger brother is if that brother is beaten within an inch of his life in a combo black-mail/hate crime incident. Yes, the good Reverend James tries to tell his blackmailer he won't be giving him any more money. Still, all he gets for his troubles is more threats and so many injuries that it's only by the timely intervention of the Trenchard valet Fletcher that he doesn't expire on the street. (Fletcher, having experienced a similar beating as a youth, is unable to turn a blind eye to a gay man getting assaulted as a result of his sexuality.)

It is, unsurprisingly, Emily who forces her way into the rectory after several days of James being missing and who bullies him into finally seeing a doctor for his many wounds. The prognosis isn't great, though, and when James begs her to reach out to Frederick for him, she can't exactly refuse. This episode is, hands down, the most I have ever liked Emily Dunn, as she finally deploys her powers of nosiness and nagging for a good cause, determinedly staring down her brother-in-law when he tries to stonewall her and doing everything short of physically dragging him to James's bedside herself. 

Unfortunately, the Trenchard brothers' reunion didn't go as well as we hoped. James, who wants nothing so much as to free his brother from some of the emotional burdens he carries where their father is concerned, decides that the best and most helpful way to do that would be to reveal that their dying mother told him Frederick is illegitimate and not Oliver Trenchard's son at all. On paper, James means this as a kind gesture. After all, Frederick doesn't need to be so obsessed with the fact that his father was hateful and abusive if he wasn't even his real dad, right? Just insane levels of Guy Tapping His Head meme energy at work all around here. How is James so sweet and yet so dumb?

Because, of course, Frederick takes this in the worst way possible, assuming that James is telling him to be cruel, yet another step in his allegedly lifelong quest to destroy his life. He storms off, but not before accusing James of trying to ruin and humiliate him or maybe even steal the title Lord Trenchard for himself, you know, as the real heir. James insists this isn't what's happening and looks pathetically ill. Still, Frederick is nothing if not a champion of hearing what he wants at any moment, and the brothers look farther apart than ever.

Can't wait till Clara finds out about that.

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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