I know I’ve started quite a few reviews with phrases like “the problem with Britannia,” but I promise you I’ve found another problem with Britannia in season 2, episode 2 that I hadn’t really gone into before, at least not in any deep way, and it’s this: the show is in love with shock value, and if you take away that, it almost seems like there’s no story there to tell.
Long torture scenes. Death after death after death. Severed heads and family members. It seemed, from the beginning, that this show was trying to go against expectations, but as we’ve learned before, that’s super complicated to do while still giving people a good story, and these writers are just not even close to hitting the mark. In fact, they’re about as close to the mark as Game of Thrones – who they’re clearly modeling this show after – was to a satisfying ending, which is to say not at all.
Which doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Sometimes I think they could get there. Maybe Phelan could be an interesting character, maybe Amena could rise to the challenge and become a character we can support. Maybe Aulus can become the villain this show deserves. Maybe, maybe. There have been glimpses. At times, I’ve almost been convinced they get it, and they’re going to try to go for it. But while the show remains committed to shocking visuals (the Druids are very helpful in that regard) and twist after twist, we just won’ get there.
TV is, often, in shows without much nuance, about making a choice about what’s important. Very few shows can manage to balance characterization, plot and tone. Britannia is clearly not one that could, so it’s about time they make a choice. Either this is about characters we want to follow, or it’s about a super interesting plot we care about. And, to me, the answer has always been clear.
Conquest shows don’t really lend itself to, you know, super interesting plots. There’s nothing to follow here that could shock me. The plot is the plot, and Druids aside, I don’t think there’s much they could do to actually make that much more engaging. So it’s time to start paying attention to the people. More importantly, make me pay attention to them. And I know, I have said that before, but in the absence of something interesting to discuss, I’m left here, sounding like a broken record.
I don’t even need, for example, Divis to behave like a human being, but I need some small thread of connection to feel some emotion for these characters. Any emotion would do, I promise. You can invest in a show because you have a character, you can invest in one because you love a character, or you can invest because you love a relationship, romantic or not.
But you gotta give me something, Britannia. Anything. Preferably like, soon, okay?
Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!
Britannia airs Sundays at 9/8c on Epix.