The Buccaneers’ first three episodes, titled “American Poison,” “Women or Wives” and “The Perfect Duchess” are a good introduction to a show that feels like Apple TV+’ answer to Netflix’s Bridgerton – though make no mistake, this isn’t a romance. Instead, the show, an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s book, is more a drama with romantic elements, made with a WB circa 1990 vibes, but with period clothes.
This is important to take into account, because what’s at the center of this show is the relationship between these five women: Conchita, Nan, Mabel, Lizzy and Ginny. Or, at least, that’s what the show is trying to sell, and that’s what will really be tested here. That’s what will take center stage. And that’s what, ultimately, will be the driving force for whatever decisions are made going forward – for better or worse.
There are, of course, romantic storylines for all of them, and even a love triangle or two that begins to take shape in the first three episodes – one with Nan and the center and two dear friends, Theo and Guy on each side. This, the main love triangle of the show, is ironically, the most intriguing, particularly because it’s hard to figure out who it is we’re meant to be rooting for.
you see, there are rules to this romance thing
If this were a straight up romance, the answer would be simple. In romance, it’s pretty much standard that the love interest is the one our heroine meets first – in this case, Guy Thwarte. There is a connection there, one they both feel from the beginning. But something pulls him back, and in swoops in his best friend, who just so happens to be a Duke! Complications, indeed.
Theo is, however, an even bigger complication than expected, mostly because he seems like a genuinely good dude who actually cares for Nan. Worse problems exist, of course, and we’ll get to them (*cough* Lord James Seadown *cough*), and Nan seems to actively like Theo. But does he know who Nan is? Does Nan? And once she figures out the answer to that question, will he like the answer? Will we?
And has The Buccaneers actually given us the elusive love triangle where there is no easy answer?
no real winners here
In Jinny’s eyes, she might have won in this momentary love triangle she was in with Lizzy, but the viewers know she actually lost. She got the guy, but she lost because of that. She’s trapped in a marriage where she will have to “satisfy” a dude who is basically a monster and pretend to be the “perfect” wife in the midst of a family who will never see her as enough. Not just that, to do so, she will have to constantly hurt Conchita, the friend who has always had her back.
And Jinny will do it, too, because she’s always thought that’s what she had to do to fit in. Not because her mother, or her sister, or her friends have ever made her feel that, but because society has, and Jinny has always been the one to pick up those clues and mold herself to society’s expectations. She isn’t Mabel, who can dance to her own beat, or Nan, who can think her own thoughts. She’s just the girl who will do what’s expected, because she wants to fit in.
Or at least, she will for now. We all have a breaking point. The question is — what is Jinny’s?
the story this show won’t really tell
Ironically, one of the most interesting stories set up in the first three episodes of The Buccaneers is the one the show isn’t really all that interested in fully telling, that of Mabel and Honoria. The problem there, of course, is that for that to be more than just a side story the show needs to be more than it probably can be. With more of an investment and multiple seasons, perhaps The Buccaneers could get there. But in one eight-episode season, Mabel and Honoria are just promise and the problems facing them look very familiar indeed.
The Buccaneers has to do a lot in that short time – develop multiple friendships, create compelling romances, and establish strong women in a time period when society’s expectations of what they might be or do aren’t what we are used to.
Three episodes aren’t enough to make or break the series. The characters are compelling enough to continue watching, but even this early on, there’s a sense that the show has bit on a tad more than it could possibly chew and that it needs to find its focus if it’s going to be come close to fulfilling its promise.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of The Buccaneers? Share with us in the comments below?
The Buccaneers 1×01-1×03 are now available to stream on Apple TV+. New episodes will be available to stream Wednesdays.