The Buccaneers 1×04, “Homecoming,” is an evergreen reminder that family is complicated — no matter when or where.
The episode, written by Catherine Shepherd and directed by Richard Senior, reunites Nan, Conchi, Mabel, and Jinny with Lizzy in their beloved New York, but the best friends quickly learn that they can’t outrun their shadows or the people who, for better and worse, helped shape them. 1870s pageantry continues to shine in “Homecoming,” juxtaposing quiet, timeless introspection that spurs the characters into the rest of the season.
This episode hinges on Nan returning to a place and people that no longer feel like home to her. Because of that universal feeling, “Homecoming” sharpens a more even approach to its ensemble’s arcs and strikes a finer balance in its various tones.
The Buccaneers even make more space than it ever has for Christina Hendricks as Patricia St. George, and this episode is all the better for it. “Homecoming” symbolizes that this period drama will only get stronger with every new episode.
Drunk (Written) Words Are Sober Thoughts
One perceivably minor yet decidedly major aspect of “Homecoming” that underscores gradual improvement is Amelia Bullmore as the Dowager Duchess of Tintagel.
The Buccaneers recognizes the excellence it has in Bullmore’s presence and performance and utilizes both to its advantage. After all, the show needs to keep Guy Thwarte in the ranks as a possible “endgame” love interest for Nan, but equally critical, it must expand his character. The Dowager Duchess incentivizes both with a unique perspective as his mother’s close friend, his close friend’s mother, and a woman with wisdom.
“Homecoming” veers close to relying too heavily on relaying its expository clues than showing them, but The Buccaneers sidesteps that storytelling pitfall through Guy’s physicality and actions. A line as simple and effective as “Your mother held her shoulders like that after she met your father” reveals plenty about Guy’s mother and how she lives on in him. That contextual evidence pairs nicely with Guy’s long, drunken letter detailing his feelings for Nan. It parallels the one his mother wrote years prior without a flashback.
A Duke, a Letter, and a Lie
Alternatively, “Homecoming” could have used a flashback or more scenes in the present to detail Guy and Theo’s long-standing friendship before Theo read Guy’s letter to Nan. It’s unlikely that The Buccaneers will ever center Theo and Guy’s friendship in the same way it does Conchi, Jinny, Lizzy, Mabel, and Nan’s. Nevertheless, so much of Theo’s actions during this episode are in reaction to Guy’s letter. Even though part of Theo’s frustration stems from the assumption that Nan’s feelings for him aren’t entirely genuine, the biggest sting comes from one point of this newly realized love triangle being his best friend.
The Buccaneers 1×03, “The Perfect Duchess,” gives Theo and Guy a significant scene that speaks to their dynamic but doesn’t expand further. That doesn’t make Theo’s whirlwind during “Homecoming” fall flat, but more followthrough could’ve made all the dizzier. Because, like its use of “Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault” on 1×01, “American Poison,” The Buccaneers‘s soundtrack elevates that sequence so well. Not to mention, Theo’s general separation from Nan for most of “Homecoming” only exacerbates the accelerations at which his mind can spin what little information he has.
The Buccaneers puts Theo — and his relationship with Nan — in such a fascinating place when it reaches Theo’s love confession. It causes interpersonal tension, wondering if Theo’s declaration is only a retaliation to Guy’s letter, a representation of his true feelings, or both. Staging that scene in a set crowded with people’s coats — their baggage — is clever. Theo keeps Guy’s letter to himself, and Nan keeps her parentage to herself.
Ultimately, “Homecoming” leaves Nan and Theo in such a rich story that it’s easy to be eager to see where the show takes them next.
A Fairytale Turned Nightmare
Whereas Nan and Theo’s arc causes nervous excitement, Jinny, Seadown, and Lizzy’s story creates knots in one’s stomach. Seadown’s manipulation tactics against Jinny and Lizzy result in a genuinely unnerving watch. Seadown’s ability to twist a situation or even an entire room to his favor — and on a whim — is concerning, at least.
The blocking used throughout “Homecoming” puts Lizzy between Jinny and Seadown, but it is intentionally dissimilar from a love triangle. The Buccaneersnever entertains a romantic future for Lizzy and James and questions one for Jinny and James. The performances — namely, Aubri Ibrag — bring that uncomfortable feeling to the surface so that it’s undeniable from a viewing standpoint that Seadown is an evil man capable of inflicting trauma onto these young girls. He already has and pretends it never happened. He’s sickening, which makes Lizzy’s decision to follow Jinny back to England so impactful.
Though her mother only hears that the trip is to find a husband, Lizzy puts the paramount reason first in her explanation — Jinny. She is going to London to protect Jinny from a man who has no qualms about belittling her in front of her family in her own home. It’s heartbreaking for many reasons, including that no one protected Lizzy.
Conchi, Mabel, and a Chance at Freedom
“Homecoming” reiterates how these women have to look out for themselves and each other because sometimes their family doesn’t have their best interest in heart or mind.
For Conci and Richard, his racist family has always been an adversary, but this episode pulls back a curtain — or opens a door — to reveal that Miss Testvalley may have sinister motivations, too. Simone Kirby and Josh Dylan‘s performances indicate such in their final scene. Miss Testvalley seems pleased that Richard comes to sit by her side, but Richard looks completely resigned from it.
The light that danced through his eyes during his stay in New York with Conchi is gone by the end of “Homecoming” and replaced with something much more devastating.
Similarly, Josie Totah turns in a dynamic performance during “Homecoming” when Mabel attempts to pull herself together in front of her mother, who refuses to talk about Mabel’s sexuality and pushes heteronormativity on her instead. The season would benefit from featuring Mabel prominently. The Buccaneers is still only scratching the surface of her arc.
A Mother’s Love and a Wife’s Life
After all, “Homecoming” is fantastic for its renewed interest in Patricia St. George. Christina Hendricks mines the nuances of this character and elevates the sharp script to make essentially every moment she is on-screen noteworthy. Her work with Kristine Frøseth is incredibly moving — from start to finish. The scene where Patricia assures Nan that she is her daughter, no matter the biology, because Patricia immediately loved Nan’s eyes and fingers and totality is beautiful and poetic.
While a lesser show would pigeonhole Patricia St. George as a mother and a wife and refuse to go any deeper, The Buccaneers rejects those roles as limitations. Instead, it sees them as significant aspects of a complex woman.
Patricia is a mother, and she is a wife. Patricia is also a woman who makes herself small to glue her family together; a woman who lies to save her husband’s face, no matter how he treats her; a woman who often tries too hard to make others like her; a woman who is all of those things and more. Hendricks, with her incredible talent, represents it all.
It may seem odd to revel in The Buccaneers because it unabashedly lets women be angry, bitter, loving, passionate, unforgiving, and unrelenting, but seeing women be their whole, messy selves on-screen will never get old.
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The Buccaneers streams new episodes on Wednesdays on Apple TV+.