When her father moves his family to an industrial mill town, the parson’s daughter, Margaret Hale, struggles to adapt to her harsh new surroundings. This BBC series is based on the popular novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.
A friend sold me on watching this by describing the mini-series as Pride and Prejudice in a cotton mill. And yep, that is pretty much exactly it.
For those who want a real plot description, well, the story follows Margaret Hale and her parents after they move to the fictional town of Milton. Mr. Hale was a clergyman, but decided it was more important to become a nonconformist than to say, have a steady income or keep his family in the town they had lived all of their lives/where all their friends and family were. Since Mr. Hale’s BFF Mr. Bell lives in Milton, the family sets up there and Mr. Hale becomes a tutor. One of his students is brooding cotton mill owner Mr. Thornton. Margaret and Mr. Thornton immediately butt heads. Margaret has never had to work for a living and has opinions. Mr. Thornton has built himself up from nothing, but on the backs of poorly paid workers and children. And he has a bit of an anger problem and overbearing mom who seems to be vying for some kind of Mrs. Bates award. So needless to say these crazy kids have a hard time making it work.
All of this is set in the backdrop of England’s post-industrial revolution with emphasis on workers rights, labor unions and strikes.
Richard Armitage as John Thornton
While you might know Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit, this mini-series was his first big break. And I can see why. Lordy, I can. (Fans self) His role draws comparisons to Colin Firth in the Pride and Prejudice BBC mini-series and yeah, it’s a pretty apt comparison. There are so many reasons to dislike his character and yet you cannot. You will find yourself making excuses for Mr. Thornton because he is just so ridiculously attractive and broody and all I want to do is google pictures of him in top hats. Maybe there are people who watch this mini-series for the plot and the social issues. But really, those people probably read the book. The rest of us are watching it for Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton and playing a certain train scene over and over on repeat.
Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale
While I don’t know Daniela myself, she has been in several British tv shows (including EastEnders and Waterloo Road). Although I would hesitate to call her a familiar face since the left photo shows what she looked like in the mini-series and the right shows her more typical blonde look. When I googled photos of her I was shocked, because she is nearly unrecognizable from her Margaret Hale role. That said, while the character of Margaret could be obnoxious at times, the actress playing her did a fine job. (Plus, she was just so pretty too.)
Brendan Coyle as Nicholas Higgins
Oh look, it’s everybody’s (except Thomas) favorite valet, Mr. Bates! Brendan Coyle plays another working class hero, this time a union leader for the mill workers.
And then, of course, like with every BBC show, there are a bunch of other British actors who I don’t recognize, but have been in one billion other movies and tv shows.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Small Group Appropriate
I technically watched this by myself, but Alix and I tried to watch it simultaneously with each other (or as simultaneously as you can get when you are in different times zones/continents.) And while it is perfectly suitable for solo viewing, it is much more enjoyable to view with a friend who you can hash it out with. I would say this is made for watching with about 2-3 like minded friends. Clocking in at about 3.5 hours, it is doable in one sitting, but may require being broken up.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low, Then High
On first viewing, I would recommend a minimal amount of alcohol involved. Sometimes the conversations were difficult to follow and eventually I gave in and turned the subtitles on. (Richard Armitage, you’re beautiful, but I cannot understand the words coming out of your mouth.) But on repeat viewing? Chug away! Especially because this mini-series is basically begging for a drinking game.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Right On
A BBC mini-series that you missed a decade ago? I mean, where else are you going to watch something like that besides Netflix? If this weren’t on Instant, I probably would have never gotten around to checking it out. But since it was, I went from getting the recommendation to having watched it entirely within a matter of days. Which is just great, because despite its flaws, I enjoyed the crap out of this mini-series. Seriously, really enjoyed it, so what are you waiting for?
And speaking of how much I enjoyed it…Bonus! Next week, Alix and I will be posting our spoiler-filled commentary from the 60 plus emails we sent to each other during our semi-simultaneous viewing. So if you haven’t seen the mini-series already, you have one week to get ‘er done.