• Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Initial Review: The Buccaneers

ByRenee Phan

Nov 24, 2023
an old picture of big ben

I first came across The Buccaneers in the most Gen Z way possible…through their soundtrack release on Spotify. Akin to The Summer I Turned Pretty, big headline artists on the playlist helped the show stand out. When TSITP had Taylor Swift’s “This Love”, The Buccaneers boasted a Gracie Abrams original: “Cedar”. Needless to say, the song quickly became one of my newfound favorites. But, I wondered if the lyrics to “Cedar” reflected the show’s plot, especially verse one:

It’s been good to know ya

This goodbye felt worst of all

No defining closure

No instruction manual

If you thought to call me

I would answer every time

Breaking up is funny

I forget you aren’t mine

Was this show about longing for a love that was not meant to be? Was this gut-wrenching ending to the ‘love’ that Abrams sang related to the main characters of the show? If so, for what reason? The trailer gave a preview to an aesthetic I was familiar with. The Buccaneers, based on Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel,  follows a group of wealthy American girls arriving in 1870s London, where they are met with a gigantic case of culture shock. Their ultimate goal is to find a posh British husband by going through the debutante season, and, along the way, re-discover the joys of female friendship. 

Now, I’m not going to spoil anything, as I don’t even know what the next few episodes will entail. However, I think it is important to note the romance tropes that are immediate parallels to many notable period films and TV shows. Off the book, it’s already established that there’s the forbidden/discouraged partnership, the love triangle based on which suitor the female lead has more chemistry with, and the ‘my in-laws have a problem with me being in the family’. 

So, I guess Gracie Abrams’ song covers all three types of endings to these romance tropes.

As you can tell, this show tries to cover it all. Trying to do everything at once is ambitious, and I don’t think stuffing all these different plotlines in three episodes was done well. Also, romance in this show seems to be incredibly rushed, and I had trouble keeping up with the nuances of individual plotlines. They were not nuanced enough for me to develop an opinion on whether the decisions each character makes is good or bad. Unlike my absolute view that Rory’s relationship with Logan from Gilmore Girls was the worst relationship of all, this show did not have me on the edge of my seat, rooting for one character and/or against another like many shows do to retain audience engagement. 

I’m also disappointed to watch how the characters portrayed the American stereotype as ‘loud’ by constantly shrieking, jumping, and dancing around, causing a ruckus in an otherwise ‘calm and poised’ British stereotype. There can be more said here, but I’ll hold off on this view being definitive until the rest of the episodes are released. 

Going back to the aesthetic and familiarity I mentioned earlier. I think of Bridgerton, Persuasion, Dickinson, and Little Women as representative of this period-drama ‘aesthetic’, and this show definitely had the costumes to match. Even though I’m sure that the design of the show is somewhat historically accurate, I was under the impression that they tried becoming a hybrid alternative that is more pop-themed and teenage worthy. Perhaps that’s their audience? I myself was not clear about that.
My conclusion is that this show is not the best out there, but it is also not the worst. The Buccaneers is just adding to the number of period dramas, and even though the phenomenal acting by the leads ( especially Kristine Froseth, Imogen Waterhouse, and Alisha Boe) made the show worth sitting through so far, nothing can overshadow the big gaps in plotline planning and character development that were already on display in the first three episodes. I wonder if this show can recover once the rest of the season has been released, but in the meantime, I’ll be listening to “Cedar” once again.

London 19th century vintage photo” by Potiferus is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.