Because I love you and apparently hate myself, I’m watching the whole damn series, but I’m breaking up my review of The Buccaneers (2023) into two parts. Episodes 1-4 are here, and now that the thing has finished, I’m wrapping up with episodes 5-8. In case you haven’t heard about it, this Apple TV show is a new take on Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel set in the 1870s, and should be in no way confused with the much beloved 1995 BBC miniseries that’s far more accurately based on Wharton’s tale.
To say this show is based on Wharton’s book is like saying Reign (2013-17) is based on the history of Mary Queen of Scots — yeah, a lot of the names and places are there, but oof, so much of the story is mixed up in a blender with all kinds of random modernizations and soap-opera BS added. At least Reign didn’t take itself so seriously and nor did it try to shove a bunch of anachronistic feminism in with the subtly of a sledgehammer, as this Buccaneers does.
The one good thing I can say is that the costumes get better as the series goes along, even if the dialog and plot do not. The wackiest and least historical costumes seem to have shown up in episodes 1 and 2, which were designed by Giovanni Lipari (his first historical production). Episodes 3, 4, and 5 were designed by Sheena Napier (Howards End, Enchanted April), and the costumes really settled down into a more generally solid 1870s-80s-ish fashion. The final three episodes were done by Kate Carin (Around the World in 80 Days, The Book of Negroes), and the costumes have ups and downs but are generally not as egregious as the first couple eps.
Alas, I can’t find any interviews with Sheena Napier for this production, so no insights about her designs. Kate Carin did some press for the show and leaned into the old ‘let’s make it relatable‘ nonsense. MEH. Let’s just finish this thing out as painlessly as possible, if we can…
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