This article contains spoilers for The Buccaneers episode 8.

The Buccaneers on Apple TV+ is an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel of the same name. However, viewers who either read the novel or watched the 1995 PBS/BBC adaptation, will find that the last scenes of the finale “Wedding of the Season” are noticeably different from previous versions. 

Although Nan (Kristine Frøseth) is not as much in love with her fiancee Theo, the Duke of Tintagel (Guy Remmers) as she is with Guy (Josh Dylan), she makes the choice of family duty over romantic love to protect Jinny (Imogen Waterhouse) from the social consequences of separating from her abusive husband Lord James Seadown (Barney Fishwick). 

Den of Geek interviewed series creator Katherine Jakeways and executive producer Beth Willis to find out why their vision of the conclusion of this story is distinct from other movie and television adaptations. 

Jakeways was in college when the 1995 miniseries adaptation premiered and says she likely saw parts of it but the goal of the creative team was to take Wharton’s unfinished novel in a new and modern direction.

“We deliberately wanted to do our version of it and our version of the book. I knew that if I watched it, I would end up being influenced by the way that they’d done things. We watched other Edith Wharton films and we talked about other period dramas and other versions of period dramas that have been done in the past and that have been done more recently but wanted it to feel like our version of this amazing starting point that Edith Wharton gave us.”

A closer look at the 1995 adaptation reveals some critical ways in which the new series is writing for a modern audience. The miniseries ends with Nan running away with Guy because the trajectory of Nan’s relationship with Theo is completely different. In the older miniseries, Guy leaves England to work abroad which leaves Nan free to marry Julius, the equivalent of Theo. When Guy returns, Nan realizes that the fairy tale wedding didn’t result in a happily ever after. Nan in the 1995 miniseries was not born out of wedlock and her stepmother (Christina Hendricks) divorcing her father as a result of that secret was not a factor in Nan’s plot trajectory. In addition, Miss Testvalley works for the St. George family, not the Brightlingseas which means her involvement in past and current events plays out in a completely different way. 

The breakdown in Jinny’s marriage to James by the end of The Buccaneers is also the result of the series taking a different approach to his story than before. Jakeways describes James’ character as “contemporary feeling and slightly darker.”

“I wanted to explore what growing up in a household that’s as stiff and as unemotional as the Brightlingseas might be like for a young man,” Willis says. “He’s not necessarily learned kindness and empathy and really how to even talk to women. He might have to marry one of the debutantes, but he’s not well versed in how to bring joy into a marriage because there’s been very little joy in that family where emotions are left at the door.”

The 1995 minseries did not have James sexually harass Lizzie Elmsworth (Aubri Ibrag) but it did show him slapping Jinny. James’ dark side is slowly revealed throughout The Buccaneers to show why Jinny is pursuing the riskier option of running away vs pursuing divorce through the standard legal procedure. 

While the 1995 miniseries correctly depicted both American and British elites insulting Conchita to her face and behind her back, unfortunately, the casting of Mira Sorvino, an Italian-American woman to play a woman of color undermines this message in hindsight. 

“We wanted to take a character like Conchita who is so free spirited and vocal and educated and articulate and say what happens when the man of your dreams then doesn’t actually protect you from a world that is not welcoming,” Willis says. 

Even though Conchi (Alisha Boe) in The Buccaneers doesn’t have an accent, her character faces more intense colorism and racism because she cannot pass for white. By the end of  “Wedding of the Season,” Conchi has a happier ending because Dickie exerts his influence to protect Conchi and Minnie from the worst elements of society. Most importantly, infidelity doesn’t have the same impact on her story in comparison to the 1995 miniseries. While both Conchi and Conchita face losing their inheritance, Dickie earning his inherited title in “Wedding of the Season” means that he has more power to protect his family from the more racist members of British society. 

Mabel ditches living a closeted life with her fiancee Miles (Shobhit Piasa) to be with Honoria (Mia Threapleton). Mabel and Honoria’s relationship is likely a huge reason why The Buccaneers is appealing to audiences not normally interested in period dramas. It is nonexistent in the 1995 miniseries, which may be a disappointment to fans of their storyline. The main queer character in that series is a man who chooses to marry a woman and have affairs with men which significantly affects the question of whether queer people deserve a happily ever after or a happy for now in romance stories. There’s also the disparity between depictions of queer men versus queer women’s relationships.One can argue that while this plotline was ahead of its time it also falls short today because of changing attitudes around queer representation in media versus depicting historical homophobia.

Jakeways and the creative team intentionally wrote Mabel and Honoria’s relationship to acknowledge this history. “We have included storylines, not storylines that weren’t happening at the time, but storylines which there would’ve been different language for at the time and that would’ve potentially not been written about at the time. We’ve tried to include that in the knowledge that those were experiences and relationships that would’ve been happening, but were probably unspoken.”

The great thing about the period drama genre as a whole is that every generation has adaptations of the classics that can speak to them. The Buccaneers makes Whartons’ story about female friendship and the realities after the “happily ever after” relevant and relatable to younger and more diverse period drama fans. Some viewers may see these differences as a negative but audiences are demanding more stories where POC and queer characters are more than conduits for depicting historical trauma on screen. 

A cookie-cutter adaptation may earn accolades from academics and literary experts but that mentality is both a disservice to creatives who want to tell a different story as well as audiences who are unfamiliar with the source material or previous adaptations. 

All episodes of The Buccaneers are available to stream on Apple TV+. The 1995 PBS/BBC miniseries is available to stream on BritBox and the Masterpiece Prime subchannel of Prime Video.

The post The Buccaneers Ending Explained: How It Updates Edith Wharton’s Story appeared first on Den of Geek.

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