As the series begins, Margaret Schlegel (Hayley Atwell) receives a letter from her sister, Helen (Philippa Coulthard). Helen tells Margaret about her time with the Wilcox family. She tells Margaret how Charles (Joe Bannister) and Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen) enjoy playing croquet on the lawn. Essie (Bessie Carters) likes exercising on a calisthenics machine. Mrs. Wilcox (Julia Ormond) is different. Then, Helen writes about the arrival of Paul (Jonah Hauer-King). It sounds like Helen has become smitten with the boy. Helen sends her love to Juley (Tracey Ullman) and Tibby (Alex Lawther). Juley and Margaret chat about Margaret being forced to raise Tibby and Helen from a young age. Before too long, Margaret receives another letter. Helen continues to dote on Paul. She explains that Henry runs the Imperial and West African Rubber Company.
Helen explains that Henry is very persuasive. However, it is Mrs. Wilcox that runs the family. Later, Helen goes for a ride with the family. Juley tells Margaret that the Wilcox family is not their sort of people. Margaret admits she sometimes longs for someone dominating. Helen and Paul continue to grow closer. They eventually share a kiss. Later, Margaret receives a letter detailing the relationship. She and Juley believe that they’re on the verge of getting married. It is decided that Juley will visit the family in Howards End. Margaret cannot go, because Tibby is still too ill. Before too long, Juley meets with Charlie. She mistakes him for Paul. Charlie becomes upset when he learns about the potential proposal. He explains that Paul is going to Africa and cannot get married. Helen rushes out to Juley and tries to tell her that the relationship is over. Nevertheless, the damage is already done.
Helen and Juley return home. Initially, Helen begins to resent the entire Wilcox family. Helen and Tibby insist that Margaret can never settle down with a man. Later, the family goes to a musical performance at the theater. During the performance, Helen sits next to Leonard Bast (Joseph Quinn). She becomes distraught and runs out of the theater with Leonard’s umbrella. Margaret gives Leonard their card and tells him to visit their house to get his umbrella back. Leonard speaks with Margaret outside and carries her program. They discuss music. Leonard returns to the family’s home and collects his umbrella. Helen makes a few rude comments and Leonard heads for the door. Helen is ridiculed, so she goes after him, but it is too late. Later that night, Margaret admits that Leonard was rather ordinary. Nevertheless, she liked him. We see Leonard return to his home. He sits down with a book and hides Margaret’s card, before Jacky (Rosalind Eleazar) enters.
They sit together and kiss moments later. Leonard continues to hide the card. Later, Margaret runs into Henry Wilcox on the street. She learns that they have rented a flat nearby. Margaret invites the family over. When Margaret tells Juley, she is not happy. She believes it will cause Helen grief. However, Helen insists she doesn’t care. Juley returns home. Next, Margaret gets a note from Mrs. Wilcox. Again, Helen insists she is over Paul. She also reminds Margaret that she is headed to Germany soon. Margaret writes a letter to Mrs. Wilcox suggesting they should end their acquaintance. Margaret receives a letter in response. She rushes over to Mrs. Wilcox’s place immediately. She apologizes and admits she had forgotten that Paul had gone to Africa. Then, she learns that Charles has gotten married as well. Mrs. Wilcox pleads with Margaret to stay with her for awhile. She does.
Then, Margaret insists Mrs. Wilcox should have lunch with her and her friends sometime. She takes her up on the offer. Mrs. Wilcox seems uncomfortable, but she tells Margaret that she enjoyed it nevertheless. Later, Mrs. Wilcox invites Margaret to go shopping with her. They discuss possible gifts and look around. Margaret also reveals that she will be forced to move when the property’s lease has ended. Margaret is invited to visit Howards End. She denies the offer. Mrs. Wilcox leaves in a hurry. Margaret watches as Mrs. Wilcox’s carriage leaves. Margaret gets on a train and travels there anyway. She meets with Mrs. Wilcox. She seems thrilled to have Margaret by her side. Henry and Evie arrive seconds later. The episode ends a short time later.
Howards End Review
Despite being a little slow, I found Howards End to be very enjoyable. It is hard to lose with this cast. Matthew Macfadyen and Hayley Atwell have performed exceptionally well together in the past and they do so here too. The others were great as well. I enjoyed the political banter between Helen and Henry. I thought it was comical. Despite being a remake, Howards End feels fresh and exciting.
I definitely enjoyed the opener. It scores a solid 8 out of 10.