Howards End recap: Episode one


Howard’s End is a four-part miniseries that originally aired in Britain in 2017, but premiered on Starz last night.

The Howard’s End miniseries premiered on Starz last night. The show, which originally aired in England last year to great reviews, is based on the 1910 novel by E.M. Forster.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala adapted the novel into a 1992 film starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter. Thompson won a Best Actress Oscar.

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Howard’s End tells the story of class in England and how it relates to three different families: The Schlegels, the Wilcoxes and the Basts. Like Downton Abbey explored the class system through the wealthy nobles and their servants, Howard’s End explores class a bit subtler, at least in the first episode.

Margaret Schlegel, brilliantly played by Hayley Atwell, is the guardian of her sister, Helen (Philippa Coulthard), and brother, Tibby (Schlegel). They are a middle-class family, living in Wickham Place, who value the arts, culture and advocate the women’s suffrage.

The first 15 minutes are narrated through letter correspondence between Margaret and Helen, as Helen is staying at Howard’s End with the Wilcox family. The sisters met Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox in Germany sometime before that, and Helen took them up on their offer to come and stay.

Helen describes the mundane happenings of the family, from a competitive game of crochet between Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen), the father, and the oldest son, Charles (Joe Bannister), and the daughter, Evie (Bessie Carter), using her calisthenics machine.

Mrs. Wilcox, played by Julia Ormond, seems to be the most respected of the family. Helen suspects she is the actual leader of the household, not Mr. Wilcox. When the Wilcox’s youngest son, Paul (Jonah Hauer-King), arrives at Howard’s End, sparks immediately fly between him and Helen. Naturally, Helen writes to Margaret; she’s in love.

Margaret wants to go to Howard’s End, but Tibby is sick with hay fever, so her Aunt Juley, played by Tracey Ullman sans prosthetics, goes instead. Aunt Juley thinks the engagement could be scandalous and perhaps it should be broken off.

Aunt Juley arrives at the train station and coincidently runs into Charles Wilcox, who she mistakes for Paul. The two quarrel the entire car ride to Howard’s End about if the Schlegels are even good enough to marry into the Wilcox family.

In the meantime, Margaret receives a telegram from Helen saying the romance is over because Paul will be going to Nigeria. So, she sends Helen a telegram saying their aunt is on her way.

After Aunt Juley brings Helen home, Helen reveals she and Paul were never engaged, that they had merely kissed one night. She had been so caught up with the family and fallen in love with them as a whole, and she spoke too soon.

The whole situation puts a bad taste in Margaret’s mouth.

Photo Credit: Howard’s End/Starz Image Acquired from Starz Media Room

The Schlegel’s meet Leonard Bast a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony after Helen mistakenly takes his umbrella when she left early. Instead of giving Margaret his address, he comes to their home to retrieve his umbrella. He seems uncomfortable being in the house and we find out soon that he lives in a humble flat with his wife and seems to have very little money.

Margaret discovers that the Wilcox family plan to move into a large flat across the street from them. Concerned how Helen will react, she hesitates to tell her the news. But in typical Helen fashion, she could care less since she’s planning to travel to Germany.

Mrs. Wilcox calls on Margaret, but Margaret responds with a nasty note, suggesting that they shouldn’t meet because of the whole Helen/Paul drama. When Mrs. Wilcox responds saying Paul was already in Nigeria, Margaret immediately apologizes.

The women strike up a friendship that transcends age and social class. Mrs. Wilcox is most vulnerable in front of Margaret since she allows her to see her in bed and discloses that she was born at Howard’s End. Mrs. Wilcox even invites her there.

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Margaret also tells Mrs. Wilcox that they are being forced to move from their Wickham Place home to make way for flat buildings. As they’re about to embark for Howard’s End, they run into Mr. Wilcox and Evie at the train station, so their visit must wait.

Will Margaret ever see Howard’s End? Is Mrs. Wilcox ill? We’ll find out next Sunday.

Howard’s End airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.