Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one!
There’s nothing like the power of a TV show to completely break our hearts. On Friday, July 30, Amazon Prime’s three-part prestige miniseries The Pursuit of Love dropped, and it is full of romance, sisterhood, and European adventures. The show, adapted from Nancy Mitford’s novel, takes place in the years leading up to World War II, and follows two cousins, the daring Linda Radlett (prolific period actor and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star Lily James) and the cautious Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham), who are also best friends. And while every episode of this charming series is exceptional, it’s the third one that brings an emotionally charged ending for these characters who we have come to love.
If part one is spent watching Linda yearn to break free from her parents’ grip on her at their country estate, and part two sees Linda engaged in different romances and constantly searching for the next place to run away to, then part three is about coming home. With war breaking out all over Europe, Linda is forced to break off her scandalous Parisian affair and return to London. But it’s only when a bomb literally crushes her townhouse (Linda, emerging miraculously unscathed) that she agrees to go back to her childhood home where all of her vast extended family, even the infamous anywhere-but-here Bolter (series director and writer Emily Mortimer), are holed up. In the strangest way, the war has a positive effect on the family by bringing them all together and making them realize the love they have for each other.
Fanny, loyal to Linda as ever, immediately drives to London to pick her up from the pile of rubble that used to be her home. What they return to though is hardly the prison Linda remembers it to be. Her father (The Wire‘s Dominic West) has mellowed with age to become an amusingly grouchy old man. The dinner table is full of laughter, the days spent playing hide and seek with the children, and the Hon Cupboard remains as good a place as ever to have a meaningful chat with someone. After watching Linda chase happiness across Europe, never seeming to quite find it, and Fanny feeling left behind and discontent with the safe life she built for herself, it’s rewarding to see them finally find some joy.
Everyone’s issues get rapidly, but sensitively and satisfyingly, resolved. Fanny confesses that she’s been jealous of Linda’s exciting lifestyle, while Linda admits that she’s always admired Fanny’s bravery in sticking around. The implication is clear, that there’s no one way to lead a successful life as a woman, and both of them have led extraordinary ones. “It’s not here that’s home,” says Linda to Fanny. “It’s always been you.” If you’re not crying by this point, you likely will be soon.
Fanny and her husband (Shazad Latif) also manage to reconcile and rekindle their love for each other — watching your husband go off to war helps you realize what your priorities are and set aside your petty squabbles. Fanny even manages to come to some sort of understanding with her mother, the Bolter, and let go of some of the resentment she’s been carrying around all these years.
But more than anything, it’s the time the family, finally, spends happily together — exclaiming over plans to blow up the cupboard full of food so the Germans won’t get it; Louisa (Beattie Edmondson), Fanny, and Linda finding kinship in whiling away the final months of their pregnancies together — that is a true pleasure to watch, and all the more gut-wrenching when it all goes wrong. When we’re told that Linda has died in childbirth (the doctors warned her not to have another baby), I was almost sure it was a Mean Girls-syle misdirect, and it would turn out she’s fine and ready to live her best life. But the flame that was Linda Radlett burned bright and fast. It seems excessively cruel to kill her off right when things were finally going well for her, but what would a romantic period piece be without a little bit of tragedy? This show breaks our hearts but in the best way possible.
Other observations that we thought made this episode stand out: