He Knew He Was Right
March is Women's History Month, folks, and Masterpiece Theatre has given us a present: Besides having that delightfully declarative sentence for a title, He Knew He Was Right is also a big, fat, Victorian middle finger to tyrannical husbands everywhere. (Yes, dearies, we
know you're still out there.) Louis Trevelyan is madly in love with his free-spirited, fresh-from-the-Tropics wife, Emily, who pours into his dusty Mayfair manse like a shot of Mandarin Stoli at teatime. Within months, however, he has driven himself to madness with jealous suspicions that Emily's having an affair with her elderly godfather, a swaggering ex-Lothario played to prurient perfection by Bill Nighy. (How fitting that Part 1 opens with a shot of a tropical bird in a cage... precisely the life Trevelyan has in mind for his pretty new wife.) But Anthony Trollope was no madman: His women are the only ones with any integrity. Emily shows self-respect when she won't grovel for forgiveness for a wrong she didn't commit, Nora shows honor when she refuses a man dripping with dough, shy Dorothy shows tenacity when she won't marry a man she doesn't love, and even bitchy old Aunt Stanbury despite her niggling disgust for "penny scribbler" journalists shows generosity, loyalty and even a capacity for self-criticism. Meanwhile, what fine qualities do you suppose the boys are batting about? Hmm, let's see here... paranoid bullying (Trevelyan), persnickety presumption (Bozzle), greasy arrogance (Osborne), neurotic wimpitude (Gibson) and straight-up, bare-faced lying (Gibson again, you dawg). The only girl with even a sliver of negative lighting is goofy, gawky Arabella (played to awkward gorgeousness by Fenella Woolgar), the 19th-century version of Welcome to the Dollhouse's Dawn Wiener. So what's to come in Part 2: Will Arabella find the strength to end her lifelong bad-hair day? Will sad-sack Trevelyan finally go on Xanax? Will Nora and Hugh get funding for their new porn flick (c'mon, that kiss was hot)? Here's one penny scribbler" who's got a good feeling on all counts.