SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from “Wedding of the Season,” the Season 1 finale of “The Buccaneers,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
With a daring escape, a motherly showdown and a Taylor Swift needledrop, Apple TV+’s “The Buccaneers” has officially become an eleventh-hour contender for the most chaotic TV wedding of the year.
In the season finale of the 1870s-set romantic drama, which is based on Edith Wharton’s unfinished 1938 novel, Nan St. George (Kristine Frøseth) abandons her plans to run away with her true love Guy (Matthew Broome) in order to save her pregnant sister Jinny (Imogen Waterhouse) from her increasingly abusive husband, Lord Seadown (Barney Fishwick). But to smuggle Jinny to safety, Nan has to go through with her marriage to Theo, the Duke of Tintagel (Guy Remmers) –– even if it merely serves as a distraction for Guy and Jinny to flee.
The plan goes off without a hitch, and is triumphantly scored by Swift’s anthem “Long Live (Taylor’s Version).” But Nan neglects to clue in her mother Patti St. George (Christina Hendricks), who just hours earlier had sensed her daughter’s cold feet, and encouraged her not to marry Theo if she wasn’t really in love. It was a selfless bit of advice, considering Patti had just staked her whole future on being the mother of a duchess, the status of which emboldened her to ask her philandering husband for a divorce.
Oblivious to the rescue plan and the danger her other daughter Jinny is in, Patti interprets Nan’s delayed arrival at the altar as that change of heart, and breaks the news to Theo’s mother (Amelia Bullmore). But the dowager duchess quickly cuts Patti down to size, revealing she secretly convinced Nan to marry Theo anyway, because, as a duchess, she will be better equipped to protect her sister from an angry lord.
Left blindsided by one daughter’s marriage, and the other’s sudden disappearance, Hendricks tells Variety that Patti’s season-long journey toward independence ends on a rather shattered note.
“Even if she is going to hold her head high and make this decision for her happiness, that doesn’t mean she is about to walk into a world without judgment and shame, and whispering behind her back,” Hendricks says. “But what I think she and we, as the audience, realize is that she is willing to take that risk.”
The series has not yet been renewed for a second season by Apple. But Hendricks spoke to Variety about the potential fallout from Nan’s shocking wedding and how playing the revolutionary-in-her-own-time Joan Holloway on “Mad Men” prepared her to take on the 1870s.
Patti St. George goes on quite the journey over the course of the season, from married maven of New York City society to freshly single mother of a duchess in England. What did you know about her before you started filming?
Originally when I read the scripts, I saw Patti St. George as one way, but as the rewrites came in and we started to discover her a little more, she changed a little bit for me. I think she started as quite competitive and judgmental of others, and fighting a little bit more aggressively in the social scene. But as we started to unfold the story, it made it seem like she was still figuring out herself a little bit too. She is new to this wealth and New York City; she’s only been in this society for about five years. I started to realize that she was a little bit more of a fish out of water, and I played to that side of her rather than the aggressive, competitive side.
Patti shouldered so much for her family, including the blame for her husband’s indiscretions. But in the penultimate episode, her future son-in-law Theo tells her that, as a mother of a duchess, she would pretty much be untouchable in British society. It inspires Patti to demand a divorce. What did that realization mean to her?
That bit of information is a lifeboat for her. She is learning as she goes that divorce and going back to being single after raising two daughters is just unheard of at this time, and incredibly dangerous for her reputation. I don’t think it ever really occurred to her what those words really meant, because she was so concentrated on her daughters that she forgot to concentrate on herself to a certain extent. But Theo saying those words is, for her, like saying, “Oh, this gives me a few options.”
What do you think Patti envisions for herself as an independent woman, should it happen?
She has that conversation earlier with the Colonel about how she wished she had lived more, and we see her let her hair down and make this decision to leave him. For me, I just hope she goes out and starts to live. What does that mean for her, and what comforts does she need to feel safe? That’s something I look forward to seeing be explored. Even if she is going to hold her head high and make this decision for her happiness, that doesn’t mean she is about to walk into a world without judgment and shame, and whispering behind her back. But what I think she, and we as the audience, realize is that she is willing to take that risk.
She very boldly says, “Even the scandal of divorce won’t shut out the mother of a Duchess from society.” Those feel like they could be famous last words.
Right! You can’t forget your time. You can’t forget she is in a completely new place. These wild bunch of Americans that come tearing in are greeted in very different ways. Not everyone is going to embrace this woman that has all of a sudden let her hair down and starts shouting, “I’m getting a divorce!”
Just as quickly as she gets excited about life if Nan marries the Duke, here comes his mother to essentially tells Patti that a title wields more power than love. It clearly unmoors her from this vision of her future.
Patti trying to understand society in New York and fitting into that world, and getting those rules right, is one thing. But to know the hierarchy and the generational situations that are happening in England are just so new to her. So when she has that conversation with the Duke’s mother, she is sort of put in her place. Patti thinks she is so connected to her daughters, but suddenly this other woman knows something Patti doesn’t. We are talking about something that is even more embedded in tradition than anything she can begin to crack.
By the time Nan’s plan to marry the duke and save her sister is in motion, it’s obvious Patti was not told what’s happening. How do you think she feels about that?
It was confusing and hard to know how to navigate all of those little twists, especially when we are waiting in that cathedral for Nan to come down the aisle. Time is going on and going on, and you would think Patti would have said something earlier. Wouldn’t Nan have brought her in? Why am I waiting until this last moment to address the Duke’s mother? There were a lot of things that really showed the break down of this relationship. To be quite honest, when Nan finds out that I’m not her mother, she takes it all out on Patti. But Patti is the only one who didn’t do anything wrong! She is the one who has given unconditional love since day one.
That’s why I thought Episode 4 was so interesting and fun to play, because it is all of her love and hard work and everything she has poured into her family and daughters, and it all comes crashing down on her. She is completely unappreciated, and no one is recognizing her contributions. That was a huge breakdown in this mother-daughter relationship, and the finale shows it’s not repaired yet. I think it is going to take some time.
I don’t know if Patti fleeing the chapel and not watching Nan go through with the wedding is going to do much to repair that bond.
All I can say is that I have just found out my other daughter is having a baby, and has taken off. So the stakes in both places are so high. All Patti can see is that she is not sure why Nan is making this decision and what is happening, but she is safe and I have eyes on her. So I’ve checked on one baby, now I have to go check on my other baby. At least Nan is surrounded by people. For me, the only instinct was to make sure both are safe.
We don’t see anything beyond that final scene and all the revelations of the wedding, but one has to imagine that as soon as Nan comes down from that altar, she will have some explaining to do to Patti.
Not only that, but when Patti escapes the church to go after Jinny, the Colonel is also out there. For Nan, both of her parents are missing from this moment.
And he’s bringing his own bit of unwelcome news that, even though neither of them are in the church watching Nan get married –– surprise! –– her biological mother sure is. Are you ready to meet the other mother?
There’s clearly something unraveling around that, and it’s going to have to be dealt with. But I hope they drag that out awhile. I hope we don’t find out right away who Nan’s mother is. We could get really twisty and turny about it, and keep people guessing for a while.
Considering this isn’t even her wedding day, a lot happens to Patti St. George.
It is the worst wedding ever! Besides her huge party where everything was unraveling, this has got to be one of the scariest days of her life.
What do you think Patti’s first priority will be after the wedding?
Obviously, we’ve got to get Jinny out of this horrible and abusive relationship. It is so toxic and upsetting and manipulative. It is going to be very interesting to see this love triangle and how Nan plays that out, but as far as Patti is concerned, I think she needs all her daughters safe at home. And we’ve shown that she will do anything to protect them. She has lied about Nan having another mother for many, many years, and covered up her husband’s infidelities and his bad behavior. So when she has a mission, she will definitely rise to the occasion.
It is just a matter of if her daughters are going to let her in on all of it. Now they are keeping secrets from her for the first time in their lives, so it will be about how involved she feels like she can be. I can’t force my way into these relationships.
It is hard not to think of Joan, your character in “Mad Men” when watching you play Patti. Both are women finding their place in their own time periods, while at the mercy of the undeserving men around them. Did you pull anything from your experience playing Joan in the 1960s to prepare for Patti St. George in the 1870s?
I did. And yet, I feel like every role I play, including being Christina Hendricks, somehow involves finding your power as a woman, and trying to find your voice and be heard and respected and understood. I don’t think it is just a Patti or Joan story, I think it is every woman’s story.
How do you think Joan would react to the big risks Patti takes to claim agency in her story in “The Buccaneers?”
I think Joan very much embraced who she was and where she was at the beginning of her story. It was sort of like, “Yes, I’m good at this and this, but I’m a woman and I know my place.” By the end of it, though, she realizes she deserves more and her mind is expanded and opened. I don’t think she started out as a feminist, but she ended as one. And I think for someone like Patti, she is also very aware of the rules around her and that she is a woman and a mother, and this is how it is for her.
But one thing we love in 2023, when we’re looking back at these moments in history, is when women say enough is enough. We do get a little bit of that with Patti as she embarks on a divorce. We don’t know how that will translate to her being out in the world, because this is still the late 1800s. But we get that pleasurable moment of her taking a little bit of her life back.
And with “The Buccaneers,” you get to do it in centuries-old mansions and castles. That’s quite a long way from the cubicles of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.
We would go to work when it was still dark outside, and by the time you’re done with hair and makeup hours later, you come out and there’s a castle in front of you. You don’t see what you are driving up to in the dark, all you know is that you’re in this little town in Scotland. Then suddenly, it is the most glorious thing you’ve ever seen. So I got to experience that every day. In between scenes, there were these beautiful gardens and little brambled walks. My dog and I would explore with me in this Victorian dress, so I felt like I was in my own little side movie.
For Patti to be experiencing possibly the worst day of her life, that doesn’t sound too bad.
Exactly! It’s a beautiful bad day.
This interview has been edited and condensed.