A year ago, this post was exclusively available to our Patreon subscribers, but now we’re releasing it into the wild! Don’t want to wait next time? Pledge as little as a dollar (or your local equivalent) each month to keep our site running, and in return, you’ll get access to subscriber-only content like this.
We’ve mentioned a few times that Patreon supporters and those who send individual donations are welcome to request historical costume movie reviews, and we’ll put those at the top of our list. There’s no guarantee, of course, since some films and TV shows are hard to find or simply don’t qualify as a frock flick.
BUT we do have a Patreon subscription level that gives you the Frock Flick of Your Choice! You pick the historical costume movie, and we’ll review it. Any film or TV series that’s available via streaming or DVD in the U.S., name it, and we’ll give it a proper costume analysis.
So Emily, this one is for you! She requested we review the series Britannia (2018), which premiered on Amazon this year (and on Sky in the U.K.). We snarked the preview pix when they came out in 2017, and oh, yeah, this is gonna be interesting…
Let’s get this out of the way right now: The costume content in this show is is pretty negligible. The Celts / Brits are all wearing raggedy tunics, shirts, pants, and cloaks/wraps. The Romans are wearing standard-issue leather armor and metal helmets. Some of the characters have wacky makeup and hair that’s, of course, wildly speculative as far as historical accuracy goes, but it doesn’t disturb me as much as the absence of interesting characters or watchable plot. I’m not doing this for love, but for money – we literally got paid for this one, folks!
Get used to how those look!
We start episode one with four legionnaires deserting, they don’t want to go to Britannia. General makes them duke it out as a punishment. Blah, blah, blah, toxic masculinity in the rain. For our troubles, here’s a closeup of some Roman armor.
That’s all before the credits roll. Btw, the theme song is a cover of Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” with psychedelic imagery. Everybody drop your acid now.
It’s the day before summer solstice, and everyone at the Lockerly Cross settlement of the Cantii tribe is prepping for a big ceremony. A young teen girl has her face painted white for what sounds like a puberty / coming-of-age ritual. She’s asking her older sister about the whole deal.
Then there’s an Outcast guy who visits the Druids, whose language is subtitled, until a woman with dreaded hair and solid-black eyes talks. Outcast sees signs and hears voices that the sun will not rise tomorrow, after the solstice. The Druid woman tells him to GTFO.
Outcast Guy rubs what looks like pesto on his chest and jumps off a cliff, falling into the sea onto a bed of bones, where he’s sucked down into, uh, the underworld? Then Outcast washes up on the shore and runs off into the night. Dude, that was some nasty pesto.
Now we’re back at Lockerly Cross with the girls and their ceremony. They dip their painted faces in a bowl of milk to wash off the paint, then they breathe in smoke. There’s drums, fire, dancing, naked oiled boobs – your standard pagan stuff.
Lockerly Girl’s mother and father come take her hands. Mom takes a knife and cuts a small circle around her belly button, just enough to draw blood. They say stuff, but the ritual is interrupted by Roman soldiers invading. They capture her father, and the girl watches her mother fight but get killed. Outcast Guy grabs Lockerly Girl to keep her quiet.
40 miles inland. Enter the redhead woman. Also, the fog. And Zoe Wanamaker, aka Antidia of the Regni, with crazy white hair. Everybody’s gathering at the standing stones.
They exchange solstice gifts, and there’s a wedding between two tribes. It’s a BYO hand-fasting situation.
But Zoe has another idea, of course she does. She has the officiant murder the groom, who’s from the Cantii tribe, and her Regni tribe start attacking. In the melee, the Cantii tribe kidnap the bride. Redhead of the Cantii shoots arrows into a bunch of folks.
Btw, it was Outcast who grabbed Lockerly Girl. Together they find that her family have been killed. Except for her cat, which is nice because Outcast blames the girl for breaking some ritual bullshit and bringing the Roman invasion on everyone. Then he says he’ll take her to a safe cave, but only if she leaves the cat. Fucking jerk, that was the only family she has left!
There’s a whole plot with Pelennor, King of the Cantii, doing political shit, and trying to get his son to play along but Pelennor’s daughter, Redhead, is conflicted. Meanwhile the son’s wife is fucking some guy with permission of the Druids. It was all boring and took place in dark corridors, so the screencaps are lame. Moving on.
Back at the main Lockerly the settlement, the Romans are sorting out the Brits for slaves and the goods for exporting. Lockerly Girl’s father is taken as a slave. The general and his soldier Antonius have a heart to heart about their bowels. Then Antonius is captured by the Druids.
Outcast and Lockerly Girl start trekking, and we get exposition about the Brits idea of what Rome is.
Antonius has been taken to the Druids where a Voldermort guy (Vernan, Leader of the Druids) interrogates him about his loyalties, since Antonius is black and from Namibia and worshiped other gods before the Roman ones.
“I’m not an “an” outcast, I’m the Outcast.” Dude has issues.
The Outcast and Lockerly Girl have more exposition. Then they’re set on by a pair of thieves, who the Outcast sweet-talks / weird-talks into putting down their weapons and leaving them alone.
The Druids throw Antonius over a waterfall.
General talks shit about the Celts. Then Antonius walks out of the rain, naked and bloody, to deliver a scary Druid warning to the general. He gets buried alive for his trouble.
WHEW. That was just episode one! I did watch the second episode and part of the third, but I realized my notes / commentary were hella boring (this is the best I could come up with so think about what that says!). The basic weaksauce plotlines are:
- Romans are attacking the Cantii to get their cool cliffside fortress
- Regni are siding with the Romans because of a boring old feud
- Outcast and Girl wander / split up / blah blah blah / he’s off to save the world but not really
- Druids are weird ‘n mystical ‘n shit but mostly just sit on the sidelines
That’s all I can see happening for a while. If it magically gets interesting, it does so at a point too late for me to give a fuck. But hey, we tried!
Have you watched Britannia? Do you think it deserves a second season?
So question. Your patreon website lists $50 a month as the level that guarantees a review. Is the expectation that you’ve committed to that for a year? As in, $600 total for one review? I don’t mean to sound stingy but that’s more than it’s worth to me. On the other hand, I would feel like an asshole if I cancelled a subscription right after the review was published if you were expecting a year’s worth of support.
Fair question! We wait until at least one month’s subscription has been processed before we ask what review the person would like. After that, it’s up to each person :)
Zoe Wanamaker, such a babe. WCW some time maybe?
I quite agree. However, I don’t know that she’s been in that many period films, although Harry Potter is kind of periodish. I love a lot of British actresses–there’s such a lack of snobbery there; Zoe and Dench and Lansbury and others will do Shakespeare onstage, commercial blockbusters, telly comedies–presumably whatever interests them in the way of good roles.
You forgot to comment on Redhead’s TOTALLY modern bangs!
True! Probably bec. she was shown so little in the first couple episodes ;)
I’m surprised there weren’t any comments about the totally disgusting Druid fingernails. All those close ups of their hands shivers
There was a lot of gross to go around, yep.
I think you mean Numidia, not Namibia. Numidia was a North African kingdom that at one point was conquered to become a province of the Roman empire. Namibia is a country in the south of the African continent that the Romans did not have any contact with whatsoever.
It could be a typo, it could have been the actors mumbling so I didn’t hear it correctly, or it could be the fact that this show is wildly historically inaccurate ¯_(ツ)_/¯
The Dung ages are strong with those screencaps. I’ll pass.
Ok, this show really intrigued me in that “it might be awesome or terrible or awesomely terrible” way. Now, that I read your review…I think I have to watch it now.
Dear gods and little fishies No, no, no! What a horrible confused mess.
Is it weird that i mostly cared about what happened to the cat?
No. Cats matter!