Vanity Fair episode 3 recap: marriages galore as the beaus prepare for battle

It may not have the edge-of-the-seat excitement of Bodyguard, but Vanity Fair is still a beguiling watch says Ben Dowell

MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV
VANITY FAIR
EPISODE 4

Pictured:OLIVIA COOKE as Becky Sharp and TOM BATEMAN as Rawdon Crawley.

Photographer:ROBERT VIGLASKY

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Vanity Fair continued in style on ITV this Sunday night – perhaps lacking some the high energy tension of Bodyguard on BBC1. But it’s still an absorbing watch in its own way.

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Episode three saw Becky continue her liaison with Rawdon (Tom Bateman), under the nose of Aunt Matilda who has taken a shine to her. Like we all have. Olivia Cooke continues to be a dazzling Becky, warm-hearted and engaging our affection, even when she’s at her duplicitous worst. A Madam, but what a magnetic one…

Still, as Matilda, Frances de la Tour did seize a few scenes as the crotchety old bag with a fat purse and a cruel streak. And the moment when she realised Becky had married her former favourite Rawdon, and rather double crossed her, those shrieks of “treasure hunter! Vixen!” were brilliantly funny.

Also stealing a few scenes was Martin Clunes.

His gruff, dog-loving Squire Sir Pitt Crawley is also captivated by Becky and he seized his chance when his poor wife died. It was a moment when he could have totally lost the audience  – but the comic brio with which he just smiled and set off on his pony and trap to go and bag Becky was so funny, we just had to go with him.

We also got a taste of what he had to put up with as regards the late Lady Crawley when he read aloud from the paper earlier on. Her response to the news that Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped Elba and was about to bring war back to Europe? “Who?,” she asked.

Who indeed.  We’’ll find out soon enough as this is the news that is going to shape things for the rest of the story, especially when our principal characters are concerned.

Wet Amelia and brittle George did finally get together after much toing and froining, mainly between their fathers. George’s penny-pinching father John (Robert Pugh) denied the match because of Mr Sedley’s debts – calling in the payments and forcing the Sedleys to a life of rural poverty. Not surprisingly, Simon Russell Beale’s distraught Mr Sedley was also none to keen on his daughter becoming an Osborne after all that.

But it’s all to play for now Becky has her Rawdon and Amelia has her George.

Because with politics in turmoil, a good many people are going to meet their Waterloo.

Quite – and how often does one get to say this? – literally in fact…

Vanity Fair Olivia Cooke
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This article was originally published on 9 September 2018