It was all too easy to say there was absolutely nothing new to learn from the first three episodes of Harry & Meghan.
Yes, Netflix may have sold the documentary series as its answer to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, when it in fact had the production values of a mid-budget wedding video. Yes, we are all fairly au fait with the Sussex narrative by now, thanks to the Oprah interview, and the podcast, and the magazine profiles, and the social media outriders, and the upcoming memoir, and the trailer for this very series. And yes, it could be said that retelling the story – which if we are honest is a 10-minute explainer, tops – over six hours is the televisual equivalent of selling gruel as haute cuisine.
But that would be to ignore the *details* in the series. The sheer, staggering number of odd details. Some are trivial, a few are telling, most are so cringeworthy as to be physically dangerous for viewers.
Blink and you miss them. Close your eyes and cover your ears for six hours and you’d definitely miss them (life hack). They’re there, though, and ahead of tomorrow’s final three episodes, we’ve rounded them up so you don’t have to. Now, doesn’t it make more sense to hear them from us?
If, at some point over the last few years, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex haven’t sent an email to their lawyers with the subject line: “Can we send H&M (the clothes shop) a cease and desist? We want to copyright those letters” – well, I’ll eat my tiara. Throughout Harry & Meghan, the pair refer to themselves almost exclusively by initials (though, confusingly, he’s in her phone as “Haz”), which makes them sound like tell-all newspaper columnists who’ve come up with a quaint way to shroud their partner’s identity.
My colleague Chris Bennion made a fine point on Twitter, though. “The nice thing about the Harry & Meghan doc is that they keep calling him H, so you can pretend it’s a Line of Duty prequel,” he wrote. Imagining she’s always talking about H from Steps also improves the viewing experience, as does thinking Harry has been cast as James Bond, so keeps referring to *that* M. Oh, God, he’d love to be James Bond.
Is their camera ever backwards facing?
He first spotted her in a selfie, they took one on their first date (“We just wanted to capture the feeling of sitting in that little restaurant,” Meghan says, helpfully describing for us how a photograph works), and they didn’t stop there, judging by the dozens threaded through these episodes. Like the millennial icons they are, couple selfies are their currency, and they are loaded.
Occasionally we are moved to ask, “Hold on, who took that one? The rhino? I thought they wanted to be alone?” but generally they appear to be the kind of couple who would sit opposite you at dinner and spend the first ten minutes ignoring you, instead creating a perfectly framed portrait... of themselves. They would then dramatically put their phones face-down on the table, hold your hands in theirs, look deep into your eyes, and declare they will now be entirely present. At least until the starters come.
At the time they met, we discover, Harry had a “list” of qualities he desired in Mrs Right, though when asked what was on there, simply gestures to Meghan and says, “This is the list.” A nice swerve, but we simply must know more about The List. Literal or imaginary? Notes app, or hard copy? If the latter, was it on a whiteboard in the kitchen of Kensington Palace, like quarterly targets for a marketing agency, or laminated and kept in his wallet for portability? Is it a family tradition? Did William have a list? But did Charles have a list? Wait, did Charles have *two* lists? Answers must be found.
The penguin onesies
The cringe climax. The acme of awkwardness. The zenith of second-hand embarrassment. “We had a little engagement party, and everyone was dressed in animal onesies. Meg and Harry were in matching penguin onesies (see artist's interpretation above), because penguins mate for life. And they were so sweet, and we had so much fun,” a British friend, Lucy Fraser, says in episode two.
It’s difficult to know why you’d ever want to choose that theme, but far harder to know why you’d want such a thing broadcast five years later. Still, while we’re on penguins, it’s helpful to note that in emperor penguin families (and we must assume they dressed as emperor penguins), the female goes to sea to feed, leaving the male to care for the egg until it hatches. This is simply information from the natural world, and not a comment.
Guy the beagle had both his front legs in plaster casts during the proposal
The fact it’s never really explained why Meghan’s rescue dog was casually “on stilts” (a euphemism for “recovering from two broken legs”) in November 2017, on the night of the chicken dinner engagement, is a plot point that simply must be tied up in episodes four to six. Otherwise they can expect a slew of investigative podcasts to launch this side of Christmas.
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
The toddlers you know may prefer “Let It Go” or something from Coco Melon, but Archie Mountbatten-Windsor apparently has more sophisticated taste, preferring the 1974 classic “Bennie and the Jets” by family friend Sir Elton John, which has catchy, learn-with-me lyrics like: “We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight so stick around / You’re gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.”
Is it purely coincidental that “Bennie and the Jets” was originally released as a B-side for “Candle In The Wind”, which was re-written for Archie’s grandmother’s funeral? Yes, almost definitely. But will that stop us pointing it out? No, it will not.
The maddeningly significant hummingbirds
Around 25 minutes into the second episode, there is an extended sequence in which Harry and Meghan do all they can to make Archie care about the fact there are two hummingbirds drinking from a feeder on the family terrace. The footage is very sweet, and nicely lit at sunset, but it also lingers in a way that makes it obvious the hummingbirds are being employed as some kind of visual metaphor.
In lieu of an explanation, we are left to work out exactly what the significance is, and given what we’ve discovered about penguins already, some hummingbird facts might nudge us in the right direction. Hummingbirds, it turns out, migrate alone rather than in flocks – just like Harry and Meghan. Hummingbirds can fly backwards – just like how Meghan went back to California. And the beak of the sword-billed hummingbird can reach up to four inches long, so heavy that the birds may perch holding their bills straight up, which is a record for the longest bill relative to body size – just like how… OK no, that one doesn’t work.
An owl is the real star
Another avian moment, weirdly. The third episode features a short clip from a walkabout in Nottingham, when an old man in a baseball cap brought his pet barn owl to meet the couple. “Harry’s brought his bird to town so I brought mine,” he tells the reporter, while the owl rotates his downy head in pure, wise self-consciousness. It’s perhaps the outstanding highlight of the whole three hours, and yet serves no narrative purpose at all. Wonderful.