Recap of Prince Harry And Meghan Markle’s Netflix Documentary Episodes 1-3

As you might expect from a streaming giant who paid a hefty price for much-anticipated content, Netflix spared no effort building anticipation for Harry & Meghan. Two trailers featuring Harry uttering phrases “It’s a dirty game,” and “We know the truth,” as well as Meghan wiping away tears, whipped up expectation that the revelations would come thick and fast. The monarchy was braced, journalists across the world set their alarms for all kinds of hours (those in the UK got off the lightest with an 8 am start). Even publicly-funded broadcaster the BBC was running a live blog.

Yet, after watching the three hours of programming that make up the first half of the docuseries, many may be left wondering just what all the fuss was about. Unlike the couple’s Oprah interview, which featured bombshell after bombshell that left the royal family scrambling to eventually release a necessary statement two days later, this documentary (so far) contains little to give the royals a headache.

A never-before-shared photo of Harry and Meghan in Botswana, revealed for the first time in the Netflix program.

Screenshot/Netflix

Indeed, by noon in the UK (bearing in mind that no-one could have watched the whole thing much before 11 am), Buckingham Palace had told journalists they would not be commenting. Even if they wanted to, one wonders what they could have said as there were no actual specific allegations in the first three episodes to respond to. Unlike when the couple told Oprah that an unnamed royal had raised concerns about Archie’s skin tone, there was nothing new that was damning for the royals here. Indeed, the few references to their encounters with the family very much test the limits of the ‘tell-all’ tag. “I guess I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside,” Meghan said after describing her first meeting with Kate. Was she suggesting that the now Princess of Wales was unfriendly? Maybe, but it fell far short of landing a killer blow to any royal reputations.

In a sign that there was no clear narrative from the documentary, news outlets scrambled over many different angles. The BBC went with one story about Archie’s favorite song. Writers assigned to work on lists of revelations resorted to nuggets such as the fact Harry first saw Meghan on Instagram and she referred to their engagement interview as an “orchestrated reality show.” Important debates about media intrusion and racism that were had when the couple first stepped back were reignited in the wake of commentary and analysis in the documentary. But the BBC wrapped up its live blog by concluding that “the first volume didn’t contain many bombshells.”

What the documentary is not short on, however, is new images and footage of Harry and Meghan behind the scenes. Fans of the couple—and possibly those who just like a good love story—will no doubt be charmed by the many moments that they have chosen to share for the first time. In a more uplifting tone than was perhaps expected for the series, they tell the definitive version of their first date, a romance that blossomed in Botswana, and share images from the night they became engaged. There is footage of Archie looking at a photograph of Princess Diana and a family moment watching a stunning California sunset.

princess diana archie nursery

Baby Archie looking at a photo of his grandmother, Princess Diana.

Screenshot/Netflix

And really, isn’t that what this has been about? Harry and Meghan’s chance to tell their love story on their own terms. Megan even spells it out when asked why she wanted to make the documentary by saying that she feels people haven’t yet got a sense of who she is. Here, they decided how they wanted to be seen (‘What about privacy?’ the critics cry, but really it was always about control).

It was also a time, perhaps, for a more balanced approach. Harry has spent a lot of the past few years criticizing others’ wrongdoing, but here he also acknowledged his own. “It was probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” he says about wearing a Nazi costume to a party in 2005. While evoking Princess Diana’s experience of daily pursuit with the media, he also accepted that it is not exactly the same situation for his generation. “Back in my mum’s days, it was physical harassment. Cameras in your face. Following you, chasing you,” He says, “But the harassment really exists more online.”

Some of the most critical commentary on the monarchy and racism in Britain is left to expert commentators, which adds an air of authority but also creates distance from the couple. British newspapers prominently railed against Afua Hirsch’s perspective that the Commonwealth is “Empire 2.0” despite the fact that this is by no means the first time the writer and broadcaster has made this point. Granted, now she is making it in Harry and Meghan’s documentary, but the effect remains fundamentally different to if the words had come out of the Sussexes’ mouths.

Perhaps Harry and Meghan held back from sharing the most damaging revelations, or maybe there simply isn’t much more to say, but the build-up for this meant that of course there was an explosion of coverage anyway. And in the UK at least, much of it was critical. Newspaper front pages cited “Palace anger” and called it a betrayal of Queen Elizabeth and her legacy. One MP got a lot of air time after he proposed that the couple be stripped of their titles. And Meghan’s description of her elaborate first curtsey to the Queen was described as “disrespectful.”

After having watched, and even re-watched, this series though, my overriding sense is that right now the royals will be breathing a sigh of relief. Surely they will be thinking it could have lifted the lid so much more on Palace life. Harry spent 35 years in the royal fold yet, in truth, barely any confidences are betrayed here and certainly no reputations are trashed.

The caveat of course is that this is so far. This is a story in two parts—the blossoming romance followed by the bitter fallout—and we will get to the latter part next week. There could be a lot more to come. Or perhaps, when this much-anticipated six hours of programming comes to an end, we will still have the feeling that much remains unsaid.

preview for Harry & Meghan - Official Trailer (Netflix)

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