Last week, Harry & Meghan offered an attempt at a comprehensive account of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s relationship. Not an expose, not a watershed moment, not a set of bombshell revelations about life inside the palace – and, in each case, pointedly and deliberately not those things. It was at absolute most only really about redressing the balance, laying out their own perspective on aspects of their life that had already been extensively litigated in public with essentially minimal contributions of their own. It’s not, in genuinely the nicest possible way, actually a particularly interesting documentary.
Volume 2 works along similar lines, if not identical ones. Picking up with their wedding in 2018, across three hours the documentary references the birth of the Sussexes’ children, their initial stepping back (not down) from royal duties, their move to America, their interview with Oprah, and their legal case against the UK media; it alludes to a growing rift between Harry and his father and his brother, but even then it’s still largely quite circumspect. The moments that will become (have become) headlines are clearly carefully chosen, clearly very specific in what they do and don’t actually reveal; for all the ink spilled about this documentary – in days past, this morning already, no doubt in the coming weeks too – it’s a generally fairly measured, fairly understated piece of filmmaking.
Certainly, it’s not radical by any means, throwing much of the response to Harry & Meghan – the documentary and the couple – into sharp relief. They’re not, were never going to be, and still clearly aren’t interesting in tearing down the monarchy, or anything quite so dramatic. Every call for reform is made from a vantage point that believes (believe in the value of the institution, every comment on what Meghan could’ve done for the monarchy believes in even the possibility of a representative royal family; archive footage of Meghan and Harry on a trip to the Commonwealth is meant to underscore ideas about community and belonging rather than the legacy of colonialism and empire.
Which, like, fair enough – it’s plainly absurd to expect that from them. But actually taking a second to note how essentially milquetoast the whole thing is (in terms of their criticism of the royal family, at least; when the documentary speaks to the pain of their experience it is often raw and striking) exposes quite how egregious the response to the documentary is and has been. Again, in the nicest possible way, it doesn’t really warrant the level of response it’s garnered (which you sense they might agree about, and certainly would’ve preferred had it been the case).
The documentary ends with Markle reading an excerpt from a speech she gave the night of her wedding, and it feels – neatly enough – like a mission statement for the documentary. “Once upon a time, there was a girl from LA. Some people called her an actress. And there was a guy from London. Some people called him a prince,” she says. “All of those people didn’t fully get it.” Perhaps they will now.
Harry & Meghan Volume 2 is available on Netflix now. I watched all three episodes before writing this review; you can read our review of Harry & Meghan Volume 1 here.
You can read more of our coverage of Harry & Meghan here, and read more about Netflix here. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter, sign up to our newsletter, and listen to Screen Babble too.