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Harry and Meghan Vol 2 review: An almost unendurable three additional hours of grudge-rehashing

The new episodes of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix documentary reinforce the notion that the couple are trapped, feeding the exact beast they so longed to escape from

Jessie Thompson
Thursday 15 December 2022 15:59 GMT
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Harry and Meghan Volume II trailer

Well, that’s that then. They’ve done it. Harry and Meghan have gone full scorched earth. Part two of their Netflix saga may not have been as explosive as anticipated – but it will almost certainly see them struck off the family Christmas card list, thanks to Harry airing details of Megxit-related rows with Prince William and King Charles. But an almost unendurable three additional hours of grudge-rehashing gives very little further insight into why the pair remain so furious at the Royal Family.

I can see now why they Deathly-Hallows-Part-One-and-Part-Two-ed their heavily hyped documentary. It would simply have been too unbearable to watch six hours of first-world whingeing without a week’s break in the middle. It did, of course, also create a convenient sense of anticipation, suggesting that the second instalment would have all the real drama – although the Duke and Duchess of Sussex take umbrage at the suggestion that they would ever manipulate the media. Oh, that clip dangled in the trailer that showed Meghan crying, by the way? It turns out she was just doing a guided meditation.

Last week, I wrote of how entertaining – and occasionally sympathetic – I found the talkative, mildly deluded royal couple in the first three episodes. But I assumed that, after their tell-all interview with Oprah, they wouldn’t want to take up six full hours of our lives without telling us something new. No one can dispute that the abuse the pair have endured – Meghan in particular – has been vile, and clearly deeply scarring. And it’s clear that Harry’s grief for his mother remains constantly close to the surface.

But their Netflix show gives the impression of a narcissistic, curiously thin-skinned pair. In 20 years’ time, I wondered, will Harry still be on TV, irritated by something Janet Street-Porter once said about his wife on Loose Women? (Speaking of which, he seems to have developed a strange, Alan Partridge-esque tendency to only refer to Meghan as “my wife”.)

After three more episodes, covering the royal wedding up to their exit (which they, insufferably, describe as their “freedom flight”), I felt sad and a bit grumpy. It’s not nice to have people telling you how hard their lives are non-stop for three hours, particularly on the same day that nurses have been forced to hold their biggest strike in UK history as they fight for better pay.

At one point, Meghan glances over at a glowering Harry and observes, “He’s deep in some sort of legal email, I can tell.” Once again, the pair veer from fighty to goofy. On the way to her wedding, Meghan says, “I didn’t know people would be lining each side of the street.” This seems… hard to believe. So does their claim that they didn’t know Meghan’s pass-agg “thanks for asking if I’m OK” interview with Tom Bradbury would make global headlines. In fact, I wouldn’t want to say that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are lacking in self-awareness, but there seems to be a constant disconnect between what they think they’re saying, and how it comes across. Take, for example, their descriptions of their Nottingham Cottage home at Kensington Palace. “As far as people were concerned, we were living in a palace,” Harry tells us, before correcting the record, “we were living on palace grounds.” Meghan, meanwhile, laments that the residence was “so small”. Later, having made their incendiary announcement that they were quitting as working members of the royal family, they complain that the atmosphere at their last public engagement was “cold”. Funny, that.

But footage of the wedding reminds us again of how excited people were by this happy, modern young couple. Meghan’s work with the Grenfell community, shortly afterwards, was a high point – a sign that their projects would be inclusive and powerfully relevant. The pair claim that, internally, the royal family was “threatened” by Meghan’s popularity – but I couldn’t help but wonder if the hype went to their heads a bit. Their mission became loftier, demonstrated by the fact that both of them keep a straight face when Beyonce texts Meghan to say she was “selected to break generational curses”. (Harry decrees it “well said”.)

Before the storm: the late Queen and Meghan at the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge in Widnes, Cheshire (PA Wire)

Often, tensions do seem to be down to simple generational differences. Harry wants to take on the media, and doesn’t see why he shouldn’t; his father disagrees. Harry’s point that perhaps women coming into the royal family shouldn’t have to just accept vicious press treatment is a very valid one. But relentless frustrations about the nitty-gritty of briefing, the comms teams of royal private offices, and the media’s royal rota are just dull.

As he describes their exit talks, Harry complains that palace officials “saw what they wanted to see”. But the documentary is so relentlessly one-sided that it often feels like the royal couple have the same problem. They seem to be clinging to their narrative of alienation and mistreatment to such an extent that they can’t see anyone else’s point of view. They wanted to be “half in, half out” as royals, they say, a desire that was rejected. But… what if, logistically, this just genuinely didn’t make sense?

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A further irony is that, since their departure, Meghan and Harry’s relevance rests on their shrinking proximity to the royal family. Having left so sensationally, they can now only maintain the public’s interest by taking carefully calculated chunks out of the firm – something they’ve doubled down on here, with Harry’s memoir, Spare, still to come in January. They’re trapped in a royal soap opera of their own creation – feeding the exact beast they so longed to escape from.

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