'The Pursuit of Love' season 1 episode 1 recap — a period drama with a difference

The Pursuit of Love — Linda and Fanny
The Pursuit of Love sees a modern twist on an old classic. (Image credit: BBC)

The Pursuit of Love has brought some romance and glamour to our Sunday nights after just one episode of the period drama. 

The star-studded series, set in the 1920s and 1930s, follows the lives of spirited Linda Radlett (Downton Abbey's Lily James) and her more reserved cousin and best friend Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham) as they come of age and dream of meeting their perfect man. 

Nancy Mitford’s much-loved novel The Pursuit of Love has been a firm favorite since it was first published in 1945 and while it has been given a new twist by the BBC, the story of Linda and her dreams to escape the family home in a bid to find true love still remains. 

Here are some of the things we loved in episode one...

Linda and Fanny's friendship in The Pursuit of Love

Linda and Fanny are inseparable, and while this might be a story about the journey to true love, it is also a story about their friendship and devotion to one another as they navigate their way through coming of age.

From childhood adventures to plotting their escape from the family home as teenagers, the pair have grown up doing everything together. 

Episode one even saw Linda hiding in a linen cupboard with Fanny, (something that she has been doing throughout her childhood) while she was meant to be at her own wedding breakfast... proving that while the girls' might vow to find true love, their friendship is more important than any man they'll ever meet. 

Lily James and Emily Beecham in The Pursuit of Love.

Lily James and Emily Beecham are brilliant as Linda and Fanny.  (Image credit: (C) Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited - Photographer: Robert Viglasky)

Linda's quest for true love 

While Fanny is happy to get an education and see where her life might take her, all Linda can think about is meeting the man of her dreams. She wants to be swept off her feet in a whirlwind of romance and adventure, and it seems there is nothing that will get in her way of finding the right man... even her controlling father who keeps her from leaving the family estate.

Meanwhile, poor Fanny is still feeling the effects of being abandoned by her mother 'The Bolter' as a baby. The role of Fanny's mother is played by Emily Mortimer, who also adapted and directed the series. 

Lord Merlin and his eccentric ways 

In contrast to Linda's domineering father, Matthew (Dominic West), the Radlett family's flamboyant neighbor, Lord Merlin, offers a breath of fresh air, not only for Linda but for viewers as well. Lord Merlin — cast brilliantly as Sherlock's Andrew Scott — opens up a glamorous new world to Linda as he introduces her to all the things she has been missing under her father's oppressive glare. 

The Pursuit of Love

Andrew Scott as the flamboyant Lord Merlin (right).  (Image credit: BBC)

1930s fashion 

Set in the period between the two World Wars, The Pursuit of Love isn't just about romance and grand houses, it is also about the amazing fashion of that time. From beautiful knitwear to stunning wedding dresses, this drama's wardrobe department has it all. 

Speaking of her character Linda's expression through her wardrobe, Lily James told us: "The designer drew inspiration from the highest fashion in the 1930s to create something wow. When someone dresses you like that, it affects how you stand and move. With the hair and makeup, everything feels alive."

All episodes of The Pursuit of Love are available to watch on BBC iPlayer and on Amazon Prime Video in the US.

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Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.