Howards End: Episode 4 Reviews

Here's a roundup of some of the reviews for the finale of Howards End

The Arts Desk which gave it 5 stars

How good was Howards End(BBC One)? Practically flawless.


Matthew Macfadyen’s Henry Wilcox was a masterly study in moneyed entitlement, and absolute indifference to culture. “Musical, literary, artistic, that sort of thing,” he said when invited to describe Helen. “But I should say normal.” The beard exuded authority, while he did terrifically commanding things with his right forearm, matched by his friendly stentorian bark. And yet beneath the adamantine certainty of a man who could sell off his house without first advising his wife were signs of the crack-up to come. The delicious little pause in “I have bought a little… gong” hinted at the “criminally muddled” self-doubt of someone who would not inherit the earth after all. His climactic breakdown – embodying the defeat of the Wilcoxes – was movingly done, and achieved the impossible of reducing Margaret briefly to speechlessness.

Radio Times

Matthew Macfadyen was once again brilliant at evoking Henry’s maddening complexities – a helpful and practical man of business, an emotional mess at times. The pain of shedding the prejudices of his class (and era) was written across his face with fantastic skill. I have always admired Macfadyen as an actor, but I think this is his best performance yet.

The Telegraph also gave 5 stars

... and buttoned-up, twinkly eyed chauvinist Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen). In a strained scene at breakfast, Margaret finally convinced Henry that she wasn’t that bothered by a long-ago affair. There was a wonderful moment as he stopped harrumphing and softened his expression and gazed lovingly at his then fiancée over his beard – a piece of facial hair with such absolute conviction it deserves a Bafta in its own right. 



And the pivotal scenes where Margaret (Hayley Atwell) made Matthew Macfadyen’s previously unbending Henry renounce cant and hypocrisy and show pity for the plight of her pregnant sister Helen (Philippa Coulthard) were a powerful triumph of raw, honest emotion over pretence and convention, superbly acted and directed.

The Times 4 stars

... it did remind us how very good Matthew Macfadyen is. Initially he was bedimmed as Henry Wilcox by the luminous performance of Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel, but last night he was pitch-perfect. There was a delicious scene in the dining room when, the bell pull having broken, he told Margaret he had bought a little gong from Harrods to summon the servants. Her face, repressing a just-visible smile, revealed how amusingly bourgeois she found this and he knew it. His timing and tone in that scene was consummate.